Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen – with Jon Wiederhorn (Da Capo Press/ New South Books)


There’ nothing more page turning than a salacious tell all trawl through rock and roll excess, through copious drug abuse, kinky groupie sex and setting hotel rooms on fire.

The problem is these tales are usually told by talentless hacks making terrible music, because the only people who earn enough coin to act in such a self involved morally repugnant way are 80′ guitar gods, fashion conscious hair metal bands and misogynist hip hop stars.

But what if the music was actually good? And the reprehensible behaviour was not so much a lifestyle choice as a requirement for the music? Okay perhaps that’s a bridge too far; after all we’re talking industrial music, not afrobeat.

Put down your authorised Motley Crue biography, your tales of Keith Richards blood transfusions, your David Lee Roth sex romps, and your Anthony Kiedis self pitying whinge fest. There’ another player in town and he’ determined to be badder, more nihilistic and unpredictably edgy in a predictably rebellious way than all these bad boys of soft rock put together. And multiplied by 100. Then rolled in liquid acid. And then smoked.

That said the first couple of pages threaten your will to continue: heartfelt testimonials to the church of Ministry from members of Linkin Park, Korn, Anthrax, Fear Factory, Slipknot, and Mudvayne. Ye Gods, is this Ministry’ legacy? No wonder he was pounding himself with drugs.

It begins with him dying, spitting up blood from a ruptured ulcer and it doesn’ let up. There’ more vomiting in here than a hotdog eating contest, blood spurts from every orifice, from od’ to broken elbows, ribs, wrists and kneecaps, from toe amputations to infected spider bites to collapsing veins and dysentery, and it’s related first person with gleeful tangential relish from Jourgensen.

In fact there’ nothing Jourgensen enjoys more than chronicling his relentless drug abuse, delighting in the chaos he caused. To this day he’ an unrepentant alcoholic, though back in the day before his friends started dropping like flies he was dedicated to much harder drugs, to the point where their tours were determined by proximity to drug connections.

The Lost Gospels is a tale of excess that would make Hunter S Thompson blush. Strangely though Thompson doesn’ appear, though they no doubt would’ve been co-dependent kindred spirits. William Burroughs is here however, described by Jourgensen endearingly as a cantankerous old bastard, as is Timothy Leary, with whom Jourgensen shared a long-term friendship, even living with him for two years and willingly subjecting himself to the experimental hallucinogenic drugs Leary received in the mail.

Jourgensen’ drug of choice was heroin, and he was a raging junkie for decades with all that it entails. And this is the crux of the book – the hilarious debauched life of a self-involved heroin addict. It’s probably not such a revelation that a band with titles like Just One Fix and Dark Side of the Spoon might like to chase the dragon once in awhile? But he wants you to know he was the real deal, not like say Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley, whom Jourgensen introduced to intravenous use. Staley, Jourgensen believed was more into heroin as fashion.

It’s truly a bizarre book, a deranged of mix breathless celebrity name-dropping and hard drugs.

Occasionally he talks about music. But rarely because he barely remembers making any. Albums for him are a blur. So if you’re hoping to get some insight into production techniques, stylistic approaches, and artistic dilemmas it’s pretty light on. But if you want to know what drugs he was on for each album, one chapter is reserved for a comprehensive breakdown. It’s that kind of book.

Perhaps most revealing musically is his talk of picking Adrian Sherwood’ brain during the production and mixing of their second album Twitch, paying him to take the time to provide something of a tutorial. It’s one of those rare times that he seems genuinely in awe of a musician other than himself. It also demonstrates why Ministry’ music was so revelatory, his culture clash of genres; dub production elements, rock guitars and blistering industrial electronics.

He’ quite dismissive of his more synth and disco orientated first album With Sympathy, and the record label Arista, though most of his ire is reserved for former band mates. For most of his career his band was split between the junkies, (he and guitarist Mike Scaccia) and those he referred to as the book group, Paul Barker, Chris Connelly and drummer Bill Rieflin. Barker his cohort for 17 years is reserved for the most scorn, with Jourgensen calling his bass playing sloppy and uncreative. There are no photos of him in the book, and he is only treated derisively. Later Jourgensen reveals that he believes Barker ripped him off during his decades lost to addiction.

Revolting Cocks, Lard with Jello Biafra, Pailhead with Fugazi’ Ian McKaye, 1000 Homo DJ’, Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters, for all the shenanigans he has been able to produce a remarkable body of work, even outside of Ministry. Then of course there’ production work for everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Reverend Horton Heat. Jourgensen’ legacy is huge, but in Lost Gospels he’ more interested in his misspent (or judging from the work above perhaps well spent) drug fuelled past.

This book is about Gibby Haines getting totally cement trucked on the Lollapalooza tour and going back to the studio to record the vocals for Jesus Build My Hot Rod, and repeatedly falling off his stool while singing. It’s about Jourgensen bullying Courtney Love into sex on the Big Day Out tour, about FBI raids, setting off fire crackers in tour buses and fucking groupies with colostomy bags.

It’s dark funny, brutal and wrong. Pure unadulterated festishistic voyeurism. A real page-turner.


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.