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What's Henry Rollins reading?

Henry Rollins will bring his North American Spoken Word Tour to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Oct. 7.

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Henry Rollins will bring his North American Spoken Word Tour to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Oct. 7.


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Henry Rollins

Although it has been years since Rollins, 55, performed in Black Flag and the Rollins Band, the former punk rock frontman is as busy — and as outspoken — as ever. When asked to discuss his thoughts on the June 22 congressional sit-in for gun law change, and that moment when the Democrats sang We Shall Overcome, Rollins said Americans should think less about the "we" and more about the "you." "You shall overcome. The 'we' will not. The 'we' is done,'' he said. "There are those who obviously don't care if 49 gays are gunned down. ... What is done in your name, in the 'we,' as Americans is pretty horrific."

A Washington, D.C., native who now lives in Southern California, Rollins, who plays a creepy religious zealot in the new film The Last Heist, pens a regular column for LA Weekly and hosts a radio show on the NPR affiliate KCRW. In 2013, after anchoring shows for IFC and National Geographic, he became the History channel's H2 network host of 10 Things You Don't Know About, and, for more than 30 years, he has operated a publishing company, 2.13.61 Inc. Rollins recently announced a North American Spoken Word Tour, opening in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 6 with one Tampa Bay stop on Oct. 7 at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. On June 23, we caught up with Rollins by phone. He describes his reading this way: "I am a termite boring through granite.''

What's on your nightstand?

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk. If you want to get an understanding of the Middle East, Fisk to me is the guy. And I just finished Thomas Dolby's The Speed of Sound. It's not out yet, but Mr. Dolby contacted me about writing a blurb. Why he asked me to give him a blurb, I don't know, but I will take it as a compliment.

Did Fisk help you understand more about the Middle East?

It gave me backstory. I've spent a lot of pretty meaningful time in the places he writes about. This helped me learn more.

Dolby's is a memoir, right? What was the biggest surprise?

Yes, a memoir. He covers a lot of ground. I kind of knew he was doing Silicon Valley work, but I had no idea he made ring tones for Nokia phones, and he's an excellent writer. It's really good. I see it this way. He's had three distinct lives: an MTV musician, a software developer who developed that ring tone, and now he's a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Another thing I want to mention is that I've been reading about Abraham Lincoln. I've read his speeches over and over again. I loved his use of English. He's a lawyer and a politician, and so he has a little bit of stink on him, but when you read what he wrote, and what he wanted for America, he skews towards decency at every possible turn, at least in his writing. When you read what he wrote, it's absolutely gorgeous writing. His Lyceum Address is incredible.

It seems like when I hit my 40s I stopped reading literature and fiction. The last major crush I had on a writer was F. Scott Fitzgerald. He and Thomas Wolfe were the last (novelists) I immersed myself in. Here's the reason I don't read more now. I'm 55. I own a publishing company. When I read for too long, I feel guilty and like I should be writing. I'm far less interested in what someone has to say than in what I have to say. No one can do it for you. I would rather write five hours a day than read five hours a day. Maybe in 10 years, it will be different.

You recently recorded for Funny or Die your take on Oh! The Places You'll Go! You hilariously slammed Dr. Seuss, and you said that you didn't like the book. Is there a Seuss book you do like?

Quite honestly, I was raised in a household that didn't do the typical book reading at bedtime thing. My mom taught me to read before I was in school, and we read together. We read Great Expectations together. I also loved Roald Dahl. His books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I couldn't put them down. It was like cocaine to a junkie.

What are your plans for July Fourth and what music do you like to hear on that day?

I will be at the office working on stuff and prepping for a shoot day on a television show that very likely starts the next morning. Otherwise, I will be listening to a lot of music. There is no specific album or band that I am inspired to play on this day. I will be more influenced as to what to listen to by the temperature than the day itself.

Contact Piper Castillo at Follow @Florida_PBJC.

What's Henry Rollins reading? 06/30/16 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2016 7:56am]
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