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In the '90s, Henry Rollins emerged as a post-punk renaissance man, without the self-conscious trappings that plagued such '80s artists as David Byrne. Following Black Flag's breakup in 1986, Rollins was been relentlessly busy, recording albums with the Rollins Band, writing books and poetry, performing spoken word tours, writing a magazine column in Details, acting in several movies, and appearing on radio programs and, less frequently, as an MTV VJ. The Rollins Band's records are uncompromising, intense, cathartic fusions of hard rock, funk, post-punk noise, and jazz experimentalism, with Rollins shouting angry, biting self-examinations and accusations over the grind. On his spoken word albums, he is remarkably more relaxed, showcasing a hilariously self-deprecating sense of humor that is often absent in his music. All the while, he has kept his artistic integrity, becoming a kind of father figure for many alternative bands of the '90s.
Rollins was born Henry Garfield in Washington, D.C., on February 13, 1961. He performed in local hardcore bands as a teenager, and one night when his heroes Black Flag came to town, he leaped up on-stage and began singing with them. Shortly thereafter, when Flag vocalist Dez Cadena decided to switch to guitar, the band invited Rollins to audition, and he became their new lead singer. By the time Black Flag broke up in 1986, Rollins had not only garnered a reputation as one of the fiercest performers in hardcore punk, but had already begun touring as a spoken word performer. Rollins made his recording debut as a solo artist in 1987 with Hot Animal Machine and also issued his first spoken word album, Big Ugly Mouth, that year (as well as the Drive by Shooting EP, recorded as Henrietta Collins & the Wifebeating Childhaters).
Following Hot Animal Machine, Rollins assembled a backing unit, the Rollins Band, which featured soundman Theo Van Ronk, guitarist Chris Haskett, and the former rhythm section of Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn's side project Gone: bassist Andrew Weiss and drummer Simeon "Sim" Cain. Not counting several live recordings made in Holland in 1987, the Rollins Band made their studio debut with 1988's Life Time, followed quickly by the outtakes/live collection Do It. 1989 saw the release of a new Rollins Band album, Hard Volume, and the spoken word set Sweatbox; they were followed in 1990 by the live set Turned On and yet another lengthy spoken word release, Live at McCabe's.
1991 was a pivotal year for Rollins, for better and worse. The Rollins Band inked a deal with Imago that promised much-improved distribution, and they also appeared on the Lollapalooza tour. But in December of that year, Rollins and his best friend, Joe Cole, were held up by gunmen waiting outside of Rollins' L.A. home. Cole was fatally shot in the head; the devastating trauma of the incident never quite left Rollins and occasionally (though indirectly) informed his subsequent work. In 1992, with Human Butt, Rollins began releasing his spoken word albums through 2.13.61, the publishing imprint he'd founded in 1984. In addition to Rollins' own work, both recorded and written, 2.13.61 grew during the '90s to include literary works by rock artists like Exene Cervenka and Nick Cave, plus material by acclaimed authors like Henry Miller and Hubert Selby, Jr., among others. 1992 also saw the Rollins Band debut for Imago with The End of Silence, which some found to be his most focused music yet and gave Rollins his first charting album. The spoken word double disc The Boxed Life appeared in 1993, and toward the end of the year, Rollins Band bassist Weiss was replaced by Melvin Gibbs.
1994 became Rollins' breakout year thanks to the one-two punch of Weight -- the best-reviewed and most popular Rollins Band album to date, which cracked Billboard's Top 40 -- and Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag, a double-disc set of readings from Rollins' memoir of the same name that won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording. Additionally, the Rollins Band performed a well-received set at Woodstock '94. With all the increased visibility, Rollins became a genuine phenomenon; Details magazine chose him as their Man of the Year in 1994 and wound up making him a contributing columnist. Primed by appearances on MTV and VH1, Rollins also made his film debut that year in The Chase and went on to appear in movies like Johnny Mnemonic, Heat, and Lost Highway over the next few years.
Unfortunately, Imago was out of business by 1995, leaving the Rollins Band in temporary limbo until they secured a deal with DreamWorks in 1997. In the meantime, Rollins undertook a jazz/poetry experiment with Everything, which featured musical backing by avant-garde luminaries Charles Gayle (saxophone) and Rashied Ali (drums). The Rollins Band debuted for DreamWorks in 1997 with Come in and Burn, which failed to earn the acclaim of the group's previous few albums. Black Coffee Blues appeared the same year, and like Get in the Van, it featured a series of readings from a Rollins book of the same name. In 1998, Rollins released Think Tank, his first true set of non-book-related spoken word material in five years.
By this point, Rollins felt that his partnership with the Rollins Band had run its course, as their music grew more experimental and less unremittingly intense. He had been producing a Los Angeles hard rock trio called Mother Superior and wound up inviting the band -- guitarist Jim Wilson, bassist Marcus Blake, and drummer Jason Mackenroth -- to back him as a brand-new incarnation of the Rollins Band. The first fruits of this new collaboration were released in 2000 as the album Get Some Go Again. It was followed in 2004 by Weighting. A new spoken word release, Rollins in the Wry, followed in 2001, culling performances from Rollins' residency at the L.A. club Luna Park during the summer of 1999. Another live album, The Only Way to Know for Sure, appeared in the summer of 2002. Three volumes of Talk Is Cheap, taken from a two-night stand in Sydney, Australia, were released in 2003 and 2006. A fourth volume followed in 2007, this time recorded at San Jose State University in California.
