Power Hour Interview: Henry Rollins
The Power Hour crew of Matthew Sardo and Amanda Borges talked with punk rock icon Henry Rollins about his show 10 THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT, new season premiering on H2 Saturday, August 16th.
“History is talking to you,” Rollins said in reference to the impact of history on his life.
Can you tell us about your show, Ten Things You Don’t Know About?
“Yeah. We take big topics like the Civil Rights Movement, which we do an episode on this season and we find ten small bits of history about a bigger topic and bring them to the screen. We don’t just talk about it, we actually go to the places and we actually go in and get amazing footage in some places you’ve never seen before. And so this year we went to a place where Martin Luther King used to live where the KKK actually blew up that part of the house and there’s a dent in the porch where the dynamite stick blew up and we filmed that and we were able to go in there without any tours or anybody and I was able to go in his office and film in there and do some broadcasting stuff from his office. I’m happy to say he has a stereo. We get crazy access and we hopefully bring our wonderful viewers some info they didn’t know about.”
It sounds like you’re going for a powerful show. No like a kitsch show.
“No we’re not into kitsch. There are some light moments on the show, on the series but mainly we’re getting into some pretty hardcore verified history. We did an episode on marijuana this year and we filmed at the 420 cannabis cup in Denver. What would usually take three or four hours to shoot took eight because many of our guests couldn’t finish a sentence. And so some hilarity ensued. But by and large, we take the truth and the integrity of history very seriously but some episodes are a bit more intense than others.”
What is the weirdest bit of history you guys have discovered so far?
“I don’t know about ‘bizarre’ or ‘weird’ its just that its amazing to have lived in America my entire life and there’s this big stuff that I’ve never heard about before. As far as ‘weird’, Texas annexed to America in 1845 and became a state rather than a republic. In the agreement, they’re allowed to put four more states in the property of Texas to where the landmass that is Texas can be five states. They can do that without congressional approval and they can do that today. That to me is crazy. It’s not weird, but it’s unique to Texas. And its inherently Texan in that Texas is a very unique place. As far as kind of a crazy visual, we filmed at a large grow facility in Denver like a month ago. A Wal-Mart sized building dedicated to growing hydroponic marijuana. And its not a small pursuit. Its a bunch of men in lab coats running around a multi million dollar facility. And you’re looking at literally football fields of marijuana under a roof with lit scientifically for maximum effect. It was crazy. And I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Thankfully they let us take photos because you wouldn’t believe it if I told you about it. So if you watch that episode, you’ll see stuff that will blow your mind as well. We walked out of there WREAKING of marijuana and of course our next stop was the Denver airport so we’re like ‘Great, drug dogs, we’re all going to jail.’ We actually were able to make it out of there.”
You’ve worn many hats — musician, writer, journalist, publisher, actor, radio host, spoken word artist and activist. How do you want to be remembered?
“I don’t want to be a bummer. I never think about it. I don’t take myself all that seriously. Perhaps one who has tried. Tried to be interesting. Tried to really ring all the bells and give life a run for its money. That’s all.”
If you had only one album to listen to for the rest of the year, what would it be?
“Wow. I think it would probably be an album that’s coming out later in August by a guy named Ty Segall, great independent artist. His album is a double album, it’s call the ‘Manipulator’. And I’m going to brag, he sent it to me a couple weeks ago so I’ve had the drop on it. And I can’t stop playing it. I like all his records anyway, but this new one its just fantastic. If I only had that one till Christmas I’d be okay.”
I’ve noticed you’ve done voice work. What do you like about working on cartoons?
“I like the competition. I like the fact that you’re in line for that job and there’s about 400 people who are better than you and once in a while its you. I like how much care you can put into it and how damn hard it is. And how good you can get at it if you really work at it. I do a lot of voice overs. If you watch any ads for the Infinity car, that’s me. And so I really enjoy that work. I enjoy how much I can put into it.”
Have you always been a history buff?
“No. As I got older and started traveling the world with rock and roll and otherwise, I became quite rabid about history. Traveling in America, being a touring artist, you get to see pretty much every state in the union. You can see the tough parts of town, and you can see people who live near railroad tracks and it gives you a sense of anywhere you are. As a kid I used to travel with my mother to Greece and all over Europe and so I had a sense of things as a young person but as an adult, history became very relevant to me. You go to Europe and you play in Munich at the Low and Brow Keller and you’re in the dressing room and one of the people who works there would come in and say ‘Do you remember Hitler’s push?’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, basically when he came into a beer hall and said this is a takeover and they arrested him’ and he’s like ‘Yeah you’re in the room where that happened.’ And you’re like ‘Wait a minute, this is a dressing room of a beer hall.’ and he’s like ‘Yep, you’re sitting where Hitler tried to take over.’ and all of a sudden history is talking to you. And I have been in a lot of locations like that just because of my dumb luck. And I wanted to learn more. So when I got this job I was already running at history as fast as I could anyway. I’m not an expert, I’m just a fan. So this is the perfect environment for me.”
What was your favorite thing you’ve discovered?
“Yeah I always say ‘yes’ when my producer says ‘Henry would you mind…’ and before he can finish the sentence, I go ‘Chief, I’ll always get you this shot.’ So he wanted to get…there’s a really interesting episode we do with a competition between Edison and Tesla. And at one point a young Tesla came to America, his second day there, and he had to go on board a ship, the HMS Oregon, and fix an Edison electrical system that had shorted out. So he went to the dynamo and fixed it. That ship sank off the coast of New York two years later. No one died, but it did sink. And so the producer said ‘I want you to dive down to the dynamo that Tesla worked at so we can filmed you at the dynamo that Tesla had his hands on so we can bring Edison and Tesla together but you’ll need a diving certification. Would you mind that? I said uh no…having NO IDEA what I was about to get into. And now I am certified for deep sea diving with Nitrox Air. Which is a lot of hoops to jump through. And just for a four minute shot for some crazy show on History Channel, I’ve got this thing in my mouth, I’m diving with these pro divers. It’s a hell of an experience and I’ve done two wreck dives. And so just cuz of this show, I’m a total dive freak now.”
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