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Henry Rollins talks bigotry in the Trump era, separating art from artist, and more

Outside Lands 2017 - Friday
Henry Rollins at Outside Lands 2017 (more by Samantha Saturday)

There’s never a dull moment when Henry Rollins starts talking, and Jeff Slate‘s new interview with him for The Daily Beast is no exception. Among other things, the former Black Flag frontman talked about why he feels no animosity towards newer, more mainstream generations of punk (“I’m not one of those people who is going to say, ‘You owe me.’ Because I don’t want to become my Dad”), why he doesn’t like to name presidents in song lyrics (“I understand the anger. It’s just that they don’t get to be in my rock and roll”), and why he thinks Trump’s presidency will actually speed up the end of bigotry:

Some people in this country have been thirsting for a corny, pseudo-populist like Reagan since those days, and now they’ve got it. He’s president now. And I think it’s very likely he’ll get a second term. And so what does it do, or what’s the rendering, artistically? I think it’s going to blow up in their faces. Because what’s happening now is young people are saying, “Oh, part of my job today, besides being a gorgeous 17-year-old young person, is to not hate gay people, is to not be racist, is to not call someone a ‘fag’ or anyone a ‘bitch.’ I’m not going to be a misogynist like my weird uncle who spouts off at Thanksgiving dinner. Like, that’s one of my jobs, is to not repeat this.” And so I think a lot of that American bigotry—you know, “What? Your grandfather’s a funny guy!”—that’s coming to an end. And I think what Trump and these guys don’t realize, is that they are hastening their demise.

And, literally, their demographic is dying. My neighborhood used to be a post-World War II, Russian, German, Jewish population. But the young, Supreme crowd is coming in. You drive down the block now, and where it used to be four-foot two-inch-tall people who’d survived the war, and now it’s a bunch of graceful, gazelle-like young people with $900 shoes. It’s a different time, and what I think you’re going to see is not necessarily rock against Reagan, or get out the vote concerts, as much as you’re going to see “our prom queen this year is my friend Cedric and he got a unanimous vote and the teachers are so pissed.” That’s what’s going to happen. I think there’s going to be a huge rejection of this really antiquated bigotry. And so I think what you’re seeing right now is the old guard kicking and screaming as it’s dying off. And that, to me, is 2019 punk rock.

Hank also responded to a question about Morrissey and whether or not you can separate art from artist:

Yes and no. When someone says, “Oh, I met so-and-so at the airport at 6 a.m. and he growled at me,” just dig the records, but don’t go talk to them, because you might get a human response. That’s different from the otherwise funny comedian who has eight minutes of “fag jokes.” Personally, I can’t separate that. If I like your records, but you say, “Yeah, but you know, what’s up with those Jew bastards?” It’s always, “Oh, no, oh, no, I shouldn’t have met you, because I really liked that record, and now they all have to go to Amoeba.” [Laughs] For me, that is a deal-breaker. I’m the very definition of super-fan, but I try to get out of meeting bands, because I don’t want to have that “oh, you talk too much” moment. I like to live in the illusion that you’re as cool as your music. But maybe we should know more about the people who are serving that up. Because I think artists should be held to a very high standard, because if you’re going to make a record that I let into my heart, then hopefully you’re not a homophobe or a racist, because that, to me, is a deal-breaker. Because people are people. You can hurt them real easy.

You can read the rest of the very interesting interview at The Daily Beast.

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