Punk Madman GG Allin

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:25

    "I knew who he was. I knewwhat he did. I'd never been to one of his shows. I really wasn't a fan," Cohensaid, when I asked how familiar he'd been with Allin at the time. "I wasn'tput off by it, but it was nothing that I'd want to see in person, unless therewere safeguards." Cohen was a 22-year-oldfilm school dropout who sort of, kind of knew what he was about to gethimself into. "To me, it was the opportunityof a lifetime staring me in the face. I had the time to do it-I was just finishingup college, which I had done not too well at. It was the end of April when thisdiscussion happened. When Merle said they needed a roadie, I thought, 'Why not?'I knew this was a great opportunity, a unique opportunity, and I jumped at it.I knew it was going to be something different and special and strange." While on the road, he startedtaking notes. The result is I Was a Murder Junkie: The Last Days of GG Allin(Recess Records, 128 pages, $18.99). The book is less about GG, though, thanit is about Cohen-a tour diary of what it's like to be a fresh-faced kid roaringaround the country with one of rock 'n' roll's most notoriously feral (and fecal)icons. The idea to get a book out of the experience was already in his headbefore the band loaded up the van. "Before I went on tour,I tried to presell it. Spin magazine was interested, but they turnedme down, literally, the day before I left. After I got back, nobody seemed interested.It was just a little project I worked on by myself, thinking, 'Someday I'm goingto put this out as a book.'" He eventually brought themanuscript to Recess Records-the California-based punk label that had releasedthe Furious George albums. They decided to give publishing a shot, and accepted the book. It was a wise move on theirpart: Taking on I Was a Murder Junkie makes them the publisher of thefirst official book written about Allin. While there have been plenty of zinesand websites and magazine articles-together with plenty of promises of books-thisis the first real thing. "There have been mentionsof him in books," Cohen said, "a paragraph here, a chapter there. But it's thefirst book dedicated to him. A lot of people confuse me with Joe Coughlin. He'sthe official biographer-he was working on it with GG while he was still alive.One of his challenges is that he's trying to encapsulate GG's entire life, frombeginning to death, trying to contact every single person he knew and tryingto cram every bit of information in there. Last I heard, a couple years ago,he was at 300-some pages. It seems like every year he says the book's gonnacome out, then it doesn't. I never really felt a sense of competition with [Coughlin],because what he was doing was trying to get the whole man's life. What I'm doingis literally just talking about his last tour. I threw in some biographicalstuff, just in case some people weren't familiar with the basic parts of hislife." One of the first thingsI noticed while reading Cohen's book was the distinct lack of rampant drug use.Now, I don't talk about my own time with Allin much, figuring there are plentyof other people out there talking about their time with him-but the one thingI remember was his utter fearlessness when it came to ingesting unknown chemicals-andhuge quantities of known chemicals. It was mayhem, those days, a blur of speedand heroin and pills and alcohol. But in Cohen's book, theonly drug, apart from alcohol, GG consumes is a single bag of heroin-until thevery end, of course, when he overdoses in a Lower East Side apartment. I askedif that was really all Allin took that last tour. "Yeah," he said. "I thinkthat's one of the ironies. I don't know if he lost the taste for it from beingin prison about 14 or 15 months. The only other drug he did, which I didn'tmention in the book, was some prescription Valium. I think he traded a jacketfor it. We'd get in the van to drive somewhere and he'd just pop a Valium andsleep. I'm not sure if that counts as abuse, but it didn't really have any effect,either way. But those were the only major drug instances. That might've beenone of the things that contributed to his death-maybe his body just wasn't readyto take all that on again, all at once." Cohen balked, however, whenI suggested that perhaps-just perhaps-Allin was slowing down a little bit, thereat the end. I'd seen him take beatings that no human should've been able towithstand-but the stories in this book seem kind of tame. Tame for GG, thatis. He punches a few people, pulls some hair, starts a couple small fires, askssome girls to piss on him (at nearly every stop). But that's about it. "Sometimes when I speakto Merle, he talks about 'the good shows,' some of the really, reallywild things that happened in the early days," Cohen said. "But even with himmaybe having slowed down at the old age of 36, there was still a feeling whenhe played of not knowing what was going to happen next. It was both thrillingand terrifying... It's something I haven't felt since I saw him last." Most of the book, though,takes place offstage-in the hotel rooms, the restaurants and the highways theMurder Junkies invaded in their rented minivan. And most of it is pretty quiet:mild brushes with confused lawmen, masochistic groupies and evil promoters.There's some hotel room-trashing and backstage hijinks, but one of the thingsthe book does is present a picture of Allin-albeit from a distance-as a humanbeing, instead of the Tasmanian Devil he's usually portrayed as. Here's a GGwho worships Johnny Cash, is kind to his friends and helps out the odd stranger. Still, most of the bookfocuses on Cohen himself-a bright young kid who finds himself slowly transforminginto, well, a Murder Junkie. And who discovers that you just can't get a goodbagel in Texas. "The title, I Was a MurderJunkie, refers to me as much as it does GG, because the story deals withthe both of us. But I figured, I have to sell it as myself and him...People have said, 'Oh, no one wants to read about you, they want to read aboutGG,' but how can I not mention myself? I always thought it was just as interesting,me this-I don't want to say naive-but this kid, throwing myself in the middleof all this, for the first time in my life." I asked him if, with allthe stories he tells, there was anything he chose to leave out. And, more importantly,was there anything that Recess thought was just too rough to print? "There were minor storiesthat didn't work with the flow-me and some stripper trying to get it on in SanFrancisco. Things that were too distracting from the story. [Apart from that]it's basically all there. I'm sure people will read it and be disappointed.I neglected to mention when we went to a little nightclub in Los Angeles. Nothingexciting happened, really. There was one of those almost-fights where a bunchof people postured and nothing happened. Why put this almost-thing in thereand get people's hopes up, just to be brought down?" I asked Cohen if he ranthe book past Merle-the man who controls the GG Allin estate, charged with themission of keeping GG's memory alive. "I gave my original treatmentto Merle a long time ago, and he liked it. Merle has said to me repeatedly,'Christ, y'know, I bet there's stuff in there that I don't even remember.' Hetrusts me. The biographical stuff I checked over with him." Which brought up a pointI hesitated mentioning. It's no big deal, really, but I did find one mistakein the book-the circumstances surrounding GG's arrest and imprisonment in Michigan.The woman who brought assault charges against Allin wasn't beaten at a show,but rather, according to her claim, held hostage and tortured for three daysby Allin and some of his friends. "I never knew that," Cohenadmitted. Then he countered, "There are a lot of people who ask me a lot ofthings about his past, or assume that I'm some kind of authority. I never claimedto be... People have contacted me on the Internet, saying, 'Wow, you're writingthis book-did you know about this, this and this?' Christ, I don't know whoall the original members of the Toilet Rockers were. I don't know these things.I know what I experienced. I know what I talked about with him." I Was aMurder Junkie: The Last Days of GG Allin (including a CD) is available atTower and other local outlets.