INTERVIEW: Al Jourgensen of Ministry
SoCalMusicToday.com’s Chris Loomis recently spoke with Ministry mainman Al Jourgensen regarding the new Ministry album AmeriKKKant. In his usual outspoken way, Jourgensen talks candidly about the chaotic state of the world, inspiration for AmeriKKKant, the recording process featuring guest artists, the tragedy in Florida and cell phones at his shows.
You can catch Ministry on tour starting March 22 in Anaheim, CA.
Hello Al – thanks for taking time to speak with SoCalMusicToday.com much appreciated! I last spoke with you about two years ago regarding the Surgical Meth Machine release. Great to talk to you again!
March 9 is the big day, Ministry’s new album AmeriKKKant will be released. Let’s talk a bit about the album to start with. I have listened to the album and I LOVE IT – it has all you would expect from a Ministry record. In typical Al fashion this is a bit politically charged . . . let’s start with the album title – AmeriKKKant with three K’s. How did you come up with that name and what is the meaning of it?
It’s pretty self-evident really. You look at the title and what is going on in the world and in the United States today, it’s the rise of the right wing and the rise of fascism. So the three K’s is needed to be in there and it’s AmeriKKKant and not America because we can’t keep going down the path we are and expecting any type of fruitful results. So like I said it’s pretty self-evident.
How about the album artwork . . . the Statue of Liberty with a hand over her face in embarrassment. Talk about how that came about and its meaning.
That would be Sam Shearon who did some of the X-Files comics, he is a good friend of mine. He is a great artist and we sat around with a couple bottles of absinthe talking about things and through some discussions, Sam created the artwork absolutely spot on for this record.
There are certainly Trump soundbites and I believe the lyrics are in reference to Trump on “Game Over”, “I Know Words” and “Twilight Zone”. How specifically did Trump influence you on this album?
Trump is the low hanging fruit, but Trump is not what the album’s about. I mean we are living in Trump times obviously because of mainstream media and social media, Trump is all they want to talk about.
What the album is really about, whether it’s Trump or Bush or anyone else who is a leader, as well as all the leaders in Europe whether old school or new leaders and of course Putin . . . it’s about the system that produces these nutbags and not about the nutbag themselves.
If you went to the doctor with a large cyst on your neck and they remove the cyst, that doesn’t mean you are cured . . . what caused that cyst in the first place? So now you are cystless but you are still full of cancer. It’s about the system that keeps producing these yahoos – that is what the album is about.
It’s not just about politics either, it’s like the audio equivalent of a series like Black Mirror where the director Charlie Brooker holds up a mirror to society and says OK this is where we’re at, this is where we’re going, is this where you want to be? And my answer is definitely the F*#k No. Once again it’s more about the system than the figure head. It’s easy to rail on Trump or Bush but why does the system keep producing this and allowing this to happen?
The overall theme of the album seems to hit the nail on the head as far as the current state of the USA as you just alluded too and the songs seem to all blend together in that respect. Was that a pre-conceived idea to create a continuous theme or did that just happen?
A little bit of both. I mean it’s like a Polaroid snapshot of a mirror being held up to our current actions in society – so in that sense it’s a narrative as each song talks to each other. But the way it came out – I did an album with Surgical Meth Machine before this Ministry album – I started flirting with the same thing. That album was about the impact of social media in our culture and I noticed all the songs were talking to each other. These songs all cried out for that – I’m trying to tell a narrative, trying to paint a picture so I kind of meshed them all together.
On the songs “Victims of a Clown” and “AmeriKKKa” you have Roy Mayorga from Stone Sour playing drums in the studio vs using drum programming. How did you get Roy in on drums for those songs and what makes you use a human drummer vs programming?
That’s the interesting thing about this album, it’s the first organic album I’ve recorded since like 1994, the last time I was in the studio with a full band was on the album Filth Pig. It’s been a long time – usually it’s just me and an engineer in a windowless room with a computer.
So how it worked out, this is kind of a long story but bear with me . . . So during the Surgical Meth Machine project, I didn’t want to do a Ministry record as my guitarist just passed away and he was my best friend for 25 years (Mike Scaccia) so Ministry wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. I was informed by my new manager that Ministry was contractually obligated to play some shows in Europe – I really didn’t want to do that but if I didn’t I would get sued. So I did the Ministry thing and I was able to get Roy and some others to play on this tour of Europe and we fulfilled our obligation.
