A child Cuban defector that eventually developed a strong propensity for baseball, music, debauchery, and even aliens. For someone who has lived his life as an open book, free of pretense and with complete apathy as to others’ opinions of him, Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen still manages to surprise. We all know him as the father of modern industrial music, but did you know that he dated Aimee Mann and that Til Tuesday’s hit song “Voices Carry” is about their relationship? Or that he got the idea for distorted vocals from Roky Erickson?
Jourgensen is a man that has never felt like he fit in anywhere. He’s lived in Miami, Boulder, Chicago (where he really made his name with Wax Trax! Records), and Texas. Everywhere he goes, he carves out his own swath of insanity. He challenges people with his look and his opinions, his mouth louder than any guitar. He doesn’t care if you don’t get it. Those that manage to meet the challenge, however, tend to feel rewarded.
Jourgensen pulls no punches. He slags off former bandmates and his own music relentlessly. Ministry is a huge source of stress, Al hates touring, Al hates his bandmates but loves his wine and Chicago Blackhawks. There are ridiculous stories of contentious encounters with Metallica, GWAR, and the Chicago Cubs. Sprinkled in are fun anecdotes with singers Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi, Pailhead), the infamous El Duce, Trent Reznor, and maybe even Marilyn Manson, but no one knows for sure. He also recalls awkward encounters with Johnny Depp, living with Timothy Leary, and the time he didn’t meet his idol, Keith Richards.
Billed as “The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen”, it is appropriate that the book contains readings from his collaborators and family members. Each have a slightly different perspective on events than Al, usually putting things in a kinder light than the subject himself. Some of the more fascinating stuff comes from these interludes as his disciples (keeping with the Bible theme) paint a picture of a man whose self-defense is about self-deprecation, coinciding with his heavy bouts of self-destruction. He doesn’t really hate his own music, he hates the people that like his music.
While he does mock some of his former musicians as well as his own mother, he is quick to give credit where he feels it is due. Late guitarist Mike Scaccia, Jourgensen’s “little brother” is credited with making Ministry “the machine it became”. From a guy that is the only constant in a band with high turnover, that is high praise indeed. He is also effusive in complements for his grandmother that raised him until he was six as well as his good friend Danny Wirtz (of the Blackhawks’ ownership Wirtzes).
He may not have regrets but he does have the capacity for remorse. Whether it’s not being there for his daughter growing up, squeezing a paraplegic’s colostomy bag, or, supposedly, introducing Alice In Chains’ singer Layne Staley to heroin, Al bears no responsibility but feels bad nonetheless.
Ministry’s lone constant member tells it like he sees it with all the gory details dripping throughout. It’s not exactly a cautionary tale but the contents should come with a warning of some kind: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. No stone unturned and no vein left untapped, Jourgensen recites events of a life lived (and ended a few times) to its unconscionable excesses in a funny, wildly entertaining, and gleefully repulsive memoir.