Interview Outtakes: Henry Rollins Talks Politics
Henry Rollins is doing his spoken-word thing at the Pageant next Thursday, November 6. This just so happens to be two days after the election, when (ostensibly) we'll know who the next president is going to be. However, with the way deadlines work, writer Jaime Lees interviewed Rollins weeks ago -- when politics and uncertainty dominated. Since this stuff will cease to be relevant by the time we go to press, here's the outspoken punk icon's take on how things are right now. But don't worry! We'll still have a longer interview with Rollins in the November 6 issue, never fear. -- Annie Zaleski
I was wondering how it's all been changing since you started [the tour] with the election getting closer? Because it's mostly political, this tour, right?
In a way, it all is [political], in that if you're kind of alive and living in the world at this point. But I don't go and opine about George W. Bush all night. You have your opinion of him by now, after seven years and some months, and you don't need me to tell you what you know, or what you think or need to think.
Oh, especially that last time.
Yeah, I don't think he cam off all that well just on a human level. Where Barack, who I thought was going to be kind of a letdown in the debates, has surprised me by being way better and more together than I thought he was going to be. I thought he was going to be a big more stammering, but I think he really presented himself very well. I also think that people are kind of freaking out on Sarah Palin. She is really... [laughs]... she is somethinâ€™ else.
That's a nice way to put it.
Yeah, I'm trying to be generous. I don't know much about her mayorial [terms] or careers as governor, but apparently she left Wasilla fairly bankrupt, and I have no idea what will be as far as this thing will go. Weeks and weeks ago I thought it was going to be McCain, and now I'm not so sure.
That's the same thing I was feeling.
Yeah, I mean, I thought McCain was going to ratchet up the fear, which he tries to do. And I thought Barack was not going to be able to bring what he's been bringing to the whole thing. And he's surprised me, and I think the Wall Street thing was kind of a perfect storm moment for Barack.
It's a bad situation, but it's kind of looking better if you're a Democrat in all of that because no matter what McCain says or who he tries to assign blame to, the Republicans and conservatives have a lot to answer for with the deregulation that brought us to that place. Of course there's always people who will tell you that it's the New Deal that brought us all to all of this, so that's always going to be contested.
Do you feel like the audience is changing as the election is getting closer? Are you feeling different vibes off of them?
I'm not getting much of a feeling from the audience, though they're showing up in wonderful numbers. It's post-show when I talk to people outside you hear the concern. You know, how a lot of that stuff is really resonating with them. And a lot of people will be voting. I think at least one of the upsides of the Bush administration has perhaps polarized a lot of people in America, or perhaps polarized America, but it has gotten a lot of young people kind of off their asses to vote, which I think is a great thing.
I've never seen that happen in my time until now.
Yeah, and it took this. Well, since all of this is in the past now, as far as the two Bush terms. And we can't undo it, it is nice to look for some good parts of it. And I think it got a lot of young people to realize [that] this is their country, this is their planet, this is their time and they really gotta weigh in. They can't sleep on this. And that's not bad, I'll take that. 'Cause there's so much awful stuff to catalog the last several years and the more you look, actually, the more bad stuff there is to note. Like, a lot of non-congressional appointments that a president is allowed to make. When you see who is in some of these positions, it's enough to make you howl.
No lie. I'm just now getting to where I feel like I understand the hippies a little better. Like, I'm starting to get what was happening in the 60s. I'm starting to feel it, with everyone talking about it all the time.
Yeah, absolutely. You see, uh, a lot of similarities in the protests and the rhetoric from both sides when you hear people talk about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. When you hear your Pat Buchanans and your Bret Humes and all of these conservatives, the rhetoric is the same. And there was so many people questioning and protesting the Vietnam War, you know, very vigorously [there were] a lot of cracked heads, you know, and you're seeing the same kind of things being said now. You know, where presidents are getting the hard eye from the proletariat, and it's interesting to see the same thing happening now. None of this is new. It goes in cycles, and at the end of the day people are people, you know, they protest and it's interesting to be an American and have at least the Vietnam War as some perspective, and you know, hated presidents, like Nixon, to kind of run similarities between.
Yeah, no one can shut up about it and it feels good.
Yeah. You know, without a doubt, that you're in the middle of something extremely important. You are part of it, you're going to make a difference. I don't think about how it will be judged later 'cause I'm too busy being in the present. But we are really cursed with interesting times at this moment.
When you're reading all this news do you read something and think "Oh, I can't wait to talk about that tonight"?
Sure! Yeah, there was some interesting moments in those [presidential] debates [that made me] so happy I had a gig that night. Or there was a night off during the vice presidential debates and I was in a gym on a treadmill listening to the debate with great interest. And I was making notes in my head the whole time I was listening and when it was over, I was like "Oh, I can't wait for tomorrow."