No one ever accused Al Jourgensen of keeping his opinions to himself. Whether the topic is American politics, the soul-sucking vortex that is the music industry, or the NHL, the Ministry founder invariably has something to say. For example, when it’s suggested to Jourgensen—who grew up in Illinois but has lived in Texas for the past 15 years—that he might want to consider switching his hockey allegiance from the Chicago Blackhawks to the eminently more successful Dallas Stars, he’s not having any of it.
“Fuck off!” the industrial-rock icon bellows good-naturedly over the phone from Ministry’s rehearsal studio in El Paso. “Not a chance in hell. I’ve been with this stupid fuckin’ Blackhawks team since 1965. That was my first game. And in 1966 we got our first season tickets. My dad, a little blue-collar guy, bought the nosebleed seats. And then after [Ministry’s 1988 album] Land of Rape and Honey went gold, I could afford my own seats, so I bought 200-level seats. And then [1992’s] Psalm 69 went platinum, so I bought 100-level tickets.” In any case, Jourgensen couldn’t distance himself from his beloved Blackhawks now if he tried; the team recently adopted a Ministry tune called “Keys to the City” as an unofficial anthem.
But, as is made clear on his band’s latest album, The Last Sucker, Jourgensen has more than sports on his mind. The disc was conceived as a sendoff for outgoing U.S. president George W. Bush, whose war-mongering ways have provided Ministry with plenty of fodder for its vitriol-fuelled metallic rampages since the election of 2000. The new album blasts off with “Let’s Go”, a head-snapping call to arms on which even the beat sounds enraged, and closes with “End of Days (Pt. 2)”, which, fittingly, samples Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address, during which the 34th president warned of the growing power of the military-industrial complex.
The Last Sucker is Ministry’s third Bush-inspired collection, following 2004’s Houses of the Molé and 2006’s Rio Grande Blood. Jourgensen says he was disappointed that he was compelled to add the second and third chapters. “There’s no reason we should have had to do that, if this country would have woken up and not reelected that idiot,” he says. “I didn’t set out to do a trilogy of Bush bashing, dude, but the guy kept hanging around, and I started to get more and more angry, like ”˜Why do I even have to do this?’ And unlike the Dixie Chicks, I won’t apologize for it.”
In a few months Bush will be a private citizen, and he’s not the only one retiring. Jourgensen has announced that Ministry is getting ready to make a graceful exit from the stage. The band’s current tour, and a soon-to-be-released collection of classic-rock songs called Cover Up, are to be the final chapters in the story of the project Jourgensen launched as a relatively lightweight synth-pop act in the heady new-wave days of 1981. Oh really, Al? We’ve heard this kind of retirement talk before, namely from a certain mono-monikered plastic-surgery disaster who never seems to go away.
“Fuck you, man! I’m not Cher,” the 50-year-old Jourgensen insists. “I’m not doing a three-year farewell tour and then coming back. Anthrax has been doing a farewell tour for seven years. They’re idiots. There’s no way I’m doing that. This is done, all right? We’re over. The last thing I want to do is do the Botox circuit, where you’ve got to do little injections in your face so the wrinkles go away and you play at fuckin’ state fairs and high schools and shit. I’m not into it.”
So it seems Ministry will go out with a bang, with vocalist-raconteur Jourgensen accompanied on the C-U-LaTour by guitarists Tommy Victor and Sin Quirin, bassist Tony Campos, singer Burton C. Bell, drummer Aaron Rossi, and keyboardist John Bechdel. Mind you, Jourgensen has made it a matter of public record that he creates his best music when there’s a Republican in the White House to give him a focus for his fury. So what will he do if, heaven forbid, John McCain wins November’s election?
“Well, then, goddammit, I’ve got to start a new band or some crap,” an exasperated-sounding Jourgensen says, “because I hate these right-wing fuckers. And McCain’s just a lap dog. I just hate him. I just want to rest and be an old cranky drunk and have a Democrat in office.” After eight interminable years of Republican rule, he’ll probably get his wish. But even with either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama seemingly headed for the Oval Office, one suspects the world hasn’t heard the last from Jourgensen.
Ministry plays an all-ages gig at the Croatian Cultural Centre tonight (March 27) and a licensed show at the Commodore Ballroom on Friday (March 28).