MINISTRY’s Al Jourgensen and MK’s Alex Zander Talk Grammy’s, Dubya, Tommy Victor and The End of MINISTRY as a Band
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all photos by Steffan Chirazi
interview by Alex Zander with editing assistance by Shelly Z and Angie J
Al Jourgensen founded 13th Planet Records on Halloween night, 2004. The artist-friendly label, run and managed by both Al and Angie Jourgensen, is currently home to Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Buck Satan and recent signings Prong and Ascension Of The Watchers. 13th Planet Records’ catalog features Ministry’s Rio Grande Blood album which contains the Grammy nominated tracks “The Great Satan” and “Lies Lies Lies”, the remix album Rio Grande Dub, The Revolting Cocks CD Cocked and Loaded and its remix album Cocktail Mixxx.
Available now from 13th Planet Records, Ministry’s final studio release - The Last Sucker featuring performances by Tommy Victor (Prong), Paul Raven (Killling Joke), Sin Quirin (Revolting Cocks) and Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory, AotW).
Al Jourgensen- Guten Tag Alex.
Alex Zander- It’s good hearing from you, man.
Uncle Al - Alright, thanks for the card.
AZ-*laughs* That was a fun one.
Uncle Al - Yeah, it’s fun for you. You’re not as old as I am.
AZ- Not yet.
Uncle Al - I’m getting fucking way up there dude.
AZ- One more year and you are a half century, right?
Uncle Al - Yeah that’s impossible, a person that has lived my life, to live fifty years. Fifty years on this planet is pretty cool.
AZ- You and Keith.
Uncle Al - Yeah exactly, we’re pickled.
AZ- That’s it.
Uncle Al- *laughs*
AZ- First of all, congratulations on your latest Grammy nod.
Uncle Al- Uh what? Last year?
AZ- Uh yeah, on the last one. You were more deserving of it, over Slayer, I believe.
Uncle Al- Oh, whatever.
AZ- Do you think the subject matter though? You know I thought… you know.
Uncle Al- I couldn’t even believe the thing was nominated, considering it was about a 9/11 conspiracy, you know. That was actually kind of surprising that they would even give a nod towards that. A nod towards the lunatic fringe left.
AZ- You know, I talked to Tommy about that, yesterday. What is the Grammy ceremony experience like for a band like Ministry?….To be there with those people.
Uncle Al- Well, I think Tommy had a gas. Did you ask him the same question?
AZ- Not exactly the same way. He was…
Uncle Al- That was like, my third so it was… whatever. It was the first time we actually went. I was completely outraged that they didn’t have a functioning bar, or a VIP place for us to go. There was no smoking or no drinking. Just Nazi ushers everywhere. So I just started heckling all of the bands that were playing and shit, basically almost got thrown out - embarrassed Tommy. It was awesome. *laughs*
AZ- It’s kind of hard to imagine, sitting there with them.
Uncle Al- It was pretty cool, just watching Tommy’s expression. Him going, “Be Quiet man, you’re creating a scene. Be quiet.” I was just heckling the hell out of everyone. Just because I was mad. What do they expect? They don’t serve food, they don’t serve drinks. They don’t even let anyone go out for a smoke.
AZ- You don’t get that impression from watching it on television.
Uncle Al- NO, everyone is all happy, smiley, warm and fuzzy. I was just pissed. *laughs*
Tommy, Al and Sin
AZ- How fine a line is that to walk, like you have done. When you are doing a big record like the last three, the subject matter in which you are addressing, with a tongue in check sense of humor, yet you are also serious. Is that a hard line to walk? Say you are John Stewart or David Letterman… They just make Jokes about the guy.
Uncle Al- That is basically all I do. *laughs* I mean, you know what? It seems to fit within my personality. I joke around a lot about it because I think humor is the best catalyst and the best remedy, for a lot of things. Albeit sarcastic humor obviously. That is just my personality, so it is not exactly something I conscientiously think about straddling or a fine line. That is just the way that I am.
AZ- I really like this record, man.
Uncle Al- It’s a pretty good record.
AZ- The guitar playing, listening to it, is a departure from anything, I’ve heard you do.
Uncle Al- Sin kicks ass on it. No doubt the transition between Mikey (Scaccia) and Sin has been seamless.
AZ- Right, but also has the old Ministry groove back.
