Al Jourgensen Talks Surgical Meth Machine, Hating Facebook + New Ministry Album Possibility
We caught up with the infamous Al Jourgensen, the mastermind behind Ministry and his scathing new project, Surgical Meth Machine. The eponymous disc is out April 15 on Nuclear Blast and in our exclusive interview below, he discusses the themes and influences of Surgical Meth Machine, his hatred of social media after his short-lived Facebook experience and the possibility of taking the new project on the road and another Ministry album.
"I'm Sensitive" seems like an obvious jab at today's PC culture and you pinpoint it in social media in this song. Do you see oversensitivity getting any better as social media continues to balloon and become more pervasive?
Well I’m glad that you're reading very deeply into it but for me it was just a matter of how I hate being on f--king Facebook and watching all the little spats and just watching my daughter like go on Facebook and like who she un-friends and who’s your friend. This is like an all-encompassing trajectory in her life just of like oh my God am I popular here, am I popular there; I don’t f--king care. And then she tried to get me to go on this Facebook nonsense for a while and I just found it appalling that our collective mentalities have been digressed and diluted to this point of just like this is the most important thing in a lot of people's’ life. I just found it insipidly funny that I was even on it for a few months and I’m not on it anymore. It’s just like everyone is so f--king sensitive. You know what I mean?
It’s not about PC culture per say and all that, it's much more personal to me on the note that just like — I just found the whole thing stupid so I just basically tend to avoid it now. And I’ve also pretty much never cared what people f--king thought of me anyways so it’s just like on Facebook there seems to be like the prerequisite for being on there is that you're so self-aware and so self-important about other people’s opinions about yourself. I just think it’s kind of like a dog chasing its tail, it’s gonna get you nowhere.
It's amazing how personal people treat it.
I mean that’s the whole point but to spend all your time having fun on that, there are other activities in the world like for instance, reading a novel [laughs]. Read a book instead of reading a Facebook. It’s far healthier I think; I don’t know call me old fashioned. I’m just an old grump.
I can see you getting into a little bit of trouble on there.
Yeah and other people are in trouble too with some of their topic of the day but at any rate, yeah, okay, so that’s that one ["I'm Sensitive"] — it’s a little bit more personal not as like broadband and a comment on overall PC culture or anything but just more of a comment on how our culture has digressed into this like banal medium that people seem to spend hours and hours a day on so it just freaks me out on how intense and all-encompassing it is in some people’s lives — it just freaks me out.
On “Rich People Problems,” there's a real bright melodic solo on there. Did you intentionally do that to tease the second half the record?
No, actually what you're saying — that actually makes sense. I didn’t consciously do that but I’m really proud of that solo, I like that solo. It’s kind of a throwback type of solo almost to like a [Lynyrd] Skynard or Robin Trower days or something like that. I don’t know, it just popped out of me one day and we decided to keep it. I tried a couple of other different solos, but that one seemed to fit best.
It threw me off, but then I got further into the album, getting into “Gates of Steel,” I was like, “Oh okay, I see it now.”
Yeah, "Gates of Steel" is another throwback type of beat that I did on there. It’s very almost Dicky Betts southern rock kind of stuff. I think — that the songs — it wasn’t intentional because I like I said, I tried a lot of different approaches for it, all the leads on that album — I stuck with the ones that seem to fit best for the songs and I wasn’t thinking about it, but in looking at it after what you just said, yeah I can see where that’s kind of like a precursor to what’s going to finish the album on.
As a matter of fact, I think, like okay, you know the whole premise of this album was Sammy [D'Ambruouso, engineer] and I started out to make the fastest, angriest record ever and blah, blah, blah and tribute to Mike Scaccia [guitar, Ministry, Rigor Mortis] who died who was the shredder of all shredders in the guitar world and all that. But we just wanted to do something to kind of like honor Mikey make and make this really fast record.
I moved out to California — it took a while for me to get my California driving license out here and when I did, of course, the first thing you do, you know, you go get a weed card out here. You know, a medical marijuana card. Right around “Rich People Problems” we were still trying fast, heavy music and all that stuff. Starting with that one, I got my weed card and all of a sudden the whole record, oddly enough, slowed down! [laughs] I got my weed card. We went from liquor power to weed power! Oh well.
