Ministry movie 'Fix' to make its L.A. debut
"Fix," the long-in-the-works portrait of the pioneering industrial rock group Ministry and its firebrand frontman Al Jourgensen, is not the average rock doc. But according to director Doug Freel, it was never intended to be -- rather, he attempted to capture the specific experience of traveling with Jourgensen and his influential Chicago-based outfit on the 1996 SpincTour.
"I wanted it to be much more like an immersion, if you will, with this kind of a personality," Freel said. "The music -- I wouldn't say it's secondary in the movie, but compared to most docs, it is because there's so little music happening."
Los Angeles fans of the group can see for themselves when the documentary plays Monday night at the Echoplex. The screening is one of several lined up for the coming weeks, leading up to the official launch of the movie at CMJ in New York, and it marks a significant step forward for the low-budget film.
Jourgensen had filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers in April, alleging that he was owed money for the film and that he had not had the opportunity to approve the final cut of the documentary. This summer, however, the musician, who was battling health problems at the time, withdrew the suit. That allowed the release of "Fix" to go forward, Freel said.
Early reaction has been very positive, according to the filmmaker, who previewed "Fix" in his hometown of Portland, Ore., in late September. Freel said: "It lives up to what it's supposed to be, which is a very small cinematic experiment, but an incredibly intimate one."
Freel, who has a long resume of music video credits, toured with Ministry in 1996 and captured a great deal of very raw backstage footage, including a number of scenes of graphic drug abuse. "Fix" features interviews with such musicians as Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro, talking about Ministry's impact or, in some cases, the perils of substance abuse. (Jourgensen, who is now clean and sober, has never shied away from acknowledging his years-long battle with drug addiction.)
"To me, the whole film is a Polaroid snapshot of a period of my life that I'm not particularly happy with... It's like watching a slow train wreck for me, or a reality show, but that's fine, because I'm a whole different person now," Jourgensen said in an interview with The Times earlier this year.
Freel himself is a former addict, and he said that perspective informed the film. But more than anything, his goal was to offer a vérité-style behind-the-scenes depiction of life on a Ministry tour from that era.
"My goal in the thing really was [to present to] kids who think they would have liked to have been on that bus for a couple of hours with Al, that is what it feels like," Freel said. "The history of the band and their importance, I think that's for a rock critic or an archivist. I was just thrown on that bus. I didn't know them much before. Clearly, I can see how much influence they had -- there's guys in my film who say maybe I borrowed too much, like Trent."
In September, Jourgensen, who had disbanded Ministry in 2008, announced plans to return to the studio to record a new album, "Relapse," which is set for a March release. The band is due to promote the collection with a four-city U.S. tour that would land in Los Angeles at Club Nokia on June 21, before heading to Europe.
The Ministry documentary "Fix" screens at 7 p.m. tonight at the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., L.A., $10, all ages.
-- Gina McIntyre
Photo: Al Jourgensen Credit: Omar Mena