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Henry Rollins
One of the most powerful bands to emerge from the cinders of punk... one of the most powerful bands ever. Greg Ginn, a madman and a thorough disciple of the guitar, brought this band into being in 1977 in the depths of L.A. outside of the reaches of the excesses of the '70s. He'd had enough of the "California" sound of the Eagles, the over-production of Steely Dan and ELO. It was time to create a new sound.

Fueled by the simplicity and immediacy of the Ramones first album, he pulled together a small group of people who could barely play their instruments and began a pattern of musical deconstruction that exploded on a brand new scene that was just beginning to form. Controversy and opposition were the bedfellows of the band from the beginning: the law were not welcoming the emergence of the punk scene on the west coast. The fact that Black Flag survived those first four years was amazing in its own right. Singers kept quitting, occasionally during shows. But the band persevered, even acting in an instrumental capacity in between singers. It became common during these periods for people to jump on stage and act as the stand-in vocalist for the band.

The band finally settled into a stable unit with Ginn on guitar, Chuck Dukowski on bass, Robo on drums, and Dez Cadena as the permanent vocalist. It was with this line-up that Black Flag first ventured out on its first US tours. By December of 1980, the band was making its way across the USA for the first time. They played their first dates in New York City and Washington D.C. In the audience at each show were D.C. youths Ian MacKaye and Henry Garfield. They spoke to the band and ended up hanging out with them. Flag came east again during the summer of 1981. It was at a show in New York City that Henry ended up getting on stage and singing with the band for one song. Unbeknownst to Henry, Dez had been wanting to give up the mic to move over to rhythm guitar. Jumping on stage to sing left an impression on the band, so they ended up calling Henry back to NYC from D.C. and asked him to 'jam' with the band. After taking the train ride up and practicing with the band for a few hours, the others talked it over and decided that Henry would be the new vocalist. He quit his job, sublet his apartment, sold nearly everything he owned, and joined the band on tour several days later. This line up only lasted until their tour of England in late 1981, but long enough to record the first album, Damaged.

It was after their tour of the UK that they lost long time drummer Robo. Bill Stevenson of the Descendents filled in for a show or two, but a succession of replacement drummers (including future Danzig drummer Chuck Biscuits) came before he took over as the full time drummer. Flag were kept from releasing a sophomore album due to legal difficulties with the label that were originally scheduled to release Damaged. SST had taken it upon themselves to release the album themselves once MCA (in charge of distributing the Unicorn label) deemed it "An Anti-Parent Record" and unsuitable for corporate release. By doing so themselves, however, they violated a contract and wound up with thousands in legal bills andinjunctions against them for the next two years. Despite this, they released a compilation of formerly unreleased takes without the Black Flag name and ended up in more legal troubles... it was determined to still be Black Flag. More bills.

By the time My War was released in 1983, Stevenson was in, but Dukowski had left the group. Ginn performed bass duties himself for the recording of the album under the name Dale Nixon. Kira Roessler was brought in by the end of the year as the new bass player.1984 began an incredibly intense period of activity for the band. They released two albums that year, the split Family Man (half early Rollins spoken word, half Flag instrumentals), and the aggressive Slip It In. They toured insanely, going to great lengths to tour as many places in as little time as possible. Intensive tours into the depths of Europe and throughout the United States ensued. They even went to the length of playing three shows in three states in the space of 24 hours... lengths bands today will usually not go to. 1985 was even more active. Three album releases, including Loose Nut and In My Head interrupted by the instrumental Process of Weeding Out. Soon after, Stevenson and then Kira left the band.

Anthony Martinez and C'el were taken on as the new drummer and bass player respectively and another shakedown of the United States was undertaken. Also on the bill were groups Painted Willie and the Ginn led instrumental trio Gone (including future Rollins Band rhythm section Simeon Cain and Andrew Weiss.) The three legs of the tour were probably the most ambitious touring of their career. It would also be their last. In mid-1986, Ginn called the members of the band and told them he was quitting Black Flag. So ended the near ten year career of one of the most dynamic bands to come out of punk. Ginn concentrated on running SST Records. A year later, the Rollins Band had already begun touring.

