Yeah, you knew Al was crazy… but did you know he was THIS crazy?
The announcement of this autobiography came as something of a surprise (albeit a welcome one) to most. “Uncle Al” has been notoriously evasive of the media over his incredible career, offering very few interviews and, to be frank, given his behavioural unpredictability, I’m sure many an interviewer would have baulked at the chance were it offered to them.
So why would a very private and troubled man choose to suddenly pour out his heart in such a way? Well, he’s in his fifties and has lived life so hard that… who knows when his number might come up?
In any case, this book is a no holds barred and visceral gut spilling. It chronicles the life of a baby born (prematurely) Alejandro Ramirez Casas who emigrated with his family from Cuba to the USA at very young age. The boy’s mother did not know who his father was. The boy could not speak English.
From these humble and troubled beginnings we’re taken into the extraordinary life of Al Jourgensen. Right from his earliest memory to the last fizzing power chord of ‘From Beer To Eternity’.
The creation of each and every Ministry album is chronicled (accompanied by a bizarre list of what particular drugs he was on during the recording of each) along with detailed accounts of his other musical projects, Lard, Revolting Cocks his utter disdain for live tours etc…. but you wanna know how depraved it is right? Does it top Motley Crue’s ‘The Dirt’? Are there more fishy moments than a Zep bio?
Yes and yes. The fact that this guy is still living and breathing is a miracle. He was shooting up cocaine as a young teenager… no “gateway” drugs for our Al, straight into the hard stuff. He was subsequently institutionalized by his parents where he received electroconvulsive therapy, experimental drugs and was subjected to (and subjected others to) all manner of sexual depravity… and all this was prior to his music career!
Through misadventure, he’s broken just about every bone in his body, done every conceivable illicit drug (including a terrifying stint as Timothy Leary’s LSD “guinea pig”), lost all his teeth, almost died from internal hemorrhaging, and survived countless other brushes with death.
There’s no doubt the man was an absolute nihilist for much of his life. He and the late Mike Scaccia blew their $750,000 advance for ‘Psalm 69…’ on heroin, cocaine and other excesses. He was a chronic junkie for well over a decade and one wonders how he managed to achieve all that he has. In order for him to function in the studio and on tour, he would shoot speedballs (a dangerous combination of heroin and cocaine). The cocaine would stop him nodding off and the heroin would…. well he was a junkie. It stopped him getting dopesick. Jourgensen describes this routine as “maintenance” and claims he would repeat the process up to 10 times a day for years. Unenjoyable, mechanical, necessary. He’d take LSD, crack and ecstasy for “recreation”!
I’ve never done heroin. Never have, never will, but Al’s description of the first time he shot up is disturbingly inviting. “Pure comfort… like being back in the womb”. And of course, like every junkie, he constantly tried to match that first high….but never quite could.
As fascinating as his battles with substance abuse are his interactions with other famous people and celebrities…. most of them negative. Among MANY others, he took acid with Timothy Leary (as mentioned earlier), shot up with William Burroughs, pushed Slayer’s tour trailer into a lake (with Slayer in it), took a swing at Henry Rollins (and survived), attacked Lars Ulrich with a piece of soiled celery and generally made a lot of enemies… but also a few great friends. Gibby Haynes, Ian McKaye (yes the inventor of straightedge!!), Jello Biafra, Rick Nielsen and many more. Several of them contribute anecdotes to the book.
The most fascinating relationship described within is the symbiotic yet dysfunctional one with Ministry bassist/co-contributor Paul Barker. Barker was straight; no heroin, no coke and subsequently Al referred to he and Chris Connelly collectively as “The Book Club”. Jourgensen and Barker did not (and do not) like each other yet they managed to write, record (although they worked in “shifts”) and tour together for over a decade. Even Jourgensen admits that when Barker finally left the band he was completely musically disoriented. Despite Al being clean for 10 years the pair are unlikely to ever speak again, such is their vitriol towards each other. Money comes into it, but Al was so wasted the details are sketchy.
Towards the end of the bio, Al demonstrates his true understanding of (and disillusionment with) American politics. It’s fascinating to read about his initial diatribes directed at George W Bush during his 2 terms as president before he began to feel sorry for him; he ends up viewing him as essentially an intellectually substandard & drunken frat-boy occupying a position he had no capacity to fulfill.
As entertaining as this book is, I have one problem with it; I think Uncle Al has the tendency to exaggerate… or even fabricate at times. He has a whole list of people he considers to be assholes (Rollins being one) based on a single intoxicated encounter. Perhaps HE was the asshole. I don’t see how one can have an accurate recollection of events while constantly intoxicated. He begins the chapter on the ‘Psalm 69’ album saying “I don’t even remember making it”, then writes 18 pages about it! I mean, sure he’d have people corroborating for him, but how many are biased? How many were just as fucked up as he was? How many are stroking his ego? He claims to have been visited by aliens on numerous occasions… Yeah, he lived with Tim Leary and took his extra strong acid on a daily basis too. Aliens indeed…
There’s drugs and rock & roll, sure, but there’s also plenty of sex. Groupies, mental patients, men… yeah yeah so what. But here’s the depraved coup de grace. He once fucked a paraplegic midget with a colostomy bag while she gave a blow job to one of his roadies…. Game, set and match Motley Crue… Uncle Al wins the depravity grand slam final.
The aforementioned reservations aside, this book is a must for fans of the band and anyone who likes a good rock bio (and has a strong stomach!). It’s a revealing and gritty look at the life of one of rock’s most infamously insane exponents laid bare. For all his shortcomings, Al is a fascinating individual. Although he’s relatively sensible these days, there was a time when he was a walking contradiction. He was immensely proud of his work and had a healthy ego, yet he had no respect or regard for his own life and well being.
This autobiography is entertaining throughout. I was never bored and wanted to keep on reading about Al’s next adventure! Despite the possible exaggerations and depravity, I can recommend it highly.