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Sunday, February 04, 2018 by Adam

In volume 20 of Smith Journal (out now, by the way), we caught up with ex-Black Flag frontman, spoken word artist, actor and activist Henry Rollins.

This wasn’t any ordinary interview: we asked the man for some life advice for all those times when you need a little tough love. The topics ranged from the banal (dating and travel advice) to the personal (how can you rebuild a relationship with your parents?), and while his responses are too detailed to republish here in their entirety, we have some excerpts we thought we’d share with the internet. Because we think the world would be a better place if we all asked ourselves: what would Henry Rollins do?

Stop thinking there is a place to start and just start. Don’t think about writing a book. Don’t even think about writing. Instead, write. If you think some lessons or lectures on the theory or history of a discipline might help, go for it. It might be a good thing to go to a class and learn how to tap your creative potential. I am sure that would work for some people. It is said that Brian Eno would get a new synthesiser and throw out the manual. He wanted to learn how he used it, not how the manufacturer wanted him to. Being an artist isn’t a career. It’s a dysfunction. That’s why art galleries are so small and sports stadiums are so big.

What I am about to say has no socially redeeming value whatsoever. I was one of the billions of people who had a ‘difficult relationship’ with my parents. Sometimes people are awful and you have awful experiences with them. Sometimes, sadly, these people are also your parents. It is, perhaps, ‘natural’ to want to somehow connect and at least try and have a relationship with them that doesn’t make you drink, break things or otherwise lose control. That being said, if these people were bad to you – fuck ’em. I have no concept of family. To me, it is a tribal/ religious concept, mired in antiquity. That we share DNA means nothing to me. We’re not ‘related’ any more than I am to any other member of our species.

Take a taxi away from your hotel. When you get to an interesting part of town, pay and get out. Spend the rest of the day walking all over and meeting those you come across. Sometimes it’s those random walks that lead to great things. You can also get cut up. The world is a rough room for Homo sapiens. Hell, the cops shot and killed a guy down the street from my house a few weeks ago, so nowhere is all that safe! But as soon as you stop seeing people who look like you on the street, chances are you’re in the right place. I have been doing this all over the world and it’s been great. The only times I have almost been killed were in the U.S.A. You know, because freedom.

It can be hard to see that you are someone who is worth having around. You have to see it in yourself first. Not easy. What can help is if you find someone who believes in you. Suddenly, your compass has an accurate reading for North. Build on that. As soon as you can, if you can, be that for person for someone else. I think this is one of the most important and real duties of humankind. Teachers, coaches – these people save lives every day. You don’t have to be one to have this effect on others, but I think it is mandatory to have helped someone else in your lifetime. You must do this.

Related: Henry Rollins is currently on a spoken word tour of Australia, with shows in Lismore, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Perth and Margaret River. Head here for show dates.

You can read more of Henry's hardcore advice in Smith Journal volume 20. Buy a copy, find your closest stockist, or subscribe.

Illustrator: Timothy Rodgers