Ministry Interview

Ministry Interview

September 9th, 2004
By: Dennis M. Kelly

In the midst of intense rehearsals, Al Jourgensen was kind enough to talk with us about the past, sports and pretty much everything under the sun. Here is what we talked about…

DK: Hey Al!

AJ: What’s up man?

DK: Not too much, how are you?

AJ: All right.

DK: First off wanted to thank you for this opportunity because (for me) being one of your millions of fans, I definitely appreciate this opportunity to get the time to talk to you and help promote you when you come back to Chicago.

AJ: All right! Hometown. Cool, no problem man!

DK: Going back to the very beginning for you, some of the stuff I was reading about you is you were born in Cuba…

AJ: Yep.

DK: …moved to Denver and on to Chicago…

AJ: Actually I went from Cuba to Miami where all good Cubans go to die (or live), and then Chicago. I was in Chicago through the middle of High School, then went to Denver, went to High School and College in Denver and then came back to Chicago and after that, I was all over the place London, Berlin, Brussels, SF, Boston, Texas (of course). Even another couple year stint in Chicago there for a while there.

DK: Now what type of ages were you at each location? I mean obviously that’s a lot of places.

AJ: Lets see, 0-2 in Cuba, 2-3 in Miami, 3 to like 14 Chicago, 14-19 in Denver, 19 to, say about 23 Chicago, 23-25 Boston, after that it becomes a blur. But with a lot of years in Texas lately.

DK: Cool! How about your childhood, brothers/sisters, things like that?

AJ: I have 1 half brother who’s 17 yrs younger than me, which would make him what 28? He’s a teacher down in Florida.

DK: Oh wow…

AJ: And then, from my real father, whom I haven’t met, I understand I have 8 half brothers and sisters from that side, but I haven’t met them yet, I am going to meet them this year probably.

DK: Cool. Yeah, these are the things ya don’t hear too much about.

AJ: Yep.

DK: …and one thing I was really curious about.

AJ: Oh and then I have a daughter of course, she’s 19 now.

DK: Yeah I have to say, I was doing all this research and all the sudden read that you had a daughter, I’m like ‘Daughter…!?! what??”

AJ: Not only daughter, but a psychopath 19 year old, I love it! (laughs)

DK: (laughs) I actually have questions about her too if you don’t mind too

AJ: Cool, I love talking about her.

DK: Still sticking with the early years… You have a bachelor’s degree which I read on one of the interviews.

AJ: Actually, you know what, I am about a half year short…

DK: Oh really?

AJ: Yep, what sucks is it is all like basic prerequisites that I have to go back and take because I was just went straight for like my major, so I loaded up on classes in my major and pretty much ignored everything else. So, to get my degree, and as far as I’m concerned, I have it, but I have to go back and take prerequisites to actually get the piece of paper.

DK: Very wild though… How did you go from that to becoming the Godfather of Industrial Rock?

AJ: (laughs) well, this rock thing got in the way of my teaching career really, I wanted to be a baseball player to be honest with you and then I tore my knee up in high school. So I got out of sports and turned to music, all of the sudden. I had this kind of mentor in Colorado in high school. This principal took me under his wing and didn’t completely consider me a lost cause every time I got thrown out of class (about once a day from some teacher or another) and actually got me thinking about college and all that, I went to college and instead of being a D student in high school I got straight A’s in College. I just got really into it and decided I wanted to teach and then moved back to Chicago and kept going to school there and when I was going to school there, I hooked up with Franke (a.k.a. Groovie Mann) and we were in a band together called Special Affect, this was back in like 79 in Chicago I was going to Circle Campus at the time.

DK: OK…

AJ: And, Special Affect just started really taking off, and we split up the next year but by now I had already gotten the bug, so I started Ministry.

DK: Wow, that’s definitely cool, a lot of questions you already answered in that whole statement but it’s a lot of cool information!

AJ: That was right around the same time that Waxtrax! had moved out there from Denver and it was a really vibrant scene in Chicago, in like the late 70’s early ’80s.

DK: Waxtrax! was another thing I was going to ask you about too… Also, I had heard something about you that I wanted to confirm… did you own clubs in Chicago also?

AJ: No, no clubs. That was just the grease that fueled the engine at Waxtrax! Jim [Nash] and Dannie [Flesher] already had a successful store in Denver. Then all of us that were in the scene, which was pretty small but vibrant back then, all of us took our turns working the counter at Waxtrax! Then you’d go home and make music and play for Jim and Dannie. Finally it was like, ‘Man you guys are making a bunch of great music, let’s just figure out a way to release this stuff ourselves?”

So, it was just DIY Ma and Pa operation, and it just took off, but it was all centered around the Waxtrax! kind of a record store, which then turned/morphed into a label, and we all took turns working it, too. I mean, if you were on the label, you worked the phones too.

