Monthly Archives July 2007

A Brief History of the Band

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.
Rollins at Lollapalooza

Their first album, Lifetime, was recorded (produced by Ian MacKaye of Fugazi) before 1987 was out. Several more albums followed fairly quickly, including Do ItHard 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. Now go out there and buy a few copies and play them for your friends.

The release supposedly forthcoming in time for Christmas, 1997 comprising unreleased tracks and overflow from Weight and Come In and Burn was pushed back. I’ve not heard anything more recent.

The band had also recorded a track for a one-hit wonders compilation. What else but the Lipps, Inc. song Funkytown? Right. Better. It’s a duet with RuPaul! I think the project was for Elektra Records. Oddly enough, someone in the chain found this to be inappropriate and unfunny and has more or less nixed the release. Frankly, I know this deserves to be heard and I’ll try and see what I can find out.

You might find it a good idea to check out the news at 2.13.61 for the latest info, dates, and happenings. I’ll try to cover anything that they miss…

You may also have noticed this, but the Rollins Band has been around for a decade now. Pretty nifty, eh?

You must check out the spoken word page now…