EXCLUSIVE! THE GODFATHER OF INDUSTRIAL SPEAKS OUT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER TWO YEARS ABOUT HIS HEALTH SCARE; HIS NEWFOUND SOBRIETY; MINISTRY; HOW TO DEAL WITH HOLLYWOOD WEASELS; MAKING COUNTRY MUSIC; AND BUCK SATAN AND THE 666 SHOOTERS!
AL JOURGENSEN IS BUCK SATAN. Like Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate,” he has so many names; but they are all Al and he is all of them. And like Pacino, he is equally charismatic. With Ministry put to rest, Buck Satan is his latest incarnation, (though he’s had that name for almost thirty years). It’s his country music persona; something his Ministry and Revolting Cocks fans might be surprised to learn. But as “Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters” Jourgensen has recorded a country album. Difficult to believe, but true. The Buck Satan record is twelve songs with a very slight industrial flair not one of which would be out of place on a roadhouse jukebox – or heard over the fight scenes in “Every Which Way But Loose” or any great road movie about traveling through the American southwest. It’s shitkickin’ honky-tonk music for the workin’ man: beautiful, dirty, raucous and fun and anyone can get into it.
There’s a couple of songs on the album that echo the Ministry sound (“What’s Wrong With Me;” “Medication Nation”) but the rest of the songs are a startling departure for the man who made punishing industrial darkness a way of life and a genre night at nightclubs. With a live band featuring Rigor Mortis guitarist Mike Scaccia, Static X bassist Tony Campos and Cheap Trick impresario Rick Nielsen, Jourgensen has created a new sound unlike anything out there – he’s taken to calling it “Heavy Western” – which is sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but true in spirit to the early American country ethos. His lyrics are raw and personal, simple and pleasing and evocative of the ups and downs in his personal life during the recording. It all works and sure as Hell sounds like it belongs on a jukebox wherever someone is crying into their beer or fixin’ for a fight, as some of the titles make clear: “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man,” “Quicker Than Liquor,” “Sleepless Nights And Bar Room Fights” and “The Only Time I’m Sober.” Beyond the song titles is just great playing, including pedal steel guitar and enough great fiddling to make Charlie Daniels shed a tear.
For now, the record is still being shopped to labels and its’ future is somewhat uncertain. Al says he is thrilled with it and at the same time he might even be okay if it eventually got leaked: he’s just so proud of it. As well he should be: he’s in a great place now, considering the Hell he went through to get here. Al made time to speak to ROCKSALT, his first interview in over two years and his first since getting sober after a nasty health scare. He sounds genuinely happy and pleased as a new parent to talk about the Buck Satan record; and shared several stories about Ministry, Buck Owens, and the long process of getting to where he is now. This is Al Jourgensen, bleeding out.
ROCKSALT.MX: Al! How are you?
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, I’m taking some time off. I’m a little tired after doing that record, you know? That record’s been in the making for, what?, thirty, almost thirty years and I’ve finally… I finally did what I said I was gonna do!
ROCKSALT.MX: It’s great to hear from you. After Ministry I had no idea what you were up to.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, neither did we. That’s the beauty of it. I tried to get a bunch of country people, you know, big names like Dwight Yoakam and stuff like that on there. And I was even scheduled to have dinner with Buck Owens before he died. Literally, he was in the hospital with pneumonia the next day. We had a dinner in Bakersfield, we were going to fly in from Vegas where Ministry had just played the night before – we had a day off – so were going to go Bakersfield and eat dinner with him and then he went to the hospital with pneumonia and the next thing I know he’s dead three weeks later. At any rate, I was trying to get a bunch of country people on it. So I wind up, at the end of the day, with me on pedal steel – and harmonica and stuff, banjo; Mike Scaccia from Ministry and Rigor Mortis – speed metal maniac, right? – on guitar; Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, on the other guitar and leads – feature pop star; on bass, Tony from Static X – Mr. Industrial, whatever, second-generation Ministry kinda stuff; and then all the drums are programmed! So what started out as a country record became this weird mish-mosh, which is what makes it sound so cool! Because, I seriously think out of that entire roomful of people – Oh! And then the two fiddle players, the girls from Houston, completely classically trained. I asked them, because they’d did a classical version of “Just One Fix” that they do live a lot when they play around Houston and stuff, in Texas. And they said to me, “Wow, this is great!” I said to them, “I’m looking for fiddle players, do you play country?” And they’re like, “No. Never tried it.” (laughs) So even my fiddle players had never even done it before. And, uh, I don’t know; somehow we made it work! That’s the beauty of it. That’s why it doesn’t sound like, you know, anything else. We were trying to make a country record and it just sounds like a pretty goddamn good record, I think.