DK: OK.

AJ: So, it was pretty cool it was like a little family… a little Manson family east or something (laughs).

DK: (laughs) What ever happened to Waxtrax!?

AJ: Well, Jim and Dannie wanted to go more the electronic route and I was going more and more guitar with like Pailhead and Homo DJ’s and stuff, so I licensed my catalog back to them and just kept going and then a couple years later they just kind of a got tired of running the day to day operations and Jim got really sick as well and died eventually. So they licensed my catalog to TVT for 10 years, and then TVT basically ruined it, but (laughs) whatever, things happen, things come and go, nothing lasts forever. End of an era.

DK: True… that’s so true.

DK: I know you’ve answered this in various ways before, but how old were you when you decided to play music?

AJ: Probably at about 19 or 20 is when I really got the bug, I mean I had already learned how to play the guitar and stuff like that and drums and bass keyboards, harmonica, sax and violin, I mean, it was all like self taught stuff that I dabbled with, but I really got the bug at about 19 or 20.

DK: OK, cool. That was about how old I was when I started with my old band as well.

AJ: Cool.

DK: But, with all the frustrations you went through with the label on your first album there… you would think (with your desire to teach), what kept you going strong?

AJ: Well, I mean, that’s why Waxtrax! really took off as a label. I already had this bad experience with Arista and basically “selling out before you started.” I thought the grass would be greener on the other side you do everything they tell you to do and they promise they’re going to make you a star then when it doesn’t happen that way you feel like you sold your soul to the devil. So Waxtrax! was a great vehicle and opportunity for us to do it right.

DK: I understand you had to sue to get out of Arista.

AJ: Yep!

DK: That’s unfortunate.

AJ: No! That was the best thing that ever happened.

DK: Well, no, I mean that you had to take such a measure.

AJ: Well, everything shapes you to be the person that you are today so I have no regrets. It’s the way it had to be. I had to learn a hard lesson and sometimes hard lessons pay off dividends.

DK: That’s for sure. I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons myself.

AJ: Yep.

DK: Switching gear here… Would you say that you’re currently living the life now that you dreamed at your teen years?

AJ: Well, it’s a morph of it, sure. Because you have your little dreams that unfortunately meet up with reality, but it certainly is gravy everyday above ground right now after kicking that heroin habit so yeah, in that sense, I’ve been given a second chance in life and I just don’t want to let a minute go by without enjoying it.

DK: True

AJ: So it’s a lot cooler in that sense.

DK: Definitely cool.

AJ: It’s not exactly the path I would have taken to get to a nice comfortable position but (laughs) like I said, no regrets.

DK: Alrighty. What type of clubs were you playing in the earlier years of Ministry and are any of them still around?

AJ: What the clubs we used to play at a long time ago? Yeah, sure some of them are still around, look at Metro, Joe Shanahan’s still kickin’ it!

DK: True.

AJ: (laughs)

DK: The place has definitely got a lot of history with it.

AJ: Yeah, there’s a lot of places like that – The Fillmore West we just played on last tour, that was a gas and, yeah, there’s still places around.

DK: Was there any different techniques or ways you used to get people to hear you.

AJ: No, we just did what we did. We didn’t really go out on a limb and thump our chest and become Marilyn Manson or something like that, we just went out and played our asses off.

DK: So, pretty much word of mouth from shows?

AJ: Sure, yeah.

DK: Cool. Did you have much of a fan base in the dance days?

AJ: Not so much any more, we used to, I mean considerably, but the music’s morphed and evolved over the years too. We’re one of the few bands that I think can still straddle that fence of Metal and Dance, both of which are interesting genres and vehicles to be able to articulate what I want to say.

DK: True.

AJ: It makes for some interesting mosh pits, though. Ministry has the little Goth girls with runny make up doing their flower dance, and then we got a bunch of fuckin’ yobs beating the crap out of each other up front, so it gets pretty dichotomous in there. Not to mention the age disparity too man, up front you got like I said all your young kids and shit and your different genres and then you got all the oldsters, I feel like Wayne Newton sometimes playing these days man, like we’re in Vegas with like the…. I’ve had three generations of Ministry fans come backstage one time; there was a grandmother, daughter and granddaughter that were all Ministry fans. It was really bizarre.

DK: That’s very cool.

AJ: Yeah. Here we come VEGAS!! (laughs).

DK: Lets see… one or two more questions about your past and I will move on.

AJ: OK

DK: I first learned about Ministry through MTV’s 120 Minutes when they first aired ‘Stigmata” on there.

AJ: Ah hah.

DK: What were your initial thoughts when you were first played on MTV?

