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Think For Yourself: Kerby’s Exclusive Interview with Ministry Frontman Al Jourgensen

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Monday, May 5, 2003 @ 2:06 AM


Ministry's Jourgensen is a Man

When I interviewed Paul Barker of Ministry last year, he described band mate Al Jourgensen as a different type of individual with a unique perspective and the constitution of a bull. The singer’s strength and demeanor has definitely led to him being viewed as a misunderstood mad man in many quarters, but what’s undeniable is that he is one of the few artists in rock who has managed to maintain a certain mysterious aura about him that the years have done little to deteriorate. Rumors have consistently circulated about his alleged drug use and supposed erratic behavior, yet this band has been able to consistently tour without cancellations throughout their careers in the pulsating maelstrom of this group.

With a live DVD which came out last spring and the recent release of their newest effort entitled Animositisomina, Al and his crew have yet again been taking their powerful multimedia live show on the road. It’s clear from the first few moments of the performance when George Bush’s visage is shown flying around on the video screen above the band with his mouth in continuous motion spewing inaudible chaos, that Al doesn’t mind mixing a certain degree of political awareness with his stage show. At one point during his performance in Albuquerque, Jourgensen was heard to mutter, “no blood for oil,” and with that statement, his position was clear—the war is wrong, the President is wrong—think for yourselves.

Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of civics should realize that expressing one’s own beliefs is what this country was founded on, and when given the opportunity to do so, Jourgensen doesn’t shy away from exercising this right. One of the most disturbing aspects of this entire war is the belief by many in our society that speaking out against a specific national stance or a specific member of the government is somehow unpatriotic when in fact expressing ones views in any non violent form should only be taken as an opportunity for discussion and a forum for understanding. It is for this reason that Al should be considered the epitome of a true American for not being reticent to admit that he has his own ideas and not being afraid to express himself accordingly.

KNAC.COM: I know that you’re a huge Chicago Blackhawk fan, and given that, I’ve got to know whether or not you consider yourself the Chris Chelios of rock?
JOURGENSEN: Hmm, not Chelios…probably more like Jeremy Roenick.

KNAC.COM: Roenick!?
JOURGENSEN: Yeah, I don’t like him as a person too much, but I like the way he plays. Man, Chicago folded like a cheap tent this year.

KNAC.COM: Are you still going to get the Blackhawk logo inked on your chest?
JOURGENSEN: Yeah, but I’m getting it done in Philadelphia of all places by a Flyers fan, so I hope he doesn’t fuck it up.

KNAC.COM: I hope you can see what he’s doing or you may end up with an entirely different tattoo from what you were expecting.
JOURGENSEN: That’ll never happen.

KNAC.COM: I know that when you were recording Animositisomina that Ministry was holed up forty miles outside of El Paso. I’ve got to ask you though, does it make any difference at all whether you’re located forty miles outside El Paso or actually in El Paso?
JOURGENSEN: Good question—not much, I don’t think, but where we were at, there was nothing. We didn’t have access to an ATM machine or even cell phone service. I guess that would be the biggest difference. There was more cactus than people…

KNAC.COM: Did you find it inspirational or spiritual in any way, or was it just a place to go where you wouldn’t get distracted?
JOURGENSEN: Pretty much that, man. After recording in Chicago all these years, it just became party central there, and it was nice to be able to go and get your work done without getting hounded.

”[Bush has an IQ of] of 91, which is just right above retarded. That’s not just sad, it’s insane.”
KNAC.COM: Does the juxtaposition of Bush in your stage show where he appears to be flying around the screen and speaking without saying anything encapsulate your feelings toward him and his administration?
JOURGENSEN: That guy is the worst, man. You know, they did an I.Q. test of Presidents since 1950, and I think it started with Eisenhower. Anyway, Bush ranked lower than any of them. He had a score of 91, which is just right above retarded. That’s not just sad, it’s insane.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that when history looks back on Bush that there is the potential for him to look worse than Nixon?
JOURGENSEN: I think he’s gonna go down as bad or worse than Saddam Hussien.

KNAC.COM: When you said, “no blood for oil” during the Albuquerque performance and the response was mixed, did it bother you that so many people appear to have bought into this whole “liberation of Iraq” spin control strategy implemented by the Bush administration?
JOURGENSEN: Oh, you mean the Coalition of Killing? Yeah, this guy is a dope. I will do everything in my power to raise the awareness level to get him out of office. Individually, we need him to step down. He is disgusting and doubtlessly the worst President we’ve ever had in the fucking history of the United States.

KNAC.COM: Why does the rest of the world seem to share that view, yet his approval rating in the U.S. appears—at least by media accounts—to be higher than ever?
JOURGENSEN: The rest of the world doesn’t have to watch CNN and Fox News working all their jingoism and spins. If you watch the BBC or something, you get more of an all-encompassing picture of what is actually going on.

KNAC.COM: So basically, you question the information that the citizens of the US are getting about what has gone on in Iraq?
JOURGENSEN: I don’t question it. It’s just so blatantly biased that it’s appalling. The only question I have is how people can buy into this.

KNAC.COM: Do you have any ideas?
JOURGENSEN: The whole American society has gotten to the point where mediocrity is rewarded, and the whole country seems to have A.D.D. One second they pay attention and then that’s it--that attitude is rewarded. Don’t turn over any stones because you might not like what you find, but I did see people coming out in San Francisco the other day making their feelings known in the streets, and we had a gig that night. I have to say I was proud to be an American that day.

