Ministry’s Al Jourgensen – Self Improvement + World Improvement Are My Essential Creative Themes
Ministry's Al Jourgensen was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, dropping by to promote the band's latest album, Moral Hygiene. As usual, Jourgensen has not shied away from socially prescient content in his work, and the musician speaks about the themes that continue to creatively inspire him.
Al, who has been a constant through Ministry's 40-year career and has toured with a variety of lineups over the years, shares the key to picking who will help fill out his band on tour. The musician also shares a story about finding out his own band's influence on ZZ Top and he discusses why "Alert Level" off the new album is particularly pertinent in today's climate.
Check out more of Full Metal Jackie's chat with Ministry's Al Jourgensen below:
We're here to talk about your new record Moral Hygiene. "Alert Level" is on the new album, but the track itself was released early last year. What resonates with you now about that song in light of everything that happened since its release?
I think it was pretty prescient to what's going on. We wrote that towards the beginning of quarantine and we didn't really know if there was going to be a record label, a record industry or any vehicle for us to get our stuff out. So we just decided to release it right then and there when we did it, and that song is pretty much about global climate change and how we really need to address this issue. I stand by it and I think it's important to have this on this record because it fits in into the overall theme of the record.
Ministry, "Alert Level"
Al, there's a lot of political observation or social commentary and major references in Ministry's music. What non-social or non-political influences also affect your creativity, particularly on this new record?
I think that generally I've been accused of ... well, I get very political when there's a Republican president and I get very introspective when there's a Democrat in office. So I think self-improvement and self-awareness are essential themes of when I'm not doing politically salient stuff. It's important for me because politics isn't going to change until we change. So I basically hammer home two points - self-improvement and world improvement.
The touring personnel of Ministry will be different since the last time you were on the road. What's most important to you when it comes to choosing musicians to interpret your work?
Who isn't going to make me throw up on the tour bus. It's probably the most important thing. Like if I can get along with you, I can overlook some playing mistakes and all this stuff. And it's not a matter of sucking up to me or being my best buddy, t's just like, look, man, are you a decent human being because the show is one hour, two hours and then the other 22 are spent with this person. So you just want to make sure that they're not going to cause you to break out in rashes or something from the stress. [laughs]
You don't have to audition for Ministry. The audition is just go out to dinner with me one night, hang with me for a night. I'm sure you have an entire representation of your work to present to me and I'm sure you're good, but can I even stand you for 22 hours a day. You know what I'm saying? So, yeah, it pretty much boils down on that.
Fortunately this time, this new touring lineup, we have some really great musicians and some people that not only I can stand, but they can stand me. So it works out great winner, winner, chicken dinner.
You've made music through different stages of your life. What makes the process of making music now altogether different from doing so at any other point in your life?
Absolutely nothing. Pandemics, Republicans, right wings you name it. It really has nothing to do with it. Listen, Jackie, let's be frank here. If I wasn't doing what I do, I'd be putting away shopping carts at Lowe's or Home Depot or checking out people at Ralph's at a self checkout counter and helping them do that or something. It's a no brainer. This is the job I was built to do. And so I do it.
I've grown to be happy about it, but it's no different than anything else. I mean, you should still be yourself, your inner self, no matter what the surroundings are around you. You're just trying to process the surroundings and still be yourself. So it's kind of like where we're at with Ministry.
Ministry, Moral Hygiene Artwork
The story came out recently that Billy Gibbons once took you to dinner in appreciation of your influence on his music. What makes the sound of Ministry works so well in the context of ZZ Top?
Well, basically it was strictly for the drum samples and Billy told me that he said that they decided to go from like their early first three, maybe four albums with a natural drummer, just being miked up in the studio and then started adding samples onto what Mr. Beard was playing. So Billy just randomly appeared at some show I was not expecting him to be at, took me out dinner and said, 'You know, thanks to you, our career has been resurrected because we assembled this,' which I thought was so cool because it wasn't a matter of litigation. Like I'm not going to like shoot him. He admitted he stole my stuff.
It was more like, 'Oh my God, he took the time to take me out to dinner and say thank you because you really helped us a lot.' And this is one of my heroes. So what am I going to do, sue them or something? It was just like, 'Wow, this is the coolest human being on the planet.' Of course we must make mention of Dusty. So yeah, it is what it is. We're all getting older.
Thanks to Al Jourgensen for the interview. Follow Ministry on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. See all of their upcoming tour dates here and pick up Ministry's 'Moral Hygiene' at this location. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.