They say you should never meet your heroes, because you’ll just be disappointed. But the reason I should never meet my heroes (even by email, it turns out), is that I would freak out and make a total ass of myself.

Recently we were thinking about things from the past that had influenced us all here at ol’ Platters, and who we’d like to interview and stuff, and I instantly said Henry Rollins.

For those of you who didn’t spend your teens ‘in the mosh’, Henry Rollins is known for a few things, primarily as the singer of Black Flag, the band who -along with the likes of Bad Brains, Minor Threat and the Misfits- defined the sound of hardcore back in the early eighties. Now, you might not be into hardcore, but you can’t dispute that it is more or less the DNA of independent music culture. Sure, British punk talked a big talk about DIY and all that, but they were just art school kids on major labels, rock stars like all the others.

While everyone in the UK was getting fat on Top of The Pops, Rollins and all those guys toured the US on a shoestring, eating dog food, staying in rat infested basements, fighting the police and generally busting heads in the name of the rawest, angriest rock and roll music ever produced. Now that’s how you spend your late teens and early twenties, doing something vital and dangerous, instead of poncing around at art school then getting a desk job – FML.

When Black Flag split up in 1986, Henry didn’t rest long, he got straight on with forming the Rollins Band, putting out albums that have over the years contained elements of free jazz, post-punk, metal and straight up fucking rock. He toured mercilessly, and wrote poems and pamphlets constantly. He has a publishing company (called 21361, after his birth date) and has released a lot of books, including Get In The Van, his account of touring with Black Flag -a must-read for any musician and my favourite book, like, ever. In recent years he’s been releasing his Fanatic! books, a series of lovingly compiled tomes about his record collection.

At some point along the way he decided to be an actor as well, not just in the way that normal musicians act –making cameos in small indie films as a little in joke to the audience- but in full blown, massive Hollywood action thrillers like Heat, Johnny Mneumonic, Bad Boys 2, oh, and he’s the guy driving the truck as Steve-O gets off-road tattooed in Jackass: The Movie. Well done, Henry. He’s also big into helping people out.  In 1993 he waded into the case of the West Memphis Three, and defended three who were accused of murdering children.  It was a messy miscarriage of justice as the prosecutions main argument was that, “those punk kids seemed a bit weird”.  Rollins acted on the behalf of the weird kids by releasing an album of Black Flag covers by singers including Chuck D, Iggy Pop, and Corey Taylor to raise awareness and money for the cause. He’s also a huge supporter of gay rights in America, and one of his regular night time habits is composing challenging e-mails to right-wing talk show pundits like Joe Scarborough, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.  For some funny reason they’ve all ignored his repeated requests to appear on their shows.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a big fan of this guy, I dig how he started out young and did all this exciting stuff off his own back, then as he got older he progressed but still did exactly what he wanted, and all the while maintaining a really high level of personal integrity. Surely that’s the best way to be huh?  DO YOU GET IT YET? HE IS MY FUCKING HERO.

So…It was a pretty great feeling when he agreed to answering a few questions over email. Unfortunately, I got a bit over excited, went into fan boy mode (remember when Wayne and Garth met Alice Cooper? Imagine that but over email) and wrote waaaay too many questions to him. I stewed for a few hours, thinking about if he’d think I’d been rude and demanding. I freaked out, wrote a message apologizing, generally garbling my words (it included the word ‘Aaagh’ -not exactly pro journalism, I know) and expected at best a ticking off with a few questions answered, at worst, no reply at all.  Instead, I got the most reassuring email I think you can get from someone who you’ve looked up to since you were fifteen, it just said: ‘Bob, it’s ok man. H.’

Next time I’m lying in bed at 3am panicking about whatever, I’m going to get up, get on the night bus into town, break into the Platform office, turn on my computer an re-read that email until its calming words lull me off to sleep. Or I could just print it out and keep it near my bed.

Oh, and he totally answered all my questions… I asked him about how it was back then and how it is now, click through to the next page for his answers and I hope you’re inspired/interested enough to check out some of his stuff.

Rise Above - Black Flag