AJ: We didn’t know it was going to be big, we just made a video on the cheap, we actually broke into the editing suite every night, they didn’t even know about that in Chicago. I’m not going to say where, but we actually picked the lock and went in and did all the editing for free cuz we had no budget. That’s definitely called ‘Doing it yourself’ man, on the cheap. So it wasn’t like we were thinking anything was going to come of it but it just did, so it was cool

DK: Yeah, it is definitely my favorite video as well.

AJ: Cool, a lot of good Chicago locations in that one.

DK: That’s for sure.

DK: Then, the first couple tours supporting Twitch and Land of Rape and Honey, what kind of venues were they?

AJ: They’re pretty much about the same venues we’re doing today. Ministry had that one period during Lollapalooza where Psalm 69 just took off and then we started headlining like Maple Leaf Gardens and shit like that in Toronto and that was an anomaly mostly still about 1,000-2,000 – 2,500 seat venues. I like that size, I think anything bigger starts getting impersonal.

DK: True.

AJ: I mean if ya gotta do it, ya gotta do it but even then I’d still prefer to like do 5 nights at a club than one night at Allstate Arena

DK: OK, I’ll move on now because I think I took you back in the past a bit too much there now. (laughs)

AJ: (laughs), the acids kicking in right now!

DK: What is your outlook on life these days?

AJ: Oh I already told you that one man, everyday above ground is a good day, which has changed my old motto of nothing exceeds like excess (pause)…  (laughs)

DK: (laughs)

AJ: Both of them are from Scarface by the way, that’s my Bible.

DK: What would you deem to be THE most influential band of all time in any genre?

AJ: Good question, I’d have to say a tie between Wire and Neubaten.

DK: I am actually not familiar with them, I am sorry to say.

AJ: They’re both awesome. Both early 80’s late 70’s um, just incredible.

DK: I guess I’ll have to look ’em up.

AJ: Yep.

DK: And then Angie had been so kind to tip me off to a couple things that you enjoy talking about so I thought I would ask a couple questions about the Blackhawks and…

AJ: (laughs) Awesome!

DK: Do you miss not being able to go to the games?

AJ: Oh I still do, I fly up at least… I will never miss a Detroit game, you’ll see me at every Detroit game for sure, I try and make as many St Louis games as I can. My stepfather had season tickets, he’s a blue-collar guy, but he bought season tickets in the 300 level seats when I was like 6 years old back in the day of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. Oddly enough still the only two autographs I’ve ever gotten off anybody is Bobby Hull and Mikita; and I’ve known a lot of people, but those are the only two I keep and then we started selling records and I bought my own season tickets at the point finally in around the Twitch era and got down to the 200 level seats. By Rape and Honey I got down to the 100 level seats and then during Psalm 69 I met Danny Wirtz, whose grandfather owns the Blackhawks and we became, he’s probably my best friend in the whole world.

So, pretty soon I’m sitting behind the bench and meeting the players so, I worked my way down through a lot of years of abuse and no championships… worked my way down to the glass. So, a lot of hard work but I’m not about to give it up yet until they win.

DK: That’s so cool!

AJ: I’m a frustrated athlete anyway, that’s what I wanted to be. I played a little goalie and mainly I was a baseball player. I’m a Sox fan, by the way, NOT a Cubs fan, which is very difficult growing up on the North Side of Chicago being a Sox fan during all those years.

DK: I bet.

AJ: But, as a matter of fact, I hate the fucking Cubs man, I used to live right across the street from Wrigley on Sheffield and all them drunk yuppies peeing on my lawn, I used to have to come chase them with an aluminum bat to get off my lawn and quit peeing on there, so I hate the fans, I hate the Cubs, I’m all the way South Side when it comes to baseball. Yeah, I still religiously watch the Sox, thank God for the technology of satellite (laughs) I watch every single game of the Sox and if I’m not in person at a Hawks game, I’m watching it, you can pretty much guarantee it. I even make sure our touring bus has the NHL package or the baseball package whichever time of year were touring so I can keep up with my Chicago teams.

DK: Definitely a good deal. I’ll move onto other forms of media here.

AJ: OK.

DK: Reality TV… that’s one thing I’ve not seen anyone ask you before.

AJ: I don’t know anything about it. I’ve never seen the Osbournes, I’ve never seen Paris Hilton or anything like that. I just don’t have time, I’d rather read than watch. I’d rather live life than watch somebody else living it.

DK: I was just curious what your thoughts were on in.

AJ: I have no opinion on it cuz I don’t know anything about it.

DK: I got sucked into two episodes but that was about it for me.

AJ: Well, it’s just like porn, I’d rather have sex than watch porn. So, it’s the same principal.

DK: I think it’s a waste of time too. If a TV exec came to you and said they want to do for you what they did for Ozzy and Sharon, what would you say to that?

AJ: I’d say, I don’t do Prozac.

