Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Do I Come Here Often? by Henry Rollins

(pb; 1996: non-fiction)

From the back cover:

" 'I believe that one defines himself by re-invention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.'

"With the addictive intensity, irreverence and humor for which he is renown, Henry Rollins interviews and writes about some of his musical heroes, as well as laying himself bare in his private journals.

"Discover exactly what he thought of Jane's Addiction, Nine Inch Nails and [Johnny Mnemonic co-star] Ice-T as they journeyed across the US together on the 1991 Lollapalooza Tour with the frustration of playing in front of indifferent crowds, dealing with groupies and the daily trials of life on the road. Meet Rollins the music fan, as he explains how David Lee Roth inspired him to get into music, what it was like to interview greats like John Lee Hooker and Isaac Hayes, why Roky Erickson is unlike anyone you will ever meet and what happened the day he met 'Killer' Jerry Lee Lewis.

"Essential reading for both fans and the uninitiated alike."


Artists largely come into their brilliance by two routes. One route is through cleverness, cutting one-liners or, by extension, collections of well-set-up/well-acted one-liners (think Oscar Wilde or comedian Robin Williams).

The second route is through sheer force of personal expression. It's not an immediate quick-hit high, but a building-up-to-something-great talent/situation. The artist talks sincerely, passionately about something he or she cares about, and as a result of that point-minded passion, something transformative -- dare I utter the phrase real-life magic -- is born.

Rollins has often achieved brilliance via the second route. He's been doing spoken word shows for over twenty-five years, toured and worked musically with various entities and people (largely with Black Flag and Rollins Band), become a compelling writer, and acted (often in a tongue-in-cheek, dark-humored way) in notable films, done TV work (his current talk show, The Henry Rollins Show, is shown on the IFC Channel)... The list goes on and on; the man has been working hard for thirty plus years on various media fronts, with no sign of letting up.

This is one of Rollins finer efforts. Never mind the raging, often-awkward (but undeniably honest) poetry he started off publishing (on his 2.13.61 label) years ago, this is "the sh*t," as it's said these days. The date of the writings extend from "2.13.87" (Rollins' twenty-sixth birthday, privately -- now publicly -- recounted in the journal-essay "Happy Birthday") to 1996, when he went to Grenada, Spain to play an equipment-flawed gig (the aural feedback on the speakers was horrendous). In this book-final essay Rollins ruminates about the hell of flying in commercial airplanes, the joys of working with filmmaker David Lynch (Rollins had a role in Lynch's Lost Highway), the paranoia of ex-bandmate Greg "the Ginn" Ginn, his love of the Addams Family, and the crappiness of certain musicians (namely Sting and The Offspring, whom Rollins describes as "this weak band playing this cute, pale imitation of fifteen year old music").

Worth your time, this. You may not agree with everything Rollins says, but the force and plain-spoken charm of his words cannot honestly be denied.

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