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Interviews : “This album is a much bigger picture” – An interview with Al Jourgensen (Ministry)

By on March 6, 2018

Ministry – Al Jourgensen

Al Jourgensen is the man at the centre of Ministry, a revered moniker associated with down and dirty industrial rhythms backed by rock and metal guitars. With the release of album number 14, AmeriKKKant, Jourgensen is keen to spread the gospel.

My conversation with the man known simply as ‘uncle Al’ to many pundits came with a reasonable degree of trepidation. Not fear, to be sure, just a realisation that the opportunity to chat with possibly the most incendiary figure in rock and metal of the past 30 years carries a responsibility to engage and actively participate in the interview.

I started off by thanking Jourgensen for writing Filth Pig (’96), an album that confounded many at the time, since becoming a critic and fan cult favourite among the albums in the Ministry catalogue.

It’s funny you mentioned Filth Pig, because AmeriKKKant, this new album is so similar, in my mind, to that album. It’s the way that we framed the musicality. The lyrics are completely different than Filth Pig. Filth Pig was a personal album, more about things that were going on personally for me and my life at the time. (AmeriKKKant) is much more of a social activist album. It’s the first time since Filth Pig that I’ve actually been in a studio with the full band and recorded live, instead of just me, an engineer and computers. 75 to 85% of this album was recorded in one week in a studio in Los Angeles with a live band. In that sense, it’s much different than previous Ministry records. That was exciting for me. I’m that convinced that this is probably the best work I’ve ever done under the name Ministry”

Wow… big call when your catalogue contains the albums Psalm 69 (’92), the mentioned Filth Pig and the often covered but never bettered “Thieves”, an immortal cut from the album The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste (’89).

An enduring theme for Jourgensen is the proclivity of his lyrics to offer politically aware commentary against a decidedly heavier thrash metal guitar sonic assault.

As far as what my impetuous is to sing about social activities, I take breaks from that. It’s funny and it’s kind of frustrating, but everyone associates Ministry as like, okay, a right-wing government is in power in the United States, so Ministry is going to make a good hard-core album. (They think) whenever Democrats or the left wing is in power, we suck, which was (albums) like Filth Pig but they are a deviation from just commenting on social conditions and going into more personal things. So (AmeriKKKant) is also a social commentary, but it’s not a social commentary in the usual format that I do. This is much more about the system that produces people like Donald Trump than it is about Donald Trump. I mean he is very low-hanging fruit. I spent almost a decade doing anti-Bush records, and railing against Bush to the point where the third album of that trilogy, I was feeling as sorry for him as I was for us as humanity, just realizing that we’re all part of the system.”

In a far-reaching discussion that I hosted for my podcast series (Scars and Guitars), Jorgensen dived deep into his assessment of many prominent political topics of this day and age. Explaining his philosophy on the bigger picture though, the following comments neatly tie how he frames his perspective on current affairs and how it influenced the end result heard throughout AmeriKKKant.

This has been coming out in my music of content-wise, lyrically, since after From Beer to Eternity (’13) into Surgical Meth Machine (’16), I just started looking at the bigger picture. This album is a much bigger picture, Rage Against the Machine, if you will, kind of thing, as opposed to ‘we hate Bush, we hate Trump, we hate Reagan, we hate Malcolm Turnbull, we hate whoever’. These individuals are just like cysts… It’s more a preview of an overall global sociological condition and the system that produces that, whether it’d be through social media, or politics, or religion, or what have you, what kind of systems have we created? So, that’s what this album is much more about.”

AmeriKKKant is available 9 March through Nuclear Blast. Pre-order your copy here!


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith