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(Over) Working man
Henry Rollins can do little wrong in my book.
His observations — on TV and radio, in interviews and in his spoken-word shows — are spot on and usually hyperventilatingly funny. His scenes in The New Guy (and more so perhaps The Chase and Jackass) were movie-savers, and Get Some Go Again may be the most powerful collection of straight-up rock songs, ever.
So, when the phone picks up and the voice (the voice) on the other end says, “This is Henry,” I resist my urge to gush and just get down to business — his Frequent Flyer Tour, which makes a stop at the Tower Theatre, 7 p.m. June 4.
After all, this is a professional operation and Rollins isn't one for wasting time.
What to expect from the show
The press release for the tour says Rollins “shares a global perspective on America and an American perspective on the globe, both informed by Henry's insatiable curiosity and extensive firsthand experience,” and the tag-line for the tour is “knowledge without mileage equals bullshit.”
Which is a way of saying, it's a travelogue of sorts, two-hours of insight from a guy who's been just about every place.
Indeed, Rollins has the miles. From October to January, he was in Saudia Arabia, Senegal, Mali and a bunch of other countries you don't catch because the list is that long and he's talking fast. Since January he's been in Australia, New Zealand and the United States playing 100-plus dates (so far) on a tour that runs through June.
“Travel has always served me better than reading books about a place,” he says.
You can read about apartheid. Rollins went to South Africa.
The trick when telling the story — and that's what these talking shows are about — is to put it all in proper context, relating apartheid in South Africa to our own country and the way we deal with race and racism?
“The art of the thing is to find the story. Otherwise all you say is, ‘I went here and it looked like this.' ”
What you won't hear
This is a spoken-word tour, what Rollins calls his "talking shows."
It is not Rollins Band, for those looking for a trip in the way-back machine, or to see Rollins flex his musical muscle.
In fact, those days are over, he says. His last tour with the band, in 2006, was like a lost summer, he says, and he's not interested in doing that again. So, while he won't rule out making new music with new collaborators, you won't see him singing Liar or Rise Above anytime soon. He'll leave that for guys like Ozzy, who don't get tired of playing Paranoid, every night.
“I can dig it. It's just not where I'm at,” he says.
Instead, he keeps moving forward, learning, travelling and (over) working — at his publishing company and record label 2.13.61 and his weekly radio show on L.A.'s renowned NPR affiliate KCRW. He's also a regular contributor to VanityFair.com and just had a recurring role in the biker-series Sons of Anarchy.
And then, there are still plenty of countries left to visit.
“There's a lot of the ‘-stans' I want to get to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan.”
He's at that point in his life, and this is how he's going out, like Jon Voight in the last minutes of Runaway Train, on top of the engine car, just watching that granite wall get closer.
“Republican douche bag that he is, it's still a wonderful visual.”
Also of note
* This will be Rollin's third stop in Fresno with his talking shows. He has no memory of the other two. That's a good thing, he says, given the sheer amount of shows he does every year.
“It would take a stabbing for a show to stand out.”
* Of everything he does, the radio stuff is the most fun, Rollins says. “You just get to play music and be a wise guy.”
And there is so much music happening right now, he says. He's particually into the Midwestern, cassette-only noise lables, like Gods of Tundra and American Tapes.
“It's the new jazz in my opinion.”