Ministry’s Al Jourgensen on His New Biography, Dying Multiple Times, Alien Encounters + More
The "back-asswards" life of Ministry mastermind Al Jourgensen has finally been documented with incredible detail in the musician's official biography, 'Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen.' The authorized bio, co-written with author Jon Wiederhorn, recalls Jourgensen's many years of drug addiction, the recording sessions for each Ministry record and some of the most insane stories you've ever heard.
We recently spoke with Uncle Al about not only various accounts from the book, but the creation of the biography itself. In this exclusive interview, Jourgensen reveals the exact amount of times he's been declared legally dead, his dislike for performing live, strange encounters with extraterrestrial beings + much more!
I got a copy of your new authorized biography, 'Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen.' To create this book, did you just sit down with author Jon Wiederhorn and tell him all your stories?
Yeah, well Jon and I have known each other for 18 or 19 years. I've done interviews when he had a show at MTV and things. We followed up with each other and I trusted him. Every time he interviewed me he'd confront me with some story that he heard through someone else and he'd ask me to confirm it. Most of the time I'd say, “Yeah, that's pretty much what happened.” He'd say, “Dude, this is insane. It has to be a book.” So he came out [to my place] for about a week. We went through multiple gallons of vodka and wine and I just told him the stories for that week.
As a matter of fact, he's called me - he knows I have at least another 150 crazy ass stories that have happened. He wants to do another one; I don't want to do it. That was enough for me. We just got drunk for a week, he recorded it and then he went and did his due diligence and put a lot of research, talking to people, calling and finding witnesses to these stories. They're not just made up. We've got multiple witnesses for all this stuff. Obviously, my personal opinions are mine, but the actual stories and stuff; yeah he has a lot of different sources. I stand by most of the stories even though I was kind of there.
I was there physically, but mentally it was tough for me to re-hash some of these things. In the state that I was in in the ‘90s, some of these things you don't know if it's reality or if you're in some weird Salvador Dali nightmare.
Ozzy Osbourne said recently that he doesn't remember any of the 1990s whatsoever.
Yeah, that's where you get a good guy like Weiderhorn that you trust and know that's going to follow up on it, because you know what? Half the stories in there I don't even know if they are bulls--t or not. I don’t know if they’re reality or not. It's good that he checked them all out and they all seemed to check out. I think there are only two of them that he couldn't get enough sources to confirm and I'm not going to mention those now or anything, but the rest of them are, “Yeah that's happened I guess.” I was there, sort of.
I'm pretty sure you've read all of the different excerpts in the book where a lot of legendary musicians praise you and Ministry. Which ones mean the most to you?
Well, the Mikey [Scaccia] ones of course. Of course I appreciate it and all that, but I could write a second book right now listing all the people that I want to thank for influencing me of various different natures -- everything from Stockhausen to Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, whatever. It's really nice but I don't take it for anything more than that. I’m glad they got inspired to do their own music. Some of the music from the people that have talked is pretty good too. It's good. Mikey's obviously are the most personal. We've spent the most time together.
He literally was like my little brother. Losing him was very difficult, especially losing him two days after finishing recording the record, all his parts and all my parts --everything. Then I had to mix the record after going to his funeral. So I had to hear him every day after the funeral. That was kind of tough. Time moves on and he makes his presence felt around here, trust me. He likes it here. I think he switches time between Dallas and El Paso between haunting houses. [Laughs] He moves s--t around, he knocks things over. He's still rowdy, he's having a gas.
In the book there are so many instances, even in the prologue, of you basically dying multiple times. How many times do you think you've been legally dead?
Three. That I know for sure. Jon even did research at the hospitals and got actual reports from the emergency rooms and things. There's been three times where I've been dead. One of them I truly recognized as a life-changing kind of spiritual thing where you know there's an afterlife. The other two, I think I was just too f---ed up to know I was dead. [Laughs]
I remember reading that you really don't enjoy playing live, touring or being onstage. Despite that, do you enjoy being a public figure?
