By Huntress Thompson | Images by Matt Ross
Here’s the first part of our interview with him. Keep checking in over the next few days for part two (Henry Rollins talks: The Internet) and part three (Bands Henry Rollins Thinks You Oughta Hear).
Some observations before we start:
- When he’s making small talk, when he’s talking to you about things he’s interested in like obscure bands and films, he talks to the floor. He stares at the carpet when he tells you about an emotional experience he had about one of these things because, like many who take art very seriously, he knows most people have no idea what he’s talking about.
- This interview was conducted in the lobby of his hotel, where I think he might have been wearing his pyjamas. He wore a t-shirt, and cotton tracksuit bottoms that had little pleats ironed into them, and I still knew he was the most imposing person in the room. As we know, he is the most imposing person in most rooms.
Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but there’s a running theme that I’ve noticed when you speak about women – There seems to be the sense that you find them a little bit unknowable, that you don’t quite get it.
Oh, women have always held a bit of mystery to me. That’s fair enough!
Do you think that’s going to change? Are you learning a little bit more?
I’m definitely learning more, yeah. I think a man can appreciate a woman far more than a boy can appreciate a girl. I think, as an older guy, you become a better listener. You become more aware of a human relationship with a woman – say, maybe, a romantic one (that’s one of many relationships you can have with a woman).
You realise you’re half of it. You’re not 20%, where you don’t have to check in, but you’re not 80% where it’s all about you. There’s another human being that you must respect as you respect yourself.
That’s what I’ve learned over the years, with more laps around the track. A man needs a lot of time, and help pulling his head out of his ass, and women are there to go “Ugh, again? Okay.” [Chuckles] They do that very well, if the guy’s smart enough to listen.
In other relationships, I have been given many examples of how incredible women are. How well they deal with adversity. How well they can marshall their courage and innovation to really take care of unenviable situations, and really make things happen.
I’ve never thought men do things better than women – it never occurred to me. I was raised by a very strong woman, so I’ve never had that idea.
Coming from punk rock (it’s a very egalitarian, politically correct scene that I come from) and over the years, I’ve learned more and more about women probably by learning more about myself, and by learning more about people in general.
The female is a deep, deep well. There’s a lot going on. It’s a very complex thing. I think men can be complex, and can be somewhat dynamic, but, in my opinion, not to the same degree that a woman can. Now, it sounds like I’m putting women in the pejorative, saying “Well, they’re a very complicated pain in the ass,” and I’m not saying that.
I think men are far more simple to understand. We’re far more canine, where, perhaps women are a bit more feline. What’s the cat thinking? “I don’t know.” What’s the dog thinking? “Well, he’s dry humping your couch – I think I know what he’s thinking.” [Laughs]
Men are kind of easier to understand on that level, in my opinion. I date a very complex, and very, very intelligent woman, and I spend a good bit of time running after her, mentally. Intellectually, trying to keep up. Why she puts up with me, I don’t know. She’ll come at me from some very fascinating intellectual height, and I’ll say, “Huh. Radical.” She’s like “[elaborate cartoon sigh].”
So, [laughs loudly] I don’t know why she finds me interesting, but hopefully I’m bringing something to the table. It’s interesting hearing what she has to say about something, because she’s very, very schooled, and coming from a very classical education. I come from something that’s a bit more dipped in the juice of the street.
Henry takes to the Bassline stage in Johannesburg tonight at 20:00. Obviously, there’s nowhere else you should be. Tickets are available at the venue and on Computicket.
Other SA tour dates
Fri 18 May – Baxter Theatre, Rondebosch, Cape Town
Sat 19 May – The SunZone, Suncoast, Durban
In the vacuum between dark and light, Siouxsie Sioux and Emmylou Harris, Amelie and Travis Bickle, Huntress Thompson is an idiot lost, and reporting from the field. If you’re after irrational, impassioned rants about cupcakes and Johnny Cash (and you probably aren’t), she’s grumpy, but she’s your girl.