ROCKSALT.MX: Well, not to be coy, I just haven’t heard anything like it before.
AL JOURGENSEN: I had a couple people try to label it right away, of course. But the best label I like so far, I think, is heavy western! (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: Oh, God, I wish I’d thought of that – that’s fucking great!
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, we had country-core… and I’m like, “Not really, man. I even got a gospel song on there.” I don’t know if you’ve got the whole record yet….
ROCKSALT.MX: I have ten or twelve songs – yeah, twelve.
AL JOURGENSEN: Then you’ve got the whole record. The last one’s actually a gospel song -
ROCKSALT.MX: “Take Me Away?”
AL JOURGENSEN: Yeah! “Take Me Away!” Yeah, I wrote that one. All but two are original, but I wrote that one… I had a bit of a health scare last year.
ROCKSALT.MX: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
AL JOURGENSEN: No, that’s all right, you know. Actually, it all turned out good. Because, I’ve been puking up blood and stuff for the last six years and didn’t know why – I just thought that was all part of being on a rock tour! (laughs) Seriously, I’d tell my wife, Angie, and she’d say, “You’ve gotta see a doctor!” And I’d say, “I’m fine! I’ve been doing this for years!” And I had no idea; I just thought that’s the way it was supposed to be. So last year, last March, about maybe a year ago last week – I bled out. I lost sixty-five per cent of my blood and it turns out I had thirteen ulcers. Perfect number, thirteen – 13th Planet Records (Al’s label – ed.) – thirteen ulcers! And one of them exploded in my lower intestine. So all the blood would collect there and then come out – I was bleeding out of my nose, my mouth and peeing blood. And then blood was pouring out of my ass. And if I would try to stand up, I would faint and pass out; my blood pressure was – well, by the time I got to the hospital, my blood pressure was thirty over twenty.
AL JOURGENSEN: Yeah. The last thing I remember I woke up out of a seizure; I was going into seizures and I woke up and I saw them getting that goddamn defibrillator ready. And I looked over at Angie and I go, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it this time, am I?”
AL JOURGENSEN: I’ve died a couple of times, you know, back in the day, when I OD’d, and had defibrillators and stuff like that. But this would have been my third time. So I’m figuring third time’s the charm because I was pretty surprised when I woke up. I was in this room with a bunch of tubes in my arm and I got the full Keith Richards treatment, man – they gave me one hundred per cent new blood! A complete blood transfusion; so I was in the hospital for a while. When I got out of there, I figured that was a pretty close call, and I just made a promise to, like… fans and friend and foe alike that before I die I’m gonna do this goddamn country record that I’ve been talking about for thirty years! (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: (laughs) Oh my God…
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, people were starting to think I was full of shit, you know? I did a couple of shows and this and that, but I just figured that this close brush was a sign and I’d better do this now. Or forever hold my piece. So I started going about getting that together. And meanwhile… I started drinking again. Like an idiot.
ROCKSALT.MX: Was that related to the cause of your ulcers and seizures?
AL JOURGENSEN: Oh yeah. When I got out of the hospital, I didn’t drink – I couldn’t or I would just get physically sick or throw up. There was still plenty of blood in my stomach and all this other stuff. So I had to wait a while; but then I started out, just a beer here, a beer there. Then a bottle of wine. Then two. Then three. Then when we started this record up, me and Mikey (Scaccia) really started knuckling down – on the Buck Satan record. Then it went up to four and five bottles. And when we got done with this record, I was puking up blood again. Just the same shit was happening and I’d split open the ulcer again. And we got done on literally the stroke of midnight this past January and I was in rehab on the second of January. Kicking liquor and getting my ulcer treated, and I’ve been sober ever since.