DK: (laughs)

AJ: (laughs)

DK: Definitely a cool response.

AJ: That’s pretty about much how I feel about it, I mean poor Ozzy. I saw him on Larry King or some shit like that and he seemed so prozaced out, it’s like God, I wouldn’t want to go there. I don’t know man, I certainly wouldn’t want a fuckin’ camera in my face 24/7.

DK: That would be a bit much to say the least.

AJ: Yeah.

DK: Now moving on to movies. I know you mentioned in one interview a movie that you didn’t like ‘The Day After”

AJ: Yeah, so stupid man

DK: So, I’m curious with all the samples you come across the movies that you have been inspired by and very much into.

AJ: The absolute WORST movie that I AM inspired by is the BUSH ADMINISTRATION (laughs) Just a nightmare, that’s Scary Movie Part 3. What movies inspire me? I don’t know man, I listen for sound bites and I don’t care where I get em whether it’s from something that’s known or something that’s not known. I like obscure movies and art movies as much as anyone else and also like the occasional blockbuster? It just depends. I mean I get my sample sources from so many different areas and a lot of times we’ll make them up ourselves, instead of scouring through waiting for somebody else to say it, so, it just really depends. But like I said I much prefer reading than movies and TV and all that stuff.

DK: What do you find yourself reading?

AJ: Well lately, a shitload of political writing, Eric Alterman, Richard Clark, Al Franken Bob Woodward, etc. So, I’m pretty much trying to stay on top of that and reading the Nation every day. Ugh, just trying to stay abreast of what’s going on, cuz it’s pretty dangerous fuckin’ times.

DK: Yeah, the world is changing…

AJ: Thank God! But now we have to accelerate that change. We have to sweep out the old here. To me, it seems we are right on the cusp of when we went from coal to oil, now we have to go to alternative fuels for so many reasons. I mean the economy, the environment, for security. There are just so many reasons it’s all interconnected and I just see a huge change coming up in just our basic lifestyle as a human race soon so I think they’re kind of exciting times too. They’re also very dangerous times, because whenever there’s the element of change, there’s the element of danger cause you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. That’s why we’re working very hard to get this dolt out of office.

DK: You probably wouldn’t be very pleased with me, I’ve actually never voted, myself.

AJ: Well, we’re going to change that in Chicago because we have voter registration at every one of our shows and I will be very disappointed in you if you don’t. After sound check, I’m gonna go work the voter registration booth myself.

DK: Cool

AJ: With the people from Punkvoter.com and Music for America. So I expect to see you there. We’ll chat then and I’ll get you all hooked up all right?

DK: Cool. Do you still have a little bit more time?

AJ: A little bit, but I am going to have to get to rehearsal

DK: I Was going to ask you about your family and Angelina and when you got married.

AJ: Got married Sept 6th, two years ago in Graceland. Coming up to 2 years.

DK: How did becoming a father affect your life?

AJ: Well that’s the weird thing, when it happened, it didn’t really affect my life, because not only was I a fuckin’ heroin addict, basically in my own little world but I was touring most of the fuckin’ time. So a child was a nice abstract concept to have. So, it took me a long time to develop a relationship with my daughter. And now it’s rock solid, which is really rewarding, but I missed out on that when she was really young. It is sad, but I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do.

DK: Do you ever foresee yourself having another child?

AJ: Well I have (laughs) 3 dogs, 3 cats and two birds and those are my children, believe it or not so…

DK: They definitely take a lot of attention.

AJ: Yeah.

DK: One final question for you… In the future, how would you want rock historians to remember you?

AJ: I don’t really care. I just have always done what I wanted to do, that simple. Sometimes we’re flavor of the month, sometimes we’re not. In the overall scope of things, I don’t have time to look at it in a historical perspective cause I’m still in the middle of doing it. Ask me that question in about 10 years, how’s that?

DK: OK.

AJ: All right!

DK: Well, I do very much appreciate your time and I know you’re very busy there.

AJ: We’re rockin’ out man at rehearsal were really, this is going to be an incredible tour I’m telling ya. It’s not to be missed!

DK: Now how is that working out? Are you still doing the 10-15 hour days?

AJ: About 12, yeah.

DK: Still a lot of hours.

AJ: Yeah, we are expected to be tight and we shall be.

DK: Cool. All right, I will let you go. Thank you very much! And hope maybe one day to ask you some more questions.

AJ: Well I’ll trade you all the time you want, you just show up and vote at the Chicago show at the Vic all right?

DK: Definitely.

AJ: So, we’ll get you all registered and we’ll chat some more then.

DK: Thank you very much!

AJ: All right Dennis

DK: Bye

AJ: Bye


Links:

Official: http://www.alfuckingjourgensen.com/#al-jourgensen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ministry/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlFknJourgensen

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