Get in the Van
“I’ve averaged over 100 shows a year for 25 years. I’m not exactly proud of that, like I wear it on a badge, but I sure do like what I do.” Henry Rollins
Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter, spoken word artist, book author, TV personality, movie actor, comedian, and voice-over artist Henry Rollins is famous among rock fans as the vocalist of the punk pioneers Black Flag (1981-1986) and the Rollins Band (1987-2003, 2006). The Rollins Band released eight studios albums, including “Life Time” (1987), their debut, “The End of Silence” (#160 US, 1992), “Come in and Burn” (#89 US, 1997), “Get Some Go Again” (#180 US, 2000) and “Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three” (2003). “Weight” (1994) marked the group's highest charted album on the Billboard 200 when it hit the Top 40. As a soloist, Rollins released two hardcore punk albums in 1987 but is best recalled for his work in the spoken word arena. He won his Grammy award for his reading of his autobiographical book “Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag.” Other spoken word releases include “Big Ugly Mouth,” (1987), “Human Butt” (1992), “The Boxed Life” (1993), “Everything” (1996), “Black Coffee Blues” (1997), “Think Tank” (1998), “A Rollins in the Wry” (2001), the “Talk Is Cheap” series (2003-2004) and “Provoked” (2008).
On the big screen, Rollins appeared in such movies as “The Chase” (1994), “Johnny Mnemonic” (1995), “Heat” (1995), “Lost Highway” (1997), “Jack Frost” (1998), “The New Guy” (2002), “Bad Boys 2” (2003) and “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End” (2007). Moviegoers will see him in the upcoming films “The Devil's Tomb,” “H for Hunger,” “Under the Radar: Burma” and “Suck” (all 2009). Rollins also hosted the IFC talk show “The Henry Rollins Show” (2006) and the TLC game show “Full Metal Challenge” (2002-2003).
“If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you.” Henry Rollins
Rollins has written a number of books and has published his work and works by famed authors like Henry Miller and Hubert Selby, Jr. through his independent publishing house, 2.13.61, Inc. 2.13.61 branched out into releasing records shortly after Rollins launched a solo career following the breakup of Black Flag. In addition to releasing Rollins’ spoken word albums, the 2.13.61 record label has also released various jazz and rock albums by artists such as Nick Cave, and The Gun Club. Some of Rollins' books are the Black Coffee Blues trilogy: “Black Coffee Blues” (1992), “Do I Come Here Often?” (1996) and “Smile, You're Traveling” (2000), “Get in the Van” (1994) and “Now Watch Him Die,” in which he wrote after the death of his best friend Joe Cole, who was murdered by a gunshot to the head outside of Rollins' home in late 1991.
Rollins has been outspoken on issues regarding human rights, most notably gay rights. In 2003, he joined the United Service Organizations and toured overseas to entertain U.S. troops. Five years later, he joined forces with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) to establish a national public service advertisement campaign. He also helped IAVA with a second campaign that helps friends and family of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Childhood and Family:
Born Henry Lawrence Garfield on February 13, 1961, in Washington, D.C., Henry Rollins grew up in the Glover Park neighborhood. His parents divorced when he was a child and he was primarily raised by his mother. Young Henry experienced low self-esteem and a short attention span. First attending public school, Henry was immediately sent to The Bullis School, a preparatory school in Potomac, Maryland, because of bad grades, bad attitude and poor demeanor. It was while at The Bullis that he started writing. Henry has mentioned that the military school helped him build a sense of discipline and a tireless work ethic.
Nicknamed Hanks and Rollins, Henry decided to not attend college after seeing fellow students involved in drugs and alcohol. Instead, he took on odd jobs like being a courier for liver samples at the National Institutes of Health. It was his friend and future frontman for bands like Minor Threat and Fugazi, Ian MacKaye, who introduced him to the world of punk.