AL JOURGENSEN: And now I’m working out and healthy and no more blood and everything’s great. But I just find it so typical of my fucking career that once again I do something bass-ackwards! I did the record that I liked the most, of all I’ve ever done – last! Instead of first, okay? I drink myself to death and write the perfect drinking song – which is so great for jukeboxes in shit-kicker bars – and then I stop drinking! (laughs) And – I mean – I started out doing pop songs – like Milli Vanilli – on Arista Records! And then I wind up owning my own record label, (13th Planet), doing whatever the fuck I want to do – some kind of metal hybrid… and just a grouchy old guy, political and all this kinda shit… and it’s just like everything’s backwards! Have you noticed that?
ROCKSALT.MX: That’s funny, I never thought of it as backwards…
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, most people they do the kinda stuff they want to do and they work at it and work at it and soon they finally get sick of being broke and somebody offers them money to sell out and they go, “Fine!” and take it. I never did that. I sold out before I started! And then I spent the rest of my life trying to do what I wanted to do. So it’s kinda backwards from the “starving artist sells out” thing. I just got that right out of the way and became grumpier and grumpier as I went along!
ROCKSALT.MX: (laughs) I see what you’re getting at.
AL JOURGENSEN: Writing every song about heroin addiction and coke and drinking and then I stopped all of them. I don’t even smoke cigarettes anymore – I quit that a couple years ago. So, typical bass-ackwards Jourgensen stuff, you know? (laughs) But it seemed to work. I can actually listen to this record; usually when I’m done with a record – I’m done with it. I don’t listen to it again. If I’m somewhere and somebody’s playing it… sometimes I happen to go, “Wow, that sounds pretty cool. What is that?” And they’ll go, “That’s YOU idiot!” (laughs) But with this one, the Buck Satan record, I got it done and it’s actually helping me get through – I’m still working on my sobriety. I hit my three-month mark a little bit back, going to my meetings and doing the twelve-step thing. And unlike Charlie Sheen, it seems to be working for me. I don’t think it’s a bootleg cult, so… (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: Which is funny because “Quicker Than Liquor” is pretty goddamn awesome!
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, it’s pretty goddamn true! (laughs) That’s the thing about a lot of the stuff on this record: there’s a lot of truth on this record. This isn’t just me being all mad about a bunch of corrupt politicians, or some idiot or is supposedly running the country or the world; the government or whatever. Or the whole system failure that I’ve been screaming about for years and blah, blah, blah. This one’s pretty personal. You can read between the lines on this one and you can see that this record’s pretty true to me. It took me thirty years to – I would call it “singing naked.” Not a whole lot of warble effects and harmonizers. And not a whole lot of shaking my fist and being angry and all that other stuff: it’s pretty much me, laying out bare. Like a nudist record or something.
ROCKSALT.MX: How was the record written and recorded? Have you been writing this for years or did it evolve some other way?
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, about the only song I had written lyrics for, and kind of a chord progression for – although we wound up changing it – was “Cheap Wine and Cheap Ramen.” On that Ministry “C U Latour Live” DVD I’m on the bus with an acoustic working it out. The lyrics… “Cheap wine, cheap ramen, that’s all I got it comin’, because I sold my soul to the record company” – I’m playing that on that Ministry DVD – so that’s the only one that I’d actually written. I had farted around and done some other stuff, over the years, but I would up not using that and so we just pretty much started from scratch. Without Mike Scaccia on there – it was basically me and him bashing it out on acoustics and banjos and mandolins and this and that – and then we started adding other people to the thing as we went along. But it pretty much just started out with me and him – Mikey with a case of beer and me with like, five bottles of wine – just hashing out shit on acoustic guitars with me howling away like some drunk dog in the wind! That was pretty much the genesis of this record. And as far as the actual order of songs recorded, we were so shitfaced when we recorded this record, to be honest, I can’t even remember which one we did first! (laughs) But it all came out in the end and it was so prophetic – that’s prophetic not PA-thetic! – that when I looked up at the clock in the studio it was eleven fifty-nine on the very final pass… December thirty-first, very final pass, eleven fifty-nine, final pass –the record is done!
