Sometimes I get in my car, and the radio’s unconsciously on, and I unconsciously expect to hear the same old thing, wildly safe and predictable music, the same smooth traffic or news voices, and just the news which in it’s strange official tone can feel so normal you don’t hear it. Once in a while, in the last few years, I hear something out of this world, something feral. I’ll be listening for just a few seconds and I know this is something that doesn’t belong in our safe public sphere. I won’t know the song, but in seconds I know this energy, this wildness, it’s Henry Rollins radio show, and sure enough I realize, yes, it’s Saturday night he’s on. Playing a selection that is viscerally-politically-subversively-eclectic, challenging all the boxes we put people and music in,
He’s the heir to Thoreau’s civil disobedience, and Emerson’s self-reliance,
delivering a whole food, an unprocessed heap of music, which to Henry is clearly a medicine, a way of understanding the world, a way out of the numb trap, a way out of all the lies and mediocrity that is more comfortable than trying. Punk, jazz, African, early rock, whole albums, Hendrix, The Damned, Coltrane, even a lesson about Lincoln on his birthday! Listening to one show wakes you up, like punk woke me up in 1980; this normal world that pretends to offer us everything you could ever want, offers us mostly that which is convenient to the perpetuation of a sleepy, malnourished, conformist consciousness. He’s the heir to Thoreau’s civil disobedience, and Emerson’s self-reliance, the Transcendentalist belief that we human individuals had something holy and huge in our struggles. And then there’s Henry himself: Quite cranked up on caffeine or love, or both, teaching us, beseeching us, so inclusively, with the capital L kind of love for all that is possible. He calls all of us listeners ‘fanatics’, he says the radio show is waging musical ‘jihad’, he’s often hysterical, unhinged, and loose, unplanned, unprofessional, and just filled with juice. I had to look up Jihad because of him, I’ve heard the word so many times, but what does it actually mean? This part stuck out, “an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle” – to me that means the inner struggle against the emotional hegemony of all that we’ve learned, or the battle to overcome our own sadness. And externally – the struggle to make it through Los Angeles in your car without giving in to all the laws- relations-signs-mortgages-segregations that reduce what is possible to what is convenient.
MIKE MILLS was born in Berkeley, California in 1966, and he graduated from Cooper Union in 1989. He currently works in film, graphic design, and art. His films include Beginners (2010), Thumbsucker (2005), Paperboys (2001), Architecture of Reassurance (2000), and Deformer (2000). Mike has also directed music videos for Air, Pulp, Everything but the Girl, Les Rythem Digitales, Moby, Yoko Ono, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. In 1996, he co-founded The Directors Bureau with Roman Coppola, a multidisciplinary production company. Mike’s artwork has been exhibited in galleries internationally, and his latest posters are available at commune.com
Mike’s photo by Sarah Soquel Morhaim