Tomorrow night, the denizens of the US of A will be glued to their news outlets of choice, waiting on those proverbial tenterhooks to see who will lead our country through the next four years of war, natural disaster and political Internet memes. In prep for tomorrow’s big event, musician, spoken-word artist and activist Henry Rollins will take to YouTube for a livestreamed show in Washington, DC — the thematic highpoint in a 50-state tour the musician embarked on in October.
Rollins launched his “Capitalism” tour in partnership with TakePart TV, a new YouTube channel that focuses on socially relevant content. The tour takes Rollins to every state in the U.S. — their capitals, specifically — culminating in tonight’s performance in Washington, DC, where he will perform his one-man, spoken-word show for the residents of our nation’s capitol. He still has some stops to go after tonight’s show, but this will be the only event that will be streamed live online.
Along the way, Rollins has been creating a kind of “talk show,” interviewing residents of the towns he visits and posting those interviews on the TakePart TV YouTube channel. Those videos not only give viewers a glimpse into the lives of folks in every corner of the U.S., but also Rollins’s own many and varied views on the country at large. You can watch all those videos now for a taste of what’s to come during tonight’s show, which will stream live on YouTube (and below) at 8pm EST.
We spoke with Rollins earlier today about what to expect during the DC show, his thoughts on music and politics and, of course, who he’s voting for. Check out our Q&A below.
So what do you have planned for your big election eve show?
Well, I’ll be on stage, it’ll be a whole show — an unendurable two and a half hours or thereabouts. I’ll just be talking about a lot of the stuff I have been talking about over the last few weeks, all the new stories and stuff that I have been talking about on stage. The normal thing we’ve been doing daily is like a five- to eight-minute thing: Me talking to people outside of the venue. Basically me not on stage. So tonight will be just performance.
So as you’re drawing to the close of this big journey, there must have been some pretty interesting highlights. What are some of the most memorable moments you’ve had?
Well, there’s no single thing that stands out. It’s just been a lot of reminders — almost a daily reminder — that there’s really no such thing as a small town. They might be small geographically, but the stories are big. People are living and dying — they have lives. And when you really drill down into these places, they all have a fairly interesting history. And when you talk to the people who live in them, they’re going through real-life stuff. Everything from crystal meth problems to crime to what they’re trying to do to improve things in the city. You encounter everyone from government officials to local workers who are just making great strides.
When Sandy hit we were in one place in Dover, Delaware, where we were in the emergency situation room where they plotted how to keep Dover, Delaware safe. And you see all these seats and [everyone] has been in there for days prepping and then executing all the stuff they had to do. There’s quadrant maps all along the walls. We met the lady who is the head of the team and she shows you what’s involved in keeping a city safe. No matter how big of an operation you’d think it is, it’s bigger. The city is about as big as your bedroom. It’s a very small town, yet you see how much is involved. It’s just completely impressive.
Yeah, it must have been a really compelling time to be traveling around the country.
Yeah, it’s interesting being in America during the time of an election. Day to day that really didn’t seem to mean that much. Tomorrow night you’ll have whoever the President’s going to be will be — unless there’s some awful recount or one of those contested states. And that very well could be. But your life will go on. And if you did vote, maybe you’ll get the person you voted for, maybe you won’t. But life goes on. Ultimately. You’ll keep serving breakfast and you can’t be late for work. We get up and we do our thing, no matter what happens.
So when you meet people, they’re thinking about the election and all of that, but not much more than they’re thinking about it any other time. They’re mainly thinking about their kids, their job, their house. Their lives.
Yeah, and I guess how much the election will impact them directly as individuals.
Yeah. I don’t think an election impacts people like life or death. One guy running for office has said, over and over again, on his first day in office he’s going to have this miraculous blur of activity where he’ll somehow be able to have control of all three branches of government and, in one fell swoop, will obliterate Roe V. Wade, decimate Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, which will be an astonishing feat. Hopefully he gets none of that done. But that’s what one of the guys says that he’s going to do as soon as he gets in there.