A survivor of a tough upbringing, Henry Rollins found solace in the punk music circuit as a teenager and began his career as a roadie for local bands like Ian MacKaye's Teen Idles. He moved on to become the frontman and vocalist for State of Alert, which Rollins founded in October 1980 with a few former members of the Washington punk band The Extorts. After 12 gigs in and around the eastern U.S. and an EP titled “No Policy” on MacKaye's Dischord Records, the hardcore punk group broke up in July the following year. By this time, Rollins had received a reputation for fighting in shows.
Rollins went on to become the vocalist of Black Flag, a California punk rock group founded by guitarist and primary songwriter Greg Ginn. Joining the group in 1981 after lead singer Dez Cadena switched to guitar, Henry’s relationship with Black Flag began in 1980 when he exchanged letters with bassist Chuck Dukowskia and ended up inviting the group to stay at his house when they toured the east coast in late 1980. A huge fan of the group, Rollins attended many of the group's concerts in early 1981. In one of their shows, he was given the opportunity to perform with the group and when Black Flag was in search for a new vocalist, they immediately asked Rollins to fill the empty spot.
As a new vocalist of Black Flag, the Washington, D.C. native, who changed his surname from Garfield to Rollins after he joined the group, earned notice for his stage persona and by 1983 it progressively estranged him from the rest of Black Flag and audiences. His major contributions to the group's change in their musical style and appearance made Rollins the object of fans' dissatisfaction. They used to punch him in the mouth, jab him with pens or scratch him with their nails, and Rollins responded by dragging audience members on stage and assaulting them. By 1986, when Black Flag disbanded, Rollins had created a reputation as one of the most boisterous performers in hardcore punk. Around the same time, he also began touring and released the spoken word album “Short Walk on a Long Pier” in 1985.
In 1987, Rollins released the hardcore punk album “Hot Animal Machine” in partnership with guitarist Chris Haskett, bassist Bernie Wandel and drummer Mick Green. It was followed by “Drive by Shooting” (also 1987), which was recorded as Henrietta Collins & the Wifebeating Childhaters. That same year, Rollins launched his next spoken word album, “Big Ugly Mouth.” His association with Chris Haskett continued when the two decided to form a new group, Rollins Band, and soon added bassist Andrew Weiss and drummer Sim Cain to the group.
The Rollins Band released their first full length studio album in 1987 called “Life Time,” which was produced by long time friend Ian MacKaye. The album was later rereleased in 1999. It was soon followed by “Do It” in 1988. The album “Hard Volume” and the live album “Turned On” were released in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Rollins also released the spoken word albums “Sweatbox” (1989) and “Live at McCabe's” (1990).
After signing a contract with Imago in 1991 and participating in the Lollapalooza tour, the Rollins Band launched their first album for the label in 1992, “The End of Silence.” Produced by Andy Wallace, the alternative metal/punk rock album hit the Billboard 200 and peaked at No. 160. The album also rose to number 8 on the Top Heatseekers albums chart. The song “Low Self Opinion” became a hit on the Modern Rock Tracks. Also in 1992, Rollins released the spoken word albums “Human Butt” and “Deep Throat.” The double spoken word album “The Boxed Life” followed in 1993 and featured Canadian journalist and radio show host Ian Bussières.
1994 marked Rollins' banner year. He and the Rollins Band performed at the music festival Woodstock 94 and launched the album “Weight” with the group's new bassist Melvin Gibbs. Consisting of such hits as “Liar” and “Disconnect” and the song “Civilized,” which was used as the closing theme song for the talk show “Dennis Miller Live,” “Weight” rose to No. 33 on the Billboard 200 and became their first hit in the U.K., where it peaked at No. 22. As a spoken word artist, Rollins released “Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag,” a double-disc set of readings from Rollins' memoir of the same name, and won a 1995 Grammy in the category of Best Spoken Word Recording for his effort. Also in 1994, Rollins was named Details' “Man of the Year” and became a contributing columnist to the men's magazine. He also appeared on MTV and VH1 and in his first Hollywood film, “The Chase” (1994). Playing Officer Dobbs, he costarred in the film with Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson. Throughout the 1990s, he added a string of film work to his resume, including Robert Longo's “Johnny Mnemonic” (1995, with Keanu Reeves, Dina Meyer and Ice-T), Michael Mann's “Heat” (1995, with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro), David Lynch's “Lost Highway” (1997, as Guard Henry), Troy Miller's “Jack Frost” (1998, starred Michael Keaton) and the indie drama “Morgan's Ferry” (1999, opposite Billy Zane and Kelly McGillis). Additionally, he appeared in episodes of television series like “Saturday Night Live” and “Sin City Spectacular.”
