Sep 2013 17

Uncle Al speaks to ReGen about the passing of Mike Scaccia and the end of MINISTRY, ushering in his new career as an author and comic book superhero!

An InterView with Al Jourgensen of MINISTRY

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

He’s one of the most revered and reviled personalities in all of modern music, having helped to usher industrial music into the mainstream and pioneering the industrial/metal style that has influenced, inspired, and been imitated by so many artists since its creation. Al Jourgensen, the maniacal mastermind behind MINISTRY has survived over three decades of making music, renowned for his innovative fusion of organic heavy metal with technological precision to create a style as vicious as it is ugly, and yet as soulful as it is ultimately musical. He has survived years of drug and alcohol abuse, detailing his sociopolitical views and personal struggles through song with a straightforward and unapologetic vigor that few have been able to match, and despite his reputedly cantankerous demeanor and criticism from fans embittered by the shift from industrial toward metal, MINISTRY has persevered and remained a benchmark for modern music. With the death of longtime guitarist and co-songwriter Mike Scaccia in late 2012, MINISTRY’s thirteenth studio album, From Beer to Eternity, now stands to be the last studio release of brand new material from Jourgensen and company. ReGen had the opportunity to speak with Uncle Al on the passing of Mike Scaccia and the end of MINISTRY, touching on his love for the Chicago Blackhawks, his deadly accuracy with a crossbow, and his new career as an author, college lecturer, and comic book superhero!


Now that From Beer to Eternity has been released, how do you feel about the response to it so far from people whose opinions you trust?

Jourgensen: Well, the only opinion that I trust is my own, and I think it’s good. I haven’t heard any opinions or seen any reviews or anything like that; I don’t really follow that kind of stuff. I only know that when we got done with basic tracks, I and Mike Scaccia were really happy with it, so that’s where my involvement or my caring about what people thinks stops. I think that it’s really weird with Mikey’s death and all in the middle of this record; I think we both knew that it was time to wrap it up, so this album pretty much has elements of every MINISTRY album in it. It’s not just anti-Bush or thrash metal or synthpop. It’s got a little bit of everything. I remember me and Mikey talking about it saying that it’s not the ‘Greatest Hits;’ it’s the ‘Greatest Riffs!’ You know? All of the greatest riffs we’ve ever had over the years, we slammed onto one record and managed to get it in before he died.

Now that MINISTRY has pretty much retired…

Jourgensen: No, no! I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years and Mikey’s death was the final nail in the coffin. So now, it’s done. You realize if I do another MINISTRY album how much shit I would take for doing it? It’s not worth it! This is done – next! Next chapter.

And that next chapter is going to be a comic book, is that correct?

Jourgensen: Well, I’m working on a fiction book that I’ve been writing for 28 years. And there is a comic series coming out of me, where you are now officially talking to a fucking superhero! I have super powers in the comic book and I destroy all evil. So there! (Laughter)

During the anti-Bush trilogy, you’d mentioned that you felt your I.Q. dropped when you listened to so much of George W. Bush when you were sampling him. And with the emphasis on Fox News samples on From Beer to Eternity, how do you deal with that?

Jourgensen: I write books! (Laughter) That’s why I’m switching careers here. I’m not doing any soundtrack work or any production work. I have a recording studio in my backyard that is now double-bolted. I am not going in there for a couple of years for anyone or anything… period, done! I’m concentrating on my writing and the From Beer to Eternity tour is going to just be me speaking at colleges and lecturing college students on different subjects – some will be just with a moderator; some I’ll have a prepared speech on a certain topic, whether it’s history or prehistory or aliens or the music business or political science, things like that. I always wanted to be a teacher, and now I have the forum and the chance to go talk to college kids. That’s my tour for this record. I’m not hiring someone to replace Mikey for this; it won’t be a musical tour. I’m not saying that I’ll never do another show because we did the tour for The Last Sucker with Tommy Victor of Prong, and that worked out quite nicely. When Paul Raven died, we got Tony Campos, and he did quite nicely. But it’s just a process. I’m not going to tour on this just to make money or anything. I don’t need the fucking money! It’s just got to be right, and that’s the only way that MINISTRY will ever play again. It’s got to be right. If Tommy Victor doesn’t want to do it, then I’m not doing it. It’s that simple; because Tommy and Sin (Quirin) on guitar, Tony on bass, Aaron (Rossi) on drums, JB (John Bechdel) on keyboards – if it’s not that band, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do an Alice Cooper thing where I’d hire a bunch of 21-year-old L.A. guys with hot shot guns that are on 24 hour beeper alert in case anyone needs a gig; I’m just not interested in that. I don’t need it.

