Wednesday 3 July 2013

Book Review: Al Jourgensen – 'Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To...'

'Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To...' 

Before you have even made it past the preliminary forwards and introductions you are left marvelling at how the ferocious industrial pioneer Al Jourgensen is even alive, let alone coherent enough to pen a book. Uncle Al has had as many brushes with death as he has songs in his eclectic discography, and he is not afraid to go into explicit detail about them.

In 'Ministry...' Jourgensen presents a warts and all picture of life as one of the godfathers of the industrial rock scene. Charting his life as a young Cuban immigrant, through his wild teenage years and his illustrious music career with every drug, arrest and near death experience along the way, with a cast of famous characters who rarely emerge unscathed.

Where memoirs like Marilyn Manson's 'Long Hard Road Out Of Hell' and Mötley Crüe's 'The Dirt' pull their punches and gloss over the more graphic scenes, Jourgensen goes into heavy and often uncomfortable detail. But what makes the book even more uncomfortable to read is the sheer amount of times you find yourself laughing at the most inappropriate moments.

Al can often come across as an asshole of epic proportions. But still a likeable one. His youthful incarnation lives life to such extremes that anything could snuff him out at any moment. And by the time he is in full swing with his music career he seems hell bent on death by hedonism. But he is unapologetic throughout. The personal and professional bust-ups are still obvious sore spots for him. As is his disdain for performing for his fans. But despite all of this you can't help but root for the guy as he reels off the anecdotes. The only time he shows any regrets or chinks in the armour is when he mentions his family or those close to him that have died.

It's also interesting to read as Jourgensen evaluates his extensive discography and looks back at not only the craziness behind the scenes but also at how much creative control he had in the sessions and how it has affected him. He even gives an itemised list of what drugs fuelled which albums.

With a mixture of first-person prose broken up with Q&A interviews, it is an accessible read and conversational in tone. Which allows the warmth of Jourgensen's personality and his charming self-deprecating wit to really shine through. Even the interviews with Jourgensen's family members such as his step-father Ed and wife Angelina, as well as with peers such as Luc Van Acker (Revolting Cocks), Sascha Konietzko (KMFDM) and Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedeys/Lard) don't sugar coat a thing. With numerous parties checking in with their own recollections the book builds up a fairly well-rounded portrait that differentiates it from what can typically be a self-serving format.

'Ministry: The Lost Gospels...' is compulsive reading. Jourgensen is a great storyteller and the sheer insanity of his stories will no doubt keep people turning the pages. It is definitely up there with the likes of Iggy Pop's 'I Need More', Mötley Crüe's 'The Dirt' and even William Burroughs' 'Junkie' as an exposé. It's ugly, and often downright brutal even vicariously, but Al has lived it so you don't have to.

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