After “Weight,” the Rollins Band was forced to find a new label after Imago Records filed bankruptcy. During the band's break, Rollins focused his energy on his spoken word career and launched such albums as “Everything” (audio book, 1996), “Black Coffee Blues” (audio book, 1997), “Think Tank” (1998), and “Eric the Pilot” (1999). When the Rollins Band reunited in 1997, they released “Come in and Burn” for DreamWorks, but the album failed to enjoy the same success as its predecessor “Weight.”
In 2000, the Rollins Band, with the Los Angeles rock band Mother Superior replacing the Haskett-Gibbs-Cain lineup, released “Get Some Go Again,” which peaked at No. 180 on the Billboard 200. After the albums “Nice” (#178 US; 2001) and “Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three” (2003) and one live album called “The Only Way to Know for Sure” (2002), the Rollins Band disbanded and did not reconcile until 2006 when they, with Rollins reuniting the Haskett-Gibbs-Cain lineup, served as opening acts for X and played on the first season finale of “The Henry Rollins Show.”
Rollins launched “A Rollins in the Wry,” a new spoken word album, in 2001. It was followed by “Live at the Westbeth Theater” (also 2001). From 2003 to 2004, he released “Talk Is Cheap” volumes 1 through 4, and “Nights Behind the Tree Line” (audio book). During this period, Rollins also appeared in the thriller film “Scenes of the Crime” (2001), alongside Jeff Bridges and Jon Abrahams, and in the award winning documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” (also 2001), which was about the pioneering 1970s Zephyr skating team. He voice Mad Stan/Stanley Labowski in the animated TV series “Batman Beyond,” a recurring voice role he had from 1999 to 2001, and served as an unaccredited host of “Night Visions” (2001), a short-lived horror anthology series. Rollins' subsequent film credits include “The New Guy” (2002), a comedy which starred Tommy Lee and DJ Qualls, “Jackass The Movie” (2002, opposite Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera), Michael Bay's “Bad Boys 2” (2003, starred Martin Lawrence and Will Smith), “Feast” (2005, as Coach) and “The Alibi” (2006).
A co-host on the British television show “Full Metal Challenge,” a gig he held form 2002 to 2003, Rollins began headlining his own chat show, “The Henry Rollins Show,” on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) in 2006. He also appeared in a documentary series by VH1 and The Sundance Channel called “The Drug Years” and providing the voice of Skylar in three episodes of the animation series “Shorty McShorts' Shorts.” In 2007, Rollins starred with Erica Leerhsen in “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End,” a horror movie directed by Joe Lynch. He then launched “Provoked,” a spoken word album released as a CD/DVD combo, in 2008.
Rollins will have recurring roles on FX's “Sons of Anarchy” (2009), playing AJ Weston. As for film, he is set to appear in “The Devil's Tomb” (2009, with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ron Perlman), Neil Hollander's “H for Hunger” and “Under the Radar: Burma” (both 2009), and “Suck” (2009, as Rockin' Roger). He will also appear in the documentaries “Looking for Lenny” and “Reinstate Hank” (both 2009).
Also a radio personality, Rollins began hosting “My Head,” a weekly show on Los Angeles' Indie 103.1 radio, in 2004. As of March, 2009, he hosts a live show on Saturday nights on KCRW.
Grammy: Best Spoken Word Recording, “Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag,” 1995