Henry Rollins on why he's not a crowd-pleaser

Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins (Image credit: Getty)

Henry Rollins says he never intended to make fans happy in his music career.

The former Black Flag frontman and spoken word performer says that listening to Foreigner and Twisted Sister at Hellfest play their greatest hits last month left him wondering why any artist would want to play old classics for the sake of crowd-pleasing nostalgia.

In his LA Weekly column, Rollins says: “A lot of bands do these blasts from the past. It is the band’s total submission to the will of the fan.

“The customers get what they want and can leave with a feeling of fulfilment and having been duly served. The rock stars get the adulation, proceeds and whatever else falls into their enclosure.

“I think it’s safe to say that there are many motives for why groups do this. The most frequently reached conclusion is that it’s for money, and perhaps that’s the biggest one.

“I just think the past is sad. It holds all your failures, humiliations and unrecoverable victories. The future offers opportunities to improve, so why wouldn’t you run at it with all speed?”

Rollins continues: “A mega rock star once explained to me why he sings 40-year-old songs at every show. He said it was his job to make people happy and to give them a good time.

“He then asked if that wasn’t the reason I performed – and he was confused when I said that the idea of making people happy had never occurred to me as a job descriptor.”

Rollins also insists that, if a band worked hard enough in their glory days, it should be all but impossible to make a comeback down the line.

He adds: “I believe in pushing artistic situations into distortion, exhaustion, collapse and eventual extinction, to where the only thing left besides the recorded or photographic evidence is legend, tall tale and flat-out lies. In this scenario, there is no ‘getting the band back together’ without it being awful, because you burned every synapse and ruined all relationships the first time.

“I think if you do it right, it cannot be done again. There should be nothing to come back to but ruin, hostility and the threat of litigation.”

Henry Rollins has scheduled a number of performances in Europe, New Zealand and Australia over the coming months.

Henry Rollins tour dates 2016

Aug 15: Assembly George Square at Edinburgh Fringe, UK
Aug 16: Assembly George Square at Edinburgh Fringe, UK
Aug 17: Assembly George Square at Edinburgh Fringe, UK
Aug 18: Assembly George Square at Edinburgh Fringe, UK
Aug 04: Wacken Open Air, Germany
Aug 05: Wacken Open Air, Germany
Aug 06: Wacken Open Air, Germany
Aug 07: Hunxe Ruhrpott Rodeo, Germany
Aug 09: Zuiderparktheater Hague, Netherlands
Aug 10: Groningen De Oosterpoort, Netherlands
Aug 11: Eindhoven North Brabant, Netherlands
Aug 20: Hasselt Pukkelpop, Belgium
Aug 26: Dunedin University Of Otago, New Zealand
Aug 27: Auckland Under The Radar, New Zealand
Aug 28: Wellington Paramount Theatre, New Zealand
Sep 02: Springwood Blue Mountains Theatre, Australia
Sep 07: Milton Theatre, Australia
Sep 09: Wollongong Town Hall, Australia
Sep 11: Darwin Entertainment Centre, Australia
Sep 13: Lismore Star Court Theatre, Australia
Sep 14: Brisbane Tivoli, Australia
Sep 15: Brisbane Tivoli, Australia
Sep 16: Brisbane Tivoli, Australia
Sep 17: Hobart Theatre Royal, Australia
Sep 19: Melbourne Arts Centre, Australia
Sep 20: Melbourne Arts Centre, Australia
Sep 21: Araluen Cultural Precinct, Australia
Sep 22: Torrensville Thebarton Theatre, Australia
Sep 23: Subiaco Regal Theatre, Australia
Sep 24: Subiaco Regal Theatre, Australia

Henry Rollins reads Dr Seuss children's book for Funny Or Die

Former TeamRock news desk member Christina joined our team in late 2015, and although her time working on online rock news was fairly brief, she made a huge impact by contributing close to 1500 stories. Christina also interviewed artists including Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and worked at the Download festival. In late 2016, Christina left rock journalism to pursue a career in current affairs. In 2021, she was named Local Weekly Feature Writer of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards.