Henry Rollins

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide there have been many responses and reactions. Today, Henry Rollins wrote an editorial for LA Weekly titled “Fuck Suicide.” Rollins’ main point is essentially that people who are parents have no right to end their lives as it will traumatize their children, but he goes on to say that he has disdain for people who commit suicide:

When someone negates their existence, they cancel themselves out in my mind. I have many records, books and films featuring people who have taken their own lives, and I regard them all with a bit of distain. When someone commits this act, he or she is out of my analog world. I know they existed, yet they have nullified their existence because they willfully removed themselves from life. They were real but now they are not. I no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them.

In response, I’d just like to leave this quote from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which offers a nice counterpoint. Wallace hanged himself in 2008, but that should not negate the seriousness of his message:

The so-called ’psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ’hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. Yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ’Don’t!’ and ’Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

By coincidence, earlier today, we saw a short documentary in which Thor Harris of Swans offered some very moving thoughts and revelations about his own struggles with suicidal thoughts and how he works to overcome them.

Comments (48)
  1. Shut up Henry. You’re out of my analog world now.

  2. This is by far the most ignorant, hideously misinformed piece I’ve read in a long, long time — much less from a well-known musician. Henry Rollins was before my time, but I did like a couple Black Flag songs (“TV Party”!).

    Too bad from this day forward, those will all be overshadowed by the fact that he penned this idiotic, hateful piece. Jesus.

    • Or, does it mean that he doesn’t understand, that his mind isn’t working properly and is deserving of our sympathy and help, not our hatred and scorn?

      My primary internal issue with the whole suicide debate is that it implies that the same sympathy, understanding and love is due to anyone who kills *others* due to the forces in their minds being “different” than ours. I do think that our desire to see “evil” in murderers prevents us from understanding the mental-health problems involved in most killings, and a healthier, more supportive environment would prevent a lot of murder.

      And you could extrapolate that to any number of crimes and behaviors – the human brain is a fragile thing.

      Suicide is a complex, non-cookie-cutter concept that seems to be oversimplified right now out of emotion. I expect my statement will also be oversimplified and downvoted, but so be it.

  3. I cancelled Henry Rollins out of my mind years ago.

  4. Ignorance at its finest.

  5. It will be a wildly unpopular sentiment but I believe Peter Steele got it right when he penned “suicide is self expression.” It’s an intensely personal decision and one that should not be made lightly but if that is the conclusion one comes to, then so be it.

    I believe there is rather distinct line between the attempts at suicide that fall in line more as cries for help and those who genuinely want to quit existence. Dealing with those thoughts is a miserable thing and millions suffer from it daily, myself included, but I still hold firm that that action is the one thing I have that is truly my own, morbid as it may be.

    Regardless, there really shouldn’t be all these op-ed pieces about its justification or not. It was his decision. That’s that.

  6. The real question is why the hell would LA Weekly publish an article like that? The absolute worst kind of clickbait.

  7. I seem to recall that Henry Rollins once sang “Depression’s got a hold of me, depression’s gonna kill me” when he was in Black Flag. Maybe he is confusing his mood swings with the medical condition?

  8. “he or she is out of my analog world”?? Asshole

  9. Fuckin’ idiot this guy is. Lucky you for not getting how depression works or why people commit suicide. I’ve always felt DISDAIN for Henry Rollins. Thinks everything he says is so fucking profound. Another one of those, “I can’t stand anyone who doesn’t fit in to MY worldview.”
    It’s DISDAIN, Henry.

  10. I’ve never really got along with Rollins, and I have tried. Most of the time he just sounds like an asshole that no one is willing to call out because he’s up there in the punk rock elite.

  11. You’ve got to hand it to him… just when you think he’s gone as far as he can, Rollins manages to find a way to out-douche himself.

  12. People who commit suicide are making a decision, so I can’t feel bad for them making a conscious decision for themselves. This doesn’t erase them from history nor make their contributions while alive less meaningful.

  13. Who gives a shit if they have removed themselves from Rollins’ “analog world”?! “Well, I was going to kill myself, but I don’t want be thought less of by “the great” Henry Rollins”.

  14. OK, so that’s what Henry Rollins thinks. Who gives a shit?

  15. I small and horrible part of me agrees with him. I cannot stress this enough…..A SMALL PART. The rest of my being thinks he’s an asshole. But the thing I can’t stand is the lack of personal editing. Even if you think that kind of shit what good does it do ANYBODY to voice it? Nobody. It just shocks and hurts people. And those that avoid the shock are furious. Nothing good comes from this kind of speech.

    Maybe he thinks it falls under the “I’m just being honest” BS. I learned long ago that “I’m just being honest” typically means “I’m about to say/do something really offensive and unnecessary”

  16. what a fucking hateful opinion

  17. this ^ – just no. people seriously need to start viewing/understanding depression as an illness like any other and show people the same respect they would show someone suffering from, say, AIDS, or any other disease. that is not to say of course that everyone suffering from depression will at some point take their lives, but, still, it is a possibility and it happens. also, depression aside, people should stop acting like self-righteous pricks, and pretend to understand the depths of despair a person can go to that’d result in them taking their own life. for the record, i don’t condone suicide and i don’t romanticize it either. i am too old for that. it’s the easy way out as is judging people who have committed suicide without having any idea about who they were, and what they’ve gone through.

  18. Before you rip his head of, read the whole piece. I don’t endorse his view, but to some extent, I can understand how he has come to this view.

    “For all the people who walked from the grocery store back to their house, only to be met by a robber who shot them in the head for nothing — you gotta hang in there. ”

    If you don’t know, Henry Rollin’s room mate and best friend met this fate. So it’s understandable that he would come to a conclusion like this.

    “A few years ago, a guy I’d known for many years hanged himself in a basement. Weeks later, I went to the spot and picked up bits of plastic coating from the cord he used, which were on the floor after he was cut down. I liked the guy, but all I could think of then is all I can think of now — the drawings his kids had made that were pasted up on the walls of his kitchen.”

    Same goes for the above quote.

    In my opinion, Rollins has come to the wrong conclusion about suicide and Robbin William’s experience in particular. However, I can fully empathise with how he came to this view.

  19. I’d take David Foster Wallace’s opinion about any subject on Earth over Rollins’.

  20. How many of you have dealt with a suicide on a personal level, such as a family member or close friend taking their own life? I have, and I’m not the least bit offended by Rollin’s remarks/opinion. In fact, as is usually the case, there’s some very strong, multi-layered truths in what he’s saying.

    • I have had a close family member and a close friend who have committed suicide. I have personally battled with major depression (or whatever you want to call it).

      I am also a Henry Rollins apologist, because, you know, Black Flag, and smart shit he says every once in awhile.

      I also can’t help but read his editorial as if he is seeking attention for having a “controversial” opinion about suicide, and he’s capitalizing on Robin Williams’ death by “having something to say” about it. He doesn’t know shit about Robin Williams’ life, his career, or his family, and he even admits it. But here he is, being about as judgemental as one can be. I guess that’s really “punk” of him.

      Henry Rollins can go fuck himself over this one.

      • Thank you for taking the time to actually write something. Sorry to hear about your experiences. I don’t suffer from depression, or any kind of suicidal thoughts, but have also had a close family member and a best friend take their own lives. We’ll have to agree to disagree about Rollins, though, as I think some of my own thoughts on the subject may be even more extreme and disliked than his.

        • I am more than willing to disagree on this. I think I really understand where you’re coming from. Any rational person who experiences the suicide of a loved one has to deal with being angry with about it, but it’s taboo to speak about this anger. Maybe that’s what Henry Rollins is getting at here, but he has an ignorant-ass way of saying it. Read that quote over again and find the part where Henry Rollins is talking about something he finds important that is something other than Henry Rollins.

          It’s just my opinion, but I can’t see his comments as anything other than self-aggrandizing. It would be one thing if family members or close friends of Robin Williams voiced their unsettling feeling of anger towards him, but this is Henry Rollins voicing his contempt for Robin Williams because Henry Rollins is disdainful of suicide and you should check out Henry Rollins’ records, books, and films about Henry Rollins talking about people who have left Henry Rollins’ “analog world” because Henry Rollins has something to say about how it affected Henry Rollins. Henry Rollins.

          He’s displaying a lack of empathy here, and I think that’s the main thing bothering me. For most of us, there is no rationalizing suicide. But people who commit/attempt/contemplate suicide aren’t thinking rationally. They aren’t thinking about all the pain the act of killing themselves would cause everyone around them. They just feel like every cell in their body is screaming, and they mistake their desire to silence the screaming in the quickest way possible as a biological need. I’m oversimplifying, but I think I’ve experienced all sides of this issue, and it really looks to me that the only thing Henry Rollins is thinking about as he voices his opinion to the press is Henry Rollins. His selfishness is kind of ironic (in the true sense of irony; he’s not trying to be ironic).

  21. i’m not a doctor either hank, but i know that the brain is an organ much like the rest of the organs in the body. my non-medical self also knows that organs can succumb to diseases of all kinds. the view that suicide is somehow a choice made by a rational, healthy mind is as irrational as suicide itself.

  22. i used to share rollins’ opinion on this, back when i didn’t understand the reality of depression. i feel foolish about that now. i hope rollins can admit how dumb he was here if/when he wises up.

  23. “This next song…is about killing yourself to live.”


  24. Thanks for the insight, Hank.

    OK guys, now that literally everybody on the entire internet has had a turn at making Robin Williams’s death all about themselves, can we talk about something else?

