Al Jourgensen w/ Jon Wiederhorn
Da Capo Press
If you saw Al Jourgensen anywhere but on the stage – either with Ministry or Revolting Cocks or Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters – you’d like take aim to shoot first then run to the car. But there’s no denying this feral creature, this smart but self-destructive rogue, has musical talent, has a gift. Ministry is the main gig of course and as the main man in Ministry Jourgensen all but created the popular version of industrial music, fusing punk and metal and electronica and synth-pop, mashing up styles and subverting the alt/indie music push of the 1990s with smart-alec bogan-rock (a la Jesus Built My Hotrod) all the while pulverising classic rock music through harrowing but wonderful covers (Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay) and his play-on-words album titles that both deconstruct and push his own myth into place (Dark Side of the Spoon).
A singular artist, unique, something of a visionary if you want to afford him that weight, Jourgensen is one crazy motherfucker. And he’ll happily bend your ear across 300 odd pages (many of them very odd) as he admits to almost everything he’s ever done in his life and apologises for almost none of it.
Hear about him giving a blowjob even though he’s neither gay or bi – it’s presented mostly as just something to do, hear about him having sex with more groupies in one night than Motley Crue managed to document in what is probably the only likely rival for the filth that’s offered up here, their gross but kinda captivating manufactured tell-all, The Dirt. Later you’ll hear about him self-felating while on painkillers to outdo Ron Jeremy.
And – importantly – hear about the music. That brilliant, deranged, strange, ugly-but-beautiful music. Created, most often, as refuge – even when (and often especially) under the strictest drug regime, a punishing ritual of abhorrent, senseless self-annihilation. Somehow the mind remained limber and willing even when the flesh was weak. And he never kids us – or himself – the flesh was (often) very, very weak.
Depravity is served up here and it’s hardly done to boast – okay, well sometimes there’s some toasting over meaningless group-sex and needle-jabbing – but mostly it’s just to tell a truth; to tell the version of events without apology. You’ll know that’s never really anything to boast about. You can tell he knows it too.
Jourgensen was born in Cuba, the family moved to Americanwhen Castro took over, little Al took to music and drugs and hated his stepfather. His mother liked to party. He found versions of her in many of the women he rooted. It’s not clear whether he was or wasn’t looking for that – but it’s very clear, at every turn, that escape (any) was key. Jourgensen doesn’t much like reality and for most of his adult life he’s barely traded in it. Sure, there’s gritty, awful, unimpressive, harrowing junkie tales. But that’s no reality. That’s a sickness, a stupidity, it might be raw but it ain’t real. Not to most of us, and probably not to most of the people reading this.
There’s little in the way of redemption here – Al kicked drugs, replacing them with binge-drinking. This ain’t no saint.
The book has interludes where guest chapters are offered by people important in Jourgensen’s life. The evil-ish step-dad, his wife, Gibby Haynes (now there’s a unit!), various members/ex-members of the rotating cast that is and was Ministry.
It’s filthy, so grimy you need to wipe yourself clean when you’ve finished this book. But it’s riveting. Horrible. But wonderful. A bit like the best of that music.