Old rona may be hanging around like a party guest who’s overstayed their welcome, but …
For nearly three decades now, the heavy music community has had the honour of enjoying the antics of Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen.
An ever-present voice during the good times and the bad, “Uncle” Al has become somewhat of a moral compass on topics ranging from production or studio setups to political tension and social commentary, including his support of the #MeToo movement. This means it’s usually a good idea to stop, listen, and learn, each and every time the Ministry machine revs up and a new album approaches. Like right now. On 9th March, the band will be unveiling AmeriKKKant, a record that doesn’t just show society a mirror, it smashes our faces into it.
Hysteria: You didn’t shy away from any big issues with this album. How does it feel knowing that you’re releasing something with so much relevant content on that? People will get angry, people will agree, people will disagree, is that a weird feeling for you?
Al: No, it’s actually a really fulfilling feeling, because it’s really a weird cycle. In other words, I’m really not doing that much different than I’ve done before, but the times have caught up or I’ve caught up, or something, where it’s cyclically in tune, now. There’s harmony in the message that this album has and the times that are going on. The other times I’ve had the same type of message but the times weren’t ready to hear it, and I think right now everything is cosmically aligned for this record.
You cannot plan for something like that, it’s just like, it happens or it doesn’t.
Was this on your mind before the news started coming in? Just today (at the time of interview), a gunman shot up a Florida primary school.
This has been the direction that we’ve been going in for quite some time. But now, yes, the universe has caught up to what I’m saying. This is not just endemic to an American problem, I mean, yes, okay, the gun problem is endemic to America, but the rise of fascism all over the globe … if you look at Hungary, Poland, Philippines, Russia, this and that. I mean, I saw that coming, and the night that we had the elections here, I was in bed by six o’clock, seven o’clock at night. I was just like, “I’m going to bed, fuck this.” My girlfriend stayed up all night, she was all wringing her hands going, “Oh, we might have a chance.” I’m like, “No, we don’t have a chance, because this is the way that the world is, now.”
Are you familiar with that series Black Mirror?
Oh yeah, I love that show.
Right, well, this is kind of like the audio equivalent of Black Mirror. It’s kind of like me just walking around, holding up a mirror to society and seeing what I see through my eyes and going, “Okay, gents, this is where we’re at, this is where we’re going, do you really wanna be in this place? Because I know my answer is ‘no the fuck not’.”
It’s not an anti-Trump record, it’s more like, “Dudes, we have to get our shit together because this is what’s going on, and maybe you should start paying attention instead of caring about how many likes you get for sharing a rat taking a shower or a cat playing piano. Maybe you should think about the fact that governments are taking away your pensions, and your healthcare, and funnelling all the money to the top one percent.” These kind of things, systemic things. Not just like, “Oh boy, I’m angry at Trump.” You know?
Trump is just … look, if you go to a doctor and you have a big cyst on the back of your neck, they can remove the cyst, but what kind of cancer is causing the cyst? This album is more about the cancer than the cyst, do you understand what I’m saying?
It’s not an anti-Trump record, it’s more like, “Dudes, we have to get our shit together because this is what’s going on, and maybe you should start paying attention instead of caring about how many likes you get for sharing a rat taking a shower or a cat playing piano.”
It’s not about the symptoms of the disease, but the causes. When you kind of knuckled down to write an album on things like Antifa, social inequality, and social economic climates like you have, what did you learn? What was your take away?
No, no, no, I totally see, with clarity. I was a history major in college, so this is my wheelhouse, here. This is what’s going on. This is very similar to two different recent cyclical eras that we’ve had. One is the early 1930s, with the rise of fascism. Fascism only rises when people are afraid of their futures and people are dubious of what’s going on around them. It’s easy to divide and conquer, make everyone afraid of your neighbours, if they’re Muslim or black or Mexican or whatever, you have to be afraid. It’s easy to rule people that way. The times we’re living in today is right out of the fascist playbook. This is, like, right out of their handbook, man.
Actually, I’m not just anti-fascist, the communists also started this with Marx saying, “Keep the people at their windows.” In other words, if you wanna rule the populace, keep them afraid, keep them looking out their windows for something suspicious or something like that. Capitalism is just dog-eat-dog, everyone just fuck looking out your windows, just make sure that you line your pockets with it. All of these systems are wrong, and that’s what this album’s about. We’ve had Rage Against The Machine, well, this is Rage Against the System. Tom Morello [and I] have the same viewpoint on a lot of things that are happening today.
It’s a notion which is really associated with Trump … a lot of the populist leaders are saying it, but turning their followers or their people against the media. “The media is bad, the media is wrong.” It’s freaky. When you have a leader actively telling its people they can’t trust the media and can only trust their leader.
Everyone says this is becoming a banana republic, but really it was refined by Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s in the early rise of the Nazi party, and refined and refined and refined, and now we have the internet and social media to weaponise that kind of agenda and that kind of ideology. I release this all on Antifa, and there’s immediately 350, 400,000 robot trolls calling you a cunt. That’s fine, because you know what? The more they do that, the more people can see that this is suspicious. We turned the internet from the age of information and the infinite possibilities of the 90s when it came out into the age of disinformation, now, and it’s been weaponised.
