‘I Put the Punk in Punctual’ An evening with Henry Rollins

Writer and musician Henry Rollins was featured at Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2011. Photo courtesy of Melanie Levi/ Flickr.

Punk rock icon Henry Rollins spoke at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium Saturday evening.

At 9:30 p.m. the lights dimmed on the audience in the Masonic Auditorium and an eruption of cheering began. Spotlights from unoccupied balconies illuminated the front of the room.

Rollins took center stage, removing the microphone from its stand, wrapping the chord around his palm multiple times and gripping it between his middle and forefinger. Wearing his signature plain black T-shirt and Dickies pants, Rollins assumed a power stance and began to speak.

This was Rollins’ first time, in the last three years, speaking in Cleveland.

“I have had good shows [in Cleveland] and have found the audiences to be quite faithful,” Rollins said. “But as something that makes Ohio stand out? I can’t think of anything. It has certainly never been a place I tried to avoid.”

For those who have ties to the sub-culture of punk rock, Rollins is a well-known figure. He was the front man for Black Flag, arguably the most influential hardcore punk band of the 1980s. After Black Flag’s disbandment, Rollins fronted his own band by the name of Rollins Band.

Aside from his time in Black Flag, Rollins has worked in nearly every facet of show business. He has done everything from voice acting in the popular cartoon “Adventure Time,” to playing an institutionalized white supremacist in the hit television show, “Sons of Anarchy.”

Rollins owns his own publishing company, producing books that pertain mostly to his travels. “Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag,” a book published by Rollins, won a Grammy in 1995 for its audio book accompaniment.

Rollins began participating in spoken word well before Black Flag broke up for the first time. Since then, his spoken word engagements have taken him all over the world, delivering performances in venues from Israel to Cleveland.

The content of Rollins’ speaking engagements centralizes mostly around events and observations of his many travels. Humorous, emotional and always engaging, Rollins’ spoken word performances operate at an intensity that has not slowed in the thirty years he’s been performing.

When asked of what advice he could provide for students majoring in the arts, Rollins had the following to say.

“I don’t know what to advise, besides maintain your voice and your artistic integrity no matter what you were taught,” he said. “As far as being an artist, school is the last place I would ever think of going, that’s why I don’t know what to advise. Hopefully, you end up as yourself, not like what you were instructed in a room with a bunch of other people. I know very talented people went to school for art and have done well. It’s just that I don’t know any.”

Rollins covered a variety of subjects in the night’s speech. His outspoken demeanor, extensive vocabulary and array of stories held the audience’s attention for the two-and-a-half hours that he spoke.

Rollins spoke about the basis of his theoretical presidential campaign — sex, music and pizza — his misadventures with Motorhead front man Lemmy Kilmister and a vision quest he encountered under the influence of Cuban coffee and caramel, to just name a few of the stories he shared.

Not leaving a second for breath, Rollins will be traveling to Europe next week to work on a film he wrote the dialogue for.

“It’s been an on-and-off process of about three years,” he said. “Since it’s not mine, it’s not mine to talk about and I don’t want to steal any thunder from the thing, but it’s a great idea and most of it is in the can.”

Musician, author, poet, actor and advocate, Henry Rollins is the self-made man, never missing the chance to see something new and keep himself fed.