10 Things You Never Knew About... Black Flag

And Mr Henry Rollins
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Henry Rollins is portrayed as the classic punk tough guy, but the water runs deeper than this iconic Black Flag image.

1. Henry Rollins joined Black Flag when the vocalist at the time, Dez Cadena, was switching to guitar. At a bar show, the band invited Henry on stage for an impromptu audition during ‘Clocked In’. They were so impressed with his stage show that they asked him to join. He did, reluctantly at first, and acted as a roadie for the rest of the tour, learning the songs from the side of the stage.

2. Former singers of the band include Keith Morris (‘Nervous Breakdown EP’ vocalist), who went on to form influential punk bands such as Circle Jerks, Off! and Midget Handjob. His reasons for leaving the band included creative differences and the fact that it wasn’t fun anymore. We’re sure Rollins and all Black Flag fans would disagree.

3. Rollins’ hatred for authority does not go unprovoked. In 1991, the police arrested Rollins on suspicion of murdering his best friend, Joe Cole. They insinuated that he and Joe were lovers and teased him, calling him “sweetie”, and stated he was a drug addict - which was all untrue. Rollins was released, but the case is still unsolved.

4. The Rollins Band recorded twenty-four Black Flag songs with guest musicians such as Iggy Pop and Chuck D in aid of the West Memphis Three: three teenagers who were falsely accused of murder in the early ’90s. Recently, thanks to new evidence, the three were released after spending eighteen years behind bars.

5. Black Flag worked insanely hard. They built their own PA system and toured relentlessly. Rollins said: “Black Flag was brutal. We would do entire nights of band practice where we would do the set or the album, the next album, the entire length through, at half-speed. It was called trudging.”

6. The reason for their break-up in ’86 is unclear, but the band didn’t like Rollins’ ‘fight violence with violence’ philosophy. The singer recalls: “One time in London, [in] ’83, we were playing some dismal place and he (Gregg Ginn, guitarist) looks down and sees that I’m taking a guy by his mohawk and bouncing his face against the floor.”

7. You may think by his harsh words and manic demeanor that Rollins lives the classic punk lifestyle of cigarettes on toast and cocaine smoothies. But Henry doesn’t drink alcohol, smoke, or do drugs: “You don’t need drugs man, all you need is a great idea to get off.” Drugs are bad, m’kay.

8. He’s also a political activist and humanitarian. He’s organized charity gigs with musicians such as Corey Taylor (Slipknot) and visited Afghanistan and Burma to document the effects of war and poverty. He released his photos of the journey in a book called Occupants.

9. Henry's Adonis good looks and naval-ship-size biceps should bag him the best looking punk around, but Rollins doesn't date: “I don’t want a wife and I don’t want kids…It would destroy my creativity.” You’ve broken a lot of tattooed hearts, Henry.

10. Rollins wasn’t your typical teenager. He once stabbed a boy in the ass with a pencil because he beat him to a touchdown. After a number of these violent incidents, Rollins was sent to military prep school to straighten him out. All his life he was fed Ritalin, but came off it when he discovered weight-lifting there.

Words by Jamie Carson

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