By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
---GG Allin on Geraldo, 1993
There is a photograph of punk aberration GG Allin taken two years ago, shortly after he accidentally overdosed on a mixture of heroin and alcohol at the age of 36. Allin is laid out in an open coffin, the members of his band, the Murder Junkies, are grouped around their fallen leader. But, as in life, it's GG who holds your attention. His discolored, misshapen head is shaved, and he is dressed to meet his maker in a black leather motorcycle jacket and a jockstrap. He is clutching a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel's and a microphone, and there are Walkman headphones on his head.
But the 4-year-old Murder Junkies did not die (as most fans suspected, and some critics hoped) along with GG. Led by Allin's older, bass-playing brother Merle--a man with dome and eyebrows shaved clean, massive black sideburns, a brushy Hitler mustache and more tattoos than naked flesh--the Junkies have recently hired a new vocalist and are concentrating on being a "band" instead of death-punk sidekicks to the shit-smeared freak show that was GG.
"It took us this long to find the right singer because we wanted to find someone who had his own identity and his own way, not someone who just wanted to imitate GG," says polite, mild Merle from his east-side New York apartment. "But we still wanted someone who had the same lyrical ideas and content."
That someone is named Mike, but don't tax Merle about the guy's last name. "Oh, boy . . . I don't know, we just call him Mike Denied because he was in a hard-core band called the Denied."
And let it be said for the record that Mike does not imitate GG. To imitate GG, you would have to be willing to do the following: Get up onstage naked, go poop, eat it, smear it on your person and/or fling it into the crowd. Violently attack audience members, slice up your chest ("My skin is like paper!" yelled a blade-wielding, gung ho GG in midgash at one performance), and repeatedly slam a microphone into your mouth until several front teeth fall out. Plus, assault officers of the law, incite fans to riot, masturbate, vomit and stick things like bananas up your butt while singing songs like "Raw, Brutal, Rough & Bloody," "Shove That Warrant Up Your Ass," "Legalize Murder" and "I Kill Everything I Fuck."
And that's just some of the stuff ol' Geeg would do onstage.
"You couldn't imagine going to a rock 'n' roll show and seeing what you would see at a GG Allin show," marvels brother Merle. "You couldn't imagine that could ever happen onstage. The atmosphere was so thick with people being frightened, it was amazing. You can't even put it into words, you just had to experience it."
Now that GG has an exclusive, long-term engagement six feet under, experiencing the Murder Junkies will have to suffice. Which is not to say that a Junkies show is like watching Lawrence Welk. Though maybe if Lawrence pelted his audience with feces . . . nah.
The Junkies bring an undeniable panache to each and every performance; as he fields questions on the phone, Merle is packing up his unique headgear for the road: a Roman gladiator helmet with used tampons hanging from it. "I'm bringing an updated version of it," he admits. "More tampons, and the bloodier the better. I have another helmet that I'm not sure I can bring with me. It's the same type of helmet, but it has syringes on it--it's like syringes on a Mohawk, and I'm not sure that's something I want to get stopped with in the middle of Mississippi."
And then there's the band's drummer, Dino Sex. In hopes of spiritual empowerment, he ritually surrounds his drum kit with copies of Playboy, Elle and Vogue, any magazines featuring beautiful women on the cover. Sex is also fond of performing naked, and has been known to cap exceptional performances by wedging the drum sticks into his rectum. Merle describes Dino as "the crazy member" of the group.
"He's insane, and I mean that. Our drummer is totally fucking insane. Literally. And it's not a game or a joke; he's crazy," Merle clarifies flatly. "He's difficult to deal with at times. But he's a great drummer; he's totally dedicated to the band. Those are his good points. The bad points are, sometimes you have to treat him like a fucking kid."
The band is rounded out by guitarist William Gilmore Weber III. Interband relations between the four Junkies make the allegedly volatile Who seem like simpering, bitchy hairdressers. "We fight all the time," admits Merle. "We just fight constantly, but we have that one strong bond as far as the music goes; that's why we've stayed together for four years now. And most of GG's bands didn't last that long. He wore 'em out; they couldn't deal with being on the road with him."
The Junkies--bonded by the common love of music--are gearing up for their first national tour without GG, backing the newly issued Brutality & Bloodshed for All CD. The 15 cuts are Allin's swan song, recorded just prior to the man's demise. Though it's just one of dozens of GG releases over the last decade, B&BFA is perhaps the most cohesive, pro-sounding effort the band ever recorded. They had plenty of time to organize the project, says Merle. The Junkies honed the wall-of-speed-punk music while GG wrote lyrics during a two-year stretch in prison. "It really made a difference in the way things sound," acknowledges Merle. "It's almost shocking!"
