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January 26, 2018

Henry Rollins regales us with tales of his traveling slideshow

From North Korea to Cuba to Antarctica, the former punk rocker claims to have practically seen it all

Spoken word Interviews
Henry Rollins Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

Henry Rollins attends the 2014 A+E Networks Upfront at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, NY, on May 8, 2014.

"Anthony Bourdain is a punk rocker" is the headline for a Dying Scene feature on the celebrity chef, who hosts CNN"s "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," where he explores cultures and cuisine.

Actual punk icon Henry Rollins doesn't travel quite as much as Bourdain, but he's logged considerable miles over the years. The former Black Flag frontman has visited North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Antartica and Russia six times, among other exotic locales.

"I had some good times in the world last year," Rollins said while calling from Los Angeles. 

"The Philippines, specifically Manila and Cuzco, up in the Peruvian Andes. While the experiences weren't exactly life changing, I learned a lot and saw some great sights. I really like being up in the Andes."

Rollins, 56, will detail his adventures from the road tonight at the Trocadero for his Travel Slideshow. The intense former rocker has been delivering spoken word longer than he belted out songs. Rollins, who retired from singing a decade ago when he pulled the plug on the Rollins Band, typically waxes about his life and views, but he has moved in a different direction discussing travel.

It's a nice change of pace for Rollins, who normally talks politics and pop culture. 

"I thought it would be an interesting and different way to tell stories and present something to the audience," Rollins said. 

"I had done it a few times over the years and it always seemed to work well with the audience."

A visit to Afghanistan rocked Rollins. 

"The people there are extraordinarily tough," Rollins said. "You go up in a chopper and you just see miles and miles of dirt in Afghanistan. The conditions there would absolutely crush a soft Westerner. It was an amazing experience."

Rollins believes Americans would be surprised by the reception he received in Tehran. 

"The vibe I got in Iran was really good," Rollins said. "Everyone was very friendly to me. They told me how much they love America. They wanted me to move in and meet a nice Iranian girl and settle down."

Settling down and Rollins are mutually exclusive terms. Aside from traveling, Rollins runs an independent publishing company (2-13-61, which is his birth date) and acts (Rollins is in a forthcoming "Portlandia" episode and is working on the movie "The Orchard").

"Everyday I get up at 6 a.m. and bust my butt," Rollins said. "It's the only way I know how to do things. I try to do as much as I can. I worked hard for things my whole life."

Rollins said he has no problem juggling projects at home, but he can't wait to hit the road for a tour or for exploration. There is nothing more compelling for him than traveling at the moment, he said. 

Rollins' trip to Antarctica was life altering. 

"That was the most moving journey I have ever been on," Rollins said. 

"My surroundings were so different than anything I have ever been around. There were moments where I would just stare in disbelief."

Everyday I get up at 6 a.m. and bust my butt...I worked hard for things my whole life."

During a spoken word performance in Baltimore, Md. in 2017, Rollins detailed his frustration with anyone who doesn't believe in climate change since scientists in Antarctica explained to him how dire the situation is for the world. 

"You just can't argue against facts," Rollins said. "I don't understand our country...But I think the rest of the world is quite aware and on the move, even if America seems sluggish by comparison."

Considering the endless array of networks, it's surprising that Rollins isn't hosting a travel show ala Bourdain. 

"I've pitched travel shows to many networks," Rollins said. "They are not interested."

Expect Rollins to wax about other topics, particularly the state of America. Rollins sometimes comes across as angry, particularly when he talks politics, but the Washington D.C. native has hope for his country.

"There's always reason for optimism," Rollins said. "I think as we go further into this century, things will get better. A generation of Americans are coming to the end of their lives. They will take a lot of old ideas with them."

Henry Rollins appears Friday, Feb. 26 at The Trocadero, 10th and Arch streets, Philadelphia. Tickets are $29.50 and $154.50. Show time is 8 p.m.

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