Alain Jourgensen - 2004

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Alain Jourgensen is the mastermind behind formerly-industrial heavy metal legends Ministry, as well as a core member of techno/metal jokers Revolting Cocks, Jello Biafra's Lard, an as-of-yet unrecorded country-western band called Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters (which he still plans to record - possibly in 2005), and various and sundry other projects with oddball monikers like 1000 Homo DJs, PTP, Pailhead and Acid Horse. When we spoke on an unusually brisk June afternoon, Al was preparing for the release of the ninth Ministry studio LP, Houses Of The Mole' -- the first since 1986's clanging industrial masterwork Twitch to be recorded without longtime partner/bassist Paul Barker. But Paul quit! What can you do when a guy quits? Anyway, Mr. Jourgensen was very friendly and down-to-earth, but it was pretty clear by his speedily-paced and quickly-halted answers that he had much better things to do than sit on the goddamned phone with some moron all day, so I made the decision to cut it off after 15 minutes. Herein is our telephone conversation, coordinated and scheduled by Al's lovely wife Angie Jay. My questions are awfully bold; his answers are surprisingly plain (text).

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Hello?

Al?

Yeah, that's me!

Hey. My name's Mark Prindle.

What's up, Mark?

I've been a big fan of yours since about 1990.

Uh-oh!

Buying everything.

Alright!

Your Acid Horse, your PTP....

Uh-oh!

Yeah! So in addition to this new Ministry, I saw that you're working on a new Revolting Cocks album too?

Yup.

What's that one sound like?

Well, it's called Purple Head, and it's a take-off on Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." You know we did "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," right?

Yeah.

Well, we can never keep our fingers off of that kind of mockery pie, so we're doing Purple Head and it's just as juvenile and lurid and delinquent as all the other Cocks stuff.

Excellent. Do you know if it's gonna be out soon?

We've already done a couple of tracks for it and we're releasing one of them for free download on our web site - on the Ministry web site on July 4th. And you can check it out from there. That song is called "Prunetang."

Ugggh. Okay.

Okay?

Sounds nice!

And we have a new singer in the band too. It's Groovie Mann from Thrill Kill Kult. So yeah, it should be cool.

Alright. And what's the new Ministry album sound like to you? I've only heard right now, umm....

"No W"?

"No W," yeah.

Well, it's fast and furious, and everyone's saying it's the best album we've ever done.

Really!?

Yep.

Is there any difference in the sound from when Paul was in the band?

Oh big time, yeah.

What did he bring to it?

Paul was bore of a computer guy and I'm more of the guitar (*EXTREMELY LOUD HIGH-PITCHED BEEP*)

OOOH!

Hello?

What was that?

I have no idea.

Okay.

But at any rate, yeah, it's a lot more thrashy. It's a lot more like (*EAR-DEFYING HIGH-PITCHED SCREAMING PAIN BEEP*) It's a lot more like Psalm 69. Can you hold on one second?

Sure!

(*UNBELIEVABLY PIERCING HIGH-PITCHED TONE INSERTED DIRECTLY INTO MY EAR FOR A FULL MINUTE*)

Hello?

Hey!

Yeah, we just got done filming a video for "No W," so that was the editing guy. We're starting editing today, so we've got lots going on.

What else is going on? More than two albums?

Well, that's pretty much! Two albums and a video all within the span of six months - that's pretty good.

Yeah. Plus your last album just came out last year, didn't it?

Yep.

Before that, it had been a while, hadn't it?

Right. Well, before that, I was a heroin addict for like 16 years so everything took longer. Since I cleaned up, it's a lot of fun again.

How did you clean up after all that time?

You just get sick of it, I guess. Everyone reaches their point in time where either they die or they get sick of it.

Why did you start?

Oh, who knows, you know what I mean? A million reasons.

Oh, okay. When was it? Was it in the late '80s?

That was probably in the mid-'80s.

Oh my goodness!

Yep.

16 years!?

Yep.

Was it really painful to get off of it?

When I finally quit?

Mm-hmm.

Ah, you know what? I wish I would have done it years ago, but you don't know that until you try it, so....

Well, you got a lot done for a heroin addict!

Yeah, I did pretty good, but then it started getting debilitating and I just was like, "Whoa, enough of this shit," you know? I enjoy my music a lot better than my drugs.

Oh, okay. Are you at least happy with all the work you did?

Of course, yeah. No regrets on anything.

What did you listen to growing up? Were you into punk and country? Or...

Yeah, that's about it. I mean, punk rock really influenced me, but the basic metal bands, your Zeppelin, Stones and Floyd, and then your Southern rock bands. I listened to a lot of stuff. I listened to a lot of old jazz and a lot of old country and I think I was pretty well-rounded.

How did you end up in the With Sympathy-type music?

