"I'm a more hollow and disconnected person": Henry Rollins talks about his father and dealing with death


Legendary punk rocker Henry Rollins talks to Marc Fennell about the enduring impact of his father and how death has changed him.

Back in 1981, a very young Henry Rollins stormed the stage of the legendary punk band Black Flag. He took the mic and the rest is history.

He blew the band away, they made him lead singer, he quit his job at an ice cream store and he hasn't looked back since.

Whatever Henry Rollins does, the dude does it hardcore. Music, actingracism campaigner, a journalist and he travels the world speaking.

With no family, and no partner, the question has to be asked: where does the drive for all of it come from?

"Anger and fear," Rollins says with a smirk. "Fear of failure drives me. Paranoia of things going wrong around me, drives me.

I'm driven by a lot of kind, really ugly anger. So I have a lot of that in me.

"And it comes from a father who was terrifying and teachers who yell at me and told me I'd never be anything.

And so, I descend from the sky and land on things really hard. And I go at everything with that amount of fury."

Rollins grew up the only child of Paul and Iris Garfield, with his parents divorcing when he was just a young child and him having to spend weekends with his father who he describes as "terrifying".

"He was racist. He would say incredibly awful, unrepeatable things about women," Rollins notes. 

When I was like really inappropriately young, he would tell me how to deal with women. I cannot repeat what he said. Not even ... it's so awful.

"It's misogyny on steroids. It's the King Kong of misogyny.  And I went wow, we're not alike. I'm not like you.

"And he would say things about non-white people and I was like wow, I am not like this.

"You are terrifying to me. I would go visit him on the weekends and walk on rice paper.

"I lost that awareness after I was shot at and after I had to deal with the sheer, disgusting remnants of a dead body..."

"Conversations I would just sit there like wow, please Sunday afternoon hurry up so I can get out of here."

Rollins says his experiences growing up between his two parents taught him a lot about family, specifically how he does not want to have one.  

"Just for me, the way I have the final word is this DNA? It's not going anywhere. It ends here.

"Cos far as I know I'm an only child. And as far as the combination of their DNA, Iris and Paul?

"It's never going forward. It ends here. I'm not having any kids.

"I'm a really sad sack of genes. I have my father's really uncontrollable anger. And it's really awful."

Rollins has been described as "fearless" throughout his career and his artistic endeavours: something that stems largely from a horrific incident when he was younger.

The performer and his best friend Joe Cole were involved in shooting outside their Venice Beach, California home back in 1991 - an event that went on to shape Rollins indefinitely.

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"When I had a gun to my head and moments later shots rung out and the next morning I cleaned my friend's brains off my lawn when my friend was killed near me ... that's when death was very, very real and has never left me.

"And that's why I'm basically numb to fear...

"I lost that awareness after I was shot at and after I had to deal with the sheer, disgusting remnants of a dead body. The terrifying reality of mopping it up. That was 25 years ago.

"You are forever smudged by it. It's like someone took a marker and marked you all up. You never get it off you.

"And it effects all of your relationships and your actions. It has for me. I am a more hollow and disconnected person after that.

"Human relationships are difficult and part of that is from that event. It's awful. It remains so. I think of my friend every day. I can't not."

Henry Rollins is currently touring Australia. All dates can be found here. 

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