Photo: Ross Halfin.

'Renaissance man' is the usual description trotted out by rock journos to describe Henry Rollins. Former singer in the influential early '80s American hardcore band Black Flag, Henry currently fronts the Rollins Band and also tours solo as a 'spoken word' performer. Henry has published several books of his own writing with his publishing company 2.13.61 (his date of birth, American-style) and has also published books by Nick Cave and Hubert Selby Jr amongst others. Henry has branched out into acting roles alongside Charlie Sheen in 'The Chase' and alongside Dolph Lundgren and Keanu Reeves in 'Johnny Mnemonic', a science fiction film based on a William Gibson short story.

UniVibes: When did you first hear Jimi Hendrix?
Henry Rollins: I first heard Hendrix when I was a little boy. My mother as well as my step brother were into him and I heard the records.

UV: What sort of impact did it have on you?
HR: Being young and not knowing anything, I didn't really get the full impact of Hendrix until I saw him on television. I can't remember when that was, probably a rerun of Monterey or something. I was only ten years old or so when he died, so I wasn't aware of the musical impact he had on the world until I was older.

UV: Which is your favourite Hendrix album and why?
HR: I prefer the boots to the 'real' records at this point just because I have played them all so many times. But as far as the records you can find in normal shops it would have to be 'Electric Ladyland'. I've never heard such a cohesive amount of music that goes so far and wide yet works as an entirety like that record. I think he should have put the alternate mix of 1983 on there. My favourite Hendrix song would have to be 'Voodoo Child (slight return)' especially the version from Woodstock - the San Diego version is great, too. It's the ferocity of the song that's so overwhelming to me. A real tour de force. Coming in second would have to be 'Machine Gun' - the unedited Isle of Wight version on the 'Island Man' boot.

UV: Do you think of Hendrix as being closer to Black Sabbath or John Coltrane?
HR: Interesting question, putting Coltrane and Hendrix in the same sentence because I see them as being on the same path totally. Both were uninterested in convention and were dedicated to a spiritual exploration of themselves through music. Even their musical progression I find similar as far as the sometimes critically slammed music they were going for at the time of their passing. I find a lot of parallels in classic jazz and the finer moments in rock music - Hendrix, Zep - in that they were really going for something and not just working through the idiom. Considering Hendrix died when he was twenty-seven and had accomplished all that he did, I get the feeling he was the only real genius rock music ever had.

UV: Do you think there's a Hendrix influence in any of your work, either musically, lyrically or spiritually?
HR: Sure, Hendrix is an influence and an inspiration. Not being a guitar player, I don't know the exact extent of the influence - perhaps just to stick to my plan and go for it. Like when you say that you like 'most' of my work. It's the Hendrix spirit that makes me not give a fuck what you think of me or my work. And there you go!


This interview was originally published in `UniVibes' issue 17, February 1995.
UniVibes 1996 - reprinted by permission of UniVibes, International Jimi Hendrix Magazine, Coppeen, Enniskeane, County Cork, Republic Of Ireland