heavy metal

Ministry Interview

Before there was Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson, there was Ministry, bringing industrial sounds mixed with explicitly aggressive riffing to metal fans. Having evolved from a club-oriented precursor to techno into a seething, volatile war machine of slashing riffs, mechanical sounding beats and over-the-top rhythms, the entire affair highlighted by the distorted, pissed off voice of Al Jourgensen, Ministry brought fans of extreme music a sound with an unheard-of level of savage intensity. Primal yet modern, intelligent and outspoken, Jourgensen's machine rages on to this very day with an all-new collection, "Rantology." Featuring reworkings of some of the band's most impacting cuts, this collection comes off as the ultimate Ministry record, featuring intensely vicious versions of classic songs like "Stigmata" and "N.W.O." as well as live offerings like "Thieves", which give a glimpse into the band's effectively devastating concert experience. Here, Al gives his thoughts on the new record and shares some intensely held political beliefs.

The Gauntlet: You have been really busy with work as of late. Tell me a bit about the way you approached the tracks on "Rantology." Did you have specific changes in mind when you went in to do this?

Al Jourgensen: There are a lot of reasons. There's some politics involved, there's aesthetics involved, there's a lot of reasons. For instance, there were only so many tracks that Warner Brothers would license to Sanctuary and they could only get certain tracks, so I had to pick within the tracks that they could get and blah, blah, blah. So there were a lot of different reasons. Some of them, I could get the rights to, or Sanctuary already owned the rights and I just wanted to redo them because I thought I could do them better, some of them just begged to be remixed. I mean, there's a lot of different reasons that it came out the way it was. It's not so much a greatest hits; it's more of a collection.

The Gauntlet: It's so great to hear all of these good songs all in one place and it's not just the same old thing, it really is something new.

Al Jourgensen: These days, with most bands, you're lucky to get one good song on a record. Maybe the key is to stick around and be an old man and get 25 under your belt. What did I figure out? It's like after 25 years, the amount of minutes on that "Rantology" record means that I am actually brilliant for, like, three minutes a year and that's it? The rest of the time I'm a knucklehead, so...

The Gauntlet: It seems that Ministry is most alive when there is a Bush in the White House.

Al Jourgensen: I hate them fuckers.

The Gauntlet: What is it that you dislike about them? Is it Republicanism in general?

Al Jourgensen: It's not even Republicans, it's the whole right-wing arrogance and it's the whole military-industrial complex greed. Between those two factors, the arrogance and the greed, of the entire coalition of the right wing military-industrial complex, it just gets my goat. I mean, how rich do you have to be before it's too much? The oil companies just keep sticking it to us. It's record profits, record profits, and they just want more. Delphi just went out of business today, a main parts supplier for GM and of course, right before they went bankrupt, all of the CEO's gave themselves nice parachute pension plans, you know? And they fucked over all of the workers. They're four billion in debt on their pension plan. All sorts of this greed and arrogance is what really gets my goat.

The Gauntlet: Is this something that you think that the American public will care enough about to actually stand up to it at this point?

Al Jourgensen: I think they have no choice. As gas prices go up, it's like this whole domino effect. It's not only homeland security, it's not only just the economy, but it's the environment, it's a snowball effect. Pretty soon, it's gonna effect every facet of your everyday life. If people like to hide their heads in the sand and hope that the problems will go away, or let other people solve them, eventually it's gonna hit everyone. It's like the Vietnam War, everybody was all gung-ho, believed the President, Johnson, Kennedy, it was like "Let's stop Communism", that's what it was all about. But as soon as more and more people were affected by body bags coming home, then people see, it touches your everyday life. Then, you have no choice but to spring into action.

The Gauntlet: You use the Great Seal as an image in your promotional campaign. Are you pointing to the money as part of the problem?

Al Jourgensen: I don't think it's the actual money; it's the greed of money that's behind the problem.

The Gauntlet: They can print that stuff all day, as much as they want. They just choose not to.

Al Jourgensen: Yep.

The Gauntlet: So do you think that a Democrat in the White House, it's going to change things?

Al Jourgensen: I really don't see it as being much of a change, if any, or very little of a change. Like I said, the whole military-industrial complex and the lobbying and the money that's behind campaigns and the parties themselves, pretty much make it status quo and more of the same.

The Gauntlet: What is it, Al, that you think can be done to fix these political problems, because obviously we have been thrust into a situation where we have no choice.

