GG Allin and The Murder Junkies might be the most tasteless band you ever hear. And yet the story is riveting. I first heard about GG Allin quite a few years back. I knew a couple of people that raved about his irreverence – he was a guy that worked as a performance-artist, doing spoken word rants and singing with various hardcore and punk lineups. He was born of the ennui of small town America in the late 1960s and early 70s. And he seemed born with a death wish.
Around the time I heard about Allin, described to me with a surface accuracy as being “like a cross between Charles Manson and Iggy Pop” I had a flatmate who returned, by complete coincidence, with the VHS tape of the documentary Hated – a documentary concerning Allin and his band The Murder Junkies, which featured his brother Merle and the most absurd moustache ever.
We were fascinated. The movie was a weekly hire from Aro St Video, or a three-day hire, or whatever – and we watched it over and over; introducing it to new people that made their way out for a visit, watching them squirm at certain scenes that we knew were coming.
And then, because the music never meant anything to me, I forgot all about Allin. He would crop up here and there – when I read Lisa Crystal Carver’s fascinating memoir, Drugs Are Nice for example. She moved from dating GG to hooking up with Bill Calahan – aka (Smog). I can’t help but feeling she would have been shortchanged by Allin.
And, again, quite by coincidence, I was a Special Edition DVD of Hated. And I was quite excited to watch it.
Not much turns my stomach. I like watching violence on the screen – and I put it down to the fact that I am an extremely non-violent person. I must get my fix that way I guess? But extreme acts and sordid tales fascinate me. I am drawn to them – and I know I’m not alone; lots of us have fascinations with different versions of macabre material, whether it is horror films, learning about body modification or researching the deaths of famous people. I’m not into torture-porn or gore for the sake of it but I have a pretty high threshold…
When I re-watched Hated – about a decade after last seeing it – I was quite horrified. Allin is a jerk. A total twit. He has no redeeming qualities. And that is the hook of the film. It’s a brutal portrait of a fringe artist being as honest as he can, throwing chairs at his audience, stripping to reveal all, making his mark (and those who have seen the film will know what I mean there) in more ways than one. Leaving a trace of his scent on the stage. Squatting his authority. Smearing himself across the memory, a permanent stain. I believe I have well and truly spelt it out now. Yes?
Of the fascinating things regarding Hated, I like the fact that the film was made by Todd Phillips. He now makes silly comedy movies – Road Trip, Old School, Starsky & Hutch, School For Scoundrels, he hit big with the Hangover movies – but he cut his teeth with this very full-on subject matter as a student filmmaker. It’s gutsy, to say the least.
Allin eventually killed himself – having threatened to commit suicide on stage in some sick, ultimate example of performance-art – but he didn’t die noble. He overdosed on heroin.
He was sick and ghastly. And what I picked up this time around was that he was very, very sad. A confused, muddled mess of a near-man. And though I couldn’t ever care for his art I cannot say that he was not honest in his approach. He laid it all out there – in more ways than one – and this film is a curious, compelling, disgusting, comical, tragic tale.
The DVD features an extra hour of interviews from surviving band members. It adds interest, definitely. I won’t link to any clips – but you can get your fill at YouTube; as you can with anything. If you like laughing at really dumb metal/punk/hardcore fans you’ll be online for days.