Henry Rollins isn’t a fan of much metal music these days. He even claims to have never listened to an entire Rage Against the Machine song. That doesn’t, however, mean he can’t relate to the Bizkit bunch.
A seasoned singer, author, actor and spoken-word performer, Rollins has a knack for relating to most everything.
“I hear some guy sing, ‘You f
ed me over, you bitch.’ I used to write those songs,” Rollins said from his Los Angeles office last month. “When the girl left me, she got at least a 20-page indictment in my journal and two songs about how she is hellspun.”
Rollins also has a way of looking at things from a unique perspective.
“When you get older, you realize there is more going on here than her just being a bitch,” Rollins continued. “Maybe I’m the bitch. That leads one to a different lyric and different understanding of what is going on on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean I’ve mellowed out or I’m soft now.”
For proof, check out Nice, Rollins’ new oxymoron of an album, due Tuesday. It may have backup soul singers and lounge guitars, but it’s as heavy as anything the former Black Flag singer has ever recorded.
Maybe it’s because the album was done in the same raw fashion Rollins has used throughout his two-decade career.
“We record in a very simple, in these days, perhaps primitive, fashion, with microphones and two-inch tape and people playing without the aid of ProTools,” Rollins said. “It’s the old-fashioned way the Rolling Stones and Beatles made music. It seems to be a rapidly diminishing art form. But when you have a band this good, all you need to do is turn the mic on and get out of the way.”
Rollins Band consists of Rollins, guitarist Jim Wilson, bassist Marcus Blake and drummer Jason Mackenroth – the lineup since 1998. Clif Norrell, who has worked with the group since 1997’s Come in and Burn, produced the album with Rollins.
The record includes other raw elements aside from basic recording tools. Rollins improvised on “Let That Devil Out,” and convinced Mackenroth that less is more on “Up for It.”
“What you hear on the record is take five live,” Rollins said of “Let That Devil Out.” “My voice is a little hoarse because we had been playing it for a half hour with the tape rolling. We overdubbed a second guitar, but the take is live and I made it up as I was going.”
As for “Up for It,” Rollins was going for what he calls “the economy” of a James Brown song.
“If you listen to JB’s music, you’ll hear that no one is playing anything complicated or furious,” he said. “It’s more a sum of the parts. People are playing really neat, simple drum lines and guitar licks. They interlock so well it makes it sound like more than it is.”
Nice also features the single “Your Number Is One,” which Rollins Band reluctantly recorded a video for. “I wanted to make it a video-free record. With the same budget I could make a live album,” Rollins said in his commanding voice that never slips in a “like” or “uh.” “The record company said, ‘Please, please.’ So we did a super-low-budget video that took three hours. It will be what it is. It will never be shown on [MTV]. That’s cool. I’m not concerned.”
Rollins isn’t concerned with anything mainstream (at least in the music world – he’s acted in several big-budget movies, including “Johnny Mnemonic”).
“Some journalists say my records are commercial flops, but I say Britney Spears is an artistic flop,” he said. “In an arena like FM radio, I get really no play whatsoever. What they opt to play instead of me, that is where I go, ‘Oh, we’re a million miles away from that.’ You’re playing that stuff, and we’re playing music. I stop fretting about it as soon as I hear something like Creed.”
Fresh off a two-week stint on the Warped Tour, Rollins Band is supporting Nice with a North American headlining outing through September.
Rollins Band Tour Dates, According To The Group’s Publicist:
8/16 – Lake Buena Vista, FL – House of Blues
8/17 – Boynton Beach, FL – Orbit
8/18 – St. Petersburg, FL – Jannus Landing
8/19 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
8/22 – Tulsa, OK – The Other Side
8/23 – Dallas, TX – Deep Ellum Live
8/24 – Austin, TX – La Zona Rosa
8/25 – Houston, TX – Numbers
8/27 – Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theater
8/28 – Tempe, AZ – Nita’s Hideaway
8/30 – West Hollywood, CA – House of Blues
8/31 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
9/1 – Petaluma, CA – Phoenix Theater
9/3 – Seattle, WA – Key Arena – Bumbershoot Festival