Rollins Band was an American rock band led by singer and songwriter Henry Rollins.
They are best known for the songs "Low Self Opinion" and "Liar", which both earned heavy airplay on MTV in the mid-late 1990s. Critic Steve Huey describes their music as "uncompromising, intense, cathartic fusions of hard rock, funk, post-punk noise, and jazz experimentalism, with Rollins shouting angry, biting self-examinations and accusations over the grind."
In 2000, Rollins Band was included on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock, ranking at No. 47.
Rollins was the singer for the Washington, D.C. punk rock band State of Alert from October 1980 to July 1981. Afterwards, he sang with California punk rock band Black Flag from August 1981 to August 1986. Black Flag earned little mainstream attention, but through a demanding touring schedule, came to be regarded as one of the most important punk rock bands of the 1980s.
Less than a year after Black Flag broke up, Rollins returned to music with guitarist Chris Haskett (a friend from Rollins' teen years in Washington D.C.), bass guitarist Bernie Wandel, and drummer Mick Green.
This line-up released two records: Hot Animal Machine (credited as a Rollins solo record and featuring cover art drawings by Devo leader Mark Mothersbaugh) and Drive by Shooting (credited to "Henrieta Collins and the Wifebeating Childhaters"). The music was similar to Black Flag's, though it flirted more with heavy metal and jazz.
First edition (1987–1994) 
Soon after, Rollins formed Rollins Band with Haskett, bassist Andrew Weiss, and drummer Sim Cain (Weiss and Cain had previously played with Gone, an instrumental rock group led by guitarist and Black Flag founder Greg Ginn). Live sound engineer Theo Van Rock was usually credited as a band member.
Critics Ira Robbins and Regina Joskow described this line-up as a "brilliant, strong ensemble ... the band doesn't play punk (more a jazzy, thrashy, swing take on the many moods of Jimi Hendrix), but what they do together has the strengths of both. The group's loud guitar rock with a strong, inventive rhythmic clock borrows only the better attributes of metal, ensuring that noise is never a substitute for purpose."
Second edition (1994–1997) 
Weiss was fired following the End of Silence tour; he was replaced by jazz and funk bassist Melvin Gibbs, who'd been highly recommended by guitarist Vernon Reid; Cain and Gibbs had also both played in different versions of guitarist Marc Ribot's band.
This version of Rollins Band had some of the most overt jazz leanings of the band's history: Gibbs had begun his career with the jazz fusion group of drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, and worked with Sonny Sharrock on albums like 1987's Seize The Rainbow, which along with Rollins' obsession with the late '60s/early '70s era of iconic trumpeter Miles Davis, shaped this version of the band's music. In this era, Rollins Band recorded with flamethrowing free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle, though these sessions remained unreleased for ten years at Gayle's request to avoid conflicts with his contractual obligations.
The first video from 1994's Weight, "Liar", was a huge hit on MTV, with Rollins sporting numerous costumes (including a cop and a nun). The band appeared at Woodstock '94, and Rollins was a guest-host for several MTV programs, including 120 Minutes.
Rollins Band signed with the then new major label DreamWorks Records, who released 1997's Come In And Burn. The album was not as successful as Weight and, after touring for Burn, Rollins dissolved the group, citing creative stagnation.
Third edition (1997–2003) 
Rollins replaced the Haskett-Gibbs-Cain lineup with the Los Angeles rock band Mother Superior, retaining the name Rollins Band, and released Get Some Go Again (2000) and Nice (2001). They also released a two-disc live album, The Only Way to Know for Sure. This line-up was a more straightforward hard rock group: their first album featured "Are You Ready?" a cover of a Thin Lizzy song, featuring Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham; Rollins has often expressed fondness for Thin Lizzy and its founder, Phil Lynott.
In 2003, the Rollins Band released Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three. The album features a number of guest vocalists (including Lemmy, Chuck D, Corey Taylor, Ice-T, Tom Araya, Rancid and others) singing Black Flag's songs.
Fourth edition (2006) 
In between other commitments (His radio show Harmony In My Head, his cable/satellite TV show The Henry Rollins Show, and his spoken word tours), Rollins also reunited the Haskett-Gibbs-Cain lineup.
In a blog entry on henryrollins.com, Rollins admitted, "Actually we have been practicing on and off for months now, slowly getting it together ... It's been really cool being back in the practice room with these guys after all these years."
The band opened some concerts for , and played on the first season finale of The Henry Rollins Show on August 12, 2006.
Rollins told Alan Sculley of The Daily Herald that this reunion with Haskett, Gibbs and Cain would not become long-term unless the group decided to write new songs: "Let's put it this way. I don't want to go out and hit America again without a new record, or at least a new album's worth of material. Otherwise the thing will lack legitimacy ... Miles Davis would never do that. And I'm not into a greatest-hits thing. I think a band, if you're going to be around, you should be moving forward and putting in the time and working for it, getting after the art. Otherwise you're just playing retreads. ... Imagine a tree that grows canned peaches. It's nothing I want to do."
Musical style and influences 
The band have been categorized under the alternative metal, hard rock and post-hardcore genres. They were part of the early 90s LA alternative metal scene, alongside bands such as Tool, Jane's Addiction, Rage Against the Machine and Green Jellÿ. Their influences include 70s metal and rock band's, such as Black Sabbath, The Velvet Underground, Pink Fairies and Thin Lizzy. Rollins' shout-singing style proved influential to later nu metal and alternative metal artists such as Coal Chamber, Korn, Chevelle, Godsmack and System of a Down.