Henry Rollins: "I don’t like anything that gives a racist a leg to stand on"

(Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Henry Rollins says that the racial tensions which characterised his hometown of Washington D.C. in the late 70s shaped his political values from a young age.

"Things are, in my opinion, quite different in 2023 than when I was say, 18, which would have been 1979," the former Black Flag vocalist says in an interview with Time Out Croatia. "The racial divide was extreme as far as who lived where. If you were white, there were some neighbourhoods and parts of DC, which is really small, that you might not want to take a chance in. It’s just how things were. I didn’t like it. I don’t like anything that gives a racist a leg to stand on. The racial tension in the city allowed someone like my father to say, 'See? See what these people are like?' or whatever.

"This tension politicised me at a very early age, which in hindsight, I’m grateful for," he continues. "The racism I experienced was getting called names, getting beaten up, robbed, chased. It was very scary. I’m not a tough guy so I was easily out advantaged. It didn’t make me hate black people. It made me aware of the many flaws of the USA. To this day, racism, homophobia, misogyny are big issues with me."

Rollins adds that things are palpably different in the the U.S. capital four decades on.

"I think things are perhaps a bit more level in DC now," he adds. "When I go there to visit, there will be something like a record store Ian MacKaye and I will go to and it’s located somewhere that I’d never be in 1975. I’d like to think things are getting better. I think I am quite a product of those times and wouldn’t be the same if I was raised in DC and 18 in 2023. All this is speculative, so who knows."

Rollins, who released released a new book titled Sic – "writing from the last three years and is informed by frustration, anger, humor and wondering if upcoming tours would continue to be canceled" – is currently on his Good To See You spoken word tour, which was initially scrapped last year due to COVID-19. 

“It’s always good to be on tour with a show every night but this time around, it seems better than ever," says Henry. "There were several months where I didn’t think I’d be doing shows ever again. The last time I was in Europe was 2018. It hurts to know it’s been that long." 

Catch him at the following venues:

Feb 23: Trondheim Byscenen, Norway
Feb 24: Oslo Sentrum Scene , Norway
Feb 25: Stavanger Kuppelhallen, Norway
Feb 26: Gothenburg Stenhammarsalen, Sweden
Feb 27: Stockholm Gota Lejon, Sweden
Feb 28: Malmo Palladium, Sweden
Mar 01: Copenhagen DR Koncerthuset, Denmark
Mar 02: Aarhus Train, Denmark
Mar 03: Hamburg Friedrich-Ebert Halle, Germany
Mar 04: Berlin Theater am Potsdamer Platz, Germany
Mar 05: Heidelburg Karlstorbahnhof, Germany
Mar 06: Cologne Kulturkirche, Germany
Mar 07: Zurich Kaufleuten, Switzerland
Mar 08: Dortmund FZW, Germany
Mar 09: Hannover Theater Am Aegi, Germany
Mar 10: Wiesbaden Schlachthof, Germany
Mar 11: Dusseldorf Savoy Theater, Germany
Mar 12: Ludwigsburg Scala, Germany
Mar 13: Tilburg 013 Poppodium, Holland
Mar 14: Leipzig FelsenKeller, Germany
Mar 15: Munich Werk7 Theater, Germany
Mar 16: Dudelange Opderschmelz, Luxembourg
Mar 17: Fribourg Fri-Son, Switzerland
Mar 18: Paris Café De la Danse, France
Mar 19: Amsterdam Paradiso, Holland
Mar 20: Groningen Stadsschouwburg, Holland
Mar 21: Leevuen Het Depot, Belgium
Mar 22: Ghent Vooruit, Belgium
Mar 23: Antwerp De Roma, Belgium
Mar 24: Bexhill-On-Sea De La Warr Pavilion, UK
Mar 25: Liverpool Mountford Hall, UK
Mar 26: Dublin Vicar Street, Ireland
Mar 28: Belfast Limelight, Northern Ireland
Mar 29: Glasgow Pavilion Theatre, Scotland
Mar 30: Whitley Bay Playhouse, England
Mar 31: Buxton Opera House, England
Apr 01: Birmingham Town Hall, England
Apr 02: Nottingham Albert Hall, England
Apr 03: Cardiff Tramshed, Wales
Apr 04; Bath Komedia, England
Apr 05: London Palladium, England
Apr 06: Manchester Bridgewater Hall, England
Apr 07: Cambridge Corn Exchange, England
Jun 05: Perth Concert Hall, Australia
Jun 06: Margaret River HEART, Australia
Jun 08:  Adelaide Thebarton Theatre, Australia
Jun 09: Alice Springs Araluen Arts Centre, Australia
Jun 10: Darwin Entertainment Centre, Australia
Jun 13: Cairns Performing Arts Centre, Australia
Jun 15: Brisbane Tivoli, Australia
Jun 16: Brisbane Tivoli, Australia
Jun 17: Caloundra Events Centre, Australia
Jun 20: Canberra Llewellyn Hall ANU, Australia
Jun 21: Bendigo Ulumbarra Theatre, Australia
Jun 22: Ballarat Civic Hall, Australia
Jun 24: Melbourne Hamer Hall, Australia
Jun 27: Thirroul Anita’s Theatre, Australia
Jun 28: Sydney State Theatre, Australia
Jun 30: Newcastle City Hall, Australia
Jul 02: Launceston Princess Theatre, Australia
Jul 03: Hobart Odeon Theatre, Australia
Jul 05: Devonport Victoria Theatre, New Zealand  
Jul 06: Auckland Sky City Theatre, New Zealand
Jul 07: Christchurch  James Hay Theatre, New Zealand
Jul 08: Wellington Old St. Pauls, New Zealand

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.