The Gospel of Jourgensen- A Look Into The Mind Of Ministry Via Interview.

February 3, 2012 by Chris Grosso

Everything Ministry has created since its inception has been an evolution. Al Jourgensen, the architect of Ministry, succeeded by remaking the mainstream in his own image and forging a new style of music.
Jourgensen morphed Ministry from a lightweight synth-pop band in the early ’80s to a musical juggernaut with many side projects (Revolting Cocks, 1000 Homo DJs, Pailhead, Lard) on legendary Chicago-based Wax Trax! Records.

Moving to Sire Records in the mid-’80s Ministry released albums showcasing an ever-evolving style. The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste and The Land of Rape and Honey both went Gold as people searched beyond bland MTV conformity.

Psalm 69, featuring “N.W.O.”, “Just One Fix” and “Jesus Built My Hotrod”, went Platinum in 1992 and forever changed music with its heavily aggressive content. Subsequently in 1993, Ministry received a Grammy nod for Best Metal Performance for “New World Order.”

After a handful of releases since Psalm 69, Ministry is back with Relapse, which  Jourgensen affectionately calls his  “Psalm 70.” In this writers opinion it’s agressive, it’s relevant, it’s necessary and most of all, it’s a fitting way for Al Jourgensen and Ministry to say goodbye…at least for now.

The following interview was conducted via phone on 1/30/12.

The Al Jourgensen Interview


TIS: So it was twenty years ago that I was first blown away by Psalm 69, and now, with your upcoming album Relapse, it sounds like you’re taking a trip down memory lane. I can’t help but think that this is the album a lot of Ministry fans have been waiting quite some time for.

AJ: Well you know what it is, we did Psalm 69 and everyone expected Psalm 70 but we delivered Filth Pig, so this is my Psalm 70. Let me ask you this; do you smoke pot?

TIS: (Laughing) Well I used to but I’m in recovery these days.

AJ: Ah damn, because this stuff is like stoner thrash. If you do a sparker and listen to this new record, you’re gonna see shit and feel shit that you haven’t felt before. I think it’s not only the best Ministry album, but one of the best 50 stoner albums of all time. At first, I said it was one of the best 50 albums of all time in general, but then I got to thinking about it and made a list and well, there’s 50 albums that are definitely better than this one. I do believe this is definitely one of the best 50 stoner albums though. Seriously, I mean if you do a sparker and listen to this stuff, oh man. It’s a whole new genre.

TIS: Sure, hearing the album, albeit sober, I can relate to that statement. So you mentioned this as being your Psalm 70 album which a lot of old Ministry fans have been waiting a long time for. What does Relapse offer that some of the more recent Ministry releases haven’t?

AJ: This offers a lot of varied influences coming through. I had a laser beam focus on the Bush administration for so long and was tailor making things to de-topple that administration but on this one, there’s personal life stories & social commentary. I’d say there’s a Pink Floyd vibe to it in a way, like if Pink Floyd did trash this is what it would sound like. So I feel like some of our previous releases were very singular in purpose but Relapse has a lot of variety.

TIS: Nice. So what ultimately led to you to breathe life back into Ministry again after calling it quits in 2008?

AJ: This whole Ministry record is completely by accident. While making the Buck Satan record, in between writing country songs, Mike Scaccia and I would jam out on some heavy riffs but we just put them on a shelf, we weren’t going to do with anything with them. A few months after we’d finished with the Buck Satan record Mikey got a CD of those heavier riffs we were jamming on and he called me up. He said we had to do new Ministry stuff because the riffs were just killing him. He told me I had to write some lyrics, which I said I didn’t want to however, six Psychodal’s later I said fine, I’d do it (laughing). So I sort of got roped into this but I’m glad I did because it came out so well. I was definitely a reluctant participant in the beginning though, trust me.

TIS: Goddamn Psychodal’s… they’ll get you every time.

AJ: Tell me about it.

TIS: So the track 99 Percenters is an obvious ode to those in the Occupy movement, which has not only had a profound effect on our country, but the world at large. Where do you see not only this movement, but other uprisings as well leading collective humanity in the future? Will the people take the power back?

