Ministry’s Al Jourgensen on how to avoid the ‘corn dog circuit’

A new album from industrial-metal-weirdo act Ministry entitled AmeriKKKant is in the works, and drops sometime early next year. As is the case with Ministry, it's shaping up to be different from most other Ministry albums, and features former Beck collaborator DJ Swamp and NWA's Arabian Prince, among others.

But when the band plays the Royal Oak Music Theatre on Monday, you'll only get a taste of the upcoming offering. Instead, the new lineup featuring DJ Swamp will roll through a set largely composed of older cuts. But frontman Al Jourgensen is clear: Ministry isn't a legacy act. We caught up with him as the band finished rehearsals in Burbank a couple days before heading out on tour, and learned about staying young, had a chuckle over Ministry blowing up a gas station in St. Louis, and discussed why the Blackhawks learned everything they know from watching the Red Wings.

Metro Times: So you're celebrating your 59th birthday on this tour?

Al Jourgensen: I did two days ago and I paid for it .... but now I'm good to go.

MT: Some musicians really fall off by that age. How do you avoid that?

Jourgensen: That's a good question. We all like what we're doing, and the main thing is we keep coming up with new shit. At 59 or whatever, when the band has been around for 35 or 36 years, we're not a legacy act yet. We're not playing casinos and state fairs doing our old hits all the time. We're still trying to say what we got to say, and say it loud and say it proud with a raised fist and a bent knee — the whole deal.

That in and of itself will keep you young, as opposed to doing what I call the "corn dog circuit" where you wind up playing state fairs in front of 70-year-old people eating corn dogs. That's just not cool.

MT: Ministry recently got a new record deal and has a new record coming out in the next few months, correct?

Jourgensen: The album has been done for seven months because there were a lot of negotiations on how to get it out ... which is par for the course — I remember way back when Psalm 69 came out, it was held up for a year. But we have started playing some of the new stuff off the album, and we have been featuring a couple new songs with a new band member, which is what you'll hear in Detroit.

MT: I heard one of those songs, but tell me a little more about what's in store for the new record, musically.

Jourgensen: Everyone who has heard it tells me one of two things: A. This is Psalm 70. Which is what should have been the follow-up to Psalm 69, and I guess that's a compliment. I was actually kind of pissed at first when I heard that, but now I can hear what they're saying — it has got some elements of that.

The other camp is saying that the album sounds like a fictional band in their mind called Punk Floyd. Half the album is pretty in your face ... the other half is, well, I guess it's Punk Floyd. If me and David Gilmour had a love child...

MT: How does NWA's Arabian Prince fit into the mix, and how'd that collaboration come about?

Jourgensen: We both live out in L.A. and we got some mutual people ... but there's a different new member we're introducing on this tour, which we're doing to build up for a March tour when we play the entire new album.

This show in Detroit will have two of the new songs — "Antifa" and "Wargasm," and we'll also be introducing DJ Swamp. He split the DJ duties on this album with Arabian Prince. So he's coming on the road with us. Arabian Prince already had other commitments. The record really has a lot of scratching on it.

MT: Oh, wow.

Jourgensen: That's what I'm saying — this record will be different from every other Ministry record if, for nothing else, that. Another person described it as Portishead on steroids. This is definitely a Ministry violent kind of rock gig, but with our DJ, DJ Swamp, who DJ'd on the first couple Beck records. It's taken the band a different direction and I'm digging it.

MT: Well, just about every new Ministry album is different from every other Ministry record.

Jourgensen: I hope so! Thank you for pointing that out. I take that as a compliment. We don't want to let you fuckin' listeners get too comfortable, now do we?

MT: As someone who has seen it all over the last few decades, what new bands do it for you?

Jourgensen: I definitely dig Savages and Chelsea Wolfe, and from what I've heard of Death Grips I'm starting to wrap my head around it. I think this is actually going to be a really good tour. The social content of their music is right up my alley.

MT: You don't seem to be a big fan of Trump.

Jourgensen: If you are of that ilk, if you are anti-Trump, then this is probably going to be the show for you.

MT: I know it's a couple years old now, but I just read your autobiography earlier this year. I'm not sure which part was my favorite — you guys blowing up the gas station in St. Louis probably made me laugh the hardest.

Jourgensen: [Laughs.] Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that one.

MT: It was also interesting to read about your friendship with William Burroughs and Timothy Leary, but the one that was more fascinating to me was your friendship with Danny Wirtz of Blackhawk owners the Wirtz family. So you were really friends with the Wirtz family and are a big Blackhawks fan?

Jourgensen: Big time. I'm a lifer. My dad took me to my first game when I was 6 years old — 53 years ago — so I got to watch Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, and got to see Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio from your neck of the woods. Old school.

We had nosebleed seats when I was 6. Then by the time I did The Land of Rape and Honey I could afford 200-level season tickets. And by the time Psalm 69 came around I actually got down right by the glass, so I had 100-level seats. After Psalm 69, Danny Wirtz — he was a big fan of the band and we all lived in Chicago — he actually came and roadied for a Ministry tour, just for the fuck of it. He was a guitar tech for Ministry, now he owns a fortune 400 company. After that I didn't have to buy season tickets anymore.

MT: That's hilarious.

Jourgensen: The other great thing is that Danny sometimes listens to me. Like for instance the [Artemi] Panarin for [Brandon] Saad trade last summer — I fully, wholeheartedly approved that. He ran that by me a few weeks before it happened, and I think it's working out.

Look, if this tour doesn't work, if your theater in Detroit doesn't sell out, don't worry for me, I'll just quit music and become a Blackhawks scout. Fuck it, man. [Laughs.]

MT: Well, the Blackhawks might need another scout. They have so much money tied up in their core right now that they need some more young and cheap talent.

Jourgensen: That's the genius of Stan Bowman, man — he keeps the core together, finds placement players to play around them, drafts really well, and the scouting department in Europe is the best. They keep coming up with these Russians, Fins, and Swedes that nobody else knows about, and all in the fourth to seventh rounds of the draft.

MT: What about Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg? The Red Wings know how to draft guys from Europe in the late rounds.

Jourgensen: That was when you had Scotty Bowman running your shit. Now Scotty Bowman, through his proxy Stan Bowman, is running Chicago. Look, I was one of the few Blackhawks fans through the '80s and '90s. My second favorite team was always Detroit, and that is not popular among Chicago fans. But I saw the way you guys were running things, and I was like, "Well, damnit. If we can't beat 'em, join 'em." And that's what we've done now. The Blackhawks are basically running like a well-oiled machine just like the Red Wings were.

MT: Well, we've probably lost 75 percent of the readers with our hockey talk, so this is probably a good place to end it.

Ministry performs with Death Grips on Monday, Oct. 23 at Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980;; Doors at 7:30 p.m.; Tickets start at $39.50.

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