Interviews, Metal / Hard Rock — November 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Ministry’s Al Jourgensen: The Truth Behind The Tales


Al Jourgensen’s new autobiography Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen (written with John Wiederhorn) will surely go down as one of the most insane rock tales ever. This, after all, is a guy who technically died several times, claims to have met aliens and did things to groupies that humans just aren’t supposed to do. If you want a sex, drugs and rock’n’roll tale, this is it.

Al Jourgensen, Ministry - 2013

Al Jourgensen of Ministry © Allan Amato

It’s so excessive and abrasive at times that a talk with Jourgensen instilled fear before a call. Will this be the Jourgensen who claims to despise journalists? But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The 54-year old Ministry singer who answers the phone at his El Paso, Texas compound is cordial, engaging, charming and dishes out tales and wisdom like a crazed, older uncle. 

What follows is our recent conversation.


Al Jourgensen: Hello there, Scott Murphy from Hong Kong.

Scott Murphy: Hello.

Al: I’m glad you want to talk to me, the drunk asshole. Since you’re in Hong Kong, maybe you can get my book over to Snowden. That would be great! What time is it over there?

Scott: Seven am in the morning.

Al: Jeez, I feel bad for you. That’s dedication. I’m already bowing down to you. I’m just sitting here getting drunk on red wine.

Scott: Well, thanks for taking the time.

Al: Thank you! Everything I say is full of shit anyway. You just make me smell nice.

Scott: Let’s start off by talking about your new album From Beer To Eternity. I’ve heard Obama samples, a diatribe about Fox news and it’s loud!


Al: I thought we were going to talk about the book!

Scott: We are, but while want to touch on the album first.

Al: Well, that’s great that you heard it. I’m really happy with this album. As for Fox News, I’m sick of them. Fuck them! I get my news from everywhere: the web, Al Jazeera, Current Tv, MSNBC. I don’t even watch CNN and Fox. When I see what’s going on with the journalism in this country and for the most part the world, I just think it’s ridiculous. It’s just so predictable. It’s not even worth watching. It’s like a really bad reality show.

Scott: It’s also quite a departure politically from your last few albums.

Al: In terms of the album, I dealt with George W. Bush for a few years and really towards the end of The Last Sucker, I almost felt sorry for him. The U.S. government is all corrupt and owned by other people. We need to find the people that own the people that represent the people.

Scott: Which is why it’s good to be in Hong Kong at the moment.

Al: Hong Kong’s cool. If I was Snowden, that’s where I would go to.

Scott: I was going to ask if you have any interest in coming here to play.

Al: I’ve never been to China. My ex drummer went to China and told me it was amazing. He went with REM and played drums for them. His name is Bill Rieflin. He told me some great tales about China and had a great time. As for me, I’m pretty much of a recluse. I’m a real hermit. China has been scratched off of places that I want to see. It’s like Charles Bukowski wrote in that Mickey Rourke film Barfly, I just get tired of thinking of all the places that I don’t want to go.

Scott: So no more touring for you?

Al: We’ve had offers everywhere from South Africa to Antarctica and pretty much everywhere in between. I don’t like to travel. I’m a crazy weird guy who lives in a big mansion and never leaves my house. I have my recording studio. I don’t really go visiting many people.

Scott: Got it. But is From Beer To Eternity really the final Ministry album?

Al: It has to be the final album. The Last Sucker was the perfect time with Bush ending his presidency and my health was really bad. That was actually a medical decision that it couldn’t go on any longer. I kind of eased my way back into it. Mike Scaccia and I did this country album. We’d been talking about doing it for 30 years and when I got out of the hospital I said I don’t know how much time I have left. We had a gas.

Scott: And that proved to be meaningful in more ways than one…

Al: It’s called Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters. That was my favorite album up until this one. While we were doing country stuff, I was playing petal steel mandolin, and in between takes I was doing metal riffs. He started texting me that this had to come out. He said “Dude, you have to put this out!” Finally, he came back. He spent three weeks here intensively drinking and working and we got his parts done, and two days later he died on stage. I had to speak at the funeral and then mix Mikey’s parts every day and then add on to it because we didn’t have the mix yet. It’s really weird to have your best friend in the world die and then mix his parts for the next three months. I don’t know if it’s any good. You guys decide that. But we tried extra hard to make sure that we did him proud. My response to you is if you like the album, please give me all the credit. And if you don’t, please blame Mikey!

Scott: Having said that, it’s interesting that a lot of your older material seems to be re-recorded and put on Spotify. Was that so you could take ownership of your recordings?

Al: Really? I don’t know anything about that. Anything legal goes through Angie [Jourgensen’s wife]. I just record. Whatever comes out comes out. There’s so much on the shelf that it’s a Hendrix thing. 20 years later a brand new album can come out. I know that the record companies want me to die in a plane crash. There’s also enough stuff in this book that got rejected by lawyers and that also you may be sick of my name in 15 years.

