Interview: Ministry – Al Jourgensen

Interview conducted on 6/11/04 via phone.

Upon the recent release of Ministry’s new record “Houses Of The Mole´”, Al Jourgensen calls from the studio to talk about what he is working on now [Revolting Cocks], what it is like working without Paul Barker, politics, and the future of Ministry, among other things. Al was very gracious and animated during the entire conversation. Very cool guy to talk to!

Ann:  Are you in the studio right now?

Al: Yep.

Ann: You must be working on Revolting Cocks.

Al: You got it!

Ann: You’re working on the album called Purple Head, correct?

Al: Correct.

Ann: How’s it coming along, how far along are you, and what can the fans expect to hear?

Al: Well, it’s absolutely juvenile. It’s absolutely misogynistic, sexist. It’s horrible. It’s delinquent. It’s everything you’d want in a brutal Revolting Cocks record. [laughs] Yeah, it’s our party time so to speak. I mean, Ministry is like nose to the grindstone, and Revolting Cocks are like a limbo line at a fraternity party or something.

Ann: How many songs are going to be on the disc?

Al: Probably about 10.

Ann: Any idea when it might be completed and when we might find it on shelves?

Al: Well, we’re working our cahones off to get it done by August because that’s when, actually late August, because that’s when the Ministry tour starts. So we’re trying to clam it in here as best as we can.

Ann: Since I got your new record, “Houses Of The Mole´”, I’m in awe of what you guys are doing.

Al: Cool! Thank you. Yeah, we’re pretty happy with it.

Ann: What is it like working without Paul Barker?

Al: Actually, it’s grand. I love it. Paul is more the computer geek and I’m more the drink-a-bunch-of-wine-play-guitar guy, right? So this record was a drink-a-bunch-of-wine-play-guitar type of record [laughs] and so I didn’t have to sit there and wait for him computer programming to get typed out if you will, so it was a lot of fun. Plus it was good in the sense that Paul and I were never really, like, we were great business partners in that sense, and we created well together but on this record I’ve got all my pals on it so it was a lot of fun to record.

Ann: Do you think you’ll ever bring him back to do any other work with Ministry?

Al: Nope.

Ann: You’ve got some new members in the band. You brought back Mike, and Bryan Kehoe has joined the Ministry ranks as well. I read on the press release that Brian “has passed the Ministry initiation with flying colors”. What might one expect to have to accomplish in order pass the Ministry initiation?

Al: Basically, we drank about 200 cases of beer. [laughs] I’m serious! And then we’d jam. He’s awesome. He’s an absolutely amazing guitar player. It was really that simple. It wasn’t any long drawn out process. We weren’t even sure we were going to get another guitar player because I can play the parts on the guitar and everything so we were actually going to pare down the band a little bit but he was just too damn good to let go.

Ann: He’s not on the new record though, is he?

Al: He’s not on the record, no. He’s going to be on the Revolting Cocks stuff that we’re recording.

Ann: Ok. The new Ministry album, House of the Mole’, uses a lot of samples and there are sound bytes of George Bush and others. Even the briefest of sound bytes carry a lot of powerful images with it. How did you decide on the ones that you ended up using?

Al: I don’t know. That’s all a matter of taste, you know, of what you’re trying to say and what goes along with the lyrics. Sometimes we’d hunt for a specific thing, hopefully that George would say it or not on his website, you know, with all his speeches on it. Other times we’d hear something he’d say and write around that. That’s it. It just depends.

Ann: You said that you’d look for things that you hoped he’d say. Did you find those things?

Al: Actually, no. The one that we wanted most was “winning hearts and minds” and he never said that in a speech. You’d hear everyone else say it – Rumsfeldt, Chaney, Wolfowitz – all these people have said it except Bush. He didn’t. At least I haven’t found it yet.

Ann: Is it your plan to get Bush out of office, and if so how will you accomplish this? How do you plan to combat voter apathy?