What was GG in the slammer for? That's a tough one. "Let's see, what was it. . . . Intent to commit bodily harm or something like that," offers Merle. "He basically carved some woman up and burned her when they were having rough sex. GG's idea of rough sex is a little different from someone else's, maybe." It'll be a long time, if ever, before the Junkies are disassociated from the specter of GG; to know the band, you have to know the man. But was Allin a talentless, pathetic waste of flesh? A criminal wanna-be influenced by smack and booze carrying too much Mansonite baggage? According to ex-Murder Junkie guitarist Chicken John, "The biggest losers on the planet seem to flock to him like a magnet. GG was bullshit." Some see it differently. Legendary rock entrepreneur Kim Fowley has written that "GG Allin is the last of the wild ones. A vanishing American who fought alone on the frontier of change . . . like Amy Fisher, like Charles Manson, like the Birdman of Alcatraz, GG Allin was cast into the dark. But he saw the light."
Then there is another point of view, probably the one closest to the mark, rendered by a fan interviewed in director Todd Phillips' consuming Allin documentary, Hated. "A lot of people get scared at a GG Allin show, but the thing is, that's why you're there. To me that's comedy. As long as he's not jumpin' on my ass, as long as he's beatin' up other people, throwin' shit at others, I'm happy."
Yes! Like Evel Knievel, line dancing and Barney & Friends, GG Allin was pure entertainment. Not for everybody, of course, but there's no denying that the man was not afraid to really go for it; when showtime rolled around, Allin had no problems with letting the chips fall where they may. Yet, by all accounts, the New Hampshire native was a truly disturbed individual. As his brother puts it, "He just hated everything and everybody." That depth of human emotion won't get you into med school, but it can certainly make for some interesting theatre.
"On the road with GG? It was insane, it was no vacation, that's for sure," says Merle. "But, on the other hand, it was great, it was the most exciting tour you could ever want to do. Never knowing what was going to happen from show to show, that's what kept us all going. And not knowing how far the tour would go before GG would get arrested or end up in the hospital. Stuff like that."
Merle freely admits he had the best seat in the house at every Murder Junkies show: behind GG. Which makes good sense when you consider GG's poetic self-analysis. "My mind is a machine gun, my body the bullets, the audience the target."
But the man who brought audience participation to new levels had one final act his last dope-and-drinking spree canceled out. Since the late Eighties, GG had been threatening, boasting, promising that he would bring the curtain down with a bang; Allin would commit suicide onstage, live and in person. Explosives would be the means of dispatch, and more than a few of the crowd could probably count on waking up to find themselves dead, too. On successive Halloween nights from '89 on, GG spread the word that it would happen, but when the gigs rolled around, Allin was conveniently in prison. "We booked him to play on Halloween [in '92]," says Lisa White, manager of Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club, the venue that was supposed to host GG's last potential death gig. "He'd been in jail in Michigan and was on parole living at the YMCA, and his parole officer would not let him leave the state. We tried to assure the parole officer that we would be making every effort to protect GG from himself and protect the audience from him, but, basically, the parole officer wasn't having any of it."
Despite the buildup, White says she never bought the suicide routine. "No, absolutely not. If I thought for one minute that he was really going to do that, I would have refused to participate in any activity to book him. That's obviously wrong, and I certainly wouldn't want GG's ghost running around in this place, anyway."
Merle, however, scoffs at the idea that the death threats were another from GG's fecal bag of tricks. "I knew he would do it at some point," states the bassist. "Basically, when he went back to prison, he cleaned up his head and realized he had a lot more things to accomplish. He wasn't going to do it until he had pretty much peaked and didn't have anything else to say or do. It probably would have happened in the next couple of years, but I know he would have done it. And he would have ended up killing a lot of people too. Oh, sure."
Allin was no David Copperfield; he didn't spend weeks at the drafting table planning out stage effects. "There were different theories," acknowledges Merle. "One was that he was going to stick dynamite up his ass and jump into the crowd, but I don't know. We never really discussed it 'cause I didn't want him to do it. It was one of those things where we were just waiting to see what would happen."
Now that fans are assured of not having to scrape bits of GG off their leather jackets on the way home, the only thing up in the air is how the Murder Junkies will fare without their charismatic leader. "It's been almost two years since he died, and people are starting to realize there's never going to be another GG Allin," Merle says. "So let's move on and focus on the music, that's what we're doing now."
Still, it's hard to pull the focus away from the outrageous, brutal behavior that GG is remembered for. But was he all that bad? Could it be that things have been blown out of proportion? Did punk's best nightmare have a secret spot of tenderness and love hidden somewhere beneath the black layers of his wicked heart? "Hell, no!" says Merle with a dark chuckle. "Everything you hear is true. He was a fucking son of a bitch."
Murder Junkies are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 10, at the Mason Jar. Showtime is 8 p.m.