Al Jourgensen has been releasing albums for well over 20 years, both in his “day-job” with industrial metal pioneers Ministry, and with side-projects like The Revolting Cocks. His biggest commercial success came with 1992’s Psalm 69, an album energised by what Jourgensen saw as the evils of the George Bush Snr administration.
The intervening years saw Jourgensen struggling with heroin addiction and releasing albums that many saw as progressively less inspired. However last year, with Jourgensen clean and George Dubya in power, Houses Of The Molé turned out to be Ministry’s finest effort to date.
musicOMH caught up with the self-proclaimed “45 year-old juvenile delinquent” to discuss politics, drugs and his retirement plan…
“Don’t you dare call me ‘arty farty’!” Oops. It’s probably not the best line in self-preservation to suggest to one of heavy music’s most respected innovators that his last album was a concept album since every song title, bar one, contains “w” in it.
Thankfully, there’s a phone-line the width of the Atlantic Ocean between us, and Al Jourgensen is only joking. Phew. He goes on to explain: “Actually, the ‘w’ thing was an accident. We’d already written about eight songs when we realised that they all start with ‘w’, and then we went from there. I guess it was meant to be.”
To the uninitiated, the ‘w’ in question is Walker. As in George Walker Bush. Look up George Dubya on the internet and you’ll find some sites that proclaim him a “hero” and others that reckons he’s “the Anti-Christ”. It’s safe to say that Al Jourgensen leans towards the latter view: “Well, what I have to say probably couldn’t be printed but besides that, what gets to me is his arrogance, his greed and his untruthfulness.”
But what about his bad points? Just kidding…
“What gets to me is his arrogance, his greed and his untruthfulness.” – Al Jourgensen on George Dubya. Yes, but what don’t you like, Al?
Of course, despite the efforts of the likes of punkvoter.com to get 18-30 year olds voting in the last US Presidential Election (an organisation that Jourgensen was intimately involved with, on the premise that “because only 30% of the young voters voted in the last (2000) election we have this idiot in office”), George Dubya was re-elected by a comfortable margin over John Kerry. I wonder if Jourgensen thought that Kerry was “the man” or just the lesser of two evils: “Definitely the lesser of two evils… Right now there are 14 dollars to every one dollar going to the Republicans by the energy special interests, i.e. oil and nuclear… We are just fed up of being run by the oil companies.”
With Jourgensen not exactly reluctant to air his political views, it’s unsurprising to discover that he’s on the radar of American Big Brother: “The FBI and I are old ‘friends’! They don’t need to knock on my door – they know exactly where I’m at!” But we thought America was the Land Of The Free? “The Land Of The Free, now?” he asks incredulously. “No, absolutely not. The Land Of The Mind-Controlled.”
Doubtless, this passion and anger energised the very fast, very heavy and very metallic songs heard on Houses Of The Mol. However, Jourgensen explains that the emphasis on guitar was also due to the departure of his long-time cohort, Paul Barker, after 18 years: “I think a very large part of it was. I mean, Paul was more the computer, experimental, cerebral guy but I’m more like the guy who drinks two bottles of wine and plays my guitar till I puke! The second reason is that we recorded this as a band, which we haven’t done since Psalm 69 so it’s a lot more aggressive, a lot more live.”
Some would also say a lot better than most of Ministry’s ’90s albums. Jourgensen wouldn’t disagree and is happy to credit coming off heroin (after “almost 20 years”) as a major contributor to the increase in quality: “It has a huge part. First of all, we can get albums done within every three to four years now because I’m not waiting for dealers all day! (Laughs.) The second thing is that it [coming off drugs] gives you a clarity, a lucidity about what you’re doing… Addiction is no fun – it’s just a 400 tonne gorilla on your back and, if anything, it clouds your thinking.”
“My worst clean days are better than my best days on heroin.” – Al Jourgensen on the joy of kicking the habit after 20 years.
The amazing thing is that Jourgensen kicked the habit all on his own: “I just got fed up. I know this sounds like too simple but I didn’t check into a detox clinic or anything, I just did it at home and it was painful but it was well worth it… Every day above ground is a good day now. My worst clean days are better than my best days on heroin.”
So much so that Jourgensen appears to have fallen in love with his art again and, as a result, is on a bit of a creative roll, recording new albums with the jokier, sleazier but equally long-lived Revolting Cocks (“I’m the conductor and producer, so to speak, and conduct the festivities”), and with former Dead Kennedys mainman Jello Biafra for their sporadic project, Lard.
However, he’s not planning to do this indefinitely. No, Jourgensen is a man with a plan and rumour has it that his holy grail is to teach history: “Yeah, absolutely. I figure I’ve got two more Ministry records, two more Cocks records, a Lard record and the Buck Satan And 666 Shooters [Jourgensen’s country & western alter ego!] record and then I’m outta here!”
The message is clear: enjoy his music while you can…