On "Unlistenable" you take a lot of shots at bands like Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Lamb of God and then you take a shot at Ministry. Is the whole song tongue in cheek or are you actually taking a little bit of shot at modern metal?
Now see that one is not as personal! It’s like they are sensitive or it’s just a personal thing with me and my daughter, you know, at just looking at like the prevalence of Facebook and people's’ lives. This one was more of an overall statement as opposed to personal being more like there’s just these haters out there. Also, once again from what I witnessed on my Facebook days. It’s just people hating on everything; there’s always something to hate.
But then I finally stuck my thumb in the right end and said 'You know what? I don’t give a f--k what you say. I still love Devo.' After all these years, then go into a Devo song. That was just more of a comment on the overview of just all the haters. There’s always something wrong with somebody. And that person, that, which is me, that delivering the lines of ‘Megadeth, they suck! Ministry! I hate industrial! This and that! Hate! Blah!’ So it was just more of an overview comment, once again, on Facebook. This is a very social media commentary album; you know what I mean?
I'm used to your lyrics being so personal and pointed, it's a little bit of step in a different direction for your lyrics to echo the sentiments of a lot of people — broad commentary.
There’s another way to do social commentary than just bashing the obvious, ie., a [George W.] Bush trilogy [Ministry's Houses of the Molé, Rio Grande Blood, The Last Sucker] and all that which I’m glad I did at the time because that was very important. I saw what was happening and a lot of people didn’t, a lot of people did but they weren’t doing anything about it and this is much more kind of a sarcastic take on what our society has become as opposed to Ministry. It’s not like laser-focused on one individual object, person, or thing. It’s more of like an overview, of like ‘This is f--ked up, what is happening to this world?’
So taking the piss out of everything.
Yeah, pretty much.
You've been involved in a lot of different projects in your career and Surgical Meth Machine definitely seems like an outlet for you to say “F--k it” and do whatever you want whenever you want. Do you see this project being more active than some of your other ones?
Maybe so, maybe not. I don’t know, this is all done kind of like a, you know it wasn’t meant to be like this. People are taking this album seriously; which is taking me aback. I’m kind of like we just did it because it was fun to do. It wasn’t to like get a record contract and make money and someday be on the f--king Jimmy Kimmel show or the Jimmy Fallon show or whatever. Whatever man. It’s just my comment on what’s going on, but you know I’ve always done that it’s like in a way, a Revolting Cocks or even Ministry or Lard with Jello Biafra, who is on this album as well. [He’s] another person that just sits back, watches the entire day to day life of this world unfold. We look at it like a dog hearing a high pitch noise — kind of like head tilted and very confused.
So you just wait for society to present itself and go, I guess it's time to make a record about this?
Yeah something like that I mean a lot of my records are done like and this one, we didn’t even know that we were going to make a record, especially after we got our weed cards. It was just fun to do; I don’t know if anyone will listen to it dude. But at least we’re having a good time.
So do you have any plans to take this on the road, even if it's just a one off performance?
Maybe, maybe not! I mean circumstances have to be right. Right now, I'm thinking about doing another Revolting Cocks record, another Lard record and possibly maybe if the circumstances are right another Ministry record and I would love to play live with Surgical Meth Machine or Revolting Cocks. It's just circumstances, scheduling and other people's… I don't just go up there by myself. I have other people since it's not a functioning band that does tours all the time, I have to make sure other people's schedules fit in. It's all scheduling, man. It's a real nightmare and headache, so I won't say never but I don't say it's like on the front burner or it's a burning need for me to go out and play this live. If we do, we do it. It'll be fun, if we do it.
Thanks to Al Jourgensen for the interview. Surgical Meth Machine’s self-titled debut is out April 15 on Nuclear Blast. Pre-orders can be placed here. To read the first part of our interview where Uncle Al talks about Ministry, Donal Trump and plotting a gig near the Republican National Convention, click here.
Check Out an Earlier Interview With Al Jourgensen
See Where Al Jourgensen Ranks Among the Top 50 Hard Rock + Metal Frontmen of All Time