INTERVIEW: Al Jourgensen from Ministry and Surgical Meth Machine
LOS ANGELES, April 5, 2016 — Al Jourgensen of Ministry is set to release a new album with a different band called Surgical Meth Machine on April 15 via Nuclear Blast Records. The debut album from Surgical Meth Machine is the brain child of Al Jourgensen and his longtime engineer, Sam D’Ambruoso. Recently Al Jourgensen took some time to speak with Wells On Music regarding Surgical Meth Machine.
Interview transcribed by Becca Jean
Talking about your new album Surgical Meth Machine it seems to pull from a lot of the different styles that we’ve seen from Ministry over the years, would you consider this kind of like a best of Al Jourgensen style album?
It’s funny you should say that, as a matter of fact, yeah. I mean, the whole premise of this record or project or whatever you want to call it was just me and my long time engineer Sammy just decided to go in and just lay out ideas which is what I’ve been doing for the last like seven, ten years something like that. What I do is I just go into the studio for like four months and just clear out ideas that I’ve had in my head and whoever happens to be around, whether it’s Jello Biafra or members of Ministry that we tour with or other people from Revolting Cocks. At the end of the four months, I just listen to what we’ve done for four months and whoever was there or wasn’t there and we pick and choose like, “You know what? That sounds like Ministry. You know what? That would be a good Cocks song. You know what? Jello Biafra likes it, so let’s put that in Lard,” and this and that.
And this time it was just me and my engineer. There was no one else around and we just wanted to get some ideas out, to try out different tempos and things like this and during the course of recording, some friends heard it when they popped by while we were recording and just go, “Man, this s**t’s dope, man. You gotta release this s**t,” and I’m like, “Yeah, whatever,” and next thing I know some record labels got wind of it and they heard a tape of it and they’re calling me and next thing you know I’m sitting here on f**king phone, talking to you on this otherwise fine day, like talking about this f**king s**t that wasn’t supposed to happen in the first place. So I don’t really have much to add on it except that we just went in and recorded. We didn’t even have a band name. They’re like, “Well, what are we gonna release it as?” I’m like, “I don’t know, whatever the f**k you want.” And they’re like, “Well, what do you want to call it?” I’m like, “Well, I don’t know. I’ll get back with you tomorrow.” And then I talked to Sammy and came up with this name and they slapped it on the cover and put it out and next thing you know here I am. So that’s it.
You mentioned Jello Biafra and he shows up on the song “I Don’t Wanna” and any Lard fan who hears that sing will instantly go, “Holy sh*t, that’s a f**king new Lard song.”
That’s the thing, since I just bulk record for four months out of the year, I’ve got like a half finished Lard record. I’ve got a half finished RevCo record. I’ve got a half finished Ministry record. We’ve got all these things on the shelf, I mean, eventually it will come out, especially if I die in a plane crash or something because last time I checked Hendrix is still releasing new albums, but that was a couple years ago. So, I’m sure the s**t will come out someday. It’s not like my priority, but eventually some of the s**t will get done. Actually, Lard is the one that probably has the most progress into almost an album and we’ll get it done someday I hope.
It’s always fun working with Jello, he was staying at my house, He was doing a spoken word thing and spent a weekend at my house while he was here and heard some of the tracks and went like, “Ooooh, that one sounds good, I’d love to give that one a crack,” or something like that, so that’s how it rolls. It’s all really organic there’s no like agenda or any kind of this and that. We just kind of wing it and just go into the studio and see what happens.
I interviewed you a few years ago when your book came out and I asked you a similar question but now in light of the current political atmosphere do you think America is ready for a Jourgensen/Biafra presidential ticket yet? It couldn’t be any worse than Donald Trump, right?
We’re gonna find out in Cleveland because Ministry is playing about four blocks down from the Republican National Convention and you know Jello will be there, of course. What would a good protest be without me and Jello? So, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll get drafted by the Democratic ticket, but either way we’ll be at the Republican National Convention in full regalia.
Are you officially backing any particular candidate at this point?
Well, if you listened to “From Beer to Eternity,” what two, three years ago when we recorded that I was already sampling Bernie Sanders on the songs, so I lean more towards that direction. I would have prefered Elizabeth Warren, but I’ll settle for Bernie and if I have to, I’ll settle for Hillary, but the entire Republican Party is completely in disarray. There’s no point in even bothering, except that by some freak circumstance if they keep playing on people’s fears, I mean, we watched this before with Europe in the early 1930’s and this and that, they have to be stopped.