AJ: Well I grew up in the 60’s so I see this as a 60’s movement, which is so welcome to me. I’m so happy people are finally fed up. I’m not happy about the circumstances that made them fed up, but I’m happy the people are finally fed up nevertheless. Having grown up in the 60’s, this is such a welcome change to the placebo pabulum that people have taken over politics and it’s great to see that people are finally getting riled up. The great thing is that there’s no major sponsor and no major message with Occupy. It’s basically just that we’re fed up. There’s a lot of messages in this because there’s a lot of problems in this world. So my engineer is from New York and we were planning on flying out there and protesting and getting pepper sprayed and arrested and the whole deal. I mean, I’ve been arrested a whole bunch of times, it doesn’t bother me much. It’s just some bad bologna sandwiches for a day and then your lawyer gets you out. So we were going to fly out there but we were running a week behind on the album and the deadline for it was by Christmas, so we had to stay here. I figured the least I could do though is write a chant-along song for the knuckleheads who go out there and brave it every day. Seriously, protesting is a really hard job. It’s like I said, you get pepper sprayed, urinated on, arrested, it’s not a fun job but it’s a job that has to be done in this country so I thought I’d sing about it.

TIS: Yeah, the footage of the police brutality was very disturbing.

AJ: Yeah, I know.

 

TIS: And another thing I found disturbing was the fact that the major news media blacked out the Occupy movement in the beginning. So it’s apparent to anyone who takes time to do their homework that news sources such as Fox, CNN and the majority of major news sources for that matter have an agenda. What sources do you utilize for unbiased information?

AJ: I generally go to BBC, MSNBC and Al-Jazeera and that’s about it. I couldn’t name a Fox News anchor outside of Bill O’Reilly and I can only name him because of the Colbert Report. I would never watch Fox News and I don’t watch CNN either, it’s just pabulum. It has directed agendas, and while I know MSNBC has a directed agenda too, it’s at least an agenda that fits within my scope of reality.

TIS: Sounds good. So getting back to the Relapse album, you do an insane cover of S.O.D.’s United Forces on the album. What inspired you to cover that song in particular?

AJ: Well I know Billy Milano really well and even though he’s a right wing knucklehead, I love him and respect his views. That song though has a timeless message which is particularly fitting for these times, and it’s people uniting. It’s a very positive message and it’s not a right wing thing. It’s a very positive message that’s stood up over I don’t know, what, 27 or 28 years now maybe. It’s something I actually freaked out about when we were looking for a cover to do. I thought about the S.O.D. song and that it’s heavier than shit and has such a positive message, which is not something you usually associate with S.O.D. too much, but it really is a very timeless, positive message and I thought forget it, we’ll tackle it.

TIS: Cool, I really liked what you guys did with it.

AJ: Awesome man, thank you.

TIS: Absolutely. So I thought it was cool that the Buck Satan album you recorded, while being a country album, was done by a bunch non-country musicians. What do you attribute the outcome of that record too?

AJ: Um, liquor (laughing.) We were wasted! It was the blind leading the blind on that one man and it was pretty cool. I got out of the hospital last year and I’d always promised our fans that we’d do a country record so I figured well, life is short, especially when you have a near death experience, you start to put your priorities in order. So I called up Mikey and said we had to do it now or we were never going to do it. We’d been talked out of doing this record by manager’s and band members for over thirty years. That’s why the first thing on the special thanks of the record reads, “Fuck you to all the people who didn’t think we could do this, because we can.” So we just drank our way through it man and most of the people there had never heard a country song in their life. Mikey and I were the only ones who’d ever heard Buck Owens or George Jones etc. All the rest of the people were Industrial Rockers, Pop Stars, Classically trained fiddle players etc and it was kind of weird, but it was really cool and I think that’s why the record came out so great, because we didn’t have a bunch of country people on it.

TIS: Okay, so you may have in fact answered my next question already but just to make sure, before you got into the process of writing/recording the Buck Satan stuff, did you have to consciously shift your mental and/or emotional states to a different place or was it really just a matter of getting liquored up?

AJ: Nah, this was honestly the easiest record I’ve ever done. It was all just singing about actual personal life experiences so it wasn’t that hard. I didn’t have to make anything up. I just told my tale and then shut the fuck up about it, followed by getting some people to play on it. My first idea was to get country people to play on it but one of them died and the rest of them bailed on me. The one who died was Buck Owens and I was in negotiations for him to be on the album but he died. Then the rest of them bailed so I decided to put together the usual suspects that I have in my camp and some other friends as well. So we proceeded to get drunk and just play our asses off.

TIS: Cool and I read that even though Buck wasn’t able to be on the album he still gave you his blessing on this project, correct?

AJ: Well yeah but I had to lie. I talked to him on the phone and asked him to be on this record but he’s a devout Christian and said he couldn’t be on a record called Buck Satan. I told him that he misunderstood, that Buck Satan meant to Buck Satan, to defy Satan. I gave him this whole speech and then he said okay, he guess he’d do it. So I had to lie and then he died. I don’t know if my lying had anything to do with his dying but either way…

TIS: (Laughing) Oh no. So on that note, let’s go back to the Relapse album, shall we?

AJ: (Laughing) That’s probably a good idea.

TIS: Okay, so on the opening track Ghouldiggers you start out with a spoken word piece which at one point you mention that you’ve actually been told by a manager that you’re worth more dead than alive. What happened there?

 

AJ: There were actually two ex-managers that have said that same thing to me so I’d sensed a pattern, which was, hurry up and die so we can make money from your carcass. It’s about the soulless state of affairs within certain aspects of the music industry. So that message was totally made clear to me, hurry up and die.

TIS: Yikes. Okay so with the 2012 Presidential elections quickly approaching, are you still in support of Obama of has another candidate caught your eye?

AJ: 100% Obama and as a matter-of-fact, you should just hold your nose and hit Democratic for all of the congressional seats. These Republicans are like circus clowns, I can’t even watch them anymore. It’s just so pathetic between Gingrich, Romney and Santorum, who has his own website about “Ass Juice”. Have you heard about that?

TIS: I have not.

AJ: Well this is the first week that if you Google Santorum, you don’t get the descriptive allegory of “Ass Juice” which is sperm coming out of your ass, known as a Santorum. I don’t know if you knew that?

TIS: (Laughing) Um, no, I did not.

AJ: Yeah, this is the first week where if you type in Rick Santorum into Google, you actually get him instead of the ass juice thing, so what does that tell you about these candidates? And Newt Gingrich, really? It just makes my head spin. So I’m fully Obama and fully getting the Congress back in Democratic hands, so I say vote “D” instead of “R” on everything, across the board, just do it, because then this country can move forward. All of this bickering is just stupid.

TIS: Point well taken. So my last question for you is a personal fan question of mine in which I’m curious if you think you and Jello will ever find time to do a new Lard album, or has the ship sailed on that?

AJ: I don’t think so man. Right now, I have 7 songs written for a new Buck Satan record and then Mikey and I want to do a traditional, Robert Johnson or Albert King Blues Record and I think I’ll end my career on that note. I’m not going to do another Ministry, Lard, Revco or Pailhead album. Since the Buck Satan stuff is almost already done I know I’ll do that one, which will be called “Buck Satan Rides Again.” Mikey and I have always wanted to do a Blues Record so we’ll do that and then I think I’ll call it quits.

TIS: Oh wow. Okay, will you still continue to do the 13th Planet Label?

AJ: I can’t predict that because we have all sorts of bands writing to us who want to be on the label and sometimes the music is actually cool stuff, stuff I’d listen to myself. So there may be a point in time I do some 13th Planet stuff production wise. There may also be some Soundtracks that I do production wise but Ministry and all the other side bands, Lard etc, no, I don’t think so man. I really don’t. I’m too tired and bored with it and Ministry is so labor intensive, so no, I’m done with it. At least with Buck Satan you can get drunk and fuck around.

TIS: Well Relapse is a great Ministry record to go out on so congratulations on that.

AJ: Well thank you very much. I’m really proud of it and excited to get it out to fans. Like I said, I think it’s in the top 50 stoner records of all time. It’s stoner heaven, it’s stoner thrash and I don’t think that’s been done before, I think it’s a new genre. I’ve done a few sparkers to this record and I’m just like, “Really? Did I really do that?”

TIS: Cool Al. Well best of luck with Relapses release and I hope to catch you on tour next year in the states.

AJ: Awesome man, that’d be great. Take care.

Visit Ministry Online Here

If You Liked This, You May Like These:

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Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster) and Everything Mind: What I've Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True). He writes for ORIGIN Magazine, Huffington Post, and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, Celebrate Your Life and more. Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, 12-step meetings, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide. He is a member of the advisory board for Drugs over Dinner.
  1. […] The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Al Jourgensen Of Ministry […]

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  3. Teryo says:

    This interview is fucking great! Really good questions and some nice information there, you did great! I can’t wait to read your other interviews now that were linked, you got me interested. 😀