Al: Well, that’s the whole thing with that I’m involved with. I plan on registering a half million kids age 18 to 29. Only 30 percent of them voted in the last election and I feel it’s important that the youth take their future in their own hands, you know? YOUR VOTE DOES FUCKING COUNT. IT DOES MATTER. It really does. I think if the youth vote would have come out last election we would not have this lingering Bush cancer on America.

Ann: Do you feel that Kerry is a satisfactory alternative to Bush?

Al: I think this ashtray in front of me is a satisfactory alternative to Bush. I mean JESUS! [laughs] President Bush, he’s just symptomatic of the problem. It’s all his cronies and the administration and the special interests that are running things that (are the problem). With Kerry you get a different special interest, ok? I mean look, for the Republican re-election campaign compared to the Democratic re-election campaign there’s 14 dollars to every 1 dollar set for the Republican Party by the oil industry as there is the Democrats, so at least we get a different special interest. I’m sick of these oil barons and their greed and their arrogance.

Ann: I think another thing that’s caused apathy amongst voters is the entire election process – how that was all handled – how Bush got into office in the first place.

Al: That’s the whole point. I mean, you can look at it two ways:

Well it doesn’t matter ’cause they’re gonna steal the election anyways and blah, blah, blah, it’s all rigged. OR if I would have gotten off my ass and done something this wouldn’t have happened. It’s half a dozen to one, sixteen to another, you know? This whole summer we’re touring right up to the election and we’re making sure that we register voters at every one of our shows. will be travelling with us the whole summer so after my [inaudible] every day I’ll go out to the registration booth and trade my autograph for an autograph on a voter registration form from somebody. We’ll use any devious methods that we can to get these people to vote. [laughs]

Ann: That is actually extremely cool. If you were president, how would you have handled the events leading up to and then following 9/11?

Al: First of all, I would include the entire world, you know? I think that’s the main point. We’re all in this together. We all have to suffer or progress together as a whole, as a species. I just think it’s just complete arrogance and it’s complete blood for profit. There was no reason to go there in the first place. Obviously never was. Never will be. I mean, if you want to root out the cause of terrorism… you don’t put a Band-Aid on cancer. You don’t go looking for Osama Bin Laden with a wanted poster on his head. You take care of the conditions that create that kind of hatred and breeding.

Ann: So do you think we should have done nothing when the two towers fell?

Al: Well, look at it this way. When Oklahoma City was bombed did we attack Michigan because that’s where they were from? Nichols and McVee are from Michigan so should we declare war on Michigan? No. You bring the people who did it to trial. Ok? I mean, why is it so difficult to find Bin Laden? It’s not. There’s obviously some ties in with the Caspian Sea pipeline and the Afghanistan war. If you’ve read Michael Moore you know all the tie-ins between the Bin Ladens and the Bush’s and the whole Saudi connection. It’s pretty strange. We definitely attacked the wrong country, if any country. That’s my whole point. You don’t attack a fuckin’ country over the action of a few.

Ann: I’ve read that you say you only write good material for your records when there’s a Republican in the house. Are you being tongue in cheek or are you serious about that?

Al: Oh, no. Actually, a friend of mine, a journalist said that. I never actually said that. I got credited with that but we kind of laughed about it because he heard this new record and he went, “Oh my fucking God! This rocks. This is the best thing since Psalm 69 when the last Bush was in office!” But I’ll tell you what, I think I’ve done crappy records when Reagan was in office so…[laughs] It doesn’t really hold true.

Ann: You use a lot of religious-type sound samples in your music. I’m assuming you are not a big fan of organized religion.

Al: Absolutely not. No.

Ann: Do you have any spiritual beliefs at all or do you lean more towards philosophical thinking?

Al: A little of both. I’m actually very spiritual in my own sense as far as universal energy, and cosmic power, and karmic power. But anything organized, to me at this point, I think government, any corporation, any religion is basically fuelled by greed.

Ann: The first track of the new album, “No W”, begins with Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”, a very powerful piece of music that I’m sure everybody has heard at one point in time. It’s used very effectively in the song. Aside from the music sample itself is the actual meaning of the chorus part, which you feature, something special to you that you wanted to bring to your song, or was it just about the music itself?

