Henry Rollins and the Rollins Band are digging through Black Flag's closet for a short tour of southern California to benefit the West Memphis 3. The Rollins band played an in Store at Amoeba Records yesterday, and performances are also set for December 5th at the Casbah in San Diego, December 17th at the Ventura Theater, the Whiskey in Los Angeles on December 18th and the Glass House in Pomona on December 19th. The appearances will mark the first time Rollins has performed some of the songs by his old band in almost twenty years.
The appearances are tied to the Rollins-organized album, Rise Above, in which his band backed singers including Iggy Pop, Slipknot's Corey Taylor, Chuck D, Hank III, Dean Ween, Ice T, Slayer's Tom Araya and Lemmy Kilmister on a collection of Black Flag covers. "Black Flag records were always lacking in production values in my opinion," Rollins says. "You could never hear what Greg [guitarist, Ginn] was doing, and it was murky. And this thing is like ripping your head off, with totally clear sound. This record is absolutely bomb-proof. You can't fuck with this record on any level. The playing, the production, the vocals, the songs. I defy any critic to find a chink in our armor. And I have nothing to do with it. I didn't write any of this stuff. It's the maddest cover record ever."
The album, like the shows, was planned to raise money for the legal defense fund of Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, three teens from West Memphis, Arkansas, who were tried, convicted and imprisoned for the 1993 murder of three children. The murders and the plight of the West Memphis 3 (as the trio of convicted have become known), were the focus of a 1996 documentary by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which found the convictions unconvincing. A follow-up, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, focused on further evidence that the West Memphis 3 were not involved in the three murders.
Rollins says he first learned of the WM3's plight from the films. "You watch it and it freaks you out," he says. "You're hoping that at the end, everyone goes, 'Ha ha, we're just actors. This could happen.' But it's real. It's like a nightmare you don't wake up from. I think these guys are flat out innocent and they got screwed. And I couldn't do nothing. I'm too old to do nothing. I know better."
Rollins says he's also working with the West Memphis 3 Support Group to assemble a roving arts show for next year to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of their incarceration. "The cavalry is coming," he says. "Can a record get anybody out of jail? I doubt it. Will they still be in jail this time next year? Probably. But we're doing a good thing, and I think it will make a difference."