So, a lot of the candidates have been pretty active online during this election season and you yourself have chosen to use YouTube as your platform. What do you think of that site as a portal for getting your words out to the world at large?
Why not? It’s a nice way to get things across and the price is right. You can log on and watch something. It’s a good idea, in that it’s an elective. No one is making you watch it. It’s there if you need it or if you feel so inclined to watch. Good. It’s a nice aspect of technology.
So how did you decide where to stop along the way? Who to interview? Did you plan it out ahead of time?
You can’t wander. You have to do a lot of preparation. You can’t just walk in and say, ‘Hey, can we film you?’ There were a lot of phone calls. Especially if you’re talking to anyone in government. We were just trying to find an interesting aspect, something that would be unique, or something I could really fill myself into, like a record store.
Or, yesterday, we interviewed a triple amputee in Delaware in a restaurant that has an organization that raises money for soldiers that actually helped this guy get a home to live in. We interviewed the owners of the restaurant who helped this guy and we interviewed the guy who got helped. It was an interesting afternoon. This guy lost three limbs in Iraq in one IED explosion. He lost his hearing. Lost his sight in one eye. And lost his wife. His wife couldn’t handle dealing with him, so she left him and their two daughters. So he’s a guy in a wheelchair with one arm, one eye and cochlear impact so that he can hear, and two daughters. And I sat with the three of them and interviewed them about what their lives are like.
Do you think you’ll stay in touch with these people that you’ve met?
Well, sure. Some of these people — like yesterday — when I go back to Annapolis on the next tour, I’ll definitely go back into that restaurant and say ‘hello’ to those people and hopefully get a meal out of it. Another place I was in in Juno, Alaska — I’ll definitely go back there again and talk to some people I met there and see how they’re doing and follow up. Sure.
Also, I’m wondering — as a musician during an election — do you like any of the election songs that musicians have written? Are you a fan of any of these anthems?
No, I really don’t think of it in those terms. I have a fairly jaundiced eye for all politicians, including the ones I vote for. Me being in show business, I know all about putting it on and politicians do it. And so if they ever say, ‘Here’s music I like,’ I really don’t want to know what music you’re into. It’s like when a lawyer says, ‘Hey, I really like your music, pal.’ I don’t care what you like, just do what you’re told to do and don’t charge me too much. So politicians and music — to me, they just don’t mix. It’s like a narc giving you a mixtape.
So, politics aside, do you think there are musicians out there writing accurate anthems for the country? Regardless of party and all that. Who writes the anthems of our time?
I don’t know about any anthems, but what you have is a lot of people who probably are frustrated. Those who voted for Obama, they were promised a lot and then they might be feeling that they didn’t get what they were promised and so they’re a little cynical now. I can understand that. I think there’s a lot of people wondering what their future is going to be. They’re looking at their kids. They’re looking at their own jobs and their futures. They’re looking at their homes and their mortgages and they’re looking at a banking system that defrauded the entire world.
You perhaps look for some stability — that which does what it says it’s going to do. Because when big entities like government and banks — where your money is — don’t seem to be doing what they say they’re going to do, then who do you go to? Hence the organizations like the Tea Party — that’s real frustration. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of these people in action, but they’re not acting. That’s very, very real. All that anger and frustration. Is it poorly directed? At times, yes. But it’s real.
So you’re likely voting absentee this time around. Have you already cast your vote?
Yeah. I don’t have a crystal ball in any of this stuff. I don’t really make predictions. I just hope the team I’m rooting for gets over. Whatever comes I have to deal with it, so that’s just kind of how I hit.
So who did you vote for? I can guess, but I won’t assume.
I like our current President very much. He’s a hero of mine. I think he’s an amazing man. I think if he had a Congress that wasn’t acting like 8-year-olds, we would have a much more vibrant economy and everything would be better. And so will he win? I have no idea. I think that a Romney administration would be ruinous for America’s health.
Image courtesy of Heidi May