Al: Well, it was a little bit more but it wasn’t quite that deep as far as the actual lyrics of Carmina Burana – it was the fact that they used that piece in the movie “The Omen” where the son of Satan grows up to be president. [laughs] You make the connection there.

Ann: How can you compare the recording of this album with the recording of previous albums?

Al: This one was done as a band and this is the first time that we haven’t typed anything out since Psalm 69 (which) was the last time we recorded as a band. We sequestered ourselves in Wisconsin and jammed out and came out with ..which is kind of why this (album) is kindred spirit if you will of Psalm 69. I do like to consider it Psalm 70. I think it’s even better. It’s one better.

Ann: Was it more fun to record or more of a frustration?

Al: No, a lot more fun. Like I said, these guys are my pals. I’ve known John Monte for 15 years, Mikey for 15 years. Kehoe is a great addition; he’s an after the record when we kept going on the Revolting Cocks. Mark Baker I’ve known for a few years. It’s great. It was a lot of fun to do.

Ann: For this CD, will you include the lyrics and if so will they be offered in the same style as they were in “Animositisomina”?

Al: [laughs] Yes and yes.

Ann: [laughs] Get out the reading glasses folks!

Al: That’s right!

Ann: I’ve read that you have a master’s degree in history.

Al: Not a master’s, I have a bachelor’s. I plan on getting my masters as soon as this rock thing that kinda detoured my teaching career is over.

Ann: Have you taught in the past?

Al: No, no. I went to teacher’s college at the University of Colorado and that’s what I wanted to be but this rock thing kind of derailed that. I don’t plan on being in this for more than another 5 years and there won’t be any of these “reunion” things for me either. When I’m out, I’m out. When I’m ready, I’m ready. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. To me it’s just as exhilarating as going out on stage. Having a classroom of people, it’s a limited amount of people but the message becomes much more clear. I mean, rock is basically teaching in it’s own right, or can be, as well.

Ann: What can your students expect form you during class time? What kind of a teacher will you be? What do you think they’ll say about you when you’re not around to listen?

Al: No! [laughs] That’s the whole point – I will listen. That’s probably the whole point. Apart from the schoolwork they like to smoke cigarettes and order pizzas, you know? [laughs] The whole thing is that I’ll talk to them like people because that’s what they are and I think it’s exhilarating watching somebody grow as a human being.

Ann: I think it would be an experience to sit in on one of your classes knowing who you are and what you’ve done with your career as a musician. It’s amazing.

Al: Well you know, it’s cool that kids snap to attention because it is something they consider cool that, “Wow, man! He left all that behind to do this. Like, he must really care.” So therefore the message becomes a lot more basic.

Ann: Definitely. You would be teaching history, I assume?

Al: I hope so.

Ann: Let’s talk a little bit about touring…

Al: I have no idea. I know that we are going to be touring the States until literally like, Halloween, right before the election and then we’re going to Europe for about a month and then bounce back to the States for another month, until New Year’s. Then we’re doing Australia and Japan in February and then this spring we’re doing yet another tour of the United States with friends of ours who I cant really name right now.

Ann: So, the first leg of the tour starts when?

Al: It starts on Labor Day.

Ann: What can fans expect from your show this time around?

Al: [laughs] It should be really cool. We’ve redesigned all our sets and we’ve brought back our drum guy, our drum tech from our Lollapolooza days with Psalm 69. The sets are completely different, the musicians are much more energetic and I think the material is fuckin’ awesome and you can pretty much expect this whole album to be played.

Ann: You said that you are going to be retiring from the business soon. How many more albums can we expect from Ministry, the Revolting Cocks and any of your other projects before then?

Al: Two Ministry’s, two more Cocks, and a Lard, and then finish the whole thing off with, finally, my Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters.

Ann: We’ll be sad to see you go but at least we’ve got another 5 more years left with you.

Al: Yep.

Ann: Ok, last question. In the 40 plus years that you have lived and grown wiser, what is the single most important thing you have learned that you would like to pass along to others?

Al: Never drink wine without a cork.


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