Al Jourgensen is dismantling Ministry, Lard, Pailhead--the whole industrial works

May 9, 2008


Anyone with even a passing familiarity of former Chicagoan Al Jourgensen’s prolific output with Ministry over the last three decades is forgiven for being a bit skeptical about claims that the band’s current jaunt, dubbed the “C U LaTour,” is his last.

Not only that, but the singer and songwriter who pioneered the industrial thrash sound also insists that he’s wrapping up the final recordings from the most notable of his many side projects — the Revolting Cocks, Lard and Pailhead — and he’s confining himself to a future of merely producing other artists at his studio near El Paso, Texas.

“It’s the end of all of it,” Jourgensen insists. “I just think it’s perfect timing with the Bush administration hopefully going away. I’m turning 50 in October, Bush is leaving and it just seemed that synchronicity was at work where you have a half-century milestone, you’ve been through a couple of Bushes and a Reagan and Clinton’s [scandals] and everything and you just finally figure, ‘That’s about it!’

“I’m seriously busier and happier than I’ve ever been in my life because of the label [13th Planet Records] and the studio I own and the bands that I work with and the kids. I think I told you before, I always wanted to be a teacher or professor, and in a sense, it’s almost like School of Rock, because the kids I get on my label or the kids that I’m giving Revolting Cocks to or the kids that come and record at my studio also get an education of what not to do in a career and who not to listen to. So that’s kind of fulfilling in a sense — it kind of fills my little professor/groupie fantasy.

“On top of that, I get to be in the studio, which is where I want to be,” Jourgensen concludes. “Listen, being 50 years old and being on a tour bus and trying to figure out what truck stop to [use the restroom] in is not my idea of glamour!”

Well, in terms of plainspoken humor, at least, this is still the Alien we’ve come to know and love.

Born in Havana to Cuban parents just before the revolution, the artist was raised in Chicago by his immigrant mother and Norwegian stepfather, whose last name he adopted. After attending the University of Colorado, he first made his mark on the music scene in a fairly lame synth-pop band called Special Affect before starting Ministry in 1981. The new band continued in the flowery dance-pop vein on its first few singles for the local Wax Trax! label and its debut album “With Sympathy” for Arista Records, but by the time it signed to Sire in 1986, the sound was becoming more aggressive.

The start of Jourgensen’s collaboration with Paul Barker yielded the first classic in Ministry’s discography, “The Land of Rape and Honey” (1988), which introduced the industrial-metal assault that carried it through the alternative era, influencing artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Tool and Marilyn Manson. But Ministry’s commercial success was always sabotaged by Jourgensen’s self-destructive behavior, including barely concealed addictions to heroin and cocaine, which prompted a police raid on the Texas ranch that became the group’s home in the early ’90s. Jourgensen was sentenced to five year’s probation.

“My proudest accomplishment was kicking dope,” Jourgensen says without a moment’s hesitation when asked about the biggest accomplishment of his career. “I’m serious, because without that, there wouldn’t be much to reminisce on — it’s hard to reminisce six feet under. I literally woke up one morning and said, ‘Either I should kill myself today or I should do something about this, because this in-between [stuff] is no good.’ So I think honestly it’s not a musical accomplishment I’m proudest of, because I think there are many of those still to be made by me in one form or another.”

“Still to be made…?” Wait a minute, didn’t Jourgensen just say he was retiring?

“Well, you know, last year, I did seven albums in one year! I did ‘Last Sucker’ [the 2007 album that is allegedly Ministry’s last original release] and the ‘Cover Up’ record [the band’s new covers disc]. Then the new Revolting Cocks record is already done, and I’m telling you, Jim, it’s the best record I’ve ever done in 30 years! Plus, I produced the next Kong record and the False Icons record and Watchers, and I did a soundtrack for a movie that is coming out next September called ‘Wicked Lake’ about four lesbian vampires.

“So yeah, I’m not going away totally.

“But from now on, I just produce; I really don’t see myself writing much of anything for a while, and if I do, it would be concentrated on finishing up chapters on things like Lard and Pailhead, which I’ve already talked to Ian MacKaye and Jello Biafra about, and they are all for it. In that capacity, I think I might write, but with different singers.

“As far as all the other bands, with Revolting Cocks, I gave it away to three guys — Josh Bradford and keyboard player Clayton [Worbeck] and our guitar player in Ministry right now, Sin [Quirin] — and that’s the new breed of Cocks, and I made them sign a contract with the label saying that they have to give it away to three other knuckleheads in five years. So it’s going to be Revolting Cocks in perpetuity, kind of like the industrial Menudo, if you will!”

Is that it? What about his long-rumored solo album?

“I don’t rule it out… I do want to do my Buck Satan record that I’ve been yammering about for 20 years, and to me, that’s almost like a solo record. If I came out with full-on 1950s and 1960s old-school country, that’s about as naked as you can get. We’ll see what the scheduling is like in all of that. But pretty much, I’m happy behind a consol barking out orders and mentoring kids. That’s my dream job.”

Yeah, right, sure, Al. Congrats on the farewell tour. But you’ll have to forgive us if we don’t believe we’re really saying goodbye to Al Jourgensen anytime soon.