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Henry Rollins Says Anger and Curiosity Are His Main Motivators to Work

Henry Rollins is coming to the Kessler.
Henry Rollins is coming to the Kessler. Wikimedia Commons/skippy13/Scott

Henry Rollins is coming back to Dallas, but instead of his usual spoken word, he’s showing pictures and telling stories from his travels all over the world. Dubbed the “Henry Rollins Travel Slideshow Tour,” the Kessler Theater will surely be packed for the former frontman of Black Flag and Rollins Band.

Rollins is an eloquent speaker, writer and host (TV, radio and podcast) in addition to all of his years as a musician. Because he’s so busy, he was only available for an email interview. Pulling a handful of quotes would not suffice to share what he wants to say, so here’s what he told us about taking pictures, coming to Dallas in the past and how he thinks one can survive this current presidential administration.

With all the times you have been to Dallas, either with a band or for a speaking engagement, has anything stuck out about the town or the area?
Not to sound like I'm kissing up, but I honestly can't remember not having a good time at shows I've done in Dallas. Actually, one time wasn't all that great, but the not great part was brief. We were playing at the Lawndale Art Annex, the airless hot box. We finished the show and I'm walking through the empty venue when I hear what sounds like someone walking behind me, talking at the back of my head. Fighting words, basically. I turned around and there was some male about my age. I asked him if he was saying that to me. He calmly replied in the affirmative. My youthful vigor got the best of me and I soon had him on the ground. A few seconds later, I was lifted off the ground by members of law enforcement. They asked me why I was beating on the guy. I told them what he called me. They kicked the guy out of the venue and told me to have a good night. That was about 36 years ago. Past that, it's been fine.

What means more to you as a traveling photographer: a picture of a landscape or a selfie of people in front of a landscape?
My primary interest in photography is documenting the human story in cities, villages, slums, wherever people are dealing with others, climate change, limited resources, resistance, etc. The last thing I put in a picture is myself. Landscapes are interesting now and then, Antarctica, South American forests, but mostly, it's Homo sapiens that interests me the most.

Is Instagram good for taking and sharing pictures or can nothing truly replace a camera with film in it?
My manager has one for our podcast, but I don't have one. Honestly, I've never investigated how it works. Believe it or not, I don't know how Facebook works and have never read anything that was sent to me via Twitter. It's just not the real world to me. I haven't shot film for many years. I'm not good enough.

How do you balance everything you do, from writing to podcasting to touring to listening to music? Does it come from self-discipline and a constant motivation to work?
Anger and curiosity are my prime motivators. I get a lot of work done because it's pretty much all I value and I don't have much else going on. I don't know many people and unless I'm in a work environment with others, like a tour or a film, I spend most of my time alone. Balance and workflow are determined by project, deadline and what's happening next. Writing is usually edit by day and write by night. If I'm off the road like I am for the next few days, I will do two shifts with a workout and a meal in between. The weekends off the road are often a 48 hour work/sleep deprivation fest.

You got through the Nixon, Reagan and both of the Bush administrations. What advice do you have for people who think this current presidential administration will lead to the end of the world?
Donald Trump may very well end up being the most transformational president of our time. I think I'll be right about that. Domestically, what he's successfully done and will do with the courts could possibly set civil rights back quite a ways. His EPA is a death machine. Internationally, I don't think he knows/cares about the ramifications of his actions. Those who defend what he's doing with NATO, the Paris Agreement his recent diaper explosion at the G7 summit was not only embarrassing but a true setback that serves no purpose. His tariff policies could lead to a lot of heartache. Trump gets played routinely. His wife, Putin, Manafort, Kim, they have all played him. It’s like the guy has never done any time on the street. The point I'm making is that, yes, it looks pretty tough at the moment. That being said, the United States survived a civil war that left over 600,000 dead. We still have the Union and the Constitution. American democracy is a brilliant, resilient thing. America will survive as long as you never fall for the idea that you have to "get down in the dirt" with some people so you can "bring the fight" to them. Right now and for the foreseeable future, you will be measured by your patience, kindness and empathy. All the tough talk is just that, talk. That's not to say that all Americans aren't in for a lot of challenges in the next few years. It all matters now.

The Henry Rollins Travel Slideshow Tour comes Oct. 9 to the Kessler. Tickets are $34-$159.
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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs