Rock fans knew Henry Rollins as the singer for punk pioneers Black Flag and later, the Rollins Band, but over the course of the last twenty-five years, Rollins has also been an author, independent publisher, spoken-word performer, record label head, outspoken activist, talk show host and guest, and from time to time, an actor in film and television. Unfortunately, many of Rollins' roles have played off his physical attributes – in particular his burly, heavily tattooed frame and granite-jawed face – and missed his wicked sense of humor and heart.
Born Henry Garfield on Feb. 13, 1961 in Washington, D.C., Rollins survived a difficult childhood, which included divorce and a stint in a military academy that helped develop a healthy mistrust of authority (though he has credited his experience there for his tireless work ethic and discipline). His entry into the world of punk came via friend Ian MacKaye (later the frontman for seminal bands Minor Threat and Fugazi), and his enthusiasm for the scene and its major players led him to meet the Southern California group Black Flag, whom he joined in 1981 and stayed with until they disbanded in 1986.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Rollins formed the Rollins Band, which released eleven albums between 1988 and 2002 and achieved enough popularity in the early "90s to earn them a spot on the first Lollapalooza tour. During this period, Rollins also founded 2.13.61, Inc., an independent publishing house (and record label) which released his books of poetry, essays, and tour diaries, as well as works by such noted authors and musicians as William Burroughs, Hubert Selby, Nick Cave, and The Gun Club.
Rollins was also a much-sought-after spoken word performer. With a wicked sense of humor and keen observation of social and political events, he released nine spoken word albums and toured ceaselessly. In recent years, he found time to also host a weekly radio show in Los Angeles, and several cable television shows, including the game show "Full Metal Challenge" (The Learning Channel, 2002) and "Henry"s Film Corner" (IFC, 2004). Rollins also hosted the IFC talk show "The Henry Rollins Show."
Rollins" film career began during his days in Black Flag with The Right Side of My Brain (1985), a disturbing short film by underground filmmaker Richard Kern. His Hollywood film debut came in 1994 with The Chase, a broad caper starring Charlie Sheen in which Rollins played the first of his many hyper-aggressive authority figures. Rollins' subsequent roles fell in line with this persona: a foul-mouthed prison guard in David Lynch"s Lost Highway (1997); a tough dad in Jack Frost (1998); an escaped convict in Morgan's Ferry (1999); a prison warden in The New Guy (2002), and a SWAT team leader in Bad Boys 2 (2003). Rollins" wry sense of humor was showcased most notably in Deathdealer: A Documentary (2004), in which he played the Angel of Death as a weary white-collar desk jockey. He was a frequent interviewed in documentaries about the punk scene, and often provided smart, enthusiastic commentary, most notably in Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001) and Punk: Attitude.