Ministry’s Al Jourgensen: ‘Fascism Is Like Herpes – You Get Your Flare Ups’
Time and time again, Al Jourgensen has proclaimed that Ministry are finished, only to resurface later on with a new album. Such was the case with their latest effort, AmeriKKKant, and as a guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, the industrial pioneer explained what necessitated the band's return. Jourgensen also discussed socio-political issues that dominate the news media and his discontent with the media from a news and social standpoint. Check out the chat below.
How are ya?
Just peachy, man. Just as peachy as one can be under this fascism infected world that we're living through right now.
Definitely some scary times.
Yes man. Scary music for scary times.
Al, you were adamant about not making another Ministry album after From Beer to Eternity. What changed your mind?
Well, it was a sequence of events that was interesting, to say the least. First of all, we've got this orange [bleeped] as president so that's a start that changed my mind. I was asked that right literally 24 hours after Mike Scott, my best friend, and collaborator of 25 years, asked "Well, when is Ministry touring next? Well, like, now that Mikey is dead..." I was just like "Dude, this is not the time or place. I'm not thinking about Ministry. I doubt we will do anything else."
Literally within 24 hours of his death, I had press asking me Ministry plans when I could give a shit about Ministry at that point. I just wanted to grieve over my friend and I still wasn't planning on making a Ministry album. I did a Surgical Meth Machine record by myself with an engineer and in the making of that record, about halfway through, I got word of my old booking agent had booked us a tour in Europe and we were contractually bound to do a Ministry tour.
So, I had to replace Mikey for a tour so I didn't get sued for not fulfilling my contractual obligations and went to Europe, put together a few new people in a band and we started playing around Europe. I wasn't really into it at first but when we started doing it we actually sounded pretty good. So, I said "Well, when we get back from Europe let’s see what we sound like jamming in a studio." Which, I haven't done since about 1995 or 1994 or something like that. I think the last time I was in a studio with a band actually recording was probably on the album Filth Pig.
So, it had been a long time. It's usually just me and an engineer and 4 walls and loud speakers but this was an actual band so it was really organic in the way that it happened and we actually sounded pretty good. So, within that one week of just jamming in the studio the basic skeletal structure, the template of this album was written in one week with just a few people jamming.
So, it came out really well and I still wasn't sure if I was going to release it as Ministry but all the sudden we got this tangerine terror as president and I was like "Well, you know what, it sounds like it's time to do a Ministry record." So, that was the evolution on the thought process of how this album came to be.
There are performances on the new Ministry album from guys from Fear Factory, and NWA. What usually initiates the process of one collaborating with you?
Pretty much that we are just buddies. We hang out. We have the same ideals; the same kind of thought process and things and we all live in the L.A. area and we all just got together and just jammed and stuff came out well. Like I said, the original jamming for this album was me, Roy Mayorga, Tony Campos, Jason Christopher, Sin Quirin, Caesar Soto, we just went in a room and jammed but afterwards we took it back to my studio and then we just sat there for the next six months and added all the different layers on it.
Then that is when people just popped by whether it was Burton or Lord of the Cello this crazy cellist guy I met up at the Pasadena flea market or Arabian Prince or DJ Swamp, they would just pop by the studio to see how things were progressing and everyone who has worked with me knows you can't walk into a studio with me without me going "Well, don't just sit there and listen. Do something." Right? I'm kind of like a task master, slave driver if you will, probably a bad choice of words, but either way, it's like make yourself useful. It all turned out really good.
It sounds like you felt a drive to make this record. How much fulfillment is there in the process of being strongly compelled to do something?
There's lots of different ways to - obviously, there are circumstances in society right now and not only in America but around the world, is pretty dangerous. The rise of fascism is here. Not here to stay but it's here right now. To me, fascism is kind of like herpes. You get your flare ups of fascism. We had it in the '30s right before WWII and we're having it again now. Nothing a little antibiotics and cranberry juice can't kill off.
Either way, we're in a pretty perilous position in our societal cycle right now. So yes, that's compelling, yes. But the main thing was to do this album organically in the way that we did it was like I said, it's been over 25 years since I have been in a studio with a band just riffing. That was compelling enough for me, musically and obviously, topically, there's a lot going on that when you add the two together it just seemed like the right thing to do.
The LP is very direct societal commentary. How would you voice your political and social opinions and observations if you didn't have the platform of making music?
I would do it through other means I'm sure. Fortunately, I have music to fall back on. I think everyone should get involved in some sort or another, whether it's protesting or doing art of any form or just writing. Which is also an art form. But you really need to document what's going on here. To me, this album is basically a snapshot of our times. It's like an old Polaroid snapshot. I felt more like a photographer on this album than I did a musician in some senses.
Because, I look around at what's going on and took a snapshot. Very similar to that series Black Mirror - that's what this album reminds me of if you want a cinematic equivalent. It's pretty much, "Okay, this is where we're at and this is where we're going, is this where you want to be?" I sure as fuck know I don't want to be in this position. So, you express yourself about what you see around you. It's basically interpreting - holding up a mirror and interrupting what I'm saying.
It's an interesting time in American history and clearly a source of discontent by the sound of AmeriKKKant. How has the current social climate made you reevaluate and adjust your own moral compass?
My moral compass remains the same. Society is basically spinning out of control with a weaponized social media run by people with an agenda. What once started as the age of information with the Internet has now become the age of disinformation. Through it all, I've managed to be a technological idiot so I haven't been as affected as much but have watched other people be affected by this.
I don’t use Facebook, I don't use Twitter and these kind of things, but I see how it's weaponized and how its divided our society. It's not something I really want to be a part of. But my moral compass is basically the same and I'm just the village idiot going around with an old Polaroid camera taking pictures of it, and showing it back to people saying, "Okay, this is where you're at, are you sure you want to be here?"
The awareness of your lyrics has the potential to influence people. How does that affect your creativity having that level of responsibility?
Oh, I don't consider a responsibility at all. I just calls them like I sees them. You have a baseball game or a football game and you need players and refs. That's basically all I am. And at this point, I'm definitely throwing a yellow flag and calling a game misconduct or whatever a technical foul in basketball or whatever you want to call it. It's not my responsibility to fix things but it's a collaborative effort for all people to fix things. Anyone tells you they can fix things, you immediately shouldn't trust. I think that's called fascism in my playbook.
Thanks to Al Jourgensen for the interview. Grab your copy of Ministry's 'AmeriKKKant' here and follow the band on Facebook to stay up to date with everything they're doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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