Scott: So basically, you’re content to be at your home in El Paso, Texas…

Al: Look, I record. I have a professional grade world class studio that I built brick by brick in my backyard in Texas. We put a big wall around it. It’s insulated. My neighbors, they think they’re living next door to Ozzy Osbourne. I got three and four of my neighbors to love me. They’re Republicans and I can even turn them into Democrats. I have a beautiful house. The way I look at it is, there’s nothing but trouble out there. Even Fox and CNN news, it’s just trouble. It’s a bunch of egos clashing. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m really happy right here.

Scott: Let’s talk about the book. To start off with, how many sessions did you have with writer Jon Weiderhorn…and you have a pretty good memory for someone off the rails all the time.

Al: I’ve known Jon for 18 years. He was at MTV and I really didn’t like him. I thought he was a prick. But by about the 10th interview, I thought “This guy is sussed.” He knows what’s going on. My wife forced me to write this book. Every time we go out to anywhere, a party, a symphony, you get drunk and tell tour stories. She said, “Why don’t you write it down, hand it out and shut the fuck up?”

She really pushed this book. It was actually pretty weird. It was difficult. We flew him out to El Paso. We sat there for a week. We got shitfaced, hammered, drunk and he just let the tape recorder roll. Then he would go away for four weeks and do his due diligence to see if all the facts were right and stuff.

He would say “I’ve got a lot” and he would say he’s getting heat from the lawyers. He would do another session and he would do his diligence and then he turned it into the publishers and they would do the diligence, so that Al wouldn’t get sued.

I’ve been writing a book for 28 years called Mindfuck, which is about a serial killer who kills just through thoughts and he gets lowlife people to kill themselves, and he lines his whole apartment with the obituaries of those he’s killed. Wiederhorn is going to come out and help me finish that. I’m down to the last 100 pages and the problem is, how do you convict somebody like that? He’s the perpetrator of this mass suicide spike and it’s set in Chicago. I need Wiederhorn’s help with that.

Scott: Sounds like it would make a great movie…

Al: There’s a couple movie things going on. There’s a comic strip coming out about me now. It’s called Captain of Industry in the UK. I have superpowers. I’m the captain of industry and I destroy evil through sound and electricity. It’s just crazy! It’s all coming to a head.

Scott: That’s hysterical, that you’re a Captain of Industry, in a comic strip!

Al: At some point, you have to stop dealing with lawyers who want certain percentages. I found all that ridiculous. I’m an old drunk guy who sits in his house all day, who records and I’m a recluse. So yes, I think that’s hysterical.

The difference is if I release the sequel. If I die in a plane crash I’ll have revealed all of the famous people who I met in my life. If I’m dead, they’ll print it. You can pretty much expect the sequel. All the stuff edited out here will go in the next book. They wait for you to die. You’re worth more dead than alive! (laughs)

Scott: Who are some of these famous people?

Al: For legal reasons I can’t tell who they are.

Scott: In your book, one of the most interesting aspects is your passionate plea to save the earth through socialism. Discuss.

Al: It goes beyond that. There are about 25 people who run the earth and there are eight and a half billion people on the earth. It always reminded me of the Holocaust, where there are 15 German guards and 1,000 prisoners. Why don’t you storm the gates? And say “Fuck you!” That’s what it’s getting to now whether it’s Hong Kong or Chicago. People have no say anymore and it’s really becoming evident. Politics mean nothing and I spent three albums, maybe more talking about it. And I realize it’s not the politics, it’s the system.

Scott: There’s so much excess in the book. You almost died several times.

Al: I was dead, dude. Let’s call a spade a spade!

The goal is not to be dead again. That last one was freaky. The last one was bad. The second one I was floating all around the room, knew where everyone is in the room, after which they couldn’t believe that I knew people were behind walls. I could see everything. It gave me an understanding of the afterlife and what happens as a human being.

The third time freaked me out. Cats are supposed to have nine lives and that was my third and I don’t want to be a third of a cat. My fourth one is going to be the final one.

Now I’m not afraid of death. The second time really told me that there’s really more out there. I don’t mean to be a hippy. There’s a lot more out there that we are just distracted from.

I truly believe that. The next time I go, I don’t want to come back. The fourth time is the charm for me. But I hope that doesn’t happen for a while. I’m really happy with the space that I’m at and the music that we’re recording and we’ve got our own record label. The closest thing that I deal with weasels is doing press. Sorry!

The whole time with Wiederhorn, I was very hostile during each session. I was like “Why are you asking me this. I’m a 54 guy on this pale blue planet in an insignificant galaxy. Why is this so important for people to find out? Who the fuck cares what a Kardashian is doing today? Or even the Osbournes!” This thing where people are very interested. It’s weird! I’m a very private person, so the last thing I want is this camera in my face trying to act normal…

I don’t understand the success of this book and the interest from people and the kind words and kind reviews. It’s just something my wife told me to do as a homework project…

Scott: But you did take part in Fix, the Ministry documentary.