"I don’t care if I never work in this town or that town again or if they want to Dixie Chick my ass, I’ll Dixie Chick them right back."
KNAC.COM: How scary is it to have the government of the United States of America tell its citizens that any expressions of dissention by the American people somehow puts our troops in jeopardy?
JOURGENSEN: Oh, c’mon. This is really getting to be a fascist state of unequal proportions. I don’t care if I never work in this town or that town again or if they want to Dixie Chick my ass, I’ll Dixie Chick them right back.

KNAC.COM: I’ve talked to many within the rock community who share similar views of the present administration, but they weren’t held up to the scrutiny that the Dixie Chicks have been. Is it because their fan base represents more of what the media and the country view as “typical Americans”?
JOURGENSEN: Well, of course. We just played a show that Clear Channel was promoting, yet, you know--we’re still anti-Bush. That’s not going to change.

KNAC.COM: Do you think the video screen behind the band has as much of an impact on the audience as the lyrics to the songs?
JOURGENSEN: I can’t speak for others. You would have to tell me that.

KNAC.COM: It definitely made a strong statement—especially the part where William S. Burroughs is shooting at various signs labeled “history”, “society” and “image.”
JOURGENSEN: Yeah, well that was footage taken from our “Just One Fix” video that was filmed out in Kansas.

KNAC.COM: What do you see in William S. Burroughs as far as maybe him being a kindred spirit in some way? How do you see him as possibly being similar to you or the ideas the band holds to be important?
JOURGENSEN: Intelligence for starters. “How to Operate Your Brain” was Timothy Leary’s last video. That’s pretty much the blue print.

KNAC.COM: They, in turn, must see something in you.
JOURGENSEN: I think they just know that we preach “think for yourselves”. Don’t be apathetic—be active, be aware.

KNAC.COM: I would imagine that’s why you have so much of a problem with the Bush administration, since their primary message seems to be “don’t express yourself, don’t think—we’ll take care of everything.”
JOURGENSEN: There’s another link to this chain too. Jello Biafra, who is also very outspoken, ran for mayor of San Fransisco and came in second with thirty percent of the vote. That’s what the world needs, more free thinkers.

KNAC.COM: When you guys were recording this album, it’s been said that you kicked your drug addiction, yet I understood that during at least one of the interviews promoting the Sphinctour DVD, you got upset a reporter who posed that question to you. Were you primarily upset because you were sick from withdrawals or were you more upset at having to answer the question in the first place?
JOURGENSEN: I just don’t think it’s anyone’s business. I don’t care what someone does for their recreation as long as it isn’t hurting anyone.

KNAC.COM: So obviously you are completely against drug testing in general? Say for a prospective employee of Wal-Mart or something.
JOURGENSEN: God yeah. That’s a complete intrusion of privacy. The first amendment besides covering free speech also covers individual freedom.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that intruding into peoples’ private lives is a societal problem though? The preoccupation during the Clinton administration centered primarily around Monica Lewinsky rather than anything he was actually doing or not doing while he was in office carrying out his responsibilities as President.
JOURGENSEN: Yeah, I mean if he ended up with a venereal wart or two, that’s really nobody’s business.

KNAC.COM: Besides what is going on in the world at large, you were recently married as well. How has that affected your music?
JOURGENSEN: It’s basically made me focus on the music as an outlet as opposed to scattering my energy in other directions. I’m mostly able to concentrate now on things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

KNAC.COM: Does it give you more of a sense of peace to have that focus?
JOURGENSEN: Well, peace has to come from within. This has definitely been a grounding factor, but you have to get your inner peace and move on from there. You can’t change the world before you change yourself.

KNAC.COM: The music you play before hitting the stage is really old country. Could you give me a link between some of the older Buck Owens, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and the music that you make?
JOURGENSEN: Right off the top of my head…I’d say that country bands used to medley all their hits together. When you start off live, you don’t spend a lot of time dicking around with the crowd. You bring them together and get your business done.

KNAC.COM: And attitude wise?
JOURGENSEN: Attitude wise, you gotta think those were the punk rockers of the ‘50s. They did what was relevant to society at the time and were a mirror image of their environment. It’s no different being an artist today in that respect.

"I’m talking about a movement that will utilize the Internet, and instead of garage bands, you will have Internet bands."
KNAC.COM: Do you think rock and roll is even dangerous anymore? Can it be?
JOURGENSEN: I see people getting sick of it. Like I said, I was proud to be an American that day in San Fransisco. In Chicago and places like that where people stick up for themselves, I see a relevant punk rock movement coming on.

KNAC.COM: A real one?
JOURGENSEN: Yeah, I’m talking about a movement that will utilize the Internet, and instead of garage bands, you will have Internet bands. When people realize that the Internet is not just a home shopping club, I think there will be a lot more people doing things for themselves.

KNAC.COM: Do you think the motivation for attempting to regulate the exchange of ideas on the Internet comes from the government’s inability to control it?
JOURGENSEN: They will eventually find a way to surpress it, and then the people will eventually find a way around it. It’s been that way throughout history.

KNAC.COM: For example, I don’t know exactly what Pete Townsend was guilty of, if anything, but isn’t going through peoples’ hard drives and monitoring their web extremely dangerous to personal freedom as well.
JOURGENSEN: Yeah, well they might as well be going through your garbage.

KNAC.COM: In sense, your cyber garbage is exactly what it is. Is the main message of Animositisomina still “think for yourself’?
JOURGENSEN: Yep, it’s been the same thing we’ve been pounding away at for years.

KNAC.COM: Albeit in a very loud, aggressive way.
JOURGENSEN: Yeah well, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.


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