That's the only album that I don't like, and that's basically because it was written by producers and by record company people. I just signed the contract and didn't know any better and did what everyone told me to do, and then after that I just kinda said, "Well, fuck you. I'm gonna do it my way."

Oh! Even at the time, you didn't like the record?

No, I hated it. To this day, I've never listened to it since I got it done. I was fed up with it. I almost quit music because of it.

Really!?

Yep.

Who was that other guy - Stephen George?

Just some drummer guy.

Was Twitch more of the kind of thing you'd been wanting to do at the time?

Not only that, but Twitch was stuff that I was doing before With Sympathy came out. Some of that stuff was already four or five years old, but the record company didn't want to use it, so....

Ugh! How did you get involved with that record company? If they knew what kind of music -

It's typical of record companies. They sign you because you're unique - you're doing something unique - and then they want to put you in a mold so they can sell records.

Ohhhhhh. Was it just a one-record deal?

Well, I sued to get off the label.

Okay. Alright. Do you know if you're gonna be doing any more collaborations? You used to do a ton of the collaborations.

I still have my Lard project that I do with Jello Biafra. I just saw him about six weeks ago, and as soon as the Cocks record's done - we gave Jello six songs and he's writing lyrics for them, so we'll keep going on that too.

Do you write all the music?

I write all the music, yeah.

Has it always been like that?

99%, yeah.

So on the new album here - it appears to be very focused on our Mr. President.

Well, we hate that fuck.

Yeah, he's not too good.

No. And not just him - everything he stands for, his entire administration, which is the same administration basically as his Daddy, which was just as corrupt back then and we railed on them back then on Psalm 69. Which is another reason I think a lot of people are saying this is Psalm 70. It's 1 better!

What boggles my mind is that there are so many people who still seem to care when he has a speech coming up or something. I mean, there's just nothing true coming out of his mouth ever.

That's because it's not even coming out of his mouth. It's coming out of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz - it's out of those peoples' mouths. And then Kenneth Lay at Enron and etc. etc. on down the line of this entire corrupt oligarchy that just feeds him his fuckin' lines. He's just a puppet head. The guy is completely inarticulate and just slid by on his Daddy's name at Yale. I mean, you tell me one other person that graduated from Yale that is inarticulate. Yale's a great school, man. I would have given my left nut to go to Yale, and here's this idiot that, you know -

What do you think about the whole Iraq thing?

Well, obviously of course it's just blood for profit. Halliburton and all the oil companies - it's just a giant cash grab by a very corrupt administration while they're endangering lives and completely making the world a dangerous place.

I don't know much about what was going on in the first Bush administration. Was he as bad as his son?

In a sense, except that he at least had his own opinions every so often. Right now it's the same people - Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz. All were part of the Bush administration - the first one - and they dictate policy. Them and the oil barons, which is what the Bush family has been involved with, from Saudis to Texans, as far as the oil trade for many years. That's what dictates policy.

Do you think Kerry's gonna be - I mean, at least he's better than Bush, I suppose.

We're doing our best to make sure that happens.

Let me see what else I can ask you.... So when you did "One Just Fix," was that anti-? Or was it just a comment on what your life was like? Or how people viewed you?

That's just what art is. It's just commenting on what's going on around you in your life at the time. In my life, that's what it was at that point. It was just completely like anger at waking up one day and realizing it's not just a weekend warrior thing - you're an addict.

Oh. It's hard to hear your lyrics through the distortion a lot of times; are there any other songs that are really personal to you in terms of your own personal life, rather than political or social commentary?

In this administration, it is becoming personal. It affects everyday life of the common person. (*BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP*)

Oh, that's another call?

Yeah, that's okay. You know, the whole censorship thing and everything - it is personal. And almost 99% of my shit is personal.

Have you run into censorship-type issues against you?

The right wing doesn't like me much. They've got me on their web site on the little Watchdog thing. Me and Michael Moore, right?

Yeah. I only know Jello Biafra as this punk icon. What is he like as a person? Can he separate what's expected of him from being a human being?

Jello's just Jello. There is no stage act. That's just him. He's very politically aware and he's a very intelligent guy and he's also a freak! I love him.

A freak!? Okay. I heard he was doing some stuff with the Melvins.

Yeah. He's just finishing up that album now, and that's why we have to wait for him to do the lyrics on the Lard stuff. We gave him six songs to start working on, but he's finishing up that record. That's been going on for about a year though, so I hope it finishes soon.

What is your main focus these days? Is it your music or politics or your family, or is it just -

All of the above. Our main goal this year with touring is that we're gonna tour right up to the elections, and we want to make sure - I'm a member of punkvoter.com; it's a political organization - and we want to sign up 200,000 people this summer at our shows. So I'll be out at the voter registration booth outside of the show right after soundcheck doing my bit. I'll trade an autograph for an autograph. You sign on the dotted line and register to vote, and I'll give you my autograph!