Sam Shearon, who did some of the artwork on From Beer to Eternity, is involved in the comic book, right?

Jourgensen: There will be 13 issues of the comic series, and it’s called The Captain of Industry. Each one, beginning with the first issue, revolves around what was going on in my life at that time musically and politically in the world, and battling evil throughout. So, for each of my 13 MINISTRY albums, there are 13 issues about what was going on each time, and the people that influenced me are like my sidekicks, like William S. Burroughs and Timothy Leary and, of course, Mike Scaccia. We go out battling evil with amazing super powers. I think it’s going to be cool!

You mentioned Burroughs, and you have Sgt. Major reading Burroughs’ ‘Thanksgiving Prayer’ on the track ‘Thanx But no Thanx.’ How did that track come about?

Jourgensen: Well, that was actually the first one written for this album. I did that one alone before the band got here; that was the direction I really wanted to take with this album. And then Sin and Mikey started chunking it up a bit, and I started going in a different direction. I wanted this last one to just be a dub album, okay? That’s what I listen to at home now, and I played the bass. That song was done basically before those guys got here. I revisited that ‘Thanksgiving Prayer’ and I realized how pertinent it is to today’s society, yet it was written so many years ago, and I had to put it on. There was a problem, just like with getting Burroughs on ‘Just One Fix,’ getting the clearance to use it – not the fault of Burroughs’ management; it’s just a business thing. Sgt. Major just had a lung removed, and he’s not doing so well, so everyone pray for him, please? He’s 83, and he came in with an oxygen tank and nailed that in one take, man! He just nailed that Burroughs poem in one take. I love that guy, man!

‘Lesson Unlearned’ was another interesting track, a first for MINISTRY with the female vocals.

Jourgensen: Oh, no, if you think about it and look back to my synthpop days with Arista Records, there are female vocals all over the place. That’s what I’m saying. In other words, Mikey and I just wrapped a bow on an entire 30-year-long career, and we used everything in our arsenal from synthpop to thrash metal – we just threw it all in the sink, put it in a blender, and just let it fly!

MINISTRY also has released Enjoy the Quiet: Live at Wacken, which along with From Beer to Eternity stands as a fine tribute to Mike Scaccia. Are there any thoughts you’d like to share about Mikey?

Jourgensen: Any other thoughts? I got drunk as shit with him the other night on the record release date. For every shot I did, I poured Mikey a shot and did his shot because when he died, we only had basic tracks done. All of his parts were done, and then I had to spend the next three months mixing, singing, putting samples, keyboards, this and that on it. It would fly off the walls! Paintings of stuff in the studio; things would just knock over speakers for no reason. Basically, Mikey hung around to make sure that we get the mixes right, and he would cause some havoc, man! He haunted this place for awhile. Once the record was finally released, I just got shitfaced drunk drinking for both of us, and I don’t feel his presence anymore. I think he’s gone on to something else. But he stuck around long enough to make sure that we got this record done right!

You mentioned that you’re not working on music and won’t be again for a good long while. Last year, you’d talked about a band from Baghdad that you were excited about producing and working with. Is Sammy or Sin perhaps going to pick up the mantle on that?

Jourgensen: Well, Sin is more than capable of doing anything that he wants to do. That guy is a sweetheart and so talented and such a joy to be around. The basic stage lineup has shifted, where Mikey was always on my right as my right hand man… now Sin has moved up to my right hand man. If Tommy will do it, then he’ll be my left hand man. Sin is capable of doing anything. I love that guy! Sammy gets more than enough credit from me; maybe other people don’t know his name yet, but they will! I’m trying to talk him into doing his own music. He’s perfectly capable of it, and he’s an insane motherfucker. I love him to death, so Sammy, quit fucking around and slumming it with douchebags like me and do your own stuff!

You also released your book, The Lost Gospels, in which you lay out your entire life. And now you have the fiction book and the comic book. What else can people expect from your literary career?

