The Vinyl Never Lies: The Full Henry Rollins Interview

We bring you, at last, the full version of our talk with Henry Rollins that ran in the September print and iPad editions of Sound+Vision. Enjoy!

S+V Henry, you're always on the move. You're on the road a lot doing your own speaking tours, playing with bands like Dinosaur Jr., and conducting shows and events internationally for charity. What kind of portable A/V gear do you take with you?

ROLLINS I bring one or two iPods with me, and now I bring an iPad, too. But the iPad is not for audio. I cram a bunch of DVDs on there via Handbrake, and make MP4s so I can watch things. I'm on airplanes a lot. The longest flight has been Dubai to America, like 16 hours. And I've done America to Australia about 27 times. Trips like those are where I'll watch 2 seasons of Dexter.

S+V I used to do cross-country caravans where I'd take 500 CDs with me, but now I don't have to do that anymore. I've got most of my music collection on iPods or available in the cloud.

ROLLINS Right, right. When I travel, anything I want to listen to I have to carry with me, and anything I read, I have to carry for weeks or even months at a time. So to be able to put any media into something that's the size of a cigarette pack - hell, I'll take one!

I live all over the world for months at a time, so I go through eight kinds of this device and three of that device, trying to find the right ones. Those that don't work are sitting in boxes.

S+V You have your own publishing arm, 2.13.61. Do you foresee a day when all of your books will be in electronic form?

ROLLINS Right now we have five of my books available for download, but I've written over 20. Unfortunately, we're waiting in line, because it's us and every other guy who wants to do this. So it's, "Take a number, and we'll get back to you when we can."

I was talking with my friend Ian MacKaye, founder of Dischord Records [not to mention Fugazi and Minor Threat], who's doing a killing in downloads. I asked him, "Hey, we're doing book downloads and we're loving it; what do you think of that?" He said, "I hate it. We're going to stop reading." He thinks you're going to lose the iPad behind the couch: "After you get it, you'll read half a book, then you'll put it down somewhere and never pick it up again." I said, "Well, I disagree." I think it's going to make more people read. You'll find them saying, "Oh, I can download this and this and this," but then they'll be in a bookstore a year later - if there are any left - and they'll say, "Oh, I love the feeling of a book in my hand."

S+V So you're reading books on your iPad, too?

ROLLINS That's the one threshold I'm having trouble crossing. I don't read a lot of fiction, and that may be an age thing, I don't know. I read a lot of history, politics, and investigative journalism; stuff like that. And I do a lot of underlining of things, or memorize a paragraph about Congress from the last century that I can go back to and learn more about.

I almost bought the e-book for Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. I was allowed to download about 30 pages as a free sample. I sat with my iPad turning the pages. But I really want better apps for underlining. At the end of the day, all of these qualms will be addressed because they do want to sell these things.

S+V What about newspaper and magazine apps?

ROLLINS I've got The New York Times, and a couple of magazine apps. Magazines will make it work and make you want to buy an iPad. You'll want the online version so you can interact and walk through the door and into the laboratory.

S+V Do you see print going away at any point? Or do you think it will last?

ROLLINS We'll still probably use paper for tickets and marriage proposals, things like that. But we're heading toward a much less-papered society.

My assistant and I, we're running this company [2.13.61] ourselves. And I can't afford to have a bunch of books sitting in a garage and have them not sell; we'll go broke. So the idea of a non-physical inventory - that's the biggest wet dream.

I can't tell you how exciting it would be for us to hear, "Where are your books?," and then be able to say, "On that hard drive," and not have to be saddled with copies coming back as returns. We get these huge boxes of books sent back that look like an elephant stomped on them. I can't sell them; I can't even give them away. It looks like a machine ate them. With a download, if the file is corrupted - no problem! Here's another one. I love that.