Since 1980, muscle-bound and tattoo-laden Henry Rollins has taken his status as one of the most distinctive frontmen in alternative rock and parlayed it into a career as a Gen-X Renaissance man, gaining notice as an actor, author, publisher, performance artist, record company executive, and commercial spokesman.
Henry Rollins was born Henry Garfield on February 13, 1961, in Washington, D.C. ("Rollins" was a name he used as a joke in high school; it was taken from a friend's T-shirt ). As a teenager, Garfield developed a passionate interest in rock music at its most intense, and while in high school, he formed his first band, a hardcore punk outfit called S.O.A. (aka State of Alert), who released an EP in 1980. Henry was a passionate fan of the pioneering Los Angeles punk band Black Flag, and when Black Flag's vocalist Dez Cadena decided to step down as singer in 1981, the group's guitarist and leader Greg Ginn invited the newly renamed Henry Rollins to join. Black Flag became one of the hardest-working punk bands in America, constantly touring the United States and releasing eight albums and a handful of singles and EPs before calling it a day in 1986.
During his tenure with Black Flag, Rollins developed an interest in writing and began publishing fiction, opinion pieces, and stream-of-consciousness rants in a number of magazines and rock journals, as well as distributing his own chapbooks through Black Flag's record label, SST. Rollins also began performing spoken-word shows of his material, as well as staging confrontational "performance art" events with Lydia Lunch. After Black Flag's breakup, Rollins formed a new group simply known as the Rollins Band and began touring heavily, recording with only slightly less frequency than Black Flag. Rollins continued to write and publish regularly and performed frequently as a spoken-word act, becoming one of the most recognizable figures in alternative rock circles.
In 1991, Rollins signed with a major label, Imago Records, and toured as part of the first Lollapalooza Festival; Rollins had now won a wider audience than ever before, and he seemed determined to make the most of his new visibility. Rollins launched a publishing company, 2.13.61, which distributed his own work as well as books by fellow rockers-turned-authors Nick Cave and Jeffrey Lee Pierce and iconoclastic authors such as Hubert Selby Jr. and Bill Shields. Rollins later expanded 2.13.61 into a record label, as well as co-founded the reissue label Infinite Zero with producer Rick Rubin. While Rollins appeared in experimental films as early as 1985, his new level of visibility brought Hollywood calling, and in 1994 Rollins appeared in both the independent vampire story Jugular Wine and the action-comedy The Chase, in which he played a highway patrolman. 1995 found Rollins playing a scientist in the cyberpunk thriller Johnny Mnemonic and a brutal prison guard in David Lynch's Lost Highway, and from that point on Rollins began appearing in a variety of character roles when he wasn't occupied with his musical or literary activities. Rollins usually portrayed physically imposing and emotionally intense gentlemen, ranging from an escaped convict in Morgan's Ferry to a children's hockey coach in Jack Frost. A number of Rollins' spoken-word shows have also been released on home video, including Talking From the Box and You Saw Me Up There, and in 2000 Rollins signed on as the host and narrator of the television anthology series Night Visions, though as of this writing the series has yet to find a network.