I will try to stay calm. I will try to stay focused. I will try to be professional and not simply gush about how amazing it was to see Henry Rollins, singer, writer, radio host, television presenter, spoken word artist, voice-over artist, actor, and several other things I’m probably forgetting, speak.
As tends to happen when you give a microphone and a stage to someone who’s had such a lived life as Rollins, the topics of conversation were wide and varied – though the interviewer, Dana Harris of Indiewire – kept things pretty focused. But for the sake of this site (and brevity), I’ll stick with reporting (if you can call it that) on what Rollins had to say about film.
If you don’t know, Rollins plays the lead in a new film called He Never Died (which I will be covering in my next post). In fact – as Rollins pointed out – this is his first time starring in a film; he’s had supporting and minor roles in things like Feast, Lost Highway, and Johnny Mnemonic. Rollins spoke about how he got involved with the project, and it was pretty simple: he liked the script and he liked the character he would play. The character, Jack, is a cannibalistic loner who seemingly can’t die. Rollins described Jack as bored, because we all have stuff we’ve gotta do, but he doesn’t; he poses the question, “What if life was an endless quantity that never ran out?”
He also appreciated the violence of the film – calling it “wonderful” – because it was always functional, not excessive. Jack only kills when he absolutely has to. Rollins mentioned that, in contrast, he’s been offered roles as serial killers but doesn’t want to be a guy who just stabs girls to death. He advised, though working is always good, saying no is good now and then, because at the end of the day you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror.
On his acting abilities, Rollins said he’s never had any real training, but he knows how to “shut up, watch, and learn.” He referenced shooting a movie with Al Pacino (Heat, perhaps?), and said he was a good person to learn from.
As for his advice to young artists, Rollins suggested to everyone present: never ask for advice. If you need advice it means you’re shaky in your convictions (Iggy Pop and James Brown never asked for advice). He followed that up with some advice:
Artists have to swallow their egos and take criticism (not too far off from something RZA said in his Keynote).
Pick your “co-conspirators” carefully.
If your not going to do something positive with your art, maybe don’t bother.
“Stress is good…keeps the snare drums tight.”