No. Actually, that's even lower on the list of scumbag things to do. That'd be the worst part of it. I'm very shy. I'm very quiet unless I get around people that I know, people that I trust like Mikey. Then I can become a bit of a handful. Generally, I just mistrust everyone. I think I had a quote a few years back, I forget in what context, but it was something about my fans and I go, "I know my fans and trust me, I don't trust them." [Laughs] Generally, at the end of the day, I just say, “Stay the f--- off my property and buy my merchandising and CDs.” That’s it. [Laughs]
In the book you equated performing as being a jukebox or a crossing guard for kids who are fighting and throwing stuff at you…
Does that sound fun to you? I mean, really? Would you trade your life to be stepped on, thrown s--t and people yelling and you can never satisfy them. You can never play the songs that they exactly want or this and that. Then they throw darts and coins and bottles at you. How can that be an enjoyable experience? Then literally, what comes back on the bus, the big glamour part -- the groupies -- generally look like the seven that are in that net on the ‘From Beer to Eternity’ cover.
This is not glamour, dude. This is a really horrific job. I often wonder if I would have just had a normal job and done music as a side thing, as a cathartic thing, but a couple of years ago I finally decided, “You know what? I don't think I can cut it at Best Buy or WalMart either, if I had a job.” I finally got my face tattooed because I figured I wouldn’t have to go do another job interview. [Laughs] So, that's where I stand on it now.
Back to playing live -- on the other hand, do you enjoy seeing live bands?
Not really, to be honest. I know it sounds like I'm an old curmudgeon or something, but the point is I know how it's done. I know what work goes on to make a set: the visuals, song structures, set structures, the rental companies, this and that. It becomes very tedious work. Where as I hang out with authors or actors, the grass is always greener. I don't understand their process as well. My process, for me, it's kind of boring; me up there recreating songs. The creative process, don't take me wrong -- that's not boring. I love being in the studio with people like Mikey or other friends that I've recorded with over the years or Billy Gibbons or Rick Neilson and doing creative music spontaneously and having the technology to capture that and have that live either on a shelf forever or be made available to the public. That's fascinating to me. Instead of a band or having a manager or record label snooping around, we get to do what we do because I own my own recording studio.
So, I get some friends and that process is completely invigorating, but then they go up there and re-create the process. You will never have that moment again, especially with not the exact same people that you might have played it with. People screaming for other stuff and [me] being spat at and thrown at -- it's just dumb. I feel like the worlds best-paid babysitter. Mom and Dad go away, the kids run rampant and I got to sit there and scream at them the whole f---ing time. That's what live playing is to me.
Another interesting part of the book is about your alien encounter at the age of 5.
That's a weird one. That one … my grandmother is dead, but Jon did call my mother who did remember something -- a triangle on my neck. A green triangle that lasted for about three weeks. It was right around Christmas when I was 5 years old. [Jon] did get some substantiation. I do have some recollection of that. I was raised Catholic, so when these three beings appeared in my bedroom, I thought they were the three wise men from Catholic lore. I wasn't afraid of them. I don't remember anything bad happening to me, but the next day my grandmother noticed this green triangle, like a tattoo, on my neck. She tried to scrub it off she thought I was playing with markers or something, but it didn't come off and it went away by itself about three weeks later. I've had another couple of encounters with these guys and I don't know if they're friendly or unfriendly, but I'm not afraid of them and they're not afraid of me obviously. I don't recall ever being anally probed or anything so I don't think they're sex addicts or hostile to me. I think they just check in with me every so often and see what the f--- I'm up to.
Very interesting. It was weird because when you were describing the green triangle around Christmas time, I thought of a Christmas tree.
Right, that's what my grandmother thought. I took a green marker and tried to draw a Christmas tree but, she couldn't get it off. I remember that because I had to sit there and I think she went to some kind of Teflon scrubber and tried to scrub it off. I didn't do it. I told her about the three wise men that came and they just said, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Maybe you can skip Sunday school next week.” [Laughs] Maybe he's a bit crazy already with this; we'll lay off the Catholicism for a week or two until the triangle goes away.
Ministry's 13th studio album, ‘From Beer to Eternity’, will be released on Sept. 6. To purchase a copy of the just-released book ’Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen,’ click here.