Henry Rollins on the “One Ray of Light” That Emerged from the Dark Music Scene of the 1980s

In 1981, Rollins joined the legendary punk outfit Black Flag after years spent as a cornerstone of Washington D.C.’s incredible hardcore punk scene. The punk revolution was in full swing at the start of the 1980s, but by the end of the decade, the American music scene was dominated by soulless pop and profit-driven bubblegum rock. This was in stark contrast to the ethos of Black Flag and, by extension, Henry Rollins.

During his performances, Rollins was vocal about his disdain for the complacency of the music scene at the time. “You go home, and you put on your Edie Brickell record, and you go home, and you put on Rattle and Hum [by U2],” he once said. “Say you’re a guy, you’re there with your dick in your hand, and you’re trying to get off, and you realize that these bands just don’t get you off.”

Continuing his colorful critique of the period’s music, he argued, “It’s like their whole life these bands were encased in condoms, they were born in condoms – safe songs about safe sexism,” adding, “They can ride their motorcycles better than they can play their guitars.” For Rollins, there was only one band at the time that properly combated these growing trends within the industry. “Out of nowhere, out of a total musical vacuum, out of total darkness comes one ray of light, and it’s fucking Ween.”

Hailing from Pennsylvania, Ween were an anomaly within American music during the 1980s and beyond. Characterized by their eclectic mix of funk, punk, R&B, and soul, among many other genres, Ween were a ruthlessly original outfit. However, the band was repeatedly ignored by the musical mainstream, failing to achieve any real commercial success. Nevertheless, they cultivated an incredibly dedicated cult following, of which Henry Rollins was firmly a part.

“Now I know there are probably a few of you who don’t like Ween,” the singer sneered at the audience. “There will always be detractors. There will always be somebody to deny true genius.” While Rollins might be at risk of exaggerating a bit there, the sentiment is hard to deny. Continuing in his loving endorsement of Ween, Rollins took the opportunity to take aim at British alt-rocker The Wonder Stuff, saying, “When that shit becomes your only musical alternative, you will get down on your filthy knees and crawl to the altar that is Ween.”

Rollins made these comments fairly early on in Ween’s career, when the band was largely concerned with self-released cassettes and DIY music-making methods. In the years that followed, the band perfected their uniquely eccentric sound and grew quite an audience in the process. Since reforming in 2015, the Pennsylvania band has brought the sound that Rollins holds so dear to an entirely new audience.

Watch Henry Rollins discuss the impact of Ween in the video below:

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