Friday, July 20, 2007

A simple man

By Katrina Fox

20/07/2007 10:02:55 AM

Henry Rollins may be straight, but he's taken GLBT rights to heart. He spoke with Katrina Fox.

To me, not having a problem with homosexuality is elementary.

It's hard to describe Henry Rollins in just one word. Singer, spoken word artist, comedian, author, TV show host... he's all of these and more. Occasional actor, voice-over artist, ranter, 'post-punk renaissance man', as one critic called him - take your pick.

One thing's for sure: Henry Rollins takes no prisoners. His one-man shows comprise up to two hours of relentless onslaught against anything that bothers him in the world, from George Bush to the oppression of working-class Walmart employees. Between 1981 and 1986 he was part of the hardcore punk band Black Flag and a year later he formed the Rollins Band. Since 2005, he's hosted his own TV program, The Henry Rollins Show, with guests that have included Peaches, Marilyn Manson and his favourite, Gore Vidal. "He was amazing and brave and smart and original," Rollins tells SX.

Fans of Rollins would likely refer to him in the same vein, although he believes the more accurate description to be "uptight, depressive, workaholic loner". He's also straight - no question.

"Never once in my 46 years have I wanted a dick in my mouth," he asserts. That said, however, he is a keen champion of queer rights. He was the host of a benefit concert called 'WedRock' to raise money for a pro-gay-marriage organisation in the US, and surprised a number of people when he wrote a very pro-gay article on Instinct magazine's blog last month.

"That I surprised a few people, or anyone about how I feel about gay folks, is unfortunate," he says. "To me, not having a problem with homosexuality is elementary. Homosexuality is a fact and past that, there is no past that. Gay people want to get married? Of course they would; why wouldn't they? The issue, to me, is the uproar that is engendered in some people by the fact that two people of the same sex want to get married. That some 'straight' people think by the fact of their sexual preference being in the majority, they have some kind of lock on morality, decency, etc is highly offensive to me. Don't like a gay marriage? Then don't have one. Next."

He's equally scathing of comments left by some bloggers who told him that compared with countries like Iran, gay people have it good, despite persecution by right-wing Christian fundamentalists in the West.

"A few months ago, I spent a week in Tehran and asked a lot of people a lot of hard questions about every aspect about Iran I could think of and encountered no one who wanted to hang a gay person," he says. "I also know that if there were a fair election in Iran, Ahmadinejad might not have an easy win and that a considerable number of Iran's people are highly educated and very progressive. As far as homosexuals being killed, I think of Matthew Shepard's death in Wyoming."

While some straight guys, especially tattooed ex-punks, may find it disconcerting to learn that queens enjoy pleasuring themselves over a picture of him, Rollins isn't fazed.

"That an image of me may inspire 120 seconds of a man's life amounts to a compliment but means nothing to me really," he muses. He's equally flippant about the 'metrosexual' male. "I am not in a position to judge people but from their appearance, they look like they like to consume and accessorise," he says. "It seems like a lot of work, putting stuff in your hair or spending longer than an hour a year buying clothes. When they start hurting kids or punching old ladies, then it's time to be concerned, but if it's just cologne and shoes, what's the harm?"

In 1991, Rollins' close friend Joe Cole was shot to death, and it's reported that he keeps the remains of Cole's brains in a jar. Unsurprisingly, he's spent the best part of his 20-plus years career exploring the dark side of life and getting on the wrong side of political leaders - and the Australian government: An airline passenger took umbrage to Rollins' choice of reading material, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia last year and reported him to ASIO, leading to Rollins becoming 'a person of interest' and to him calling our Prime Minister a sissy.

"I appreciate that the Bush-loving administration you presently champion finds me interesting," he says when asked if he's been reading any more 'suspicious' books. "It means a lot. The Proust book I have been hammering away at may interest them or some of the Gore Vidal books I have been re-reading lately may raise the bushy eyebrows of that little douchebag John Howard."
Douchebags and inequality are among the motivations that keep Rollins inspired to continue doing what he does. "It is simple: I have nothing else going on," he says, nonchalantly. "There is nothing else that interests me. I live alone and work every day and pursue my interests and let my curiosity and anger guide me. There's nothing I want that I am not getting. My needs are simple so I just go. Not giving a fuck about when I die also helps.

The Henry Rollins Show screens on Foxtel's Movie Extra channel, times vary. More info at

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