About half way through to fulfill this we realized we were sounding pretty dam good so when we got back I booked a week worth’s of studio time and myself, Roy and others just jammed to see what we could come up with. Like I said it’s been a long time since I jammed with a band in the studio and within about a week we had about 75-80 percent of this album knocked out. We knocked out all the templates or skeletons for the songs in a week then I spent about 6 months layering textures on top of that but this sounds much more organic than other recent Ministry because we did it as a band.
One of the faster songs on the album “We’re Tired of It” has Burton C Bell from Fear Factory on lead vocals while you play guitar. This is the ultimate ear candy for Ministry and Fear Factory fans – how did this collaboration come about?
Well Burton and I have been friends for like 20 years and we live not too far from each other and he was basically a pest while we were recording this album – he was there every day. So I was like since you’re here why don’t you make yourself useful. So that was born out of friendship and like-mindedness in our approach to things. He nailed it – he really did a great job on that song.
Burton is joining Ministry on tour when you hit the road at the end of March. Will he just participate in the songs he is singing/speaking on or will he have any other contributions to the show ?
Well I’m going to be playing a lot of guitar on this tour so I will be sharing the vocal duties with him. We also have Joey Jordison (former Slipknot) coming out with us on drums for this tour. He last played with Ministry on the Rio Grande Blood tour. This is really a dream lineup for nightmare times. It will be Joey on drums, Tony Campos on bass, Burton on vocals, me, Sin and Cesar on guitar and John Bechdel on keyboards. DJ Swamp from Beck is also coming out with us so this is going to be an interesting tour.
As you stated Joey has toured with you back in 2008, how did Joey get involved for this tour?
The cosmos parted in the right way and his schedule opened up. It’s all about scheduling. It’s the same reason, people have been screaming for years about a follow up LARD album with me and Jello Biafra but our schedules just haven’t opened up. We want to do it but it’s always a matter of scheduling as everyone has their own projects and agendas. But it just worked out with Joey.
The time is right for this record and this band and all the scheduling is working out better than I have ever seen . . . suddenly everyone had time off to do this – it’s pretty cool and I’m really excited about it.
I’ve read this upcoming tour will be quite a visual spectacle with giant inflatable Trump chickens, video screens and Antifa soldiers. Tell me about that and is there any other antics you can tell us about prior to the tour?
Man you gotta come buy a ticket to see that shit . . . you gotta come to the show and I’ll tell you about it in person! We’ll leave it at that.
You are going to be inviting local voter organizations to all of the upcoming concerts to register new voters. Tell me about that initiative and what is your goal for this?
Well our goal is to get people registered obviously. We are working with an organization called HeadCount (https://www.headcount.org) this time around. We previously during our 2008 tour, worked with an organization called MoveOn.org which setup booths at all of our shows and members of the band would come out there helping to get people registered and making sure people have a voice – I think that’s an important thing and we have the facilities to do it. Use your voice if you have one.
Do you have any thoughts on the recent mass shooting in Florida? What is your opinion of what the solution is for preventing this type of violence?
Well that’s too complex a subject for a half-hour interview . . . but I will say this, the colleges sparked 1960’s revolutions on campus and now it seems to be down to high-schools which only makes sense in the age of social media where everything has evolved faster – it’s all at hyper speed. So now we have high-school students doing the thing that nobody else has done which is shine the lights of shame on these politicians and I applaud them wholeheartedly. I am laughing my ass off right now. These are things we should have been doing and didn’t do effectively for many years. It takes a bunch of high-school kids who have endured trauma to finally get the public to see reality and common sense so I am all for it.
So the live concert experience has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. In the old days fans were in the moment connecting with the live performance. Today most fans are watching the show through their phones, recording and snapping photos the entire time. Does that bother you at all to see a sea of phones in the air. What are your thoughts on this?
It’s a sign of the times, once again it boils down to the system we have created – you don’t enjoy the moment anymore what-so-ever but does it bother me – no. It’s funny as while people are doing that, it’s exactly what we are railing against on stage. But it doesn’t bother me as I expect that at each show. This is the type of thing as a society we really need to look at you know.
Ministry just announced a European tour this summer after the North America trek. What’s next for Al Jourgensoun and Ministry after that? Do you have any other plans for any of your other projects outside of Ministry?
Well we are going to be touring for this Ministry album up through Christmas – we’ll probably swing back into the states after Europe this summer. Also I am about half way through a new Revolting Cocks album right now so that’s probably the next thing on the list after Ministry.
Thanks Al for the conversation, it was a great pleasure to speak with you. I will see you for the tour kickoff in Anaheim on March 22. Have a wonderful day!
Thanks so much – See you in Anaheim!
Ministry – AmeriKKKant
I Know Words
Victims Of A Clown
TV 5/4 Chan
We’re Tired Of It