Word Interview: Rollins parties on TV

When the United Service Organization heads overseas to entertain wounded troops, it’s fitting that the celebrities invited be of the generic, yet irritatingly cheery variety. A morning talk-show host or OC cast member would fit the bill. Believe it or not, hulk-like former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins has been a recent fixture on the tours. The abrasive socio-political commentator has done seven tours in the last three years–a record putting even the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders to shame.

“I keep volunteering,” says Rollins. “They say, ‘Well, I bet you won’t do that again.’ And I say, ‘I bet I will.'”

Since his friendship with Ian MacKaye introduced him to the punk scene in the late ’70s, Rollins has become a counterculture icon. Despite his position within the underground, he takes a different tone when speaking of his travels with USO tours. Sounding more like an old-fashioned patriot than a beacon of resistance, he refers to the deployed troops as ‘our boys.’

“I’m selfish,” admits Rollins. “I hate seeing statistics about how many [soldiers] are getting killed [in Iraq]. It was a mistake to go over there in the first place on faulty intelligence. If we were to pull out now, it would be chaos.”

While the solution to the ongoing turmoil in Iraq seems non-existent to most, Rollins takes another approach. He believes the Bush administration is faced with three options right now.

“[The administration] could withdraw forces, which would mean more Iraqi’s getting killed in the civil war that would ensue; they can stay there, which would mean more of our troops getting killed; or they could reinstate Saddam Hussein, which I sincerely doubt they’re going to do,” explains Rollins. “There will be more death no matter what.”

Rollins’ sincerity and understanding of today’s political atmosphere makes prime fodder for his highly successful spoken word tours. Incorporating important socio-political issues with his own style of self-deprecating, sarcastic humour, Rollins’ tours have garnered him much popularity. Although political goings-on in the world are easily sufficient for his presentations, Rollins is constantly seeking out new experiences to relate to his audiences. Last February, for example, Rollins travelled across Russia on the Trans-Siberian express­–a week long journey trapped in the confines of a steel box across a frozen wasteland.

“There really isn’t anything to do there except either avoid or confront yourself,” elucidates Rollins. “I’m a confrontational person, so I chose the latter. I did a lot of introspective thinking. Uninterrupted solitude can be nice.”

Having already done TV, film, music and books, enjoying some solitude is all Rollins has yet to do. Presently working on two new books, as well as his preparing for his TV show, The Henry Rollins Show, to begin airing weekly next season, Rollins won’t see downtime any time soon.

“I just want to be better,” he says. “I want to do more writing, and improve on that. Work on my sentence structure, you know?”

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