Al: Fix—it was completely done, unlicensed, really slanted towards…filmed by Paul Barker’s people. They tried me to make me a crazy person, but I’ve released 16 albums and he’s released one, so what does that tell you? I don’t like the film and they completely reduced me to rubble in this film. But if you’re going to do that, you’re going to pay me and until they do…Instead of getting a punch in the face, I’d rather get a wallet full of cash…

Scott: You mention alien visitations in your book. Describe them to me.

Al: Alien visitations—I’ve lived it and my wife’s seen them too. They keep tabs on me every so often. They send the greys. I saw a tall grey with hair. She seemed female. I don’t know why I thought that. They come and check on us since I’ve been five. I’m not afraid of them. I’m not hostile towards them. I’ve never had an anal probe. I learned this. I wish they ran a record label. They should take over Hollywood. We’d have better movies!

Scott: Speaking of which, you seem suited towards soundtracks. Why not do more?

Al: I’ve heard that before. I won a Grammy for The Hurt Locker. But when I produce, I don’t produce in the sense of getting a hit single or reach the charts or care if anybody gives a fuck. We just do what makes us feel good. We’ll spark one up, put on some headphones, listen to it and we’ll keep that one. There’s no agenda or thought involved or otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

I have been in positions to do jingles for companies and sing on diet soda commercials. When I did that in the early 80s, I had a baby coming and I was broke. I know what that side of the business is like and I stay away from that.

Scott: Tell me about your experiences with Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg.

Al: That was bizarre! That’s the closest an American is going to come to meeting the Queen. Spielberg’s handlers are there telling me not to look at him and I’m just like “Wow, fuck you!” He respected me a lot for that. I’m sure this guy lives in a bubble. The first rock band he’d ever heard. Kubrick gave us to him and said “I want this band in this movie.” The only rock band Spielberg had ever heard before was U2, so he didn’t have a real good playlist going. We get along great now and I have nothing but great things to say about him—except for that bear (used in AI). He’s just a normal guy.

Scott: Timothy Leary played a real prominent role in your life…

Al: Timothy Leary—he was really my father figure. I had a lot of problems with my stepdad and I found someone I could really trust—and when I say trust, he would have a new chemical from California that’s not registered or known and can I inject it? I would say sure. I was his lab rat, but I had so much trust in him, much more than Burroughs or Ginsburg or anyone else I met. He also tortured me with drugs that they hadn’t tried on rats yet.

Scott: William Burroughs…

Al: It was a great experience! There was a story where we were both in the methadone program and these raccoons were eating his garden, so I told him that methadone tablets would slow them down! It worked, he shot them and he loved me after that. I watched him shoot as well during the video, but he’s not that great of a shot. He was so happy and he thought I was the smartest young man I’d ever met. That’s how our relationship started.

William’s crazy! He’s crazy good. He just thought forward and all these guys think forward. Don’t think in the past. That’s what’s weird about this book. I’m thinking about my future. I’m thinking about the comic strip and another album. It won’t be Ministry. It will be something else. On December 22, 2012 Mikey died. Ministry died.

All this talk about this past, and William and Timothy had that in common. They were both great intellects… They were both forward thinkers. They didn’t think about their past. Even right up to the end when he died, Timothy was thinking about other things that he should do in his late stage prostrate cancer. Okay, let the past go. So that’s basically what I do.


Scott: What about your encounter with Robert Plant?

Al: I love his music, but I’d always wanted to be Jimmy Page and now it looks like I’ve become a cross breed of the two and try to be sexy for the camera and all this crap. Page was a man who stayed in his castle and followed Alistair Crowley. I’m living the Jimmy Page life, but every once in a while I have to live the lead singer’s life and those people are assholes.

Scott: All musicians were clear that you hear all aspects of a song like nobody else. What do you attribute it to?

Al: I think that’s a universal gift. It’s either a blessing or the songs…most of the songs that I write are given to me in my sleep. There’s a universal transmission that I tap into…and yet, even this record…I’ve never been able to come up with as good an arrangement as what’s happening in my sleep. I came close on this album. These dreams I get are beautiful transmissions from other places in the universe. Most of my songs are coming through sleeping. And maybe my critics would say that’s probably true!

Scott: Do you ever have a sense of embarrassment or regret over some of the things you’ve done?

Al: That’s what I was speaking about forward thinking. I don’t. I read the book once and all I thought was, people do stupid stuff but without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without death, I wouldn’t be as spiritual today. It’s the peaceful spot that’s sustainable. I’ve created this, but I’ve created this through bonehead maneuvers.

So I don’t regret anything, outside of Madonna. That lady stinks worse than my dog’s ass!

Scott: I met her several times…

Al: When you met her, did she spray herself with petunias?

Scott: Ha! Final question: You have 24 hours. Where are we going, what are we doing…eating…whatever…?

Al: I would sit in here, in my compound, not go anywhere, and I just want to make sure…Mikey died onstage with a smile on his face, playing a lead with Rigor Mortis. That’s how he wanted to die. I would just make sure that I had enough assistants to sprawl my body over to the mixing board. I just want to die at a mixing desk. I want to die at a mixing desk not onstage.

Scott: Thank you very much.

Al: Hey, be safe buddy. You take care of yourself.