Ministry's Al Jourgensen: We Finished From Beer To Eternity For Mikey

Al Jourgensen is 54 years old--a veteran in the metal scene--and has gone through more than most can fathom. He's sold millions of albums and endured a decade of habitual drug abuse. He's also been pronounced dead three times along the way, and has a ton of stories about roadie hazing, sex, tragedy, and meeting some of the most famous celebrities ever.

It's all cataloged in his new book, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen. It's a thick read--almost 300 pages penned with esteemed music journalist Jon Weiderhorn. Which make sense, since Jourgensen has had a nearly 33-year ride through the music industry. Any page you open up to ensures entertainment. His meeting with Madonna and his thoughts on her body odor; experimentation with men and oral sex; an altercation with R. Kelly; his performance at the Viper Room when River Phoenix overdosed; groupies having sex with Dobermans; chasing Metallica out of his dressing room by dropping his pants; and humiliating Fred Durst in the studio when he got him drunk one night. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet here he is, still kicking and screaming into the mic, while being political, intelligent, and funny as hell. Oh yeah; and Ministry has a new album out as well, From Beer to Eternity.

Complete with a sea of riffs recorded by Scaccia prior to his death, Ministry's 13th album, From Beer To Eternity, was released on September 10. It combines just about every aspect that fans love from Ministry. There are melodic vocals and electronic industrial passages reminiscent of when the band kicked off in the '80s, as well as the sludgy riffs, thrash-y rhythms, and chunky guitars from their '90s catalog. It's also saturated with sample-laden tracks, dirty, industrial grooves, a bit of dubstep, and, of course, social commentary--demonstrated on the track "The Horror," probably one of the most disturbing things the band has ever taped.

Jourgensen has confirmed that From Beer To Eternity will be Ministry's last album--no, really. Guitar god Mike Scaccia suffered a massive heart attack and died onstage December 23, 2012, while playing a show with his other band, Rigor Mortis, to celebrate the 50th birthday of vocalist Bruce Corbitt. And with Scaccia no longer around, Jourgensen has adamantly decided that he is moving away from music. He refuses to replace the guitarist on stage or in the studio. In fact, he didn't really even want to do From Beer To Eternity to begin with; it was Scaccia who coaxed him on board. If it's the truth that this album is Ministry's last, then it is a strong departure for the industrial legends.

Up On This Sun talked to Jourgensen about meeting Obama and Lil Wayne, getting kicked out of the Grammys, and how Ministry's new album was super stressful but the memoir was easy.

Konnichiwa! This must be Lauren!

It is. How are you doing today? I'm doing good, except I ate some recalled yogurt yesterday... it had mold in it. So I'm sitting around here drinking vodka, waiting to die from mold poisoning. [Laughs]

What's with all this food being recalled lately? It's terrible. Yeah--Chobani. Make sure you get that out. They are on my official shit list now for poisoning me. I've been throwing up all day trying to get all the mold out of me, and now I'm talking to you so it's better.

My wife and doctor make me do a smoothie everyday with all these homeopathic powders and pills in it for all my ulcers. I started feeling sick, so we looked up the Chobani recall, and it turns out... mine was on it. What a horrible way to die for a rock star! Yogurt poisoning! I mean, really? So lame...

I'm gonna live through this one no matter what, because I don't want to go out like that.

I would hope not. Death by Greek yogurt. [Laughs] Al Jourgensen...killed by Greek yogurt! So what have you got for me today. Give me some good questions! I'm so sick of fucking talking to you people! I'm just over it. Give me some good questions!

Well, right off the bat I want to talk about From Beer to Eternity. Anyone whose followed you guys-- This whole album is pretty goddamn good, you know, and I rarely like the albums I make. But I fucking love this album.

It's seems there's a little bit of everything from the band's catalog, rolled up into one record--synth-pop elements, industrial passages reminiscent of Twitch, thrashy like Land of Rape and Honey... How do you feel the development, or feel, is different from the rest of Ministry's catalog? Well, after Mikey died in the middle of the record, I had to go speak at the funeral in Dallas, and it was really bittersweet and weird. My best friend had just passed and now I have to mix everything we just did. So I tried to tie it up in a nice bow of the Ministry catalog...yes, there's influences from early stuff and later stuff...

In other words, it's like, if you got a Christmas present under the tree without any markings on it, you wouldn't know what the hell it was. But this is a nice present under the Christmas tree with a nice little bow on it, and a tag that says, "R.I.P. Ministry."

What do you think would have been Mike's favorite track? "Mikey's Middle Finger." [Laughs]

That's definitely a stand-out track. That's a no brainer! [Laughs] He's been living here in the afterlife, kinda hanging around, checking around 'til the record comes out, knocking stuff over and being a pest as a ghost. But, ah, I think he's pretty cool with everything that's going on.