Uncle Al- I started playing around with bass synths again and having some fun with it. We knew it was our last record. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious effort, but it was kind of like, it was easy, like riding a bike and fun again. It was fun because there was no pressure. You know it is your last record you’ve already announced it a couple of years back, so there was no pressure in making this record. It was really cool. It pretty much enabled us to have a lot of fun. Not only that, but Me, Paul and Tommy had another record under out belt, working together. So there wasn’t the pressure of throwing three people in a steam pot and see what happens, you know. We already pretty much knew what the hell was going on with each other, so we just had a gas on this record.
AZ- What’s the Tommy Victor experience like?
Uncle Al- He’s insane so he belongs with the 13th Planet family. He’s absolutely neurotic. I love the guy to death.
AZ- You have a very similar work ethic.
Uncle Al- Yeah.. Well, no not really. See he’s about five years behind me. Five years ago I had that work ethic. Now I’m getting way too old and my bones are creakin’. I’m trying to slow down, but it doesn’t seem like I’m doing a very good job of it because I have so much shit going on. Tommy is a hard worker. That is what I’m trying to say.
AZ- Definitely that east coast work ethic. “Roadhouse Blues”, how does that fit into the record and why did you pick that song of all Doors songs?
Uncle Al- The Doors are a real hit or miss band. Some of their shit is absolutely classic, other shit is just masturbation and Jim Morrison going off into the dessert and doing peyote and thinking what he is actually saying means something. This song always struck me as the dichotomy between the fact that they are doing a blues song, a straight classic blues song, and the lyrics are complete fucking nihilistic and anarchistic. You know, Fuck it, everything is fucking up around me. I’m just going to get shit faced and drive my car fast. To me there was like a juxtapose… this disconnect between the actual. Because blues songs have lyrics that are my girlfriend left me or I’m gonna slit my wrist or some other depressing crap that is all personal in nature. I can’t get any booty, or I can’t get laid whatever. This just struck me as it needed music to go along with the lyrics, because the lyrics are completely nihilistic. I love it. So I have wanted to do that for a long time.
AZ- I kind of imagined, when I saw it was going to be on the record, what it was going to sound like. It met my expectations. I liked when you added on the beginning what was released on the American Prayer album.
Uncle Al- Right, “Before this shit house goes up in flames?”
The final all original MINISTRY CD now on sale EVERYWHERE
AZ- Yeah. I just read an interview that I had posted on line about a week ago about RevCo. Is this RevCo tour going to happen before the Ministry tour?
Uncle Al- No, no, no. Right after it. Actually they are going to come right on the heels of each other. Ministry’s World Tour doesn’t get done until late August. We start rehearsal in September for the Cocks. The Cocks album comes out is September and then tour in October.
AZ- Well, Keep the energy going.
Uncle Al- Yeah, It’s easy for you to say you youngsters.
AZ- Why wait until spring for the tour? Why such a long time?
Uncle Al- We have the cover album coming out too. Right on the heels of the launch of the tour. The cover album is a gas. We are just finishing up with it this week. It’s is absolutely, hysterically funny. You’ll love it. There is a bunch of seventies covers that we just totally torture. It’s just a fun party record. There are people from Cheap Trick, Static X, Fear Factory, Prong, the list goes on and on of a lot of different people that just came by and collaborated. A lot of different covers that you did air guitar to when you were a kid.
AZ- What about Ted Nugent?
Uncle Al- Well, no Nuge this time. I actually almost wanted it because of his politics and my politics. I thought it would be funny to cover a Nuge song but we’ve got some other really great shit on there.
AZ- When you hang up the Ministry hat, what are you working on? They tell me that every afternoon you are in the mix. What are you mixing?
Uncle Al- Aww, Jesus Christ Alex, It’s insane right now. I’m just finishing up the Ministry cover album, the final mixes by my birthday October 9th . The next day I start on a sound track that I‘m doing for this horror movie. I actually already shot a cameo appearance in… a perverted art professor that beats off to nude models.
AZ- There’s a departure, huh?
Uncle Al- Not a big stretch for me… I’ve already shot that. Now I’m doing the sound track. It’s going to have a lot of 13th Planet bands on it. Some original stuff and some soundscape, and a lot of other shit on there. That will be out on 13th Planet too, the soundtrack to the movie called “Wicked Lake”. Which is the same people who did Hostel and a bunch of other shit so it should be pretty good. I’ll work on that for a month. As we speak I have two studios. Not just the one, I have pre-production studio. All the Revolting Cocks members are down here we are half way through writing the Revolting Cocks album. It’s the best Cocks Album I’ve ever heard, period.
