IE: You don’t let one day go by without buying a record. What is today’s selection?
Henry Rollins: Well, I haven’t bought it yet, but the day is young. There’s a band from Finland that I like a lot. Well, it’s a guy and he records under the name Uton and he makes a lot of weird psychedelic folk music and drum music. You never really know what he’ll do next; it’s all kind of weird and very arty and he makes so many records – because he makes them at home – that something will pop up and you have no idea that he ever made it and it’s like four years old and there’s only 90 of them. So I kind of scour the Internet looking for stuff like that. And I found two of his titles today that I’m not familiar with, so those will probably have to come with me.
IE: How do you make time to consume so much music?
HR: I make a schedule for it. During the week, usually it’s protein – where it’s new music that I haven’t heard yet so you’ve got to apply yourself and listen. On the weekend nights, like Friday night and Saturday night, it’ll be carbohydrates where it can be music that’s familiar – a record that you miss or a record that makes you feel good or whatever. A comfort food.
IE: You’re taking a mini-hiatus from “The Long March” tour to hit all 50 state capitols as part of a pre-election trek you’ve dubbed “Capitalism.” What’s the goal of this tour since people who vehemently oppose your leanings probably aren’t going to show up?
HR: You do preach to the perverted on these tours in that why would someone pay 30 bucks for a ticket – or whatever it costs – to sit and listen? Like I wouldn’t pay 30 bucks to go listen to Ann Coulter. It’s just not interesting to me. It might be kind of freaky for a while. The goal is my goal nightly whenever I’m onstage, [which] is just to connect with the audience and keep them interested. Hopefully you’re coming from a good place where you’re a good storyteller. My primary objective is not to be boring. But there’s no big message. A thing that keeps coming up night to night on this one particular part of the tour is the idea of community. I hear some of these people [say] “I’m a rugged individual” and “We’re all here on our own.” Well, you know, democracy can’t exist in that environment. We’re not on our own. The Constitution binds us together. It’s the one thing that we all follow – not religion. But, it is the rulebook. So, that’s the one thing I keep talking about on the tour and as about as political as I get is I urge people to vote. I wouldn’t dare tell them who to vote for. It’s really rude when you tell someone who to vote for. I just think it’s important that you do vote and that democracy begs you to weigh in. We should have a vigorous electorate. People should want to vote. It’s a great feeling. There’s an effervescence I get from voting that I can’t get any other way. I feel like I just won the lottery or something. It’s a big experience for me and it never gets old.
IE: It has almost become a sport to tell people which candidate they should vote for.
HR: I can’t even put a bumper sticker on my car. To me that’s just rude. To where if I’m at a red light and I have to look at your bumper sticker, even if it’s someone I agree with, I don’t want to look at it on your car. I mean, I’m not going to do anything, but I wouldn’t do it to the driver behind me, so I never put a bumper sticker on my car. And I won’t wear the T-shirt. It’s you and your vote in that ballot box and I don’t want to know who you’re voting for. I don’t care. I just care that you vote at all. That’s my concern.
IE: During this season of HBO’s “The Newsroom,” Jeff Daniels’ character wants to shake up the debate format. What would you do in the moderator seat during one of the presidential debates?
HR: I’d rather do it like the Lincoln-Douglas debates where one guy gets up there and speaks about three hours like they used to and then Douglas would get up there and speak. Lincoln would go, “Look, take a dinner break and come back. We’ll resume at 7 p.m. ’cause this is going to take a while.” And then he would speak for about three and half hours. You can read the transcripts and if you let these people go long, you’ll really see what they’re all about. When someone is rescued – oh you have a minute and a half to make your point. No, no, no! Give them seven minutes. Give ’em ten, but make them talk the whole time and that’s where Mitt Romney – he’s really gonna have to show you what he’s got. Paul Ryan’s really gonna have to show you what’s under the hood . . . and that’s where I think the problem is. You get only a few seconds to respond and that allows you to make a cute sound-bitey point that your spun-down, hard-drive of an audience is going to go “Yeah!” But if you really make them sit for ten minutes and make them flush it out, you watch how these people would flail. Romney – his arms would come off. On the opposite, Barack Obama – who I’m quite a fan of – I think he’d be able to lay it out with a very detailed, cogent, rational, organized way of laying out the facts ’cause I think he is about something and going somewhere. And in my opinion, Mitt Romney is a guy who’s bored and he’s running for president as a hobby.
IE: There’s so much anger revolving around this election. As an Obama supporter, is there anything you think he could do better?
HR: It’s hard for me to expect more of the president when he’s got a Congress that says no to everything. I don’t know what you do when the Congress shoots down everything that you put across . . . So, the president’s trying to do stuff. Is he perfect? No. Is any human? No. But you’re not getting to see what the guy wants to do because he’s being held to the ground. And so, it’s hard to evaluate how the president’s doing. You can only evaluate by what he’s been trying to do. When you read the bills, not that I sit there reading the bills – they’re over my head intellectually – but when I get the summary I go “Wow! That was a good idea. Oh, we can’t do that? OK. Well, look what he’s trying next. Oh, that’s a good idea! Oh, can’t do that either, they said no.” And so what he has been able to get done? There’s all kinds of what-has-Obama-done factsheets that you can read that are pretty damn stunning. He did rescue General Motors. He did kill Osama bin Laden, which I was against – I would have rather seen him go to a court . . . Some people – it doesn’t matter what piece of paper you show them, you’ll never be able to convince them that Barack Obama’s not from Kenya. That’s just what they got and they’re running with it. I mean, you could film the birth they’d still go, “Nope!” They got their talking points, so at this point I think Mitt Romney – who’s not yet been able to find any plan that he wants to carry out at all. He has not put anything down that says here’s where I’m going; here’s what I’m doing. He just wants to be president really bad. And if you vote for that, well, that’s for you to do and may the best person win on behalf of all of us. I want everyone – the people I vote for and the people I vote against – I want all of us to get ahead collectively, because again, we are all in this together. But, could anyone do anything better? Yeah, I’d like for Barack Obama to pull the soldiers out of Afghanistan or to tell me the real reason why we’re there. I really don’t think it’s hearts and minds. I think it’s probably minerals, property, basing posture in the region, but American soldiers keep dying as they’ve been dying since . . . Alexander the Great and the Mongols and the Brits and Soviets, etc. and everyone eventually leaves Afghanistan. Why America thinks they’re going to get a different outcome is hubris and too many Clint Eastwood movies they’ve been watching.
IE: As a big fan of Lincoln, are you excited to see Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal?
HR: Yeah, I’d like to see that in that I’m sure that [Steven] Spielberg who has great attention to detail – he’s not a director I go out of my way to watch anything of – but he’s not a dummy and I’m sure he and Daniel Day-Lewis and his producers have been doing some research into how Abraham Lincoln may have spoken and I’m interested to hear what that’s going to sound like. Also, apparently from what I’ve read about Lincoln, he had a very distinctive gait as he walked and I want to see if they’re going to work and see if they’re going to drill into that because Lincoln fascinates me. He’s my surrogate dad. I don’t like my own very much, so I’ll take Lincoln instead. He was born on the 12th of February; I was born on the 13th, so I kind of like how that works. I wish he was born on the 13th or I was born on the 12th. That would be a little better for me, but I’ll take it. I really like the way he spoke, you know, from what I’ve read of his speeches and the transcripts and the correspondence. His grip on English was immense and if you read what he said – I mean, who knows what the private man was like, but publicly he was truly a man of the people. I admire that.
Henry Rollins appears at Old Town School of Folk Music from Nov. 15 to 17.