Al Jourgensen has made repeated attempts to lay Ministry to rest in the 21st century, but it’s never long before we hear from him again. When Donald Trump took office as President of the United States in 2017, the industrial legend retaliated with AmeriKKKant, which put the now twice-impeached leader in his lyrical crosshairs.
Flash forward to the final year of his presidency, which was marked by a pandemic, overwhelming and shadowy uses of authoritative force against protesters exercising their Constitutionally-protected right while urging equality for all, increasingly negative impacts of climate change and an attempted violent overthrow of American democracy in an early 2021 insurrection, and it’s easy to see how Jourgensen has come away with not one new Ministry record, Moral Hygiene, but another, which has yet to be detailed.
In our interview, which took place over Zoom, the 62-year-old visionary likens himself to world-renowned documentarian Ken Burns, using Ministry records as the vessel for capturing historic moments in, particularly, American current events over the last two decades.
The fire still rages within, but Jourgensen confesses he has become more reflective at this stage of his life, which is evident on Moral Hygiene, a record that mostly lays off the aggression and positions melody against overtly despondent themes and the usual clever splicing of audio clips — this time mostly of Trump and televangelist Kenneth Copeland, who gave a fiery and memorable, albeit befuddling, speech where he called upon God to destroy the coronavirus in the spring of 2020.
Our chat ends on a mournful but further reflective note as Jourgensen remembers late drummer and Slipknot icon Joey Jordison, who was Ministry’s live drummer for a spell in the mid-2000s, stating he had a “golden soul.”
Regarding the pandemic and the lockdown, it feels like you’re somebody who has always been pretty comfortable at home, locked away in your studio. Other than music and the news cycle, what else kept you busy during this time?
I felt like Jack Nicholson in The Shining before I got crazy and tried to axe my girlfriend — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…”
Seriously though, there was nothing to do. We took weekends off, but for 52 weeks we just kept recording and we wound up with this album and also finished up a new Lard album. We haven’t had a Lard album in forever and I’m still waiting on some tracks from Jello [Biafra]. We recorded here, then [Jello recorded] vocals in San Francisco and sent them back.
We also started working on a new Ministry record [to be released after Moral Hygiene] that we’re almost done with. Until we can go on tour, I just keep working. What else am I going to do? If I stay in the studio, the local crime rate stays down.
Going into Moral Hygiene, let’s start with “Alert Level.” When the song was released, we all saw you in a photo wearing a gas mask holding a cardboard sign that read, “How concerned are you?” and, so, it’s my turn to ask — how concerned you are?