AZ- Who is part of this?
Uncle Al- It’s Clayton Worbeck, Josh, our singer, which we call Bratwurst. His last name it’s… *yells* What’s his name again?
Angie- What? (says a voice from the background)
Uncle Al- *yells* It’s our singer.
Angie- Josh Bratwurst. (quietly, in a matter of fact way)
Uncle Al- *yells* I know we call him Josh Bratwurst, but what’s his real last name?
Uncle Al- Bradford… I have been calling him Bratwurst for so long that I forgot his real last name. So Josh and Clayton, Sin and Me. We are five songs into it right now and it’s really cool. At any rate, the whole thing will be written by the time that I’m done with the sound track. Then I’ll start mixing the Revolting Cocks record. That takes me all the way into to next year when we start rehearsals for Ministry. Then I’m doing a six month tour. Then a month off and the Cocks tour supporting the new album. Then I also have a Cocks cover record that we’re writing simultaneously right now that I will mix when I get back from tour. So that take’s me into 2010 Right now. It’s crazy.
AZ- I’m very surprised, and I’ve e-mailed Angie about this in the past. Everyone asks me about this all of the time, neither you, or Jello, have been on Bill Maher or John Stewart. Is this something that you would consider doing?
Uncle Al- Yeah, sure I’d consider doing anything, really.
AZ- Bill Maher, I never miss the show, but there are the same people on all the time. The same band people, and it would be nice to get someone from our side.
Uncle Al- Well write to him, I’d so it in a second. Republicans ‘donena skar me’ (bad red neck accent) *laughs*.
AZ- They put them against each other on that show. They split them up and they let each other have it.
Uncle Al- I have no problem with doing it. I obviously am informed and well read on the subject. I have no problems going on there and not making an ass of myself like some people like the Dixie Chicks or Ben Affleck . Which come out of the woodwork every four years when there is an election and all of the sudden become political. I obviously have no problem and I know Jello doesn’t either. It’s just a matter of maybe getting Bill Maher informed on what cool people are out there instead of having the same guests all of the time.
AZ- Right. Speaking of … Have You heard from our friend American Patriot lately?
Uncle Al- Not me personally, but been so busy Alex.
AZ- He’s been so quiet. I don’t get hate mail anymore.
Uncle Al- That’s good.
AZ- I’ve only had one person resign from the magazine because of our association, other than that American Patriot has been the only bad mail. The next election is in the can as far as I’m concerned.
Uncle Al- Yeah, It’s so ridiculous. What I’m proposing for myself, looking at the slate of candidates. It’s becoming more and more blatantly obvious that we have a one party system with two names. The only way we are going to get alternative parties, Green Party or Libertarian or whatever, is to cast enough votes to start having them match federal funds and also to refinance campaign contributions. So it’s not already run by special interests and agendas are not already chosen before you even start. We need an election full of ideas not full of K street and Washington.
AZ- I sent an e-mail from a reader to Angie for you to address when you have time. It goes more into that subject.
Uncle Al- I’m basically… well. Everyone was mad at Nader because “he cost Gore the election”. Nobody cost Gore the election. First of all it was stolen, and second of all the ideas were there, and it was a complete differential to the republican agenda or point of view, he would have gotten more votes.
AZ- I went to the Nader rally and my only problem with it was, I saw a lot of hippy kids there who I don’t think went and voted.
Uncle Al- Probably not, there is a lot of hypocrisy going on. What I’m saying is good for him for raising the potential for alternate parties to the one party system we have. The protest vote? Fine you will never get anywhere unless you do voice your opinion. If enough people vote independent, I know everyone will get mad because I’m not voting for Hilary “because a republican might sneak in if we split the vote, blah, blah, blah,” it’s the same fucking thing anyways so who cares.
front to back: Al, Sin, Tommy and Raven
AZ- You are linked to some of the greatest writers of our generation. Burroughs, and Leary, both great, some of the best writing, but also with excessive personalities. One person is missing. Why was there never a Hunter Thompson?
Uncle Al- You know, I don’t know. I did meet Bukowski, which was good. Just by chance you know, scheduling or whatever. It was by chance I met these guys and just happened to really get along and saw eye to eye on a lot different of things. Just basically lead a charmed life, but maybe not charmed enough to meet Hunter. That would have been good.
AZ- Finally, what is Buck Satan going to sound like?