I really liked "Fairly Unbalanced." Oh, all about old Fox News Network. I love those guys. I can tell. I mean, the single out now, "Permawar," it's obviously a "psychedelic statement of America's litany of war," so do you think-- Hold up. That song was written directly upon me reading Rachel Maddow's book "Drift." That was my accordance with her on that, and I just figured it needed to be put into song form.

Yeah, there is a lot of bullshit going on. There's no more George Bush to kick around, so I figured I would start reading again, and Rachel put everything in a pretty good way. I thank her for that song.

So you're not into kicking around Obama? No, I've actually met him, at a fundraiser in Chicago. He seems to be an intelligent and decent man; he's not a moron. However, the way the system is it has his hands tied behind his back. He really can't do much, you know? Especially him being African American, you've got a whole section of the Republican party going off on anything he does... which is so ironic, since Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. You know, I pay attention to politics like I pay attention to my masturbation schedule at this point.

There was a lot of pressure on your for this album, because you originally didn't want to do it, and also you had to finish it after Mike's passing. So what was a way that you dealt with that pressure and coped with that terrible grief? Or did they just channel into each other? You know, he pestered me to do this record; I didn't want to do this record. I was done after The Last Sucker. But he just kept going--"Dude, these riffs are really cool, you have to do this stuff." So I finally said yes. So if you like the record, please give me all the credit, and if you don't like the record, blame fucking Mikey.

Like I said, it's very bittersweet. I can't go on and on and on about how it's the best Ministry's ever done. Going from his funeral to immediately mixing for the next three months and putting on vocals and samples was a remembrance of Mikey every single day. I just know that I did the best I could to make Mikey happy. I wasn't mixing this or singing this for you all, all right? I was doing it for Mikey. And that's where it ends.

It would be awesome if this album resulted in a Grammy win. How do you feel about those six nominations over the years? Look, all I know about the Grammys is that Angie, my wife, talked me into going there one time, and I got thrown out for being abusive. I don't like those places. I don't like these pimped-up people showing up on a red carpet--I--I don't like anything like that. Just shut the fuck up and do your art.

Well I guess that's good, anyway, because it's not like the Grammys give anything to the metal community. So I suppose it doesn't make sense to give back to them. Exactly. It's pretty disparate, man. They don't even have a nighttime metal category--it's all during the daytime Grammys, where they suck you in and make you think you're important for a minute, and it's just stupid. My wife bought this really fancy dress and she wanted to do the red carpet one time--I was nominated six times and never gone except for that one for her. And of course I got thrown out.

In typical metal fashion. So, I finished your book, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen. It was by the skin of my teeth since I got it a week ago and it's over 300 pages. Wait--and you're still talking to me? After reading that piece of shit? [Laughs] Oh my God. You're a trooper, man.

It was quite entertaining. But there was also a lot of insight into your history and the music. So what was one of the most difficult things about writing your memoir, or one of the most difficult stories you decided to lay out on the table? Here's how it goes. Let me tell you how to write an autobiography. You invite a journalist that you kinda like over--

Like Jon Weiderhorn. Yes. You get drunk with him for a week and tell tour stories. And then he asks you some questions that are pretty probing about your childhood, blah blah blah...and then he goes back to New York from Texas, and does like four weeks of due diligence making sure I'm not making shit up.

And then when he gets that done he comes back for another week of torture with me telling stories, and then he goes back for another four weeks of due diligence. Then he goes to the publisher which then has their legal team of six people checking out for six weeks of sources, references, et cetera, making sure I'm not making shit up, and finally it's done.

And I'm not going to have a From Beer to Eternity tour. I'm not gonna replace Mikey and have some LA gun up there... it just doesn't interest me. And I don't feel like monitoring a mosh pit anymore, and trying to make sure there's no weapons... it's just like I'm the world's best babysitter or traffic conductor. It means nothing to me. The adulation, or whatever thing comes out of that... I don't even hear it.

So, there's talk you may do something with Lil Wayne and Trent Reznor. I'm remembering the part from your book about the hazing of Trent Reznor, where you pretty much drugged him to pass out to shave his head, among many, many other stunts. I would love to hear that the same would be done to Lil Wayne. Maybe in the future, but I'm staying away from music for a while. You know, the Lil Wayne thing was an encounter I had with him at the Sunset Marquee Hotel in California. My bodyguard didn't tell me who I was drinking with until six hours into Arizona.

"Do you know who you were drinking with this morning?" No. It was this black guy who was pissed off at his cell phone service, and smashing his phone around. And I just said, "Hey, dick! Fuck that, quit being aggravated. Come to my room and we'll have breakfast!" And breakfast included a lot of vodka and Jack Daniels and shit like that. We talked for a while and I thought he was a cool dude. I didn't know who he was. So that's my Lil Wayne story.

Well I do appreciate you talking with me, and I hope you feel better from the yogurt. [Laughs] We'll see tomorrow.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise