Al Jourgensen - vocals, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, harmonica, pedal steel, piano
It has been twenty-five years since Al Jourgensen and Ministry became the Rosetta Stone for industrial and metal. From tape loops and sampling to the punishing static of relentless guitars, Ministry has forever changed aggressive music and the influence of Al Jourgensen still resonates loudly to this day.
In those 25 years, Jourgensen has seen the ups and downs of success as a musician and battled personal demons all while shaping an entire generation of rock music. His lyrics are colored with hope and despair, angst and rebellion; his music is the fortification against complacency. RANTOLOGY is the examination and celebration of that resolve.
Al Jourgensen's evolution as a musician - and an individual - culminated in the critically-acclaimed 2004 release of Houses of the Molé which served as a vehicle to re-energize his sound and decry the political imbroglio of the administration governing the United States. Molé unleashed a political diatribe set atop a raging wave of music to aurally assail the figurehead and the chicanery of the Bush administration, which outraged Jourgensen to no end. "Old Bush, new Bush," he laughs.
A year later, Jourgensen has harnessed his ire once again, revamping and reinterpreting the music of Ministry with a compilation of songs from his archives and inadvertently reminding us just how salient his music remains. With the addition of "The Great Satan," a new and previously unreleased track, RANTOLOGY stands as a monument to the powerful legacy of one of the most influential artists working today.
This collection is a Ministry mash-up, mixing vintage material with new elements that Jourgensen has been working with of late: fast beats and orchestral sounds mixed together. But Jourgensen had no designs on romanticizing his past. "Doing these sessions was excruciating for me. I really hate to stop and look back. I haven't really listened to any of my old records in a long time- years in some cases. I'm always looking forward to the next thing. All those little bits you notice come haunting back- things you might want to change. As I'm getting older it's somewhat satisfying in a historical perspective. When I'm playing a show, to see all the different people who have come to like Ministry- rock fans, metal fans, industrial fans, and our little army of goths- but there are also parents, grandparents and kids- I feel like I'm Wayne Newton or something. People grow. You start out trying to find your place in the world and trying to find out what you're good at and as a human being, you evolve."
For Jourgensen, evolution is updating his sound and forcing change upon himself while others stagnate. "Sanctuary asked me to put out a collection and we already have a greatest hits CD out there on Warner Brothers, and I just figured that a second one would be a rip-off for the kids. Why rehash that stuff? I decided that if we're going to do this, I should at least go in there and update some of the songs so it isn't just another compilation. The RANTOLOGY collection is stuff I hand-picked so that it could be something worth having."
Of particular interest is the opening track, "No W Redux." On it, Jourgensen rewrote the operatic opening to sensational effect, utilizing the services of an opera singer who happened to be present during the studio session for RANTOLOGY. "That was a trip, man. Martha Cooper was just wandering around the studio because her son was recording in this blues band at the same complex (Sonic Ranch) and I asked her what she was doing. She mentioned that she's an opera singer and I immediately said, ‘Come with me! I just happen to be working on something.' So it was really a good chance meeting. It's incredible what opera singers can do with the human voice as an instrument." RANTOLOGY is fueled with this combination of beauty and passion and angst.
Jourgensen also included the brand new track, "The Great Satan," as a preview of things to come. "It's where the upcoming record is going (due in early 2006). Fast and furious. So far the songs that we have for it are three-thousand miles an hour. And it will be just as political as the last one."
And so Ministry continues its fight against apathy with its music. "We're calling people out to do something. On our last tour, we put our money where our mouth is and I'd go out after sound-check and register voters, with the help of Punk Voter (punkvoter.com), Music for America, and our Ministry fans who volunteered via our website. It was a lot of logistical coordination but people need to go out and do something, and that hasn't changed."
Songs like "No W Redux" and "Wrong" from Houses of the Molé have been tweaked to include new samples and remain as powerful as the day they were released, outlining the frustrations the singer feels living under the Bush Administration. Jourgensen remixed these along with other tracks, such as "Stigmata" and "Jesus Built My Hotrod," to bring out their power and make them more accessible to new listeners. Other songs, like "Waiting" and "Animosity," are just good songs which he chose not to alter in any way because he liked them as they are. These tracks manage to represent something from pretty much every Ministry release which still illuminates.
"I'm also proud of "Bloodlines" and it came together really quickly. Activision approached us about doing it for the video game Vampires: The Bloodlines and we recorded the whole thing from top to bottom in about two and a half days. The lyrics came very easily. It was a really easy song to do. I had seen a preview of the video game, and I'm not much of a gamer, but that's because I'm pretty old-school about some things. And they were showing me all these graphics and what they can do now is amazing. It just blew me away and motivated me to write I guess."
Jourgensen decided to include several live tracks from Sphinctour for simple reasons, such as he liked the ending on "The Fall," which for him is a summation of a lot of different things. "It's dark and slow and brings everything to a nice close."
For Al Jourgensen, Ministry is the pulpit from which he speaks. His music is radical, his method is sound. He advocates and craves change and RANTOLOGY serves as an example of that. Al Jourgensen continues to thrive with his music. And what makes that especially exciting is that, after all these years, Ministry still rocks.