Al Jourgensen: Obviously, the money has to get out of the idea business, which is what politics should be, ideas on how to improve society. The money form the special interest groups, especially the energy corporations and military corporations that fund the Republican Party right now, have a vested interest in what policy should be. So, it's the need of the few as opposed to the need of the many. I'm not a Communist, although every possible political system looks great on paper. It's the application thereof that makes it the difficult part. But I think that it is the special interest money in the political process that makes it no longer a political process. It has nothing to do with Democracy.

The Gauntlet: What exactly is your political stance then?

Al Jourgensen: I believe in democracy, but true democracy. I'm more of a Social Democrat, Green Party type of guy, if you will, if you really need to categorize. But there's certain issues that I lean toward more moderate, right, on as opposed to others. Basically, that's what a democracy is, is various ideas pooling together to make a better society. I hate to pigeonhole my political beliefs, but I think that people's voices aren't being heard from the money that's involved in the special interest groups.

The Gauntlet: So you're of the opinion that the people need to become more involved in the process on a grassroots level. Is that what it will take?

Al Jourgensen: Absolutely. If you look at people power, anything from Tiananmen Square, to the Philippines, to Spain in their recent election, I mean, people power works. Because, all of a sudden, all the money in the world can't subside absolute anger and activism.

The Gauntlet: At this point, the focus seems to be on completely breaking down the middle class in America.

Al Jourgensen: That's the war. Everyone is talking about the Iraq war, but the real war, to me, where more people are being affected than the two thousand killed in Iraq, as sad as that is, the real war is on the middle class. This is exactly the way it was at the turn of the century, from the 1900's to the twentieth century, where you had your railroad and your steel magnates and new oil magnates, that had busted all the unions up and you basically had slave labor, sixteen hour days, the coal mines, the same energy industry people, while record profits were being made, so you had your very few rich and a mass worker class that was basically subsisting and existing and not living.

The Gauntlet: And that sequence of events was of course, followed by a massive depression and a massive restructuring of American policy.

Al Jourgensen: History repeats again and do you think these greedy bastards in charge care? No, they need to buy another corporation, another castle or another airline or whatever. How much is too much?

The Gauntlet: It's the revival of aristocracy�

Al Jourgensen: One percent of the population owns ninety-eight percent of the wealth. Exactly. It's an aristocracy. And you know what happens to aristocracies? The French Revolution or the Bolshevik Revolution? Off with their fucking heads, that's what I say.

The Gauntlet: Let's talk about the music a little bit. You've been doing this now for twenty-five years. It seems with the great record that you put out last time and now, with this collection, that's you're really, really focused as you were back in the days of "A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste." Do you feel that things are clicking again as opposed to the way things were for you in the mid-nineties?

Al Jourgensen: Yeah, 100% absolutely and the reason being is that I have been clean for over three years and I no longer live on Dealer Standard Time, I can actually get shit done, you know? You can't work because you're gonna get sick if the dealer doesn't come with your heroin and when he gets there, you can't work because you're too high to work and on goes the cycle. Finally when I kicked this and I really felt that I was given a second chance, I'm definitely gonna make use of it. Not many people get a second chance that were in the situation that I was in.

The Gauntlet: Do you see another Ministry studio album on the horizon for 2006?

Al Jourgensen: Dude, I have so much stuff coming out. On February 14th is the new Revolting Cocks album coming out on another label that I just started. As you might know, I used to run another label called Wax Trax. This is the follow-up. It's called Thirteenth Planet and the first release is the new Revolting Cocks record, which is done. I just got it done. It's called "Cocked And Loaded"; it has a phalanx of nut bars on this record, man. There's Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, there's Robin from Cheap Trick, there's Gibby from the Butthole Surfers, Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys, all of these people on this record. It's an all-star lineup from the mental home.

The Gauntlet: What can RevCo fans expect from the new album? What direction did you take on this one? Is this going to be something that is a little different from what you've done in the past with that project?

Al Jourgensen: Musically, it's a little bit more guitar driven, but it's a complete party record in the sense that every song is just rowdy. Let's just put it that way. It's all juvenile, sophomoric, prurient, misogynistic, and absolutely absurd. It's everything that you could expect from a bunch of middle-aged men trying to recapture past youth.

The Gauntlet: What else do you have on your plate for 2006?