Trump gets all the headlines, but in all actuality, the scary part is not Trump. It’s that three out of ten people in this country actually think his ideas are good, but the comforting fact is that seven of the ten people in this country don’t think it’s such a good idea. So you have to take solace in that, but you actually have to go out and vote, whether it’s Hillary or whatever, anyone except anything that they’ve thrown up in the Republican Party to nominate. So, that’s just the way it goes. You have to do that or we’re all toast.
Since we last spoke I heard you have gotten sober is that correct?
Well fairly so, yeah, I mean, I’m up in the morning like doing interviews all morning so I couldn’t do that if i was wasted could I? Or could I, who knows?
The last time I interviewed you you were still on Facebook at the time and I was your last interview of the day and I was just watching your Facebook posts about how drunk you were getting I was like, “Oh no, this is gonna be horrible,” but it was good.
It’s all good, man. I don’t need it in the morning when I wake up and all the way through the day until at night. I haven’t done drugs in 13 years, well, it’s coming up on 13 in September. I just live life I’m having fun, loving it out here. I’ll have the occasional drink, but it’s not like an addiction anymore, which is good. Most people can’t do that, it’s either all or nothing, one day at a time kind of AA s**t and all that and that just doesn’t work for me. So, I pick my spots now, but at my age, it’s not like I could possibly be an addict of any sort of any substance and still be able to function.
Is it harder to tour sober or soberish?
Soberish I think is the word, but no it’s not harder. Actually, touring has gotten a lot easier for me in the sense that there’s no stress. It’s just like you know what people want, what people expect when they go there. It’s no big deal, you’re not stressed out of your mind. The same crew I’ve had for years they’re just so professional and the songs are easy to do because you actually enjoy them. Like everyone gets mad about we don’t play this song or that song or that song. The reason we don’t play those songs is cause I don’t really feel like playing them. It’s not fun to do, so we only do s**t that’s fun for us to do. So, in that sense, it becomes easier, but as you get older the traveling and all that s**t you’re not in it for a big party, like there’s no aftershow parties and groupies and all that s**t. It’s just kinda fun, you get to hang out with your mates for a few weeks at a time and catch up on old s**t on the bus and all that. It’s more like a highschool reunion in a sense opposed to like stressing out on a tour trying to promote a f**king record or all this other kind of s**t. We’re just a bunch of old cranky white guys getting together, you know? That’s about it.
What’s the tour gonna look like for this album?
There’s no tour for this album. I didn’t even know it was gonna be an album, let alone a band. I don’t have a band it was just me and Sammy in there f**king around and I’m certainly not gonna go get a band together just to tour on one album. We don’t have any other songs, so we just have to tour on the one album. Why don’t you just stay home and watch it on lyric videos or something? Why see our old white asses up there flaunting around, f**k that. So if we ever do another SMM album, then maybe I might think about it. You know, it might be fun to pull together a tour just to see if we could do it because some of those beats are like monstrous to try to play live and it might be a challenge. We might do it, we might not. I don’t know, man, just depends.
So in the meantime the only thing you have coming up live is the Ministry show in Cleveland?
Yeah and, well, we gotta to finish off the “From Beer to Eternity” tour. We did the rest of the world, we just haven’t done Europe yet. So we’re gonna do Europe this summer and we’ll play a song off SMM in Europe while we’re there with Ministry’s band members. we’ll just do one and just like give you like a little taste, just to cock tease you guys a little bit, but other than that, there’s nothing planned or anything like that. The main thing is the video [came] out on April Fools Day. I think you’re gonna enjoy this.[It’s for] the song “I’m Invisible,” which is on the record, the last [song]. Yeah, I think you’ll find that fairly amusing.
Have you heard back from any of the bands you mentioned on the song “Unlistenable”?
Nah, I mean, they’re the lucky ones. We basically did like 30 takes of all different s**t and we just edited it down to those like six or seven or whatever I think I even mention myself on that song. I think it’s “Ministry, they f**king suck.” So, I haven’t sued myself, so I don’t anticipate anyone else suing me or anything.