I don’t imagine that many individuals would disagree with a statement made by Ministry front man Al Jourgensen close to the beginning of Fix – a profoundly gritty and utterly compelling documentary of which he is the primary focus – that the best job to have is one where you’re paid to be yourself. Possibly the single most influential musician of the Industrial music genre and an undeniably notorious and outspoken character, Jourgensen has never “posed” nor compromised for the sake of his art. In fact, he’s pretty much always earned a pay check for the talents involved in just being Al Jourgensen. Fifteen years ago, while Ministry was touring the world in support of the Filth Pig album, Al was a relentless junkie who was equal parts devil and messiah to everyone who entered his orbit. Someone on that tour bus was a filmmaker with a camera. Fix: The Ministry Movie is the resultant documentation of the full immersion into Al’s world of someone who was, essentially, just along for the ride. Most of the journey isn’t very pretty.
Directed by Douglas Freel (an award-winning music video director now working in feature length films) Fix is a straightforward, unapologetically graphic and unflinchingly brutal look into the behind the scenes minutia of Ministry’s 1996 Sphinctour. Adding depth and amazing color to what would have been outstanding subject matter even if simply left as a tour documentary (see Sphinctour 2002) are extensive “Talking Head” interviews with musical luminaries and Jourgensen devotees such as Trent Reznor, Ogre of Skinny Puppy, Dave Navarro, Maynard James Keenan, the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, Jonathan Davis of Korn and Jesus Lizard front man David Yow (who is also extensively fully naked in the film. You have been warned). These heavy hitters – many of them former addicts and alcoholics themselves – not only freely praise Al’s creative genius and often beguiling personality but also closely examine his addiction as being almost expected given his chosen work environment. As both insiders and critics, they universally offer wide-eyed wonder that Al could abuse himself to such an extreme degree and not be six feet under. Ultimately, Fix explores how far beyond sanity it is possible to go under the right circumstances and still manage to come back alive.
Also invited to shine a light on the claustrophobic inner workings of the band is Al’s long time creative partner Paul Barker, as well as then-Ministry touring members Duane Buford, Zlatko Hukic, Louis Svitek and, in what I would call one of the films “significant supporting roles,” drummer Rey Washam. Washam, an amazing drummer and obviously a very smart guy, openly discusses how the pressure of being a part of the Ministry machine drove him to heroin addiction. His occasional voice over narrations and on-screen time provide some of the best moments in the film. Other highlights include Reznor’s comment that it was so refreshing to hear a band doing something that couldn’t be directly linked to the influence of “The Beatles or Black Sabbath” and Dave Navarro’s hilarious confession that, while he and fellow Jane’s Addiction members Perry Farrel and Eric Avery were certainly full on Junkies during a shared tour bill with Ministry, at least they weren’t “as bad as Al.” Various record label executives from Ministry’s tenure on the Warner Bros label also chime in with insightful and deeply candid personal accounts of what it was like working with Ministry and Al. One gentleman remembers that it was never possible to have an appointment to hear samples of Ministry’s progress in the studio on one day “and make it to work the next day.”
Seeing Ministry live is comparable to being on a battle field, and that’s the closest I ever want to get to going to war. I’m a fan, but if you’re not familiar with their music, let’s just say that it makes Nine Inch Nails (generally considered by the mainstream to be a rather challenging listen) sound like Ace of Base by comparison. While there are many concert clips in Fix, the music really takes a back seat here, as fairly often there is less than a minute of music featured in each of over a dozen or so songs. That it seems like much more is testament to the music’s immense, battering-ram-to-the face emotional impact. Last but not least, every second of the video footage is pristine High Def quality and scattered shots of the tour bus travelling through a gorgeous open dessert landscape or along the shore of some unnamed locale stands in sharp contrast to multiple scenes of Al tying off and looking for “a good vein” so he can fix while telling the camera that what he’s doing isn’t any worse than getting drunk. Freel also switches back and forth between color and black & white stock, to great artistic effect. You can’t miss this film.
Unrated for adult content that includes sex, nudity, adult language and blatant drug use, Fix is definitely not for children (say 15 and over is a safe guideline). Visit Fix The Ministry Movie Dot Com for more information on Fix and to find a screening in your area.
The Worley Gig Gives Fix Five out of Five Stars.
Watch The Trailer After the Jump!