Book Review: Henry Rollins’ “Get In the Van” by Will Rivera of Lord

Henry Rollins - Get In the Van

Over the next few months Nine Circles is very pleased to bring you a new series of book reviews written by musicians throughout the metal scene. As much as they love to write their own blast beats, discordant riffs and swirling maelstroms they also love to read and, for all of our benefit, discuss. The third post in this series features guitarist Will Rivera from the sludge/metal/hardcore band Lord with his thoughts on Get In the Van by Henry Rollins

Music and film have always been great passions of mine, but a well written book that can capture a vibe and emotion with just the written word is something that I love to plunge into from time to time. Lately, most of my book intake seems to center around music biographies or documentations of certain extreme music genres with some great ones being Are You Morbid? by Tom G. Warrior, Choosing Death by Albert Mudrian and Mean Deviation by Jeff Wagner, but there is one book that falls into this similar theme and has resonated the most over the years…Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van.

The book reads like a diary of his time with the legendary hardcore punk band Black Flag, a very personal account of a young man who took a huge risk to follow his dreams and the hard lessons he learned along the way. I’d advise any aspiring musician to read this book and really let it settle in, because it does a fantastic job of stripping away any perceived glamour or romanticizing of the touring lifestyle and replaces it with hard lessons of trust, pride, self sacrifice and determination. There are a lot of moments of intense personal reflection that he shares about the interpersonal dynamics of the band, being broke and starving on the road as well as the crushing feeling of loneliness one can feel while traveling down the highway across the country in a tin can that can break down at any given moment.

Get In The Van really resonated with me because I pretty much lived certain moments of it while i was on the road with my bands. The dysfunctional relationships in a band that can become toxic on the road, dealing with vehicle maintenance issues, living on a shoestring budget in hopes that you make enough from the door to not only gas your van, but have some left over so you can eat a decent meal, and the most crippling thing being the feeling of being an outsider. By outsider, I mean the feeling of being disconnected from the world. You’re on the road for weeks at a time with 4 to 5 other people, traveling from city to city and floating through people’s lives on a nightly basis. You share moments of brief connection or nothing at all, but sometimes you’re lucky enough to find like minded souls that are willing to share a few moments with you before you retire to a night on someone’s kitchen or bedroom floor and then it’s rinse and repeat all over again for the next day.

What I truly appreciated about the book was Henry’s matter-of-fact candor, he holds no punches and tells exactly how it was in the moment that it happened. You can feel what he was going through and some moments definitely hit close to home if you’ve lived similar circumstances yourself. Get In The Van is an excellent read for anyone interested in hardcore punk, the lifestyle or just music in general. There’s an audio book version also available which is how I originally experienced the book, before buying the hardcover edition. Hearing his words in his voice makes it all the more believable for certain parts, especially for the bits of humor and sarcasm that he occasionally throws in.

If any of this remotely sounds interesting to you, swing by, seek this book out. It’s available from his own imprint of 2/13/61 publications. I hope you get something out of it like I certainly did, it only made me appreciate him as an artist that much more.


Many thanks to Will for his time and thoughts on this book!

Get In the Van is available on 2/13/61 Publications as well as book stores and online worldwide. For more information on Henry Rollins visit his official websiteBlacklisted is available now on Heavy Hound Records. For more information on Lords visit their Facebook page.

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