Henry Rollins reveals the one decision which changes his life forever
We are dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at a moment that would not only change the life of Henry Rollins but also thousands and thousands of his fans.
Henry Rollins, we think it’s fair to say, is a rather intense character. The Black Flag singer and actor may well be one of the most straight-up guys in rock you’re ever likely to meet, but that doesn’t detract from his sincere, burn-a-hole-in-you-with-just-his-eyes, intensity.
It was an asset that made him one of the most imperious frontmen of all time and saw the singer take Black Flag to brand new heights. On the stage and under the spotlight, his persona works incredibly well as a definitive figurehead of the band—but it does mean picturing him doing anything remotely ‘normal’ is a bizarre idea.
In the clip below, Rollins discusses his “last straight job”, a time when he was the manager of a local Haagen Dazs ice cream shop and how the decision to join up with the group changed his life forever.
Picture the scene, a rippling arm crushes the steel ice cream scoop and nearly smashes a dollop of gelato through the waffle cone with a serious power as the burning eyes of Rollins look up from his work to pierce through your own retinas and snort out “do you want sprinkles?”—It’s a somewhat terrifying prospect that we couldn’t be more intrigued by.
It’s a prospect that those in Georgetown, Washington D.C., faced when visiting their local Haagen Dazs as, for some time, after deciding college life, smoking weed and listening to folk music, was “not for me”, the singer succumbed to a minimum wage job “working 40-60 hours a week” as the head manager of the store. It was, in Rollins own words, “a little tiny life” with “a lot of standing on my feet… taking it from other people,” it had begun to weigh on him.
Luckily, after making his way with his friends, the “famous band Black Flag” to see a show in New York, Rollins became enraptured in the performance and got on stage to sing a song with the band, grabbing the spotlight as he did. Their brand of charged hardcore punk lent itself perfectly to Rollins’ character and he left the stage sweaty and wanting more.
Still, he returned to D.C. to complete yet another mind-numbing shift—dutiful as ever. That’s when everything changed. “They called me a few weeks later at the ice-cream store and they said ‘Y’know we’re looking for a singer,'” the band’s vocalist was keen to move to rhythm guitar.
It was a crossroads moment for Rollins, “I looked at the ice cream scoop in my hand, my chocolate bespattered apron, and my future in the world of minimum-wage work. Or I could go up to New York and audition for this crazy band who is my favourite.”
He didn’t care that the opportunity provided a chance of humiliation in front of his favourite band because “meh, I was used to it.”
“I took a train up there, I walked into this practice place in the East Village, I’m standing there with the band with a microphone in my hand and they said ‘pick the tune’. And I sang every song they had.” They went through the entire set twice before the band withdrew fro a meeting. They came back “ten minutes later and said ‘you’re in!'” Rollins later admits, “I won the lottery.”
Watch Henry Rollins detail how he went from scooping Haagen Dasz to fronting Black Flag below.