Hard man can't find much time for love

Henry Rollins's multifaceted career keeps him constantly on the road, writes Karl Quinn.

Henry Rollins has a home - a nice one, by his own reckoning - but you have to wonder why he bothers. In a typical year, he says, he's away from Los Angeles for perhaps 300 days. ''I live out of a backpack, a road case and a shoulder bag,'' he says in his mile-a-minute, no-nonsense manner. ''I've been living like this since 1981 and I'm comfortable living in a tour bus, hotel, airport, train station.''

The Rollins express has just rolled back into Australia - for his 20-somethingth visit since his first tour in 1989. His new spoken-word show will, no doubt, be a lot like his other spoken-word shows: fast, angry, and full of a kind of generalised sexual-romantic yearning.

Henry Rollins … ''You have to pick the master you serve. And while I'm on tour, I serve the audience.''
Henry Rollins … ''You have to pick the master you serve. And while I'm on tour, I serve the audience.'' 

He is single, he says, and given his hectic schedule it's hard to imagine it being otherwise. He doesn't think a relationship is impossible, but any woman would need to be satisfied with whatever scraps of time he might be able to carve out of a schedule already chock-full with writing (a regular column for LA Weekly magazine; his 27th book, to be completed by July), a radio show and whatever film or TV work comes his way (most recently, a role in the HBO bikie crime series Sons of Anarchy).

His list of ongoing commitments does make commitment somewhat problematic, he admits.

''You have to go out with a woman who is extremely busy on her own, extremely independent-minded - but not to the extent of going out with some other guy while you're out of town; I certainly wouldn't do that if I was with someone,'' he says.

This mythical woman would have to be one, he adds, ''who doesn't mind if you say, 'Look, I'm single-mindedly, monastically and obsessively doing this tour, and I will contact you when I can. Don't take it personally if you don't hear from me for four days.' ''

It's a pretty demanding checklist, but he insists he's not simply looking for excuses. ''I'm not dead yet; women are still looking good to me,'' he says. ''But you have to pick the master you serve. And while I'm on tour, I serve the audience.''

With his riffing rants, it often appears as if Rollins is freewheeling on stage. Does he make it up as he goes along? ''Absolutely not. If anything, I go for over-preparation. I want to hit the stage running. It's not written out, but if I'm going to talk historical, I memorise the dates. If I'm going to talk political, I memorise who the people in office are.''

Rollins is not an artist so much as a multi-tasking worker driven by a low boredom threshold and a burning memory of a ''minimum-wage'' existence. When he started out, he says, ''I saw people much more talented than I was starving in music. So I decided I needed a plan B, and a plan C, D, E and F. I started chasing a few options and I went at them very hard, and now I do them all full-time.

''When I get off the road it's cool, I've got a nice place,'' he says, offering a brief glimpse of an unlikely domesticity. ''It holds one guy pretty well. But after about four days I feel like veal. I feel tenderised and I need to go out again and get road hard.''

Henry Rollins is at the Seymour Centre on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival.