Ministry: Taking Baby Steps Towards the Future

  Ministry was formed in 1981 and is still helmed by lead singer Al Jourgensen. I inquired about parallels he sees with 1968 and this year’s midterm elections, as well as if he was focusing on any particular races closely. We discussed the political aspects of the song “Wargasm.” Al explained on this go around the tour will be very different, with half the set going towards songs from The Land of Rape and Honey to Psalm 69. Al elaborated on a conversation he recently had with former member Paul Barker about possibilities for working together in the future. We looked back on the origins of the steel cages that were made famous from the In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up album. Al gave an exciting remembrance of the recording of the song “Flashback” from The Land of Rape and Honey. As a finale I inquired what Al would like to accomplish if he could be President for a year.  

I have seen you lately saying America right now has a lot of parallels to ’68. After last night’s election do you still have those feelings?

  Last night was just baby steps. I think the only positive signs that came out of last night was the record amount of first-time voters for midterm elections. Out of those first-time voters an average of 62-65 percent were left learning voters. Putting that into perspective, it bodes well for the future. It wasn’t the results that I and a lot of other people were hoping for; it is not a band-aid on cancer. We literally need to treat the cancer. I knew one election wasn’t going to cure all of our malaise. I was a little more cautiously hopeful. There a lot of really good indicators that things could be considerably different come 2020.

Were there any races that you were eying very closely?

  I was looking at Chris Collins in New York, Duncan Hunter (Congress) in California. Two of them are under federal indictment, and one of them died three weeks ago. The Republicans voted for them just to keep a Democrat out of office. [Laughs] I find that hysterical. The standard of your civic duty and being a patriot, and caring about your country has gone out the window by right-wing politicians and Trump in particular. The idea is to win at all costs, no matter if you are electing dead people and indicted felons or soon to be felons.

  As far as the other races, coming from the left, and spending my last ten years in Texas I was really wrapped up in the Beto O’ Rourke Senate campaign. I went to El Paso and visited his headquarters when I visited some of the tent cities in Tornillo. I went to a rally in California, and was wrapped up in the Texas one. It was disappointing, but the indications are very good for the future going down the line. As far as I am concerned, Texas is now a purple state. It is no longer an exclusive red state that they can just bank in their column.

  It’s a bittersweet election. Let’s say you are a little kid and you come down on Christmas and your parents promised you a brand-new bike, but you are not able to have it for two more Christmases. [Laughs] You know they bought it, and they showed you the receipt, but the bike is still not under the fucking tree.

What song on AmeriKKKant do you feel addresses the most dangerous situation facing the world at this moment in time?

  Jesus, I really think it is not individual songs. There are various different topics it focuses on like voter apathy, totalitarianism, it’s all pretty dangerous shit. I really have come over the years more of a glass full than a glass empty kind of guy. I actually see some positives. That album is a call to arms for people to wake up and at least do your research on how you want to proceed with your life. Don’t just take all the media hype where Russian troll bots or the mainstream media. People need to be civically engaged and educated to what their surroundings are and what the future may be. I think it is just

One of my favorite songs on the album was “Wargasm.” I lived in Japan for a year and got to do a course on North Korean Politics; the only reason to invade North Korea is the fossil fuels, no reason else.

  True, but you end up in situations with unstable governments; this is a reason why we prop up the Saudis. It’s obviously a complete dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, but we know they are stable because there is a heavy-handed rule of law. We know that when we send our petrol companies in, they won’t be nationalized like what happened in Cuba in the 1960s. Cuba in the 1950s, under the Batista government, was a friend of the government and more importantly a friend of big oil: companies like Dutch, Shell, and Exxon Mobile. Then when Castro got in he nationalized them.

  Nothing pisses America off more than to steal their oil. Until we can get more stability from the North Korean government, big oil does not want to invest in the country exploiting North Korea’s resources. They also have a huge amount of natural minerals. They are waiting to pounce on it. That is what imperialist capitalists do. They go in like locusts and vultures and pick the bones clean. Until there is a stable government there, and an understanding that they won’t fuck with our big multinational companies, I don’t see anything that is going to happen.

