Ministry: Interview with Al Jourgensen

MinistryFew bands can retain an aggressive, mad-as-hell stance for a quarter-century. Despite a career of stylistic experimentation, lineup changes, vacillating critical support and drug abuse, Ministry have remained—scathed, yes, but wiser from the wear. Spurred on by, of all things, George W. Bush, Al Jourgensen is currently enjoying what might be described as a second wind, ferociously performing his most widely-accepted work since 1992’s Psalm 69.

Now, with the recently released Rio Grande Blood, Jourgensen continues to pummel his new target with even less restraint than was allowed to the first Bush. Hell, he only wrote one song about Bush Sr., but this is the second full album (the previous being 2004’s Houses Of The Molé) that Junior’s been in the crosshairs for—and it looks like more is on the way. To sweeten the pot, he garnered the aid of Tommy Victor from Prong and Paul Raven of Killing Joke for this new studio effort and its ensuing tour, ensuring an all-out industrial thrash-fest.

But it’s not the only thing that Jourgensen’s been keeping busy with—he recently revived his old side-project, the Revolting Cocks, for a new effort, Cocked And Loaded, which saw a release only a few months before Rio Grande Blood, both on his new label imprint, 13th Planet (which he’s running as well).

Sometime between planning a tour, a new Lard record with Jello Biafra and, eventually, his retirement, Jourgensen found a few minutes to talk to The Aquarian about, well, all of the above.

First, the new Revolting Cocks record. You worked with a few of your old collaborators with that record, Gibby Haynes, Jello Biafra and a lot of new ones too; Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Rick Neilson from Cheap Trick—how was the task of getting all those people together?

I swear to God, I think it’s like the planets lined up. Billy and I have known each other for years and years—when you’re down in Texas, you just kinda bump into each other every so often —and of course I’m a huge, huge fan. And Rick, I’ve known him since Chicago days.

But it just worked out that they were literally passing through and had a day off in El Paso—both of them, same set of circumstances. It just seems that all the schedules have lined up correctly. Getting Paul Raven and Tommy Victor (for Ministry), as well as all these other knuckleheads in the Revolting Cocks—it’s just bon chance, as they say.

This is the first RevCo record in about 12 years. Are there plans to reviving any of the other side projects?

Absolutely. Jello worked on some of the Revolting Cocks stuff and on the new Ministry with me. So while he was here, we pinned him down long enough to start getting the skeletons of songs for the upcoming Lard album, which is the next project that we’ll be doing.

I remember seeing you twice on your last Ministry tour and nothing was played from Filth Pig, Dark Side Of The Spoon or Animositisomina. Why?

It’s a ladies choice, you know. It’s kind of the flow and ebb of the set and I just thought it worked really well together. Also, it was an election year and we wanted to concentrate more on the political agenda aspect of Ministry.

I just felt that it worked. This tour, for instance, we’re doing eight songs off of this new record. Four songs off Molé , three off Psalm 69 and probably just one off of Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste.

Fans shouldn’t expect to hear anything off those middle records then?

Nah, not really. Those middle records were kind of a blur to me anyway. I was living on dealer standard time back then.

There’s definitely a change of attitude. Was Houses Of The Molé a new breaking point?

That was very refreshing for me, not to sit down and watch Paul Barker type. (laughs) I actually got to turn my amps up to 11 and become a juvenile delinquent punk rocker again and that was very necessary, I think, for the stability and future of Ministry. Because otherwise it was becoming like a fucking chore, and you know what happens when you have to do chores; they never get done.

If it’s even possible, it seems that Rio Grande Blood is even angrier and more focused on the evils of the Bush administration than Houses Of The Molé. Tell me a little about the process—how do you channel all that anger into a record?

It’s kind of easy to do. I think probably the crowning glory was we were actually still writing when Cheney shot somebody in the face. At that point, it goes beyond absurd. (laughs)

Do you wake up in the morning and look at the news?

Wake up in the morning, go on the internet, check out all my friends’ little tip sheets and information sheets from Washington from Then I do the flip through on the majors—CNN, and even Fox every so often for a laugh—try to catch the BBC and at that point, after my third cup of coffee, I’m pretty fucking pissed off. (laughs)