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September 27, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
After his stint with the 1980s hardcore punk band Black Flag, Henry Rollins performed spoken-word “talking shows” in addition to singing with his own group, the Rollins Band. On his latest spoken-word tour, Capitalism, Rollins will hit each state capital leading up to the presidential election.
Poignant and also humorous, Rollins’ compelling words and authoritative performances leave audiences with new perspectives on politics and culture.
Where: Miller Performing Arts Center, Jefferson City
When: Oct. 4, 8 p.m.
Cost: $20, $15 for students
How has being in the music industry and the punk rock genre shaped your views on American politics?
It was my opinion that by the mid-’80s, I reckoned people like me were not only not welcome but in a way somewhat being hunted down. It just seemed that they wanted people from our stripe to disappear, which made me determined to not disappear. It was basically a life of being resisted.
When did you start performing spoken word, and why did it appeal to you?
I started doing the talking shows in 1983. They were basically 10-minute bursts of energy. I liked being on stage without being hemmed in by a chorus and a verse, that I could go where I wanted to conversationally. It became much to my liking.
What was your reason for going on this tour?
A lot of the stuff I’ve been talking about night to night all over the world, I’ll be bringing to the states on this tour. There might be some commentary on that, but I think, by and large, everyone knows who they’re voting for if they’re of age or so inclined to vote. I would never tell you who to vote for. I think that’s kind of rude. It’s not for someone like me to in any way color your opinion; I just hope that you have one because democracy needs us to give opinions and have opinions and vote. Democracy needs you to weigh in; American democracy depends on an informed electorate.
For many, today’s younger generation, specifically those in college, don’t seem as involved or as radical in their political views as compared to earlier generations.
I agree with you that people in college now are perhaps less involved with those kind of affairs than they may have been in previous generations. Like when I was perhaps your age, there was no Twitter or any of that. It was just a different America. It was a different time. What you might want to consider is that when you leave the university and you are somewhat out of the “iron lung” of a tuition that is, in part or completely, paid for by a scholarship or your parents, you’re going to go into the very turbulent and very, very tough capitalist atmosphere. If you’re not vying for your lunch at a very early hour, someone else is going to get there and take your lunch — and one of them might be me. You want to basically get your game together and get involved before you are forced to be involved and you are unprepared. One way or the other, ultimately, you will be paying rent or mortgage, and it won’t be your smile and your dance steps that the landlord and the bank will be satisfied with. You will have to carve out a slice of the pie. And if you’re not smart enough, you could be in for a rough landing.
You’re an outspoken advocate for gay marriage. Why are you so passionate about this issue?
As far as a thing like gay marriage, I mean, you can have your opinion about it, and I think your opinion is wonderful. But, it’s also something that is covered by the Constitution. Gay marriage is covered very, very well by the First, Fourth and 14th amendments. The First being your freedom of movement, the Fourth being your right to privacy and the 14th being equal protection under the law. When people try to make it into a states’ rights issue, that’s the 10th Amendment. It’s an interesting argument, but it says to me that you don’t like gay people, and that’s fantastic that you want to be a homophobe, that’s your First Amendment right. But if Bill and Tom want to get married, I think as a big, strong, rational adult you should just get the hell out of their way, and let them do it. I’m not burdened by the shame in homophobia, so I don’t care if Bill marries Tom because my life goes on. They’re not having their honeymoon in my bed, so I really don’t care.
If you ran for president, what would your platform be? How would you compare to President Obama or Mitt Romney?
What would make me different than candidate Romney is that I would be transparent. I wouldn’t flip and flop. I would stay with my positions; he has a hard time doing that. A lot of my ideas, I find quite in line with Mr. Obama’s. If it were me, I’d be going very, very hard on upgrading public education delivery systems in America. That to me is the way out. Making education the real prize because that’s how you get equality. Literally, that’s what evens the playing field so everyone can have a grip on the information and perhaps a shot at a better life. Some people would call that “socialism.” I call that “what should have happened in 1865.”