Uncle Al- It’s absolutely pure fifties country. The real deal, not any of this achy, breaky, fakey, dickey, licky, hard Billy Ray Cyrus with a mullet or pretty white chicks from Canada that are blonde that marry other big Nashville stars or whatever country has gotten to. We are going back to the real roots. A lot of it is going to be the Bakersfield sound a lot of what Dwight Yoakam did is the sense that… the early Dwight stuff.
AZ- A very simple production then?
Uncle Al- Yeah, of course. I mean there is only like three or four instruments so how hard could it be?
AZ- I listen to a lot of David Allen Coe lately. Did you hear his metal record?
Uncle Al- No,*laughs* I don’t think I want to.
AZ- He did that album with Dimebag and Vinnie Paul, before Dimebag died called Rebel Meets Rebel.
Uncle Al- Good for him, I just know when Hank 3 went spandex it kind of didn’t seem right.
AZ- He shook ‘em up though.
Uncle Al- Yeah good for him.
AZ- What I read is that after the Buck Satan thing that is going to be the end of it. Is that really going to be the end of it?
Uncle Al- Yeah that will be the last thing you see me on. After that is straight production, soundtracks, political activism, sitting on my porch learning other languages, relaxing running the label, basically my golden parachute.
AZ- Label’s a good thing I’m glad you did that.
Uncle Al- It’s good in the sense that we see the looks on the faces of the artists on here and after dealing with the fucking major labels and the major indies and shit, to be able to have a voice in what your direction is going to be. We really stress independence. We don’t want to just sign bands that have their hand out and expect a limo to pick them up at the airport. We want work ethic, we want artists, we want people without pretension and people with ideals and with the intelligence to back up those ideals. So far we have really hit the mark with ? Burton Bell and Tommy Victor. Paul Raven, his new release is going to be on the label. So it is kind of in the family, but it’s a good family. We’re putting the fun back in dysfunctional for families.
AZ- I just thought Tommy was a good fit for you guys. His record is really good too.
Uncle Al- It slams, it just fucking slams. It’s the best shit he has done in fifteen years.
AZ- It sure is. It’s not as heady as the last one. By the way the Hollywood Bowl thing, did they film that?
Uncle Al- I hope so because I was in rare form, I went out and insulted everyone out there, before I even started. I was like hey, how are all you old rich people doing?
AZ- I just watched the Sgt. Pepper, Bee Gees movie before that was announced. Man, I would have given anything to be out there to see that.
Uncle Al- That was a gas. That was a lot of fun. I had Penny Marshall of Laverne and Shirley sitting in one of those little picnic tables right in front of us with her wine. Totally getting off on it and hitting on Sin who was up there with us. The president of the L.A. Philharmonic, this 90 year old lady, wearing jewelry older than I am, old money. Telling us it was the most outrageous thing she has ever seen, and that was fantastic. It was ridiculous. I have never played in front of a crowd without a mosh-pit so I didn’t know what the hell to do. So I just basically started insulting all of them and that seemed to work so…
AZ- *laughs* I just hope that thing comes out the line up was amazing. I just can’t even imagine. Cheap Trick was the perfect band to do it.
Uncle Al- It was really funny too because I haven’t seen Aimee Mann in about twenty years. You know she was the original base player of Ministry.
AZ- I had no idea.
Uncle Al- We used to go out together in Boston about twenty years ago.
AZ- No shit.
Uncle Al- Twenty five, something like that.
Uncle Al- I‘ve got to tell ya, this new Cocks record, Un-fucking believable. It Blows away Last Sucker and Prong. It’s Cocks at its most seventies glam. These are like teen anthems, dude.
AZ- I like the fun stuff.
Uncle Al- This blows away the last Cocks album and we are only half way through it and already there are three better songs than the last album. I thought the last album was Okay. I think this one is gonna freak some people out.
AZ- It’s good to know and I’m glad that we get a chance to expose it. I guess we’ll talk again when that time comes.
Uncle Al- And, we’ve got the cover album so we will talk before then even.
Jourgensen is one of the more outspoken musicians in the industry today, frequently offering scathing criticism of right-wing politicians. Beginning with Ministry’s 1992 album Psalm 69 and continuing with the 2004 album Houses of the Molé, his favorite target has been first George H.W. Bush and then his son U.S. President George W. Bush, Ministry also contributed a song to the first Rock Against Bush album. The theme continues on Ministry’s 2006 offering, and in Jourgensen’s various side projects.
“Al Jorgensen Heads Off Into The Sunset. Illustration By James Francis.”