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Henry Rollins

Flight 46664

by David Chislett / 06.05.2010

By now you’ll probably know that Henry Rollins is performing in South Africa from 6-8 May. If you read the preview piece here on Mahala, you will also know that many readers question his relevance and authenticity. So when we were offered an interview, we jumped at the chance.

21st century South Africa is a weird place. We’ve got generation Y kids who really don’t like confrontation, Gen X adults who thrive on it, post traumatic stress syndrome border war vets, MK cadre vets and a global atmosphere of overly PC sensibility. In this light, the anger that Henry Rollins has always espoused might come off as out of whack with the times. We put it to Henry that maybe anger is just so 1990 these days.

“I go onstage and do my thing,” is his blunt response, “So far, most of the tour has sold out. Seems like people are pretty keen on whatever it is I am saying. How do you see YOUR PLACE in that? Probably trying to get a free ticket. As far as the milieu I am in, it’s a very angry country I am holding a passport in these days. Have you seen some of these mad dogs with their signs? But seriously, my anger comes from desire that things become better. All is not well and so there is work to be done. Can’t let the bastards grind you down now, can you?”

Judging from the comments after the preview piece, the jollers of today (yes that’s you dear reader) are also not sure of his relevance to their lives. And once again, Rollin’s is just not phased by what you think! “Who knows what those crazy kids find relevant these days? I don’t!” he retorts and continues that as a response to the current global political climate, he still sees the same things as always, “Yes, the same options I have always seen: Progress, negotiation, science, peace, integration, responsibility.”

But moving away from Henry and his show for a second we asked him about OUR current political climate and what he thought of the ANC Youth league debate. “It seems to me that Mr. Malema is very angry,” replied Henry, “It will be interesting to see how Zuma handles him. It seems that president Zuma is angry at Malema’s anger. What’s with you South Africans and anger and all this racial tension? What, are you trying to be like America?!”

Ahh so he does have a sense of humour too, something that a lot of the discourse around his latest visit has neglected. Last years show was actually very funny as well as enlightening.

But apart from these gems it does seem like Mr. Rollins is a bit tired and jaded. When asked if he thought music still had a political role to play in positive change he responded simply, “I think the role of music is what it has always been. For some it’s entertainment, for others, it’s something else. I always thought music was just music and not really the vehicle of change that it was cracked up to be. I wish things were different. If it was, Dylan and Marley’s music would have stopped wars. What band got Obama elected? I am 49 now. I really don’t know what the youth listen to. I listen to music I like and that’s about it. As to what is popular, it is probably not what I am listening to.”

This was all conducted via email after some interesting back and forthing. But it does reveal that, no matter your personal misgivings about Henry Rollins, he sure doesn’t share them, and nor do too many punters around the globe buying up the tickets to his shows. One thing is for sure; your expectations may well be confounded when you see the show. Rollins is astute, funny and doesn’t actually take himself quite as seriously as he sometimes comes across. While he is in South Africa, he is also being recognised by 46664 and presented with his own unique 46664 bangle in recognition of his humanitarian efforts. So if Madiba even thinks he’s cool, maybe you should come and join us and see the Frequent Flyer in action.

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