Henry Rollins has more slashes behind his name than the wrists of someone attempting suicide with a blunt razor. He’s been a musician, an author, activist, publisher, actor, journalist and more.
But he’s probably best known as the man who is able to stand on stage for hours, talk about everything from pop culture to politics and even share some personal anecdotes, without putting people to sleep. He brings his in-your-face realistic approach to Joburg, Cape Town and Durban as part of his The Long March tour.
No stranger to our stages, Rollins explained that he’s already done 83 shows in this tour and has a total of 175 booked, but this doesn’t include the last two months of the year.
“It’s been a long year,” he says from his Joburg hotel room. “But when you tour I think you have to get into it immensely and not have anything else that you’re thinking about or that’s taking your attention. This is it. It’s your life and it commands a level of focus and sincerity.”
Needless to say, having decades of touring under his belt means that he has found ways other than DVDs to showcase the effect his travels have had on him.
One of these ways is the photo journal, Occupants, which includes some images from his recent trips to SA.
“The idea of the photo book came about because I travel so much,” he says, “and as I put more time into the book, the better looking the photos became. It’s something that was five years in the making in that I was thinking about doing it for quite a while, as someone who has their own company tends to do, so I started booking places I wanted to travel to.”
While in Cape Town, he came across Afrika Moni, a resident of Hout Bay. Occupants is dedicated to him. Rollins explained their friendship.
“I just find him to be a great guy. I actually met him in 2008 when I was there to shoot a documentary and I filmed all day in his township. I just found him to be a very bright guy and we had a lot of laughs, so when I came back again in 2010 we made time and I went to visit him again. I’m looking forward to giving him this book because I’ve been lugging it about for five weeks, but I think he’s a great guy.”
Speaking your mind on stage isn’t like being a singer. But Rollins says there is always room for growth.
He explains: “I’m always looking to up my game and by that I mean to be more clear, concise in my use of words and be better at locking an audience in and keeping them with me. To be understandable, but not talking down to anyone. Essentially, I just want to know more about what I’m talking about.”
At 51, most people can already imagine what they’re going to do with their retirement money, but Rollins shows no signs of slowing down.
When I ask him what he did for his 51st birthday, there is a hint of a smile in the voice of someone who is notorious for being a no-nonsense and frank kind of guy.
“I was on stage in Germany,” he shares, “but with a watch in one hand. Me and a nice girl watched the seconds before I turned 51 and as they got closer to the time, we just started making out.”
He laughs just then.
When it comes to growing older, Rollins says he doesn’t worry about it because “it’s not about age for me, it’s about time”.
And if you want to have the time of your life, you’ll check out one of his shows this week.
This article appeared in Tonight on 16 May 2012.