At first glance, Ministry mainman Al Jourgensen can be an intimidating soul. With his lengthy dreadlocks and face full of piercings, and a stare that can burn through lead, his stage demeanor is pretty intense.
In conversation though, he’s warm and super-friendly, blessed with a hearty laugh. When we begin this interview by sympathizing with Jourgensen because he has a day of press booked, he responds with, “Being a promosexual is a very difficult job.” You’ve simply got to love him.
It’s been a weird couple of years for Ministry, as it has for everyone. They were due to go out on tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste album when the pandemic hit. Now, that album is 32 years old and the Psalm 69 album is celebrating its 30th year. And on top of all that, they released a phenomenal new album, Moral Hygiene, which is, in this writer’s humble opinion, their best since the aforementioned Psalm 69 masterpiece.
But now they’re back on the road, making up for lost time. “Yes, it’s been almost two and a half years,” says Jourgensen. “Quite the journey since our little imposed quarantine lives that we’ve partaken in. I managed to get the equivalent of almost two, two and a half albums done just by being in enforced imprisonment through quarantine. Believe me, I’m not complaining, but I have a studio in my house so, OK, there’s nothing to do—let’s just be creative for a couple of years. It’s worked out well, but I’m really looking forward to getting back on the road, which I never thought I’d say, but here we are.”
Yep, Ministry made lemonade out of lemons. And in Moral Hygiene, they made the sweetest of elixirs.
“I knew when we were done with that, that OK, this is a good one,” Jourgensen says. “This is a keeper. After 15 or 17, there’s probably maybe four or five keepers. This is in the keeper category. It seems to be like, everything that’s talked about on that album is really coming to fruition more so than ever. Things like fascism coming to a head. They’re trying every legal trick in the book to impose authoritarianism on this country, with voting rights and all the stuff that we were singing about then is now coming to fruition.”
Jourgensen has never been one to keep quiet when he feels passionate about something—there’s always been an element of punk rock rebellion about the man and his various bands. Moral Hygiene is overtly punk, from the “anarchy”-esque font on the sleeve to the guest feature from Jello Biafra, to the cover of the Stooges “Search and Destroy.”
“It wasn’t a conscious effort, but it definitely started steering in that direction,” he says. “What else do we have to lose? They’ve stripped away everything from us. We’re in quarantine with no possibility of making any kind of money over the next couple of years. We’ve just got to hunker down and that was the DIY punk rock spirit of the early ’80s, late ’70s, which I was a part of as well. It kind of was a throwback that way. It was getting into a hot tub time machine and going back to that.”
Jourgensen and Biafra have been friends and colleagues for a long time; indeed, they formed a side project together in 1988 called Lard, and Jourgensen says that there’s more Lard on the way.
“[Jello] didn’t come done here—he’s in San Francisco,” Jourgensen says. “We exchanged hard drives, and some drop boxes and stuff. I just knew that song was meant for him. I tried to take a stab at the vocals and I wasn’t happy with it, so we sent it to Uncle Jello, and he came back with that. We were like, ‘Yes, that’s it.’ Because we had all this time on our hands, we wound up writing another five, six, seven songs that are headed Jello’s way and I’m eagerly anticipating his renditions of his vocal takes on those songs. So it looks like we have a new Lard album coming out, too, next year. That’s a bonus.”
The Ministry song that Jello sings on is “Sabotage is Sex,” a snotty punk anthem and an album highlight.
“That track is a throwback,” Jourgensen says. “It was a lot of fun to make, just the exchange process—this is the new reality we live in. This is how you write music. You send it through the ether and somebody picks it up and does their stuff and sends it back through the ether to you. There you go, without any human contact. This is where we’re at. But either way, it was still a lot of fun. Just hearing the process of how that song grew. I can’t wait to play this stuff.”
The new songs will surely be a highlight of the set on this tour, but Ministry still will have to fulfill their duties and celebrate their legacy.
“We have a two-year lag because of COVID,” Jourgensen says. “I kinda thought it was dumb—we had scheduled a 30-year anniversary tip of the cap to that era of Ministry, and I was down for that, it made sense, but two years later in quarantine, this is now the 32nd year of Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, not the 30th, and Psalm 69 is now hitting 30. So we’re in a strange spot, so on this live show, we are going to give a little bit of a tip of the cap to some of the Psalm 69 songs, as well as MIATTTT, as well as Pailhead, as well as RevCo. It’s literally a throwback. When that’s done, we come out and start hitting them with the new stuff.”
Which, when all is said and done, sounds like a blast.
Industrial Complexity: Ministry’s Moral Hygiene album is out now.
– • –
NOTE: The advertising disclaimer below does not apply to this article, nor any originating from the Village Voice editorial department, which does not accept paid links.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.