It’s the same playbook that we’ve been using, the most recent in the 1930s, but also the 1960s. Now we have all our protests, just like … 2018 is becoming 1968 all over again. I was around for ’68, but not the 30s, I know people think I’m old…
Well, not that old.
… at least in the ’60s I saw the revolution, and the revolution worked. We got a lot of cosmetic changes out of it with civil rights and gender equality, we didn’t quite reach pay equality for women, but still, there were some cosmetic changes made, that in the long run, after the 60s, basically just became a fashion trend. We got bell-bottoms, Woodstock, LSD, and Marijuana out of it. That’s about it. Everything else is still pretty much the same.
What happens is when people are pissed, and a real revolution happens, the revolution is bought out by the same people with the same agenda, the willing one percent. Okay, we can’t fight this one, because they’re right, so let’s distract them with trinkets. Cheap electronics, cheaper TVs, cheap stereos, cheaper this, cheaper that, bell-bottom fashion, this and that in the ’60s. Pretty soon we’re in the same shithole that we were before.
Until all this, it was like much ado about nothing, all these million people marches in the 60s and hopefully it won’t happen the same again today. That we start attacking the system that produces this kind of shit, as opposed to just settling for cheap electronics and Amazon Echo in your home or something, and people are easily amused. People care more about how many likes they get on cats playing piano, on sharing videos, than they do about real, important issues of our time, like stealing our pensions and our healthcare and funnelling the money to the top one percent.
This is what this record’s about, man. We have to stop … and me, I’m guilty more than anybody, of wheedling against individuals and trivialising the whole situation. Me doing three albums against Bush, Bush is not the problem, Trump is not the problem, it’s the system that is the problem. I’ve kind of altered my stance on the whole thing a little bit. It’s the same stance, but it’s just a different animus directed towards the root core.
People are so greedy for ‘likes’ you think it paid their rent for them. But do you think there will be a mass reaction to this stuff? Do you think that’s what’s gonna happen over the next few years?
You know, I would be inclined to say yes, that the cup is half full. To me, the rise of fascism is just like herpes. It’s something that flares up every 30, 40 years and then you go to the doctor, get some antibiotics, drink a bunch of cranberry juice, and all of a sudden your piss doesn’t hurt anymore. Right now our piss is hurting, you know what I mean? We’re living in herpes times.
I do believe that there may not be a cure for herpes, but there is a point in time where your pee doesn’t hurt, and I think we’re definitely getting to that. I would like to take it a step further and just not making cosmetic changes where your pee doesn’t hurt, let’s get rid of the herpes virus entirely.
We’ve had Rage Against The Machine, well, this is Rage Against the System.
Is the album gonna be potentially too involved and too alarming for them to be able to just rock out to, or is there an element that you think fans will be able to approach this album to where they can detach from the messaging and just rock out?
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone needs their escape, even rats taking showers, that’s a nice escape, don’t make that be your be-all and end-all. The second point is, this album is unique in the sense that it’s the first time I’ve done an organic album in the last 25 years. The last time I sat in a studio with a full band playing, like a real band, not just me and an engineer and a computer, since … Filth Pig was the last time we actually sat down as a band and actually tried to hash shit out.
This is the most collaborative effort I’ve done in 25 years, and so this is really organic. Yes, it rocks, because it’s so collaborative. There’s so many different elements to this album as opposed to others where, like I said, it’s me, an engineer, and a computer. There’s nothing wrong with that, either, I think that’s fine, but this one just came out to be, cosmically, where schedules loosened up and the right people were there at the right time, and it was a real collaborative effort. This one is a pretty special album in that sense.
A gunshot doesn’t start a war, but a whole cascade effect—a falling of dominoes. Are we looking, right now, at a segue toward World War III?
I’m not looking for a segue to World War III, I’m looking for a segue to enlightenment. I see a lot of movements going on that I just hope don’t get trivialised. For instance, the #MeToo movement could be a fulcrum, it could be a tipping point in history of where it’s so much bigger than who grabbed whose asses or tits, it’s so much bigger than Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein and all these other people. It’s so much bigger than that.
I think there’s a lot of fulcrum points going on in history, now. I also hope that, because there’s so many movements, it doesn’t get diluted, because it’s all basically the same message. People wanna be treated as equals, and people wanna be inhabitants of the planet Earth and fit into a universal and cosmic system as opposed to just thinking about what happens on Earth.
If you overwhelm people with too many “movements” they become trivialised, and you can divide and conquer. There’s too many movements and they trivialise everything, but I do see an awakening, an enlightening within the human race right now, so I’m actually optimistic. In other words we have to stop playing checkers and start playing chess.
Ministry’s new album AmeriKKKant is out 9 March, pre-order here.