  25. I may see where Henry Rollins was coming from but fucking PARKINSON’S. I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to go through that. Michael J Fox may make it seem not so bad while he continues to do occasional acting roles but do some research on it, the worst kind of Parkinson’s is worse than death in my opinion.

  26. This at least gave me the joy of reading a passage from Infinite Jest which I’ll never underappreciate. Heres a classic example of some fool who laboriously tries to act brilliant (Rollins) and an example of another who simply exudes brilliant (Wallace)

  27. I think it goes without saying that Rollin’s comments on suicide are rather myopic and somewhat ignorant. However, as an irregular Rollins fan (the person, not so much the music – I prefer pre-Rollins Black Flag) I can’t help but try to be charitable in understanding where he’s coming from. I think it’s clear that Rollin’s opinion about suicide come from his own issues with mortality. I believe I read an article that detailed the death of one of Rollin’s close friends, who was shot right in front of him during a mugging. I wouldn’t be surprised if his views on death and suicide stem from such experiences.

    That’s where the charity stops though, because if there’s one facet of Rollin’s personality I detest its his unflinching infatuation with his own self-dependence and discipline. His comments on suicide vaguely remind me of something he said about homosexuality – something along the lines of if he were gay, there would be no hiding and no shame (which is easy for him to say when, you know…he’s NOT gay).

    I also think it’s ironic (and unfortunate) that he has such a detestable view on suicide when he participated in a reading of David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King” (an unfinished novel by an author who, if you didn’t know, hung himself back in 2008). Speaking of which, DFW has some very profound insight into the problem of suicide (I’m just going to link the quote because, goddamn, DFW takes his sweet time explaining things) – http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/200381-the-so-called-psychotically-depressed-person-who-tries-to-kill-herself

    TL;DR – I can understand to a degree where Rollins is coming from. To use Robin William’s death as a platform to express that opinion is just tacky, and LA Weekly’s decision to print/commission the article seems to be vaguely unethical. I’m with cheap_suit on this one, in that I’m getting sick of people using the death of Robin Williams (and hell, ANY beloved celebrity) as a means to talk about themselves. We get it. You’re sad the Genie is dead. So am I. However, I’d rather remember him fondly and take a moment to personally reflect on the preciousness of life than prattle on about how this suicide personally affects ME and MY own vague assumptions about what kind of person Robin Williams was.

  28. Writing and releasing this missive did absolutely no good for anyone in the world other than maybe Henry Rollins. You want to talk selfish??? Jesus.

  29. i have never known anyone who committed suicide, so i am not for a second going to act like i understand how that would feel. it must be confusing, disorienting and awful.

    if you believe the Bible – Jesus killed himself right ? the most powerful being in the world, allowing himself to be killed by crucifixion by the Romans. food for thought.

    hurting people and depressed people must be so offended by rollins’ piece. it is weak and offensive to something that is easy to get stuck in. i will say though, that its fair to say if you have kids, it can traumatize them.

    also, the ice bucket challenge is making me think about my grandma who died of ALS. which sucked ! because she was awesome ! and i miss her !

    • I always thought the Jesus Myth was stupid. It’s like wolverine allowing himself to be shot by a bullet and bragging about it. Bitch knows his mutant healing factor is gonna kick in. same with jesus. dude knows he’s the son of god and has crazy healing powers. Of course he’s gonna come back to life. some sacrifice.

  30. Henry Rollins being a dickhead should come as no surprise to anyone.

  31. I can’t believe the guy who starred in FEAST said this… Just ruined the movie for me.

  32. No wonder his friends killed themselves. Being around this overopiniated uncaring douche all the time. Henry, get a clue. This is what happens when people take stands on extremely delicate and complicated issues beyond their ken. they’ll get it wrong most of the time. The truth is nobody knows. If they did, there would be solutions. Points on all sides but nothing definite.

  33. What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

  34. Interestingly, Rollins had quite a different reaction to Kurt Cobain’s suicide which can be seen in an MTV interview on youtube from around that time.. Has Rollins’s view changed? Somehow I doubt Rollins would admit to changing his mind.. but would be interesting to raise this with him and see how he rationalises otherwise..

  35. I agree to some of Rollins points on suicide but i firmly believe that sometimes we should consider that people who commit suicide have really depressing problems, it is the easy way out but it is the wrong way to deal with problems Henry Rollins must have experienced many suicide acts in front of him and I can understand him.

  36. I agree to some of Rollins points on suicide but i firmly believe that sometimes we should consider that people who commit suicide have really depressing problems, it is the easy way out but it is the wrong way to deal with problems Henry Rollins must have experienced many suicide acts in front of him and I can understand him. http://ourhappyschool.com

  37. Mix narcissism with the undying praise of adoring and rapidly aging “punks”, and you’re left with this. Henry Rollins. What a misguided, self-absorbed and ignorant take on the realities of depression. Can’t stand this guy anymore.

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