What song is the most cathartic to perform live?

  The one song we haven’t performed yet. It’s called “AmeriKKKa.” It is pretty poignant. You viscerally understand what is going on. You just can’t understand that it has gotten to this point. You just need to throw your arms up in the air. The mood of the song is pretty atmospheric and reflective. I can’t wait to try that one out on stage. Obviously “Antifa” is a fun one for us to do. It is really up-tempo and the crowd reaction is great. It’s like, stand your ground and don’t take bullshit from right-wing bullies. I am not condoning all of antifa’s activities but sometimes they take the same tactics of the people that they are trying to bully.

What is it like for fans to see you on this go around?

  It’s going to be a little different, as usual. We are doing the AmeriKKKant album in its entirety. Then we go off for a quick break for five minutes. Seeing it is the 30th anniversary of The Land of Rape and Honey and we haven’t done those songs on a consistent basis for over 20 years. We will do half of that album and then do old school new school. There will be a few off Psalm 69, and a few from The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste album. Either way it will be a two-hour show. There will be new sets, props and visuals. There will be some guests along the line. We are bringing in Carpenter Brut from France and Alien Weaponry from New Zealand. They sing in Maori and are heavy as fuck.

I saw you mention possible working with Paul Barker. Have you discussed how much input he will have on the next album?

  It is in the conversation stage. If he will be on the album, I don’t know. We may do different projects. I may just be on his project. He may be on Ministry. The water is under the bridge. It’s time to bury the hatchet. There was a reason why we were such good friends and collaborators. We had a nice couple of chats, and a little bit of promotion collaboratively on the Waxtrax documentary that is coming out in the next few weeks. I am flying tomorrow with Jello Biafra and Chris Connelly to speak at a film festival in Denver about the documentary and making of. It’s baby steps. I don’t want to commit to anything yet. I do see it as a real possibility that we could collaborate in the near future.

When it came to the studio sessions of The Land of Rape and Honey I read you had some really crazy things happen recording “Golden Dawn.” What was another song from those sessions that had some interesting things going on?

  [Laughs] For instance the song “Flashback” was pretty funny. My wife and I at the time had a really contentious disagreement about something. I just left the house and went to the studio and did the vocals in one take. I was like, “I’m gonna fucking kill her! I’m going to break her neck.” It was like one of those screaming rooms that you have in New York to get out your anxiety. You rent it for an hour and smash shit. The sessions were very tedious since it was mostly just free form jamming.

  Then it was a month of me sitting there with a tape deck and a splicing bar chopping up tape and putting it all together. It was a different way to work. It was quite the paradox in that we had no structure to the songs, people just came in and jammed for 15 minutes. We were doing things that really hadn’t been done before and exploring new territory.

Where did you get the idea to perform in front of the steel cages as exhibited in the “In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up” Video?

  When we came out with Rape and Honey we had a problem with right wing skinheads coming to our shows because they thought it was pro-Nazi and fascism. We started out the song with “Sieg Heils,” those people weren’t good at irony. Instead of realizing that we were completely anti-fascism, we had some confrontations. A lot of things were thrown and there were some fisticuffs. We said, “Fuck it, next tour we are putting up a fence.” It worked out. We had kids climbing all over it. It was like a little jungle gym for juvenile delinquents.

As a final question, if you could become president for one year and could authorize three bills into law what would you pick?

  We would start with a carbon tax. The most overriding problem we have is right-wing/left-wing Antifa vs Fox News … That could start reigning in fossil fuel emissions, since the planet is going to die. And if that happens we’re fucked. The second thing would be universal healthcare which we have to have as a society. Look at ancient cultures; they took care of their elders and now we push them aside. The Republicans want to cut healthcare and social security and any sort of safety net for anyone that has contributed to society for most of their life. The third thing would be to overhaul our education system. Basically, I am pretty convinced that almost all the textbooks are complete fabrications and lies.


See Ministry live Dec. 6 and 7 at New York City’s Irving Plaza, and Dec. 8 at the Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia.