Industrial rock pioneers Ministry almost called it quits until Steven Speilberg talked them into getting involved in his speculative opus AI. Now they are back as big as ever with a new album and bone -crunching tour. Tom Luffman shoots the sheet with front man Al Jorgunsen.
Alien. Buck Satan. Hypo Luxa. This half of industrial rock duo Ministry has gone by many names. Al and Paul Barker met in the early 80s and started putting out some of the best underground music in the world. With singles like Cold Life, All Day, and the Goth anthem Everyday is Halloween, Ministry established themselves as a band in the vein of, but different from, the crop of new wave bands of the time.
With the release of 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey, all bets were off. Ministry transformed dance beats with bass and drum sounds to a ferocious hell-invoking hymn of chaos, sin, and drug-fueled madness. They followed with A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and hit platinum, literally, with Psalm 69, The Way to Succeed and Suck Eggs. At the zenith of their career in terms of album sales, the duo retreated into the more introspective and heavy sounds of Filth Pig. Dark Side of the Spoon followed in 1999 and met with less than spectacular sales. Rumors surfaced that Ministry was through. Then the boys received a phone call from a fan: Steven Spielberg. Spielberg wanted Ministry in his science fiction movie AI. They decided to work things out, stop the infighting and start writing together again. Al also decided to divorce himself away from his nasty mistress heroin. To complete the full circle, Al then married his real sweetheart at Graceland. Yes, the Graceland. The King of Rock n’ Roll’s home. He’s come through Hell and back since his first album and he seems determined to walk down the path of his life clean, at least for the next long stretch. With all his success and wreckage in the rear-view mirror, he went on tour in Texas to support Ministry’s new album Animositisomina (that’s “animosity” forwards and then backward without the “y”.) I sat down and had an often light-hearted and insightful conversation with one of the greatest musicians to rise from the American underground. One of my musical heroes: Mr. Al Jorgensen.
MD: How is the tour going so far?
AJ: It is going phenomenal — absolutely awesome!
MD: So you are in Texas now?
AJ: Yup, the crowds are great- really rowdy. Where
are you calling from?
MD: Columbus, Ohio- you’ll be here April 27th.
AJ: Yeah, we’ll be kicking your ass soon enough.
MD: So you are in the land of George W. Bush- how is that working?
AJ: He’s here every night in the front row! (laughs)
MD: So is the Bush family your nemesis?
AJ: (laughs) Yeah, W’s got shit all fucked up.
MD: You recently got clean and now are on tour. Is it hard to stay clean when fans come up to you and offers you drugs? <Is this supposed to be “when a fan” and “offers” or “when fans” as Karin marked it and “offer” in singular?
AJ: No, because it all comes from within. Once you, on your own, decide it’s time to quit, it’s easy. Starting (the process) is the hard part.
MD: Did getting clean give your new album an unexpected edge?
AJ: You tell me.
MD: Well I think it’s your best album in years.
MD: When you went to the studio to record this album was there a certain kind of sound you wanted to achieve?
AJ: No, we go into the studio with no expectations. It all comes from inside. We just try to get out of the way and follow the music.
MD: I read in a live chat on your website that you lived with Timothy Leary for two years. What was that like?
AJ: It was everything you would imagine it would be. I saw many different shades of life. (laughs)
MD: Leary did some work with Revolting Cocks also.
AJ: Yeah, we had fun together.
MD: William S. Burroughs did some vocal work on the Just One Fix single. How was it working with him?
AJ: It was great. We shot the video on his property in Lawrence, KS.
MD: Are there any other cultural icons you’d like to work with?
AJ: No, they’re all dead now. Maybe in my next lifetime.
MD: What do you think about new country (music)?
AJ: It’s all this crossover pap smear shit.
MD: You listen to mainly classic country, right?
AJ: Yes, that and old jazz.
MD: What do you think about the new Johnny Cash album?
AJ: Well Johnny is the new king of industrial. (He covers Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails on the new album)
MD: What did you think of the Limp Bizkit cover of Thieves?
AJ: I haven’t heard it. That’s not my kind of music.
MD: Scott Ian is playing on the new Lard album, how did that come about?
AJ: Me and Scott live about a half a mile from each other in California. I’ve known him for about 15 years.
MD: When can we expect an album?
AJ: Well since Ministry is on tour now that’s going to push back the album a bit. As soon as our tour is over we’ll get in the studio and work at the Lard album.
MD: Will Lard tour?
AJ: Yes. We are going to tour this fall– probably before the album is even out. We have to do that because of time constraints.
MD: Have you ever thought about doing a tour of all your current bands? (Revolting Cocks, Lard, and Ministry)
AJ: Whoa! Ministry is like a three-ring circus. That would be a 30 ring circus.
MD: Yeah, I figured you and Paul would be wiped out after 3 sets with different bands.
AJ: Hell yeah.
MD: Is Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters still in the works?
AJ: Yeah, we just wrote a song on the back of the bus last night, in fact.
MD: What can your fans expect when they see you live on this tour?
AJ: Two hours of absolute anarchy!
MD: I have to ask you a James Lipton question now.
AJ: Oh no, I’m rolling my eyes. (laughs)
MD: If there is a god and heaven what do you want to hear him/her say when you enter?
AJ: Hmmmm. (in his best southern accent) Come on in!
MD: And Buck Owens playing in the background.
AJ: *RADIO EDIT* yeah, Tom, thanks, definitely Buck Owen playing in the background.
MD: Anything you would like to add?
AJ: Yeah, everyone come on out and have a good time getting rowdy!
MD: Oh, believe me, I’m not going to be sitting on the sidelines or in the press box for you guys. I’ll be right in front of you in the mosh pit.
AJ: Hell yeah.