HENRY ROLLINS: Why I Stopped Making Music

December 25, 2021

During a recent appearance on producer Rick Rubin's "Broken Record" podcast, punk rock icon Henry Rollins discussed his decision to stop making music 15 years ago after spending well over a decade recording and touring with ROLLINS BAND, his alt-rock powerhouse. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The smart thing I did as a younger man was one day I woke up in my bed and I went, 'I'm done with music. I don't hate it. I just have no more lyrics. There's no more toothpaste in the tube.' I called my manager at the time and I said, 'I'm done with music.' And 15 percent of that was a good thing for him. He was, like, 'No. No.' I [was, like], 'Yes.' And so luckily, I had enough movies, voiceover, documentary work, writing, talking, where that just filled in, and now I'm busier than ever. But I walked away before I had to start saying, 'Hey, kids, remember this one?' So I didn't have to put it on and go up there and put on the dog and yelp for my dinner.

"I've had gentle discussions with major rock stars," he continued. "I [go], 'You go out and you play those same songs every night for the last 40 years.' And one of these people, who I love dearly, said, 'Yeah, that's what people want.' I go, 'You wanna give 'em what they want?' 'Yeah.' He's an older-school guy — even older than me. And he said, 'Yeah. You wanna make people happy.' I'm, like, 'You do? Huh. I never thought of that. That never once occurred to me.' And he went, 'What do you do?' I go, 'Just what's on next.' And he went, 'Huh. How's that treating you?' I'm, like, 'Well, I need bus fare to get home.' [Laughs] But just two different schools.

"His whole thing is you put on the show, everyone goes 'yay,' you play what everyone wants to hear and everyone's happy. And he said, 'You're not?' I'm, like, 'No, not necessarily. If they happen to like what I'm doing, cool. If they don't, they can bite me.' And I'm sure in the last few years he has sung that one, that one, that one and that one for the five hundred and seventy millionth time. And 50 thousand people went 'yay.' That's just not for me. I'd rather take the risk."

Rollins previously discussed his decision to retire from making music in a 2011 interview with Valley Advocate. At the time, he said he called it quits with ROLLINS BAND because "I could not find any way to do it differently. There was nothing new about it for me, so I decided to do other stuff. Too many people in my age group have been making the same record over and over. It might suit them, not me. When I see Mick Jagger still singing 'I can’t get no satisfaction,' I have to conclude that he's either very stupid or not being truthful."

Rollins has toured the world as a spoken-word artist, as frontman for both ROLLINS BAND and BLACK FLAG and as a solitary traveler with insatiable curiosity, favoring road-less-traveled locales in places such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Siberia, North Korea, South Sudan and Iran.

When he's not traveling, Rollins prefers a to keep a relentless schedule full of work, with gigs as an actor, author, DJ, voice-over artist and TV show host to name a few of the roles that keep him occupied.

As a spoken-word artist, Rollins regularly performs at colleges and theaters worldwide and has released a number of spoken-word recordings. His album "Get In The Van" won the Grammy for "Best Spoken Word Album" for 1995. As an actor, he has appeared in "The Chase", "Johnny Mnemonic", "Heat" and David Lynch's film "Lost Highway".

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