The smartest punk rock frontmen

Believe it or not, a lot of punk frontmen are ridiculously clever, whether that’s due to their own wits or because they have a PhD in Geology. And because I can’t think of anything else to write about and it made a good topic of conversation between fightclubsandwich and I, let’s find out who are punk’s smartest dudes!

5) Glenn Danzig
Danzig is a pretty decent businessman, owning his own comic book publishing house, Verotik, and he also likes books. And reading them. And discussing them. While shirtless. This video’s bounced around the site many, many times, so instead, have Danzig reciting the first chapter of Paradise Lost:

So, Danzig’s well read. And being well read tends to make for interesting lyrics, as I’m sure you can tell if you’re an avid Danzig or Misfits listener. He also writes classical music, in the form of the Black Aria albums, which are fairly chilling and atmospheric. And badass. Did I mention badass?

4) Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins is a smart, smart guy. Not content with his spoken word bits on various Black Flag albums? Why not check out his books? Rollins is one of my favourite authors of all time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read Black Coffee Blues, and it reveals something new every time. He also does stand up and is very, very funny. He’s that revered, that every time he did Download here, he was put on a Sunday morning as ‘an alternative to church’. I can get down with that.

3) Blake Schwarzenbach
Jawbreaker were pretty influential, yeah. But did you know that Blake has a degree in English and Creative Writing (which is made even more awesome because that’s the title of the degree that I am doing)? And… he is also a professor! I would kill to be in his class, if I’m being honest. My favourite comment on that page is “any man who can eat toast like that is a great professor.” His blog is also rad.

2) Milo Aukerman
‘The Descendents?’ you cry. ‘But, they were just some dumb pop-punk band!’. This may be true, but the band went on hiatus for a while in the 80s so that Milo could pursue his education, which eventually ended in a PhD in Biochemistry. That is pretty cool. When he came back, Descendents was still all coffee, girls and fishing though. However, there’s a sweet concept that runs through a lot of Descendents songs called the ‘ALL concept’, based on their fourth album. The quest for ‘ALL’ is the quest for endless self improvement… and well, that’s pretty posi.

1) Greg Graffin
Despite his status as punk’s number one political dude, Greg also has a PhD in zoology. And let’s face it, you gotta be smart for that shit. He writes books about politics. He’s producing a TV show called ‘Punk Professor’. He teaches. Is there anything this man can’t do?! Well… a decent solo album. But anyway, Greg rules.

Live: Henry Rollins – The Assembly Leamington Spa, 17/1/10

NB: this is slightly spoiler-esque. It’s hard to talk about it without mentioning a couple of stories, so if you haven’t seen him yet and plan to, read this later!

I had been waiting for this night for a very, very long time. Ever since I became a fan of Henry Rollins as an author, I was dying for the chance to see him on his spoken word tour, but for three years, every time he visited the UK, I was unfortunately out of the UK. For some reason, his tours always coincided with the family holiday. Conspiracy? Quite possibly. After speaking to my mother this afternoon and fangirling out about how incredible he was, the sound of terror in her voice was fairly noticeable. After all, Henry Rollins is one of my all time heroes.

So, I rolled into “Leemington Shpa” (in the words of Henry himself), met up with my people and trundled off to The Assembly to see if Henry Rollins really was the man I thought he was. After being seated for an hour with nothing to see, I was beginning to become a little disheartened. But then, after various musical interludes, he burst through the side door and strode up to the microphone and I became reassured. He grinned at us and I knew that we were in good hands. First impressions then? Everything about Henry screams punk rock. From the way he stands to the tattoos and from the hair he let go grey to the plain clothes he wears, he’s still punk as fuck. Also, I noticed that he never, ever uses fillers when he speaks. There are no “umm”s or “err”s in his speech at all, it’s just straight up and surprisingly eloquent for such a straight forward guy. Maybe that’s not something everyone else looks for in a speaker, but when you’re stood up there for three hours talking, it’s extremely impressive.

I knew from Youtube videos that Henry is a very, very funny guy, but I wasn’t expecting quite so much humour. Not that it was a bad thing – in fact, it helped to lighten up some of the more serious stories he told to keep your attention – but it was definitely something I didn’t anticipate. At times, I felt bad for my friends as I laughed my ass off, only to realise that they were doing it too. Henry’s William Shatner impression is definitely one of the best things I have ever seen, so if you can Youtube it (I thus far haven’t really seen any decent quality videos), do it! He’s also a very loud man, so be prepared for that.

But of course, with Henry Rollins being the type of guy he is, it’s not all humour. He has a ridiculous range of interests and the show bounced around from talking about hanging out with the McKayes and the Bad Brains on election day to planning a two month trip across Asia from Riyadh to Bhopal in India for the 25th anniversary of the Union Carbide gas explosion (which happened to be on my birthday… way to bring a downer onto that one). All of his tales are larger than life and Henry has done some incredible things. The way he talks about these incredible things is thoroughly entertaining, frank and honest. As I expected, there was a message behind a lot of his stories. Talking about his “internets” browsing, he brought up an anecdote about finding a ton of racist comments on a picture of Michelle Obama and then went forth to explain about free speech and how why those people have a right to say awful things, they shouldn’t because racism sucks. Of course, it’s all stuff I heartily agree with, but it is so awesome to hear that one of your heroes is willing to stand up against all the weak minded hating individuals that you find across the world. It is also awesome to hear him tell you about spreading The Stooges and another 50 or so gigs of music to a young Sri Lankan boy to pass around his friends. Because when it comes down to it, Henry Rollins is just a pretty cool guy.

It was great to hear some entertaining tales from his past and his ideas on everyone getting along, but the one anecdote that struck me the most was his story of giving the graduation speech for a Californian university last year. He described how he went up and gave this speech and how amazing it was to see those young people go out into the world, armed with knowledge and curiosity, and how people should never stop asking why until they reach the solution. Now that… that was inspirational. As a student myself, I realise that I have the potential to do anything, and even if that’s just entering the world with an open mind, that’s a step closer to ending all this fucking drama the world has going on, to put it in the simplest of terms.

So, Henry spoke for three hours, non-stop (and even apologised for doing so), and we left, feeling reaffirmed in life and generally very jovial. It’s a very uplifting show, a very funny show, a very hard hitting show and above all, a very awesome show. Whether you like punk rock or not, Henry Rollins is essential viewing/reading material. I urge you to go and see him and experience nothing like you’ve ever experienced before. Always controversial, never overrated. That’s Henry Rollins for you.

5 out of 5 high fives!