Henry Rollins is on The Long March.
A punk-rock powerhouse in the ’80s with his band Black Flag and the leader of the Rollins Band in the ’90s, the new millennium Rollins is, in addition to being an actor, writer and radio personality, most of all a spoken-word performer. His 2012 Long March tour consists of 185 shows.
The third and final segment of The Long March, subtitled The Capitalism Tour, will reach all 50 of the United States’ capital cities.
Rollins’ fans can follow the trek at the YouTube channel, TakePart TV, at http://www.youtube.com/takepart.
Rollins’ agent proposed the concept of an election-year tour of state capitals.
“I said, ‘Wow. That’s cool, man. Let’s do it!’ ” Rollins said from Bismarck, N.D.
When it comes to touring, Rollins normally doesn’t think conceptually.
“I’m utilitarian with touring,” he said. “Give me a list of cities and off I go. Big, small, I don’t care. As long as there are shows, I will do them.”
And he’s typically on tour in the U.S. during the months of September, October and November anyway.
“It’s a nice time to be in America,” he said. “And I try to be on tour in election years. It’s a really interesting time to interact with people.”
Rollins’ sojourns across the U.S. are always a rich source of material for him.
“I have a lot of stuff that I know I’m going to go out there with, but you have to stay open and let new information in,” he said. “Things happen almost daily out here that I can bring to the stage.
“Like last night in St. Paul, Minn., we were in a Wal-Mart at 2:30 a.m. These weary people were working there. It’s an awful shift. Almost no one was in there, but we bought some things for the tour bus. The woman who checked us out was so tired. You could see the strain on her face. But she was so nice, so polite and friendly.
“It reminds me of what people are going through in this country, how incredibly decent humans are, how great Americans are. It sounds a little ooh-ooh-ooh, but that stuff really gets to me. And the more I tour America, year after year, decade after decade, the more I see what a great bunch of people I share this country with.”
Rollins knows what it’s like to work hard, to strive and struggle for success. Contrary to the perception that musicians don’t actually work for a living, he approached his music career, even from the beginning of Black Flag, with military-like dedication.
“When you’re broke and you’re ambitious, it’s really tough,” he said. “Everything is harder. The drives are longer. You’re playing for nobody. In those days there was no hotel, no nice tour bus. Someone’s got to be awake enough to drive. It makes you hungry. You can’t be stopped. That’s what I come from.”
Conditions for Rollins’ touring these days are comparatively plush. His tour bus has a professional driver, a place to sleep, a flat-screen TV, Internet access and good food. And usually there’s a professional sound system at the gig.
“Things are much easier, but it’s still vigorous,” Rollins said. “But the tenacity of those early days allows me to think of this as gravy, a birthday every day.”
Despite being on the road for 31 years, Rollins has no complaints about touring being grueling, boring or lonely.
“It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me,” he said. “And within five days of getting off the road, I miss it. I wish I was back on the bus.”
Occupied with touring, writing books and his weekly column for the LA Weekly, Rollins said he’s left music behind. Because he’s stopped writing lyrics, there’s no more musical work to do. “I’m not gonna go out and play old songs. It’s too sad to live in the past. I won’t do it. I’m always into the next thing. Once I’ve finished swinging from one vine, I’m onto the next vine.”
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