Ha! Who are you touring with?

Skinny Puppy.

Okay. Are there any new bands that you're into these days?

Well yeah, Slipknot's good. But they're not that new. I don't know any real real new ones right now. I've been so busy - when do I have time to fuckin' listen to any new music? It's like, think about it, you know? What I'm doing right now I don't think has ever been done even in my early salad days with Wax Trax and stuff. I mean, I've got three full albums, a video and a tour going on within a year.

Wait - what's the third full album? Lard?

Lard.

Oh - ALL this year!? Oh my goodness. Wow. So uh.... good luck to you! What ever happened to, umm.... Well, not "whatever happened to," but... Was there ever any interest in doing another Pailhead project? Those were both really good records too.

It's a matter of scheduling problems and everything else. With some of these things, it just really happens by chance because people have time off and they're in the right city and blah blah blah. It's really difficult. That's why I'm really stuck to the three-headed monster now - Ministry, Revolting Cocks and Lard - because, I mean if something else comes up, yeah I might do a single with somebody else or I love collaborating, but there's just no way to sustain three bands and a tour or two and still -- there's just no way!

Jeez. Yeah. I can tell the differences for the Revolting Cocks, but do you write differently for Ministry and Lard?

I just write, and then at the end of the day, we look back at what we wrote and say, "You know what? This kinda sounds like Jello would really like this" or "I really like this" or "This would be more oa Cocks thing." We just bulk write.

Do you write only when you're in a studio with the guys? Or do you sit around the house strumming the guitar on the couch? Or -

A little of both.

How do you keep focused and interested?

You learn something every day. And I'm more energized now than ever because I don't have a monkey on my back. This is like fun again.

Were you clean for the last record too?

Yep.

That album had a lot of really interesting, neat ideas on it, I thought.

Thank you.

You look through your whole career and every record seems to grow and grow and grow more than the last one. The only one that didn't seem to was, umm.... Dark Side Of The Spoon seemed very similar to the one before it.

Well, we went off in a little bit of a jazz direction on that one. That was when I was at the very height of my addiction, and Paul did a lot of computer work on that, so it kinda didn't have as much guitar-kinda drive on it.

Oh, you were trying to go for a jazz direction on that one?

That's just where it ended up. It's not anything we planned. We just go in for the journey at the start of each record and see what happens.

What was it that led you from - or do you know what led you from - the Psalm 69 speed stuff to the sludgy stuff on Filth Pig?

You just do what you do, at that particular point in time. I don't have a preconceived notion when I go into the studio or anything. We just let it fly. Whatever sounds good. And right now these times are very aggressive as well around us. Right now it's very dangerous times that we're living in, and this record is much more reflective of like say a Psalm 69 because I felt that going into the first war it was the same thing. So it's just a reflection of society.

Was the last record political much?

Somewhat. I mean, in all the interviews and everything we did. I saw this coming a mile away as soon as he got elected, but I was just coming out of a lot of personal demons with that record. I had just gotten clean, so I was singing about my immediate environment. That's the way all the records are I've done. They're just your immediate environment.

I know I'm going all over the place here, but since I've been a fan forever, I've got all these questions built up in my head. Where did you get that tape from the beginning of "Beers, Steers & Queers"? What is that?

That's an answering machine tape from a nightclub in Houston.

Really!?

Yep.

So who wa -- okay, so that guy I guess worked there, and -

The club owner gave us the tape. He said, "This is funny. You might wanna hear it."

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, okay.

It was an answering machine tape, I guess.

Okay. Umm, alrighty, well, I uh, I guess uh - what else would you like to say about the new album?

It kicks ass! Period! That's all I've got to say.

Ha!

Nah, I'm dead serious! You can ask me about any other record; I'm very honest about it. It's like some of the records I've done I don't like - my favorite records were The Land of Rape and Honey and Filth Pig, but no longer. This is by far and away the best record I think we've ever done.

Cool! Okay, excellent. What are your thoughts on The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste? Up til now, that's been my favorite.

Ehh, it's okay. It has its moments, but I probably only like about three songs on there out of the nine or ten. And this one I'd say I like about eight out of the nine, so you know....

Then don't put the ninth on there!

What's that?

Then don't put the ninth on there then!

Ha! No, because the point is you release it and somebody likes it. And there was a reason why you kept working on it, so you like it for some reason, but in context when you look back, it's just like, "Nah." I'm a perfectionist. I always could've done better, I always could've done this, I always could've done that, and a lot of the problems or whatever that I've had is mainly like with production - I shoulda did this, shoulda did that - that kinda thing, but I don't let it eat away at me. I'm just honest about it. No, I'm not 100% satisfied with everything I've ever done, but do I regret doing anything? No.

