By MICHAEL CALIA
Listen to ‘I Don’t Wanna’ Here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSJUcASLHjE
Al Jourgensen is 57 years old, but the Ministry founder jokes that it’s “not your normal 57 … 57 going on about 89.” Indeed, the industrial-rock pioneer has just about seen and felt it all.
When Jourgensen was just a toddler, his family fled their native Cuba after Fidel Castro’s regime tried to seize his grandfather’s home as well as the patriarch’s patents for the artificial insemination of cattle. Jourgensen’s big break in the music business, in the early 1980s, was marred by record-company interference and litigation. He’s also had his share of drug and health problems. At one point, he suffered from heavy blood loss due to 13 ulcers in his esophagus and stomach, one of which burst.
Jourgensen also has a fiendish work ethic and is known for his many side projects and bands beyond Ministry, which released its last album months after Jourgensen’s best friend and guitarist Mike Scaccia died in December 2012. “I get these ideas built up in me, and I need to have an outlet for them,” he says. “If I don’t get them out, then I’m constipated.”
Jourgensen’s latest effort, Surgical Meth Machine, will release its debut album April 15. Today, Speakeasy premieres “I Don’t Wanna,” a track off the self-titled record. The song features vocals from Jello Biafra, the political activist and former Dead Kennedys front man who has been friends with Jourgensen for more than three decades. They previously worked together him in the bands Lard and Revolting Cocks.
The lyrics for “I Don’t Wanna” reflect Biafra’s bitterly humorous take on the music industry. “I don’t wanna be a rock star, I just wanna get paid!” he belts out as the song begins.
“He had a point to make, so we let him do it,” Jourgensen says.
Jourgensen himself has made it a habit to continually comment on culture, politics and current events, often with vulgar, vicious humor. The 1990 Ministry song “N.W.O.” samples President George H.W. Bush talking about “good and evil, right and wrong” and “a new world order,” while tracks from the 2000s took shots at President George W. Bush. Jourgensen doesn’t have much positive to say about candidates from either party in this year’s presidential campaign, either.
“You know how we have this Netflix series called ‘House of Cards’?” he says. “To me, the current political process is more like ‘House of Kardashians.’ It’s completely a reality show, which is frightening.”
With Surgical Meth Machine, which Jourgensen recorded in his Burbank, Calif., home with longtime engineer Sam D’Ambruoso, the artist again takes aim at culture and society, particularly social media. “It’s become a society of catchphrases,” says Jourgensen.
From an aesthetic point of view, Surgical Meth Machine’s debut album presents a drastic contrast of musical styles. The first half of the album is full of hard and heavy industrial tracks that would feel at home on a Ministry album, while the latter half features songs with a more electronic sound. Usually, Jourgensen says, the two distinct sounds would lead to two different albums and maybe a new band.
“This time, I decided, you know what, I’m getting old,” he says. “I don’t have time for all these damn bands with half-finished albums on the shelf.”
Jourgensen, who shuts himself in the studio with no distractions for about three or four months each year, says “there’s no telling” just how much music he has waiting to be sorted into different projects. This bodes well for fans who are eager for new material.
“There may be a plethora of albums coming out under different monikers over the next few years, if I ever actually finish them as full albums,” he says. “And if not, everyone has to wait until I die in some fiery plane crash and things wind up getting released anyway.”