Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Metal Punk Hero Rollins on a Roll

In a country where mainstream musical taste runs to Culture Beat and David Hasselhoff, the Rollins Band was not an obvious choice.

One word that comes up frequently in reviews of Henry Rollins concerts is "frightening." So does "apocalyptic." Attempts at categorization have yielded up genres as diverse as "metal-punk," "jazz-funk" and "the embodiment of pure anger."

Still, to the delight and amazement of local fans, Rollins is playing Moscow this weekend. And Feelee Management, which has David Byrne lined up for October, is taking a calculated risk.

"He is much more well-known than he was two weeks ago," said Feelee's Pavel Tikhonov optimistically. "Opinions are different. Some people are saying, 'He is very strange and his music is very hard and loud and we don't like it.' Others are saying, 'It's strange that we didn't know him already.'"

Henry Rollins vaulted to punk hero status during the early 1980s. Born in Washington, he was working at a Georgetown ice cream store and fronting S.O.A., a local band, when he was picked as lead vocalist by the legendary L.A. band Black Flag. Rollins dropped his last name (Garfield), packed his bags and headed West.

After Black Flag broke up in 1986, he formed the Rollins Band, and in recent years he has built up a small empire of outside ventures. He owns a music publishing company, a record label and a publishing house, which has sent 12 of his prose collections to press. In the process, Rollins has emerged from cult obscurity into the full light of MTV and has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.

This concert came about in the course of last year's "Britronica" rock festival, which brought a slew of experimental bands for their first appearance on Russian stages. Nick Hobbs, the festival's London-based agent, invited Rollins. Va-Bank singer Alexander Skliar provided the inspiration.

"Skliar is fond of Rollins," said Tikhonov. "He told us, 'Rollins, Rollins, Rollins, Rollins.'"

Skliar has followed Henry Rollins' career ever since the day five years ago in Grenoble, France, when a man thrust a Rollins tape into his hand after a Va-Bank concert. During the elapsed time, Skliar has enjoyed watching Rollins branch out into spoken-work performances.

He admitted that it takes some getting used to. "Some of the people who come to the gig will be ready, but not all of them," he said. "It will be absolutely a new experience for Russians."

If Russians shy away from Rollins' rage, Pavel Tikhonov, for one, is understanding. "To tell you the truth, it's not my music," he said. "I am not a teenager," he added, by way of explanation.

But it depends on what circles you move in. Pavel, 21, a switchboard operator with a nose-ring and an encyclopedic knowledge of alternative music, said everyone he knows is planning to go.

"When they announced it, none of us could believe it. A lot of them have been preparing for the concert, making new tattoos and stuff," said Pavel.

He said Rollins is still obscure here, but that Russians would do well to listen harder.

"More people should know about this," he said. "It's not like, 'I love you and you don't love me, and why can't we be together.' It's the right stuff."

The Henry Rollins Band and Va-Bank will play Sept. 24 and 25 at 7 P.M. at the S.P. Gorbunov Palace of Culture, 27 Novozavodskaya Ulitsa. Tickets cost the ruble equivalent of $10 and are available at the Palace of Culture. Tel. 145-8305. Nearest metro: Bagrationovskaya. David Byrne and Akvarium will play there on Oct. 11 and 12.