Cool. How long have you been playing the guitar?

Uh, let's see... About 30 years?

Oh my goodness! Wow. How come you weren't playing it on like Twitch and stuff?

Because that's what I wanted to do at the time, you know? Computers were just coming out and that was exciting. I don't want to just fuckin' keep rehashing the same shit. I like experimenting.

Are there any new sounds on this that people -

Well, you tell me.

Okay. When's it coming out?

It comes out June 22nd.

Okay. Alright, thank you so much for your time.

Alright, Mark.

And have a fun year!

Okay, you too.

Okay.

Bye bye.

Reader Comments

uglytruth@hotmail.com (Hossein Nayebagha)
Congratulations on getting an interview with Al Jourgensen...I'd say it's the biggest one you've gotten so far.

I just realized Al Jourgensen is really old, for some reason I thought he was 36, but I just remembered that he's...46?, so I guess he hasn't played the guitar for THAT long of a time, more like average for rock musicians. Still, that was an interesting question...I remember reading a review, probably of TLORAH, where the author made a comment about how Jourgensen is no "guitar virtuoso", and the aggressive, stiff, guitar sound on the record is a result of that.

I'm also surprised to hear that he only likes about three songs on TMIATTT, but then again I haven't heard that album in ages.

AntiSix@aol.com
sure i guess we could all throw our two bits in as far as what we think about al...his albums....etc....but...for gods sake....are you kidding me...he is one of the few pit bulls we have left......

while half the bastards on earth seem incredibly interested in the "newlyweds" or something else semi-within that veign....al seems to remind us that we occasionally had the energy to do shit........

now it is down to just bitching about fox news and hoping someone else does something.....

in that event...in that situation......i wonder how much chutzpa we really have or deserve...

gibbsy@post.cz (John Marshall Gibbs)
Hi Mark,

Just read your interview with Al Jourgensen. Very cool.

I met Al on a four hour train ride in July 2003 during Ministry's European tour...a combination of luck and timing.

ME:"Hey, are you in a band or something?"

AL:"Yeah. Ministry..."

We talked for the whole trip. I got his whole life story. He liked me cause I had no idea who they were, though I had heard the name.

He invited me to see a show, I went backstage blah blah blah...and this led to me jamming with them at Sonic Ranch studios outside of El Paso a few months later.

Wow, he's off heroin, but man, can he drink red wine ! He reeked of patchouli, red wine and cigarettes. Really irritated most of the time when I was there. Everything seemed to get on his nerves. He wore the boots...always!

He could be a nice guy...or a cranky tormented genius.

The head of the cleaning staff was on sick leave and her daughter took over for her...so the whole studio complex was a little messy.

The one thing I could say is "what a bunch of babies." Really spoiled, really weird...

We used the same towels for a week...I made a joke about saving Paul from using dirty towels.

AL flipped out at me for suggesting to Paul Barker that I had "dibs on the towels"--this set Al off completely. "You ain't got dibs on NOTHIN'! We're Ministry and we paid for all of this!" rah rah rah etc.

Paul arrived with a truck full of equipment from Chicago...he shared the same bathroom as my girlfirend and I.

Al was mixing and remixing every day for a German band (Soil), scrapping the results every time... He really hated it...and was only getting paid 10,000 dollars for the job...I couldn't understand why he abused himself like that. He hated that music.

I was thinking I would get in the band, but I bailed out. Al was too erratic for me to handle...too much like the worst sides of my own personality. I left the studio.

Incindentally, Paul was great, really down to earth. He told me Ministry is "a sinking ship" and if I wanted to get on, I should be aware of what was going down. I played him some of my music. He was impressed with my voice, saying I could be the next Robbie Williams (YUK! Is that a COMPLIMENT?).

Angie was a total space case (also an ex-junkie...a marriage made in heaven)..."Al's trying to MANIFEST soemthing right now..."

What can I say? Al pissed me off!

But at his best, he could really make me laugh...what a sense of humor when he's in a good mood.

And I still love the music.

Alot more happened, good falafels with their engineer Justin J. Leeah, fattening burritos and other Mexican food...running out of water when the studio owner Tony left for a pecan convention...what a weird world they live in !

More details are going on my webpage.

Thankyou, and GOD BLESS AMERICA ;)

tomgipson@gmail.com
I wonder what Al thinks of the Animositisomina record? I swear, that is a brilliant record that is over-looked. It's just brutal, yet trippy and weird at the same time. It's great to play that album while watching a spectrum analyzer. It's nothing but one big peak! HAHA

P0WER0FLARD@aol.com
haha Al is always talking about a 3rd full length lard album....but it never happens! I hope it happens eventually.

PRAISE THE LARD!

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