To this day, only a handful of live shows I have seen match the intensity of Ministry’s performance on the Lollapalooza Main stage in 1992. More than 20 years later, the band has solidly soldiered on however the times they are a changin’ in the world of Ministry, the band seen as the originators of industrial heavy metal.
This past summer, Ministry founding member Al Jourgensen released his first book, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen. The book chronicles his tumultuous rise through the music business amidst a world of heroin, cocaine, groupies, crack and alcohol.
Earlier this month, Ministry released From Beer To Eternity, a record Jourgensen confirms will be the group’s last studio record.
From his home in El Paso, Texas last week, a witty and often hilarious Jourgensen spoke with The MusicNerd Chronicles.
How is everything going, Al?
My wife and I are currently living through some torrential rains in the desert. I have lived in El Paso for 10 years and have never seen anything like this. We’ve had five straight days of rain; that’s kind of freaky for the desert. We have a sump pump trying to get water out of our house so if you happen to hear some noises in the background while we’re talking, it is not a new Ministry record [laughs].
That segues nicely into my next question for you: Is this really the end of the line for Ministry?
Fuckin’ a! If there was ever a sure thing, I can tell you there will never be another Ministry studio record. Never again. This is going to be an iron clad contract with the public. You will see bootlegs, some live albums and remix albums but that is going to be it.
Do you have Ministry projects on the go now?
Absolutely! I am actually working on remixing [2012’s] Relapse and From Beer To Eternity. I am actually digging the remixes more than the original records at this point. We’re thinking we are going to implore the Canadian Parliament to pass an act that would allow us to put a joint in every single CD with a decree that you are not allowed to listen to the record without first smoking the joint.
How large did having lost Mike Scaccia [Ministry guitarist who suddenly passed away in December 2012] figure in your decision to put the brakes on the band?
I had been looking for an excuse to get out of the Ministry hamster wheel for years. Once Mikey died, I knew it was really time.
I can only assume that finally having From Beer To Eternity out for the world to consume must be bittersweet in many ways knowing Mike isn’t here to celebrate the album’s release.
This is a very bittersweet moment. We aren’t really going to be doing much to hype the record. I would rather have Mikey with me than to have had another Ministry album. The album is good, don’t get me wrong, but I would rather have my best friend back in my life than From Beer To Eternity.
Reading about the initial recording sessions of From Beer To Eternity, it sounds as though everyone, including Mike, were genuinely energized by the music that was being made.
Mikey was very proud of what we were doing. He knew it was good so he was happy with what we had done in those early days. At that time, we hadn’t even put vocals or samples on the songs. Then two days later I was speaking at his funeral. It was a little surreal.
How important was it to finish the record at that point?
When Mike left the studio two days before he died, I don’t think I had ever seen him happier. We’re talking a total ear-to-ear grin; he knew we were onto something. So instead of waving the white flag to surrender, I spent the next three months hiding away making sure that record was up to what Mikey would have wanted to hear. This record is for him. Normally, record release days can come and go without much notice on our part but having this record finally get released to the world was much different due to the circumstances. It is definitely very bittersweet. Funny enough though, in the time leading up to the release of the record, some strange shit was happening in my house. Shit was flying off the walls [laughs] and I am completely convinced it was Mikey causing shit to keep us on our toes. Strangely enough, since the record came out, everything has been pretty quiet around my place.
How long had you been planning on writing a book before The Lost Gospels… was actually released?
My wife Angie actually conceived the whole book. We would go to social events together and by the end of the night, I’d be drunk telling stories. She said that I ought to just write this stuff down and get it out once and for all. I had been approached six or seven times in the past about doing this very thing but never really felt the need to spill my guts. My autobiography is me dipping my toes in the waters of the literary world; I have actually been working on a psychological thriller book about a serial killer and how his victims are killed. That has been in the making for the last 28 years [laughs].
Once you opened the flood gates of memories and stories with Jon Wiederhorn, how hard was it to close them up?
Basically, we got drunk with a tape recorder capturing our conversation. Jon initially came out here for two weeks getting quotes from me and matching me shot for shot. I ended up spilling the beans on a lot of dicey shit. He then spent four weeks following up on all of these little stories making sure that everything I told him had happened actually did happen. He came back and spent another week with me which was followed by another four weeks of checking my stories out. And of course, everything checked out. How I remembered it all is beyond me [laughs].
With no plans to tour the record, what will you be doing with what I assume will be an abundance of free time?
We will absolutely not be touring without Mikey. We don’t want to become this band that picks at the carcass of itself. It’s gauche and distasteful. I’m looking forward to doing some college lectures, getting my books and the remix albums out. I think it’s going to be a nice break; I need it.
An abbreviated version of this interview was published in the September 19, 2013 edition of Here Magazine