Former Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins has become something of a one-man industry. After the hardcore pioneers split, Rollins has tried just about everything. Among other ventures, his excursions into spoken word, acting, and writing have been highly successful. For many fans, the books he has published under his own 2.13.61 imprint have held the most resonance. In works such as Get In The Van, the man behind the buff, tattooed image is revealed as a surprisingly articulate, even sensitive artist. Occupants is his latest, and is a bit of a departure. It is something of a coffee-table book, filled with some striking photography, with text.
The photos collected in Occupants date from 2003 to 2010. There are some indelible images, including a bizarre Ronald McDonald statue next to an ATM machine in Thailand, the incandescent smile of a young girl standing atop a mountain of garbage in Bangladesh, and a collection of shining skulls on display in Cambodia. These are more than mere Polaroids, Rollins has a definite eye for photographic composition. The images have a compelling quality about them.
In his opening section “About The Book,” Rollins states “I thought it would be pretentious to release a book that only had photographs.” Good one, Henry. One of his most endearing qualities is his pretentiousness. And the accompanying text does not disappoint. Take this gem from “England 2008,” “The hippie behind the counter smirked at me when he saw what I was buying. I was on Ritalin, it was hard not to kill him.”
Henry was in a record store, and winds up his treatise with this statement; “Looking at these unwanted albums, these promo-stamped rejects, I felt something in common with them. Last to be picked for the team in gym class, roundly teased by others, nervous around girls, I felt like a cutout myself.”
By blending the uber-macho with self-deprecating humor, Henry Rollins manages to have his cake and eat it too. He stands alone as a punk rock Renaissance man, and Occupants is a worthy addition to his oeuvre.