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Known for his chiseled physique, countless tattoos and blustery personality, singer/actor/writer Henry Rollins is a surprisingly painless interview. Speaking from his Los Angeles office prior to the start of yet another spoken-word tour, Rollins is polite and easygoing as he recalls his days fronting the legendary Black Flag, his noted solo career and his future in acting and on radio.
Rollins says that he has a new music project in the works, but that he has been kept busy with hosting his celebrated radio program, animated film voiceover work, a few acting roles and writing for a variety of magazines. At 46, Rollins is graciously accepting his role as one of the elder statesmen of American punk rock.
"I would best like to be known as the guy who keeps showing up," says Rollins. "I come from the minimum wage working world and I don't think anything I've done really stands out."
Rollins' modesty is as welcome as his relaxed demeanor. Known throughout the '80s and '90s as one of the most intense performers in rock, Rollins has cultivated an image as a verbose, non-drinking hard-ass. Even now, he has the uncanny ability to name nearly every date and venue played by Black Flag and the Rollins Band.
"That's because my memory is unclouded by pot smoke," says Rollins.
While he is still capable of going off on a number of subjects, these days Rollins comes across as a likable tough guy, the kind you always want on your side in a fight. He is also a renowned workaholic.
"I believe you should be gainfully employed more often than not," he says.
Rollins has written more than 20 books, but the current "Provoked" tour is not in conjunction with any new material, literary or musical.
"For the sake of the ad man and the T-shirt, you have to call these things something," says Rollins. "But right now, I have been provoked by this administration and this country's current standing in the world."
Rollins believes one has to experience something in order to talk about it. To this end, he has been to Iraq seven times, even coming under mortar fire during a USO performance.
"I am not saying that I was in danger," says Rollins, "but I can say that the feel of the concussion, the explosion, it feels like a fist to your chest."
Bush and the fiasco in Iraq will be just one of many subjects Rollins will touch on during his spoken-word performance. Combining standup comedy with keen observations on a variety of current events, Rollins is proud of his work outside of music.
"I'm going to tell you where I've been, what I've done and what I think about it," he says. "People are trusting me with their time, and I must always be mindful of that."