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Cover Story: Ministry

| June 30, 2006

Allied Forces

According to his publicist, legendary Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen wasn’t up for doing a lot of interviews to promote his new album and summer tour. But Illinois Entertainer? He wanted to talk to us.

That was worrisome.

Appearing: 7/1-2 at House Of Blues (329 N. Dearborn) in Chicago.

He didn’t want to talk in 1992 at the height of Ministry’s popularity; Paul Barker toyed with our poor reporter. He was available in 1996 while pushing Filth Pig, and though he professed freedom from the recreational demons resting on his shoulders, he was still “classic” Jourgensen: on the offensive. So what’s that make it? Ten years? God knows what this magazine has written about Jourgensen or Ministry (or Lard or Revolting Cocks or 1000 Homo DJs) or anything remotely Al-ien within a 120-issue span. Yet Al wants to talk.

Turns out Jourgensen doesn’t want to “yabber” about anything IE has done at all (praise Jesus!). No, navigating the land of rape and honey for this summer’s Ministry/RevCo trek, Al Jourgensen is on the make. He has two new albums (Rio Grande Blood and Cocked & Loaded) in the can, a new band, a record label, and he’s . . . retiring?

“Oh yeah, we got one more Ministry, one more Revolting Cocks, one more Lard, one Buck Satan, and that’s it for me. That’s it.” Eh, quoi? “Well dude, I have a record label to run, I love producing other bands and working with other people. I’m not out of music, but I’m out of having to do interviews about my music.”

That last bit is a springboard into a coughing fit of hoarse laughter — singing two sets per night has affected his voice, but apparently not his attitude toward rock scribes — as he prepares for his career apocalypse. After that fourth horseman, he contends, *nada más.

“You’ll see my country album come out,” he offers, matter of factly. “It’s called Buck Satan & The 666 Shooters. I’ve been talking about it for 20 years. We did a couple shows with this band, but when you see that come out that is the absolute final exclamation point on my career. Like I said, I’m doing Ministry, Cocks, and Lard, one more a piece after this tour. Then I’m doing my Buck Satan record and that’s it. Ride off into the sunset.”

In 1981, Jourgensen established his Ministry in Chicago originally as a synth-pop outfit. Picked up by Arista after a quick shot on the seminal Wax Trax! label, he had second thoughts about pursuing the path Arista wanted him on, and returned to Wax Trax! It was there he laid the groundwork for what turned into the most successful strains of industrial dance and rock, by removing the more effete elements of goth and focusing on guitars, samples, hard drugs, and mental anguish.

Before long it was back to the majors on Sire, where he and aide de camp Barker set the template Trent Reznor, among others, would ride to the top of the charts in the ’90s. Along the way he acquired a reputation for mythic levels of Dionysian excess (mainly heroin), but also for lewd behavior equalled only by The Butthole Surfers as far as the indie immoral minority. In the pantheon of Chicago alt-rock deities, Jourgensen was simultaneously among the most productive and destructive. As he battled his way through the ’90s, critics suddenly turned on him, and he abandoned his adopted city following flippant press implications of his involvement in a friend’s heroin overdose. Once the Wax Trax! store and record label vanished and one of its founding members, Jim Nash, had died, Jourgensen seemed headed the way of the dodo — under rug swept with the rest of the industrial rockers in America.

Astoundingly resilient, he mentions his “addictions” only in passing during our call, and speaks enthusiastically about the future as if he has no intentions to sabotage it.

“I had like a five-year plan I did a couple years ago and I’m right on schedule with it now,” he says. “Everything seems to be going according to plan, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. After that? Listen, I don’t wanna be getting collagen injections in my lips and doing state-fair-fucking gigs when I’m 70 and reunion tours and all this other Rolling Stones kind of crap, where literally Keith Richards is pickled in formaldehyde and they prop him up onstage and spit out ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.’ I’m not gonna be about that. I have other things to do, and other talents and interests. It’s another chapter in life and it’s exciting, as opposed to just rehashing the same old shit. But I do still feel I have viable shit to say and as is obvious with this record, it kicks ass. It’s not like we’re just milking it right now. We’re really pushing forward. And there’s a point in time when you go out on top, you try something different.”

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  1. Cleo Hansbury says:

    man i love Travis Barker. I will never be as good as him at drums but at least i can try.