Jourgensen: Here’s what people can expect – my Persuasion book, which is the fiction book; then the comic strip. And then, if I’m lucky enough to die (laughter), there are at least two other autobiography parts to this book that were not cleared by lawyers because I spoke some truth, my friend. What The Lost Gospels was is the PG version or the Disney version of my book, all right? (Laughter) They’re withholding a complete cache of shit that they thought we would get sued on. But if I die soon, hopefully, those couple of books can come out. It’s in kind of a holding pattern for as long as I’m alive, those outtakes will never be released. (Laughter)

It’s interesting, because that relates to ‘Ghouldiggers’ on Relapse, and you spoke about people waiting for you to die to sell off those unreleased chunks.

Jourgensen: But you know what? I’ve got a very loving wife and a daughter, both of whom I love to death. If that can sustain them after I’m dead, then that would be great. They’re not ghouldigging me; they’re not poisoning my food or anything so they can cash in or anything. It’s in the vaults among other things. MINISTRY’s dead, but shit! I mean, last year, they just released a new Hendrix album; I mean, really? I’m going to have a lot of stuff coming up over many years, full of found stuff, bootleg stuff, stuff on the shelf, this and that… I have no control over that. All I know is that I’m not making another what you call industrial album under the title of MINISTRY. I have other stuff to do, but there will be other MINISTRY releases. I can’t control that. The stuff’s already done and sitting on the shelves collecting cobwebs.

When you announced the end of MINISTRY back in 2008, you stated that RevCo was going to continue and it would be like Menudo with an ever changing lineup, and you release two records with that in mind.

Jourgensen: Yeah, I didn’t really want to do those either, but my health improved to a point that… well, if I just sit around the house and do nothing, my wife fucking hates me. She’s like, ‘Get back to work!’ And I think, ‘Well, fuck, if it makes her happy.’ And I go back in there and I just do these records. But now, my health is actually really good, oddly enough. Mikey’s death changed everything. I was actually willing to go forward with MINISTRY until this, and then that was just the nail in the coffin. That was a sign from up above, man.

You’re a well known hockey fan, and a Blackhawks fan.

Jourgensen: Dude, I bleed red, white, and black. I do! I’m not just a hockey fan; I’m a fanatic! The Blackhawks are my deal, and I know the owners. I’ve known the team since I was six-years-old, and I’m 54 now, soon to be turning 55. I’ve seen all the drought years and been to all the games when they sucked, so it’s really nice. It’s almost a parallel to MINISTRY – we sucked when we started, and we end up on a good note with a good album, and in my lifetime I finally get to go out with the Blackhawks being a good team for the next five to six years to come at least. I hope I ride out that period, because when they start losing, I’m cashing in my checks, man. I’m outta here!

What else do you like to do in your spare time when you weren’t working on music or aren’t writing books?

Jourgensen: Basically, my wife took all of my guns away, so I’m not allowed to fire them anymore. So I bought some crossbows and I go out there in a fucking loincloth and pretend that I’m hunting mastodons like Ted Nugent or some shit. I just go out in my backyard where I have these big targets set up. And I’ve gotten pretty good at the crossbow, man. I could pick a fucking gnat off cow shit from a hundred yards at this point with my crossbows, so I just do that because my knees are too wobbly to skate anymore. There’s a skating arena here in El Paso; I love to skate and I used to play hockey, but my knees are bad. I’ve still got enough stuff left in me where I can shoot a damn crossbow. God forbid anyone ever came in here; they’d have an arrow stuck directly pinpointed perfectly in their forehead between their eyes.


It’s doubtful that anybody would want to. It’d be like, ‘Don’t rob that house! Fucking Al Jourgensen lives there!’


Jourgensen: And don’t forget my superhero powers too! Stay the fuck away from me, man; I’m radioactive!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Jourgensen: It’s been a pleasure talking to you, man. I’m just going to spark one up, and you know what I think I’m going to do tonight? I think I’m going to listen to my own record album for once. You know, put it on high volume on the headphones, spark one up, and listen to From Beer to Eternity, which I really haven’t done since the end of the album. As I said, it was very bittersweet. I was happy to have it done and happy to have it out. I might just listen to it tonight and see what all of you fuckers are listening to! And we’ll talk again, my friend; I’m not fucking going anywhere. Thank you so much for your support; it’s been a wild hell of a ride!


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1 Comment

  1. […] 2012. “Mikey was always on my right as my right hand man,” said Jourgensen in his September, 2013 InterView with ReGen Magazine. “Now Sin (Quirin) has moved up to my right hand man. If Tommy (Victor) will do it, then […]

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