Al Jourgensen: Since I just finished the Cocks record up, I already started with the new Ministry record, obviously with "The Great Satan" being on there (Rantology), and I have four songs already recorded for that so by Christmas, I'll be done with that. So I'll have not only the Revolting Cocks, "Cocked And Loaded", Ministry "Rantology", but also, a new Ministry record, with the album coming out in April and a tour in May.

The Gauntlet: Do you intend to do any production work with any bands in the coming year?

Al Jourgensen: I talked with Cheap Trick about doing some stuff and working with Robin on a solo project that he's got, so, yeah, all time permitting, because as soon as the Ministry album is done, I have to go to rehearsals, the Revolting Cocks is opening for Ministry in the spring and summer.

The Gauntlet: So you are going to be pulling a bit of double duty?

Al Jourgensen: Yeah, oxygen tanks are on my rider for backstage�

The Gauntlet: Are you going to be hitting the theatre-sized venues?

Al Jourgensen: Right now, it looks like yeah, about 1500 to 2500 seaters.

The Gauntlet: Have you grown attached to certain venues over the years? Are there any favorites that you have?

Al Jourgensen: Yeah, the good thing is that we bring our own gear, our own sound system, which is why we're so motherfucking loud. So pretty much every day sounds the same to me, but there are always sentimental favorites. The Aragon Ballroom in Chicago is a favorite of mine, because it's the first place that I ever saw a rock concert. Another one was the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, when we headlined that, that was insane, because I'm such a hockey fan and our dressing room was the locker room of the Toronto Maple Leafs, so I got to see some of my childhood hockey heroes' locker stalls and actually use them for myself, so yeah, there's a couple places.

The Gauntlet: Is it going to be difficult to work out the RevCo in a live situation being that you have so many guest appearances?

Al Jourgensen: In various spots. It's really difficult to get everyone in one spot at one time, so we have a core band and guest appearances throughout the country. Jello will be with us for two weeks, Gibby will be with us for two weeks, that kind of thing. Other people, like Billy or Rick or Robin, we'll have in their respective hometowns and possibly other shows. Plus, you never know who else is gonna show up, 'cause if you've known about Ministry's live shows over the years, you know we have a lot of guests popping up all over the place.

The Gauntlet: Will Gibby be doing "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" with you during the Ministry set?

Al Jourgensen: Probably. Well see, though. Right now, the Ministry touring band is a whole new band for us. Joey Jordison from Slipknot is playing drums, Paul Raven of Killing Joke is on the bass, and Tommy Victor of Prong is playing guitar. And, whatever the hell I do in this band.

The Gauntlet: Is this a set line up for quite a while, then?

Al Jourgensen: It's the set lineup for this upcoming Ministry record and the tour.

The Gauntlet: What is it to jam with a young guy like Joey? In the past, it took two drummers to duplicate the sounds on the record.

Al Jourgensen: Oh. Awesome, it's awesome. He knows all the stuff. He grew up on it. It's not really necessary (to use two drummers anymore). This new record has really turned out to be a thrash-o-rama, so we just need one extremely good, fast drummer and I think Joey certainly fits that bill.

The Gauntlet: You must really be looking forward to the coming year with so much going on. You'll also be exposing a lot of new fans to the group with "Rantology." How does it feel for you to have such a solid foundation of songs to work with on this upcoming tour?

Al Jourgensen: It gets better over the years, because you can, so to say, cull some of the sawdust from the meat. We go up there and we're giving a meat and potatoes, blue collar set. It's pretty cool.

The Gauntlet: In the past, while you were on stage, you seemed a bit withdrawn. Has anything changed in these past three years that you've been sober? Did you gain a new perspective on performing in front of people?

Al Jourgensen: Yeah, absolutely. I don't know what they're all doing up there, because I have to concentrate on about twenty different things, but, I understand that on the last tour, I was much more animated and out and about and all that. Before, I would basically shoot heroin right before I went on stage, I was a completely numb human being every time I got up there. On the last tour, yeah I had a lot of fun. I could actually remember places I'd been and things.

The Gauntlet: You just celebrated a birthday yesterday. How does it feel to have made it this far? At some point, you had to have thought that you might not be around to celebrate another one�

Al Jourgensen: For many years I thought that. So yeah, every day above ground is a good day in the immortal words of Tony Montana.

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Tags:  Ministry  , Al Jourgenseninterviews

    October 10, 2005

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