Henry Rollins, Hank to his friends, "sir" to everyone else, has been a sellout for, what, twelve years now? Ever since that really awful experiment with MTV, that spoken-word episode of Unplugged where those lame poetry-slam dorks ranted for 50 minutes and then Rollins brought down the house in the last three minutes with his spot-on impersonation of Kurt Loder professorially intoning what the N.W.A. in N.W.A. stands for.
Then came the Gap ads (which he did to fund the republishing of Hubert Selby's novels), the movie roles (although his portrayal of the "General Issue Street Soldier" Officer Dobbs in The Chase was damned funny) and a couple of duff albums (Come In and Burn? Better to burn, baby). Still, despite all the selling out, Rollins has maintained his sense of humor, and he continues to use the money he makes from his more commercial ventures (such as truck ad voice-overs; man, was that tough to stomach) to fund his more serious work. Kinda like working at the Piggly Wiggly to buy equipment for your band or living in your parents' basement while you write your novel. A dozen years as a "sellout," and what does he have to show for it? A collection of early work entitled The Solipsist (now that's funny), a couple of albums with some genuinely great moments and the continued in-print status of the works of Selby, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Michael Gira and Alan Vega. What do you have to show for the last ten years of your life?
And even if you don't like Rollins' music, writing or occasional appearances on VH1, you can't front on his skills as a monologist. Rollins' notorious three-hour endurance tests of spoken-word/standup comedy/ dramatic reinterpretation of his ongoing existence as a lower-rung celebrity are a hoot. Just make sure you get a seat, because he's the only man who can stand that long.
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