Al Jourgensen will always be remembered as a prolific trailblazer of the industrial metal genre that helped wake up America's dozing alternative rock audience. The 60-year-old frontman and founder of Ministry has also espoused his political opinions for more than three decades in a series of albums that have been critical of American presidents over the years. In a sense, Ministry has come to represent a wild ride of aggression, mashed up with Jorgensen's political views.
The band's new album, "Amerikkkant" stays on course with song titles like "Victims of a Clown." It's the 14th studio album sprung out from Jourgensen's creative mind, with rants against capitalism, conservatism, and racism. It's the product of a man who has lived a life of rock star excess - often walking the tightrope between life and death - as revealed in his autobiography, "Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen."
Ministry is performing at Anthology on December 4. Jourgensen sounded upbeat as he spoke over the phone on Election Day about his music and politics. An edited version of the interview follows.
CITY: How's your day been?
Al Jourgensen: It's been great because I voted two weeks ago. I'm good, but a little bit on pins and needles today, seeing what this country is going to be.
Will you be staying up tonight and will your attention revolve around the results?
I kind of have to - it's an occupational hazard, this type of music that I do. My music proclivity is determined by the results. If it goes sour, I might have to do three or four albums next year. If it comes satisfactory and the country gets back on track, then maybe I'll only do one album.
How's your health and what keeps you going?
That's the main thing you touched on is health. My health has been great over the last couple of years. When it was ridiculous and no one knew what was wrong and I just wanted to quit, I was sick of throwing up blood all the time. All that's been taken care of. I feel great and ready to lead the charge on some good observations of society in the upcoming years.
Do you enjoy listening to your old material?
Actually, no. I'm one of those types that think my best song is yet to be written. What's really funny is that I've got all these anniversaries coming up and all this stuff, and I'm not aware of it until somebody tells me and goes "Hey, do you know 'The Land of Rape and Honey' turns 30 today?" And I haven't heard the album in at least 20 or 25 years. We haven't played it live in 20 or 25 years.
But on this tour we're going to go ahead and play half of the album. It was fun listening to it again in a nostalgic way. In a way, it was bittersweet because some of the same problems we had back then, we're still having now. I'm glad I raised the point then, but it's unfortunate that the point still has to be raised today. It's kind of a double-edged sword, listening to your old stuff, at least when it comes to Ministry music.
Would you consider yourself a perfectionist?
In a sense, but I certainly don't know what perfection is. It's something that's undefinable, it's something that I'm sure someday all of us including me will know - a moment in time in your life where you just go, "That was fucking perfect." I've come close but I've never hit that perfect moment yet. I think we all have that dilemma and I think it's just a human condition of striving for the stars and maybe making it to the moon.
Which of your songs is almost there? Personally, I like "Stigmata" a lot.
Well good, because we'll be doing that song in Rochester. The way the tour is shaping up is I'm pretty happy with this last album. I think it had the finger on the pulse of what was happening at the time. That album is basically me taking a mirror and holding it up to society and going, "Okay, I'm going to paint you a picture of where I think we're at, and this is the potential of where we're going. And are you fine with that? Because I'm not."
In that sense, I think I got the point across pretty well. And then I was informed about the anniversary of "The Land of Rape and Honey," which was another album we nailed it on the head for that particular time period. So the show we're doing in Rochester is going to be the entire new album, and then we'll explore some of the things that we were doing 30 years ago.
How has Ministry's audience evolved throughout the years?
Our crowd seems to be getting younger and more activist and more civic-minded each and every record. This last album, it was really weird. Some people have given me the moniker "Uncle Al," because I'm like the crazy old uncle at Thanksgiving dinner who ruins the dinner with his political beliefs. I noticed that these kids have an affinity towards old Uncle Al and all of a sudden, I've become the voice of reason, whereas I used to be like this complete-anarchy kind of guy that was just a nihilist.
In the movie, "Fix: The Ministry Movie," you talk about disconnecting from your music when you find out it's being used in ways you don't intend. Do you still feel like you sometimes need to disconnect from your music?
That hit home really hard when we did "The Land of Rape and Honey." I remember the absolute fucking terror I had when I came out onstage on the first show of that tour back in 1988. It started out with sieg heils on the song "The Land of Rape and Honey." And that's what we opened the set with, and we had the accompanying visuals showing the downfalls of fascism and what it can do. The entire front row and mosh pit was angry, white skinheads sieg heiling me, thinking I was their new conquering hero promoting fascism.
So there's a real disconnect a lot of times with the aggression of the music and the content of the lyrics. And it's hard to fathom because you don't mean that when it happens, but when you see the actual result, it makes you recoil a bit and recalibrate on how to message your shit better so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
I did an anti-George W. Bush trilogy - three records during the Bush administration. By the third record, I realized it wasn't about Bush at all. We're misaiming our anger and our frustration and our confusion at a single talking head that's been propped in by the system that created him. It's the system that we really need to be dealing with.
I've had to speak about this a lot. The new record is not an anti-Trump record, it's an anti-system-that-produces-people-like-Trump-or-Bush record. It's important that you hone your message to actually target the true purveyor of all things wrong in this society.
It's got to be something though when you're against war and you hear that people are cranking your tunes as they are loading up bombs.
It's weird but you also can't discount their feelings. They are in a terrifying situation and they are going for something that not only plays into the aggression of the moment. They know they're killing people and it's aggressive, so you have to pump yourself up for it. By the same token, there's also a conscientious message underlying within the songs that says, "This is kind of fucked up."
I've had a lot of talks with veterans, and Ministry is widely played on front-line encounters all over the world. My company has done a really good job employing veterans and getting their input on all things. To them it helps make sense of what they're doing. It doesn't give them a carte blanche. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they did not choose to do it. This is the situation that they are stuck in.
I understand the security blanket aspect of it, where they feel like it's comfort food from home to listen to aggressive music while they are doing aggressive actions. The good thing is that they also know within the lyrical content and paradigm of my music, they also know like, "I can't wait to get out of this fucking job and return to normal life." It's kind of bittersweet talking to people that either misinterpret or use the music for actions that normally they wouldn't do, but are forced to do. Like I said, it's all bittersweet. It's great that it helps somebody during their times of trouble, but it's also like, "Wow this is not how I meant it to be."
What would you say is the legacy of Al Jourgensen and Ministry?
Oh shit, I don't know that yet, man. I'm not done.