Henry Rollins: Bands Aren’t Making ‘Essential Music Anymore’

Henry Rollins: Morten Jensen, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons
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Former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins feels that some bands aren’t creating “essential music anymore” and that success can have a damaging impact on creating art.

Years ago, Rollins made the decision to step away from making music and focus on other creative desires; during a recent chat with The 13th Floor, he was asked if he would return to creating music if an artist he really respected approached him with an opportunity.

Per Rollins, he says it’s still a hard no. Here is specifically what he had to say (as transcribed by Blabbermouth):

“No. And I’ve been offered… Some people I greatly admire have said, ‘Hey, let’s do a thing.’ Like, amazing people. Why they contacted me, I have no idea in that I would only slow them down. And I said ‘no’ to all of them. Like Keith Levene [of] Public Image [LTD]. Are you kidding me? He wrote me, like, ‘Dude, let’s do something.’ I’m, like, ‘Eh, I’m done with music. And, like, woah!’ I mean, that guy’s one of the best guitar players, I think — amazing. I only would have slowed him down. But I said, ‘No, thanks.’ ‘Cause I’m done. And when I’m done with something, I’m pretty done with it.”

After providing this response, Rollins is asked if he feels there are other artists who should have followed his lead and retired from making music. It’s here where the former singer speaks to his belief that some bands are not making “essential music anymore.” When it comes to this belief, he feels what has hurt these bands is “success.” Per Rollins:

“I have a rule — if I’m gonna say anything derogatory about anybody, unless it’s an elected official, they’ve gotta be in the room with me. And so I think there’s some bands, I just don’t think they make essential music anymore. And what screwed ’em up? Success.

“[American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist Ernest] Hemingway got a lot wrong — like racism, misogyny; he was a real pig. But in his Nobel acceptance speech, he said success is often the death of the talent of the writer. And money and comfort and success often leads to second guessing and a level of comfort where what got you to that success in the first place has now been replaced by a big car and a really nice living environment.

“And I’m not saying success is bad. I’m just saying it’s a really dangerous quantity and people should be really damn careful with it when it comes their way.”

What do you think of Henry Rollins’ points? What are some bands you think are well past their prime and should consider retiring from music?

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