Category Archives: Decade

Tom Waites Gives Henry Rollins Advice

Some kids dream of becoming a rock star. Others just do it. Starting out as some skinny kid who talked his way to becoming the local roadie for a few Washington DC bands, Henry Rollins took the challenge and bested himself, not only becoming the bulked up lead singer for several hardcore punk bands, including the local Minor Threat and LA's Black Flag, and his own Rollins Band, but after minor roles in Hollywood film, he then landed on his feet as the host of a cable talk show.

There was great music ahead. There was crap music to whack past as well. And while I had already throttled deaf ears among the Yippies of Atlanta, I knew I'd run into another hard wall sooner of later in DC. Knowing my instincts for self-regard and whatever it is about my whacked sense of social pecking order (none) that attracts trouble, it wouldn't take long.
One of the perks of becoming one of the elite at something is that you get to meet almost any of the elite at anything else whom you wish to meet. The posted short animation—The Barely Animated Adventures of Henry Rollins: Tom Waits Story—created by Jozabad, gives us a look at two such elites meeting and sharing themselves. We think you will find it hilarious, and thank Jozabad for his own creative efforts.

But this RSN entry is actually about my own relationship to Mr. Rollins. First, a little rumor mill grist to get us started. When I came upon the DC scene from Corpus Christi by way of Atlanta in the fall of 1983, I had heard of nothing of the bands or the personalities that roamed the barren streets of 1983 Washington, an urban wasteland that was barely a city, with only two neighborhoods not rolling up come dark, Georgetown and Adams Morgan, but our story takes place between 7th & E Street NW and 9th & G Street, NW, downtown. Although about five years older than most of the charismatic leaders of the underground scene, I had only decided to infiltrate the punk dominion the past year or so. So, although I had the gay and new wave dance scenes of Corpus Christi and the punk and gay scenes in Atlanta under my belt, I knew I had a lot of studying and many bands to experience before I knew how to navigate among the characters I would face in the coming years, plot the topography, and maybe, just maybe, escape with my life if not my dignity. There was great music ahead. There was crap music to whack past as well. And while I had already throttled deaf ears among the Yippies of Atlanta, I knew I'd run into another hard wall sooner of later in DC. Knowing my instincts for self-regard and whatever it is about my whacked sense of social pecking order (none) that attracts trouble, it wouldn't take long. True to the purposeful soldier spirit in me, it didn't.

dcspaceNever a sycophant but quite commonly a fierce defender of whatever line of equality or truth it is that I think is right among equal citizens, underground or otherwise, it never takes long before someone else with a different opinion strikes a blow metaphorically or otherwise.

The Four Horsemen of my own experiential apocalypse, a battleground also known as DC Space and the 9:30 Club would be artists and musicians Rene the Fist, Jared Hendrickson, Bruce Merkle and our muscle of the hour—Henry Rollins, all excellent artists, all formidable agitators, all friends first before they became foes.

Excepting Rollins.

I can't say that we were ever friends. I was introduced to him by Jack who insisted at a WUST show during the Mustard Years, followed by a quick handshake, a submissive grimace and probably a lingering brow standoff. By this era I was already in the beginning stages of beer bloat, and everyone in the hall that night knew that Righteous Rollins just didn't roll that way.

I spent my first year in my new city, my new scene buying up copies of Maximum Rock & Roll, Flipside, Truly Needy, and any smaller local street fanzines I could get into my hands. I even created my own street zine called SAMPLEX, but it was decidedly more bent to the socially-tainted word and image than any emphasis on local or national punk bands.

mzi.mgrnrdoz.170x170-75But my first confrontation with Henry Rollins had begun back in the Skinny Years on a packed house night at DC Space (written in lower case in reality, I prefer to adhere to most standard English renderings because I usually can). This was a spoken word event. In fact I have never seen Rollins perform on stage, and frankly I do not think this small omission of fan authenticity makes me a bad person. As I write this now, I somewhat regret not ever having seen Rollins in Black Flag. No doubt he was a monster on the stage. I don't specifically recall that I blew any opportunity to buy a ticket for Black Flag during those years, but I probably did.

I had read, of course, much glitter about the Henry Rollins version of punishing high octane energy on stage in belting out the lyrics to such punk classics as My War and Rise Above. I'd also read in various street zines and rags that he was also a nasty player in public in choosing to make a point of stepping into family restaurants and other lukewarm venues which always somehow included snarling at anyone who dare commit the unpardonable sin of staring and whispering among each other or in stunned silence at his buff tattooed uber self with a perfunctory, "What the fuck are YOU looking at?" or something similar to nuclear flash and blind. Not polite to stare? How about not polite to bellow at strangers? Giving as good as he got? Hardly. He wasn't the only punk rocker who delighted in this type of public rebellion, but I always found that type of behavior stupid and unjustified, and felt it MY duty to draw the ire of these types to myself, bonehead to bonehead, so to speak.

To be continued...

Taking Back Sunday Is Adam Lazzara

"I hate the word rock star. All that shit in the 80s died there and it needs to stay there."
—Adam Lazzara
Pulling back the gentle curtain on Taking Back Sunday, one is always quick to notice that Adam Lazzara is the force behind the rising from the noisy hardcore punk scene to the national rock stage through the steady band’s combination of pop-punk modern rock and straight-up pop. Let's just say fifteen years of earning stripes, and evolving a sound rather than simpling tossing in the towel has begun to pay paid off.

The band was founded in 1999 by Eddie Reyes. Reyes was already a veteran of the NYC music scene, and took part in numerous projects that kept him in the game. After recording their initial eponymous EP, a Taking Back Sunday shake-up brought bassist Lazzara to lead vocals mic. Seems to have been a smart move.

orig-89890In the music recording industry, the line-up shuffles, the scandalous firings, the defections, the transitions, the unexplained exodus, the exodus for professional reasons, and the glorious and inglorious reunions are each a natural part of the often cut-throat business. Almost goes without saying.

Taking Back Sunday has not been immune to these group effect bodily functions. During the 2006 Taste of Chaos tour (for which Taking Back Sunday was headlining) Fred Mascherino, who had joined Taking Back Sunday in 2003, returned home due to family commitments. His fellow members of TBS were forced to continue without him, supported onstage by members of Saosin, Anti-Flag and Underoath. He never came back, but when ready to return to work he started his own projects. Others came and went.

Now Lazzara, after ten years of fronting TBS, has gone solo and acoustic with a baneful tuneBecause It Works.

To be continued...