Henry Rollins rolls into Toronto
By Ron Johnson
Henry Rollins is bringing his spoken word tour to Toronto tonight
Henry Rollins has always had something to say. Whether it was as the lead singer of the now-defunct punk band Black Flag in the ’80s or as a writer, radio DJ, activist and spoken word artist, the Washington, D.C. native has never been shy about expressing himself. Now he hits Toronto with his spoken word tour. We caught up with the tatted talker to chat about Toronto’s punk scene and speaking live.
What is the idea behind this spoken word tour?
Well, I think, I’m very careful — when I’m in countries that are not America — not to wear out the good audience. I take more of a global position, and all the travel stories come into play. As well as some interesting tall tales from America… I’m never short on stuff to talk about, but it will be a bunch of stuff from trips to Haiti, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan.
What is it about speaking live that works for you?
It is the most difficult. There is no cover. In a rock band, you’re singing away, and if you blow a lyric, nobody can really tell because it is too noisy, so you have a little bit of latitude to screw up. On my own, onstage, it is a whole different thing. It is just you, and you have to deal with that. It’s a worthy challenge.
When did you first notice people paying attention to what you had to say?
I noticed in high school that, when I would be talking, all of a sudden there were three people listening. My best friend Ian MacKaye and I, when we were 12, would compare notes about it — but not like “Oh, aren’t we great.” At one point, in his attic, we made a promise to each other to go out and do stuff and get listened to and do things in a very public way. He did music, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was his roadie, then I got into a band, then another, and here I am.
You tour constantly. Did your involvement in the punk scene with Black Flag help you to develop a solid work ethic?
Oh yeah, that was probably the most influential thing that ever happened to me. We worked very hard in those days; insanely hard with that monastic single-mindedness you have when you are young. I was crazy, but we learned early how hard you can work.
Are you familiar with Toronto’s own contribution to the punk scene, Fu--ed Up?
I actually ran into the singer of that band. What’s his name? [Damian.] Yeah, that’s him. I saw him at the FYF Fest in Los Angeles watching Dinosaur Jr. Don’t know the music all that well, but he was a cool guy, smart. I like that guy. I’ve hung out with him a few times. He’s a big fan of Dinosaur Jr., and they opened for them in New York last year, and I was at that show, too.
Henry Rollins: The Long March, Glenn Gould Studio, CBC Building, 250 Front. St. W., 416-205-5000. Nov. 19-21