Metal Blade Records On May 17, As I Lay Dying vocalist Tim Lambesis appeared in…
- Posted on Jun 16th 2010 4:00PM by Pat Pemberton
"The music allows a physical release, which can be really aggressive," he tells Spinner. "The talking shows allow me to explore ideas and tell stories and really put up a big canvas and fill it with paint."
Throughout his career, Rollins has been many things, including an actor, writer, activist and talk show host, but it all started with punk rock. Rollins was a lowly ice-cream store manager in Washington, D.C., when his favorite band, Black Flag, invited him onstage one night in the early '80s. Later, the band asked him to join as its lead singer.
"It was more work than I ever thought it was going to be," Rollins says. "More work, more commitment. It was more than anything that I was prepared for, so the learning curve was very steep."
While Black Flag shows would feature rowdy, often violent crowds, Rollins soon found himself with a dual career, performing to much calmer, coffee house audiences in between Flag shows.
"In Los Angeles there's this promoter -- he managed or was the agent for some poets, which means he was broke," Rollins says. "But he would do these really fun shows at small clubs where he would get about 20 people onstage to do five to 10 minutes each. And I would go to these shows because it was fun and you could see people you knew."
Eventually, the promoter offered the mic to Rollins.
"One night he said, 'Well, how about you get up there sometime?'" Rollins recalls. "I said, 'I don't have anything to say,' and he said, 'Well, you've got a big mouth. We're paying 10 bucks.' I said, 'Well, then, I'm in.'"
His first night on stage, Rollins told a story about what had happened at band practice the day before, and his second career was launched.
"That was the end of 1983," he says. "By the end of 1985, I did a little US tour in front of 12 to 50 people a night, sleeping on people's couches and floors."
His spoken word performances have always been bare -- just Rollins and a mic for up to three hours -- and his topics have varied, from political events to music he hates to dating and mullets. His performances were sort of like stand-up comedy, but not quite. And as he honed his act, Rollins ventured further away from his L.A. home. In 1987, he did a poetry festival in Europe and hit Australia and New Zealand in 1989.
"The crowds started getting bigger and it became quite a thing," he says.
As his spoken word career took off, he left Black Flag and formed the Rollins Band, becoming an influential musician in the '90s. But while his spoken word career would feature plenty of laughs, he never merged humor into his music, characterized by angry lyrics and Rollins' screaming vocals.
"It would be kind of boring to do and boring to watch," he says. "For me, it's always been a great separation of those two."
Of course, the opportunity might not even present itself. Rollins, who has suggested he might not return to music, seems to prefer the more intellectual aspects of spoken word shows.
"The music is a group effort and it's restrictive in ways and liberating in others," he says. " I found, by and large, the talking shows to be a really fun way to be more articulate."