- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2016

Henry Rollins speaks loudly and forcefully. It is not so much that he wants you to agree with him as that he demands you hear. This is true both of his career as a musician — as the screaming frontman of punk bands Black Flag and his own Rollins Band — as it is of his acting work and, especially, of his spoken-word performances, a kind of free form, half-lecture, half-standup spectacle that showcases his tremendous intellect, thorough knowledge of history and, especially, his rather vociferous views on politics and current events.

“I make a lot of notes and run the ideas by myself over and over. I often do it out loud on the treadmill or in the car so I can hear my voice actually say the words,” Mr. Rollins said in an email sent to The Washington Times from the road of his current spoken-word tour, which comes to the District’s Warner Theatre for an Election Day special Tuesday.

Much like a comedian finessing his act, Mr. Rollins refines his hourslong on-stage diatribe night after night, dropping bits that maybe don’t work so well or that drag down the vibe he works so feverishly to engender with his audiences.

“I am not looking to put an audience through a ‘warmup’ show. I wouldn’t want to go to a show where the performer was getting it together on my time,” Mr. Rollins said. “I take the audience very seriously.”

In his routine Mr. Rollins is as loud as he is brash. He has decried lip-synching artists like Ashlee Simpson and what he views as a general softening of music in general (“Aren’t there people who just want to put on a record anymore and wreck everything in sight?!”) and the lessons that come from pain and depression.

Salty words pepper nearly every sentence.

In one of his most famous routines, Mr. Rollins speaks of how he and best friend Joe Cole were assaulted by robbers outside their shared Venice Beach, California, home in 1991. Mr. Rollins begins the lengthy anecdote in the third person before switching to the “I” pronoun shortly before discovering that his friend has been killed — this after being handcuffed by the police as a suspect.

He sometimes even pauses mid-performance to read a poem he has recently written — a startling peek into the softer humanity at the center of this muscular gentleman with the famous 20-inch neck.

“I warm up by talking for about 15 minutes before I go on. Sleep and hydration are key to maintaining your voice,” Mr. Rollins said of how he is able to speak more or less nonstop, sometimes for upwards of three hours.

Mr. Rollins‘ Warner Theatre show marks something of a homecoming for the 55-year-old. He came of age in the District’s Glover Park neighborhood and went to school in nearby Potomac, Maryland.

“I have noticed that the neighborhoods have changed. A lot of buildings got makeovers and the rent skyrocketed,” Mr. Rollins said of his hometown and its changing economics and shifting demographics.

As a young man in the heart of democracy, Mr. Rollins versed himself on the music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. An interest in classic rock followed, which led him to punk pioneers like The Ramones and The Clash. He was known to patronize The 9:30 Club and other iconic District venues, soon enough performing at them on the road to becoming a full-time musician.

“I am the last person any musician should go to for advice,” Mr. Rollins said of his aversion to being a Jedi to up-and-coming acts now. “If you have to ask for advice, you’re already beat.

“If you have it in you, you don’t ask for advice. You just go out there and do it. If you don’t have it in you, you ask for advice.”

Mr. Rollins also talks in his act about meeting such musical influences as Iggy Pop, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, David Bowie, Johnny Cash and John Lee — and of his reverting to a “fan boy” upon meeting such heroes.

But he is not a generational snob, pointing to his fandom for such 21st century darlings as Ty Segall and Teri Gender Bender as among those he favors.

“It’s fun being a fan,” Mr. Rollins said of his affinity for music both old and new, adding that he believes the District music scene is especially rich.

Mr. Rollins has dozens of films in his IMDB credits, including the gangster epic “Heat” and the cult 1994 comedy “The Chase,” the latter of which, he said, taught him precisely how difficult it is to elicit laughter on film.

“To be funny in front of a camera is a rare talent,” he said. “I don’t have it, but it’s interesting to try.”

Mr. Rollins has acted in two films and appeared in two TV shows this year. He no longer performs in a band himself, explaining that music “was in me, and then one day, it was over.”

“I have never thought of going back to it,” he said. “I would rather try different things.”

Asked what he hopes his future may yet hold, Mr. Rollins — unprompted — offers up a quote from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Korean religious leader and businessman who founded The Washington Times:

“My mission is a cosmic mission. My concern is for all of humanity, and not only this present world, but the world hereafter. My mission penetrates the past, present and future, and encompasses all humanity.”

Wherever his universal walk may yet take him, Mr. Rollins said he will take the time back in his hometown to walk his old haunts and think of earlier days.

“I always liked walking around at night in D.C. The quality of air is great,” he said. “I see people I grew up with sometimes. It’s great to see how well they turned out.”

Henry Rollins will perform Tuesday evening, Election Day, at The Warner Theatre. Tickets are $60 by going to Ticketfly.com.

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