Al Jourgensen Interview
May 07, 2006
BY JASON SONGE
Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen's voicemail message is fitting. It's a recording of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song, in particular the section that goes, "And up through the ground came a bubblin' crude. Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea."
On "Rio Grande Blood," the Ministry album released last Tuesday, Jourgenson, who has been a Bush(George Herbert and George W.) critic since the '80's, hits listeners with his most vicious attack yet. Spliced in between pummeling drumming and speedy guitar riffs are audio clips of Bush calling himself an asshole, while others declare his greed and love for crude oil.
Jourgensen accuses the Bush administration of killing black people in New Orleans and coordinating the 9/11 attacks. To think that Jourgensen is actually a funny guy over the phone.
The acclaimed godfather of industrial metal is off drugs(not booze) and bringing The Revolting Cocks and a Ministry set full of news songs and hits("Psalm 69," "Jesus Built My Hotrod," "N.W.O.") to the House of Blues Monday, May 8th. I talked him over the phone this Sunday about, more than anything, Bush's ability as a rapper.
Thanks to Mark Roberts at the HOB for setting this up.
LNO: So, y'all are in Texas, right?
AJ: Yeah, I guess we're gonna be heading your way tomorrow.
LNO: Yeah, definetely. That's gonna be great. How has it been doing the anti-Bush stuff in Texas?
AJ: No problems, here, man. Look, his approval ratings are seven out of ten people think he's a dick, so it's not like we're really treading dangerous territory, here(laughs).
LNO: (laughs)Yeah, I guess you're right. Are y'all still working out the kinks with the show? Are things running smoothly?
AJ: Last night went flawless, man. I was very impressed. It was only our second show. The first night, of course, a few problems, but last night was really fuckin' cool. We might not actually suck by the time we hit New Orleans(laughs).
LNO: (laughs) Good. I had gone on your forum and some people were talking about how (drummer) Joey Jordison was nervous the first night and he wasn't hitting all his marks.
AJ: Just the first night, man. Last night was flawless.
LNO: Good. Do you ever read the stuff on the forums?
AJ: Hell, no. I might start believing some of it.
LNO: (laughs) Yeah. One of the guys(sinuendo) he said, "You left the show with the feeling of 'must...rise....against....government....fuck....bush!' It could've given you an epileptic seziure at times."
AJ: (laughs) That's nice!
LNO: Yeah, yeah, it is sorta nice. And he said, "Kudos to whoever put those clips together," so I wanted to ask you, who does put those clips together--the videos?
AJ: A guy named Zack Pisaro, who's just awesome, man. This guy out of El Paso. We've got really, pretty cool visuals behind us this time.
LNO: Great. Is it safe to say you're the father of industrial metal, or does that title go to someone else?
AJ: I think Billy Gibbons is, man, not me. ZZ Top used sequencers, too.
LNO: When did you know you were doing something different than the rest of the industrial musicians?
AJ: By "(The Land of) Rape and Honey" we were pretty well aware that we had developed our own niche, there, so we just took it from there. About '85 or '86, something like that.
LNO: I hear some orchestral influences in your music.
LNO: Does that come from listening to soundtracks--or symphonies?
AJ: I'm a big Wagner fan, of course. I take a little bit out of everything. Just throw it in there and slap a Ministry logo on it.
LNO: Ok. What's your comfort music? What do you fall back on when you don't wanna be challenged?
AJ: Buck Owens, Hank Sr., Patsy, George Jones...old country, anything from like '40's and '50's up to the early '60's. Anything after that, country is crap.
LNO: Yeah, all that contemporary country, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, it's no good.
AJ: It's horrible. Achy, fakey, dicky, licky.
LNO: (laughs) Who did the guitar work on the new album?
AJ: It was done by Tommy Victor(Prong) and myself.
LNO: On "Ass Clown," and on some of the other songs, too, I guess, it's got that Randy Rhoades, Zakk Wylde sound.
AJ: That's a nice thing.
LNO: Yeah, it makes the music more aggressive.
AJ: The whole album was written in three and a half weeks with Paul Raven(Killing Joke), Tommy Victor, and myself, believe it or not. Just jamming in a garage.
LNO: Really, you wrote it in three weeks?
AJ: Three and a half weeks, yeah.
LNO: That's impressive. How did you create the Bush monologues on the album?
AJ: It was the weirdest thing, man. We were recording in the garage, and fuckin' George Bush stepped out in front of it and started throwin' down rhymes.
AJ: We were like, "Jesus, this guy is good." We kept it. And then he split.
LNO: It was crazy! Wow! I know they have those Internet machines where you can splice together parts of his different speeches and make him say things...
AJ: The most fucked up part of doing this record was sitting through 100 hours of that idiot and trying to find something intelligent, so in the long run, we just had to stick with the stupid shit.
LNO: I like "Khyber Pass" a lot. It's pretty much my favorite song on the new album. I guess 'cause it's ethereal, if that's the right word, and more subtle than some of your other stuff.
AJ:(Laughter) Yeah, it's definetely the velvet hammer of the record. It's not just a blunt instrument.
LNO: How did you get inspiration for that? Do you listen to a lot of Eastern music?
AJ: Look no further than your nearest Zeppelin album.
LNO: Yeah, no, that totally makes sense to me--"Kashmir."
LNO: On "Just One Fix," you've got that lyric, "Driving through New Orleans at night/Gotta find a destination/Just one fix." Is that autobiographical?
AJ: Totally autobiographical.
LNO: So, where were you in New Orleans?
AJ: I didn't know. I was just driving through--trying to get to L.A.
LNO: The lyrics, they're more narrative than personal, it seems like, and they're certainly not all about drugs or even pro-drugs. Still...
AJ: That was back in the day, ya know? Young and stupid, what can I say?
LNO: Do you approach that song differently now that you're off drugs?
AJ: No, it's just a kick-ass song. Most of the songs I do are just snapshots of my environment at that particular time. That was then, and this is now.
LNO: So, you're playing in two bands(Ministry and Revolting Cocks) each night, right?
AJ: Yeah, I get to drink twice as much beer. I play for beer and the deli tray. They actually pay me for this.
LNO:(laughs) So, that sorta answers my next question--is it more difficult to play in two bands instead of one each night, but it doesn't seem like it.
AJ: No, it mixes it up. I don't really sing in the first band. I just play guitar. I'm the old guy in the corner. The second band, I guess I gotta earn my keep.
LNO: Some artists are scared of mixing their music with religious or political beliefs, but you're obviously not. Do you censor yourself or think that you're going too far?
AJ: No. Matter of fact, I always think I didn't go far enough. There's other records, other days. I have a motto that my best songs have yet to be written.
LNO: So, what's your argument if you come across a pro-Bush person?
AJ: Don't listen to me. Listen to your own head and your own heart. Somethin' is rotten in Denmark, if you know what I mean.
AJ: Somethin' smells like fish around here, and I don't even have to tell you that. I just want people to get their head outta the sand and start doing their own fact-checking. You do the math. Something stinks around here.