AL JOURGENSEN: Then, well, then I didn’t listen to it for a while, because like I said, I went to rehab and all that.
ROCKSALT.MX: I wish I had known, I would have sent a card or an email or something.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, see, you don’t know that shit about me because I’m not like Bret Michaels or whomever. I’m not having these big freakouts and then I’m on TMZ all fucking week, and stuff like that. I kinda like, you know, keeping the fact that blood was pouring out of my ass… it’s not something I wanted to have a reality show about. You know?
ROCKSALT.MX: Right. But you’re comfortable speaking about it now…
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, as long as you’re not making a show about it! (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: (laughs) No, no, no! I just don’t want to write down anything you’re not comfortable putting out there.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, the whole reason I’m telling you that story is not to get on some “Oh, wow are you okay?” vibe like that. Because I’m actually fine right now and I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been – in my fucking life. And my twenty-six year old daughter – she says she’s never seen me look better, feel better, seem better, you know? I work out three hours a day and like I said, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t do drugs. I haven’t done drugs in like – it’s coming up on ten years in September.
ROCKSALT.MX: That’s fantastic.
AL JOURGENSEN: Yeah, I actually work out. Like three hours a day, I really work out – I’m riding forty miles a day on a bike – and then I do another hour and a half just straight weight training. And I feel great, man. It’s kinda weird. I’m not working right now; I kinda feel strange. I know if I go back to work, well, I’m not ready yet. Because I’ll just fall back into bad patterns which is basically… I didn’t even realize how much I was drinking, you know? In the studio and elsewhere, like on tour or something like that. When I feel I’m ready, I’ll dabble my toe in there a little bit and go in there an do a remix or something like that. Maybe a remix of one song or something like that.
ROCKSALT.MX: Anything particular you’re thinking about?
AL JOURGENSEN: Maybe some songs for a soundtrack or something. And then maybe dabble a little bit more; but right now I’m just enjoying the time of finally getting healthy. There is no more Ministry: no Ministry comeback and none of this other crap that all these guys who say it’s their last thing and then come out with something else as soon as they need to pay their mortgage or buy a yacht or something like that. I’m pretty self-sufficient. I own my own studio, own my own cars, own my own house. So I don’t have a lot of bills and I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to. So now everything that comes out from me, from now on, is one hundred per cent. Because I’m totally interested in it, whether it’s someone else’s stuff or my stuff.
ROCKSALT.MX: And Buck Satan?
AL JOURGENSEN: Buck Satan… I’m not planning on that being a chain or a brand, you know what I’m saying? If another record happens, another record happens but I’m not setting out to do one. I’m certainly not setting out to do a Buck Satan tour. I’m just doing things that interest me. In fact, I was just talking to James Grauerholz the other day – who used to be (William S.) Burroughs’ manager-slash-partner – and they found a book – the lost Burroughs’ book – that Simon and Schuster had and he finally got the rights back. It’s a book that he did ten years before “Naked Lunch.” And he co-wrote it with – they switched off, it was jamming – Jack Keroac. They switched off chapters. And it’s out now: the book’s called “And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks.” So we’ve been talking about movie rights for that and of course I’d be very interested in doing the soundtrack. Which would be a complete departure for me, where I’d go into real heavy, kinda New York-heroin, early Fifties street jazz. That’s kind of what I’ve been thinking about next. Plus I’ve been working with this conductor who is the director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Symphony, in Ontario, Canada – Edwin Outwater – and picking up so much stuff from him. Classical stuff. And I’ve been going to the El Paso Symphony twice a month for the past year or two and really picking up on some of the nuances of symphonic music that I’ve always incorporated into my sound; but I’m really starting to get into the nuances of it. And the minutia of why people do what they do in a symphony and this and that. I’m just into a lot of different stuff now and I feel completely unshackled by that… if I was in Van Halen, and then Van Hagar, and then back to singing about chicks and stuff when you’re sixty years old – it’s like, “Really?” You know? (laughs) What is there to sing about? How you had to do a blue pill to get your dick hard? It just doesn’t interest me, that kinda stuff. I mean, I hope I’m not coming off as some kinda elitist snob or something like that; because – Hell! – I just did a shitkicker of a honky-tonk record!
ROCKSALT.MX: It is! Absolutely a honky-tonk record!
AL JOURGENSEN: I’m just interested in a lot of different stuff. I feel the weight and burden of being “industrial guy” – “MINISTRY!” – “metal guy” or whatever – has been lifted. It’s a “been-there, done-it” kinda thing. Like going to the same fucking bar every night, sitting in the same chair or booth every night and drinking the same shit, talking to the same people… and after a while it’s like “What am I doing?” Like a hamster on a fucking wheel. But who knows? I may get interested in it again, ten years from now, and come up with the fastest fucking real heavy angry whatever. I have no idea. But I don’t feel the necessity to do that.
ROCKSALT.MX: That’s good, isn’t it? Artistic progress and all. And I’m sure people will find that encouraging…
AL JOURGENSEN: Yeah. I don’t know if it pulled me down, you know, but it just didn’t let me go forward. This country record, because of the situation, where there wasn’t a country person to be found on this, it became it’s own mutated genre. Very much similar to early Ministry, like “Land of Rape and Honey” which kind of mutated into something due to those circumstances – it became it’s own genre. And that’s interesting. I remember doing “Land of Rape and Honey” – surprisingly (laughs) considering how much hallucinogenics… went into that record – amongst other things – and thinking at the time, “Goddamn, this is fun!” This is like uncharted waters. And I remember pinching myself a couple times hearing this Buck Satan record and going “Goddamn, this is fun, man!” So it’s been a while.
AL JOURGENSEN: Because, well, look: do I know how to do an industrial-metal record? Yeah, I think so, by now. Would I do a good one? I think so by now. Would I have fun with it? Yeah… I’d be okay. I pretty much know what to do and how to do it. I could make it sound good and the perfectionist in me, in the studio, would make sure that it’s a good record – I wouldn’t put out a piece of crap – but it’s not something with that kinda “Wow!” moment that I got doing “Land of Rape and Honey” or when I was doing this country album. I’ve had a few “Wow!” moments since, like talking to James Grauerholz about early street jazz. And I’m not talking about swing, I’m talking post-swing, post-Louis Armstrong Cotton Club Southern jazz, New Orleans jazz… I’m talking about the real gritty, dirty nasty stuff in New York in the 1950s. Early fifties, started in late forties right after the war. I’ve been immersing myself in that and having real “Wow!” moments on that.
ROCKSALT.MX: Wow, indeed.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. Just laying low and letting situations present themselves to me. I’m not knocking on doors. For instances, this Buck Satan record – everyone’s like “When’s it coming out?” And I don’t know. I don’t really care: I didn’t do it to be on a label or this and that or the other. Honest to God, I did it for me and Mikey. Mikey’s another person that, we used to sit in the back of the Ministry bus – just me and him – because everyone else in the band hated us and we hated everyone else in the band – so it was just me and him in the back lounge doing the same shit. And we’ve been talking about this – well, with Mikey, for twenty years – and I’ve been talking about this for thirty years! So we finally, finally did it. We just went ahead and said, “Fuck it!” And it turned out really cool. And Mikey’s kind of in the same situation I’m in – I think right now he’s doing some Rigor Mortis shows or something – and he had a lot of “Wow!” moments during the making of this record. And now he’s really opening up to a lot of different shit. He’s doing Rigor Mortis and that’s great, but I don’t have to do Ministry. I’ve set myself up so I can pretty much pick and choose my spots now and I don’t have to sing about banging chicks at fifty-four or whatever I am – what am? I’m almost fifty-three I think! (laughs) I’m not even sure! It depends on whether you go by liver years or regular years! Whatever, I’ve just got all this energy now. I’m sorry if I’m babbling here…
ROCKSALT.MX: Not at all! Let’s talk a little bit about what your inspiration was. You say you’ve been talking about this for thirty years and anyone who’s read your website knows you’ve always been a Buck Owens fan – what was the driving force to even attempt such a thing as a country album?
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, the driving