Back in 1994, three teenagers were convicted for the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The three young men—Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin—were railroaded from start to finish, and the case against them was built on the idea that the children were killed as part of a satanic ritual conducted by the trio, who were also quiet kids who listened to heavy metal.
They became known as the West Memphis Three, and the quest to free them became a cause celebre that attracted the attention of stars like Johnny Depp, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, and former Black Flag and Rollins Band frontman Henry Rollins, who regularly hosted benefit shows and put out a curated an album of Black Flag covers to raise funds for the West Memphis Three’s appeals. The story has been well told in the documentary series Paradise Lost, as well as in the just-released documentary West of Memphis, which shifts its focus to the process that led to the Alford pleas that allowed the West Memphis Three to go free after 18 years.
With so many musicians invested in the West Memphis Three, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack to West of Memphis—which just hit store shelves yesterday—has a pretty tremendous lineup, including Vedder, Depp, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Natalie Maines, and Rollins. EW spoke with Rollins recently about the film, the soundtrack, and the ongoing saga of the West Memphis Three.
EW: Considering how long this process has been and the stakes involved, is it a little surreal to be talking about the West Memphis Three in terms of the subject of a film soundtrack?
Rollins: I never thought we’d be having this conversation—the soundtrack, the movie, all of that. There were a lot of dark months, even dark years. You burn so many emotional calories thinking about these guys in cages. Then the thing goes to the judge, the thing you’ve been working on for 15 months, and the judge just goes “Nah.” And you’re back at the bottom of the hill, covered in mud, with no tools. So you have to go back and get the tools again. This would be for three years at a time. The entire thing became abstract. The trippiest thing is now me hanging with Damien in New York at a packed theater with a bunch of people clapping. It borders on the surreal.
And even though they are no longer in jail, the story still isn’t over.
Right. The thing that a lot of people do forget is that three beautiful little boys were killed. There are parents who are still gutted that their babies are dead. What parent gets over it? So someone did that—not Damien, Jesse or Jason, but someone. And they need to answer for that. These people need any resolution that can be afforded, and the West Memphis Three need exoneration. They did not do anything, and not only do they deserve to get out of prison, but the rest of the world needs to go, “OK, they really did get the guy.” READ FULL STORY