Ministry stays on message


July 2, 2006


When Ministry released its 13th studio album "Rio Grande Blood" last May, former Chicagoan and industrial thrash godfather Al Jourgensen gave fans the second installment of what he now calls "the Bush Trilogy." As unrelentingly angry and hard-hitting as its predecessor, 2004's "Houses of the Mole," Jourgensen says it is Ministry's penultimate release, and that he plans to pull the plug on the long-running underground band in 2008 with a final effort called "The Last Sucker."

Smart, outrageous, bitingly funny and still honing to the (relatively) clean and sober path after the notorious debauchery of the '80s and '90s, Jourgensen was as entertaining and insightful as ever during a recent conversation in the midst of an ambitious tour that finds him not only fronting Ministry but also performing as the opening act with his side project the Revolting Cocks, whose last album "Cocked and Loaded" was released in March. We spoke by phone from Las Vegas as he booked into his hotel.

Q. I hear you just pulled into Sin City, Al. Now that's a town you have some affinity for, right?

A. I used to; I'm much more of a kinder, gentler Al Jourgensen these days! [Laughs] I'm kicking a--, like a good wine -- getting older but better with age.

Q. There's no denying that you've been firing on all cylinders on the last three Ministry albums. Who'd have thought getting clean and sober would make you angrier and louder than ever?

A. Yeah, who knew? But you've gotta admit, it's not really difficult to add fuel to the fire with this administration. This is the first sitting vice president to do a drive-by shooting! Come on -- that's enough right there for me! With three old, grumpy men with an agenda locked in a garage for three and a half weeks, out came this record.

Q. The lyrics and the music both seemed more focused than ever.

A. Yeah, we were staying on topic. The next one will be, too, and that will be the last Ministry record, because I have finally decided that my records during Democratic governments suck, so I need this muse -- the Republican thing -- to go on, and me and [current Ministry bandmates] Joey Jordison, Tommy Victor and Paul Raven will ride off into the sunset, hand-in-hand with Bush, with our very last record.

Q. Suppose a Republican president wins in 2008?

A. That ain't going to happen. But even if they do, that's it. It's beyond Republican, Democrat or independent now. The whole system is broken, and it can only go up from here. But as the government gets better, our records suck. So f--- it! We're going off into the sunset blazing.

Q. Of course, putting an end to Ministry doesn't mean you'll quit music?

A. Oh, no. I have a record label to do, and we're almost back to the Wax Trax! days with this 13th Planet thing, because we have so many bands. I'm producing stuff, I have side projects, and 13th Planet is going to be a label that you pretty much know what you're getting when you buy anything that's on it. It's going to have a style and substance to it, not just signing flavor-of-the-month bands. It will be bands that we want to work with, kids that we want to work with, kids that we want to nurture and develop. I want them to have something intelligent to say, and I want them to be harder than taking a heroin s---. And that's really hard, man!

Q. That does sound a lot like Wax Trax! in the early days.

A. Exactly. Like everything I've done in my career, it's all been bassackwards. I sold out well before I started, and that's been well-documented. Now, when the record industry is taking a complete s---, we decide to start a label. [Laughs] I think it's kind of apropos. It's perfect in a linear fashion with my career of bassackwardsness.

Q. You've also made a new RevCo album, with guests including Jello Biafra, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander of Cheap Trick and someone called Sgt. Major. That sounds like it was a lot of fun as well.

A. Oh, that was a gas! Just watching Billy Gibbons puke on his own beard when we were recording was amazing! He's such a sweetheart and a class act. What was really fun about this record was that despite all the people we attracted -- from [Cheap Trick's] Rick and Robin, to Gibby [Haynes] and Jello [Biafra] -- the day that the record was done, I got a call from Alice Cooper going, "What am I, chopped liver? Why can't I be a part of it?" [Laughs] It was pretty funny.

Q. I understand that Sgt. Major was a real drill sergeant?

A. He's legitimate! He's the one that trained [marine instructor turned actor] R. Lee Emery. Sgt. Major was the senior drill instructor at Parris Island in the '60s and when I asked him about R. Lee he said, "Rookie piece of s---!" This guy is 75 years old, still smokes four packs of cigarettes a day, drinks about 15 beers and is continuously pissed-off. He had never recorded before. At first, he was a little bit nervous and reading off cue cards -- things he had said at Parris Island -- and I thought it was a little bit too sterile. I said, "Now, Sgt. Major, what would happen if some cadet just decided not to get up at reveille and sleep in?" The dude just cracked the mike and went off! After that, he was unstoppable!

Q. This has got to be an intense tour, playing with both bands every night.

A. Tell me about it! I did it for nine straight shows, and it all looked good on paper, but then I wanted to kick the a-- of whoever had this idea. Then I realized that it was me ...

Q. That's the down side of being the label boss: You have nobody to yell at.

A. Exactly. Maybe I'll sue myself!