The Rollins Band was formed in 1987 less than a year after the demise of the mighty Black Flag. After Flag broke up, Rollins thought about quitting music altogether. Fortunately he decided against this and ended up going to England and reuniting with an old friend from his D.C. days, Chris Haskett. By late fall/winter of 1986, the Hot Animal Machine LP (as Henry Rollins) and the Drive by Shooting EP (as Henrietta Collins and the Wifebeating Childhaters) were in the can with Haskett on guitar. The rhythm section was made up of Mick Green (who played with Chris Haskett in a group called Surfin' Dave and the Absent Legends) on drums and Bernie Wandel (of Nuclear Crayons and Guilt Combo) on bass. They were ok guys, but pretty straight ahead in their ex-punk stylings. The album follows that last comment for the most part as well with a few exceptions. The Drive by Shooting EP is all a big joke from the onset (see release name) and one of the few times Rollins combines his humorous side with his music. And what the hell, they rip off Queen! Still, the release had nowhere as much force or power as Rollins was capable of providing. A real rhythm section was necessary.

By the spring, the Rollins Band engaged on its first tour with Sim Cain and Andrew Weiss (the drummer and bass player of the former Ginn band Gone.) They hit the road running, going across the United States and deep into Europe in the first few months of being together. This despite the fact that they'd only really begun practicing a few weeks earlier, possibly after the tour had already been booked. They picked up their fifth member/longtime soundman/occasional producer Theo Van Rock along the way on that first tour as well. Their first album, Lifetime, was recorded (produced by Ian MacKaye of Fugazi) before 1987 was out. Several more albums followed fairly quickly, including Do It, Hard Volume, and Turned On. By 1991, their reputation as a live powerhouse was strong enough to secure them a spot on the first Lollapalooza. Less than a year later saw the release of their major label debut, the End of Silence. While not a huge hit, sales were respectable and the release warranted videos for Low Self Opinion and Tearing.

The band hit the "big time" with the 1994 release Weight. With this album came the band's first and only line-up change: Andrew Weiss left the group due to the eternal "creative differences." He had already begun working with Martin Atkins, et. al. in the supergroup Pigface and had earlier masterminded the Wartime release for which Hank had provided lyrics and vocals, so he really was working in different directions. His replacement was the talented Melvin Gibbs, a jazz/funk bass player of a very different strain from Weiss. Gibbs originally turned down the offer to join... it really was totally different from anything else he'd done before. He thankfully had a change of heart and has proven himself a solid addition to the band. His presence has provided a definite change in the styles and playing of both Cain and Haskett.

The first single from the album, Liar, hit heavy rotation on Mtv and was even a "Buzz Clip!" Oooooo! But it garnered excellent sales for the album and gave them the opportunity to do a video for the follow-up single Disconnect, with images based very heavily on the film Taxi Driver. It also gave Rollins a little more pull with the infamous network and was probably a bit of help in getting him a gig in hosting the big M's Spoken Word thing on Mtv Unplugged. "Hey, he's that famous guy with the tattoos, right? Cool!" Of course Hank has been guest-hosting shows like 120 Minutes and making little appearances (usually with Kennedy) for years... that and the fabulous Mtv Sports Soundbites... pheh...

Come In and Burn was released in March, 1997 on the new Dreamworks label. After a public drag through the soil with Imago (a label that was reportedly embarassed to have the Rollins Band as their most popular act), Rollins says that he's pleased to be on Dreamworks. They're much more facilitating and willing to allow the band some freedom in the studio. Whether or not this will continue remains to be seen considering the press so far about the new release. Reviews... haven't been good. Rolling Stone, Spin, and Details have all basically panned the album and said that grunge is dead, so's Rollins. Oddly enough, I tend to disagree with them (go figure.) The new album has some of the tightest performances by the band on record and some truly remarkable sounds. Songs like Starve, On My Way to the Cage, and During a City prove to me that this is a band doing quite well for themselves musically despite their inability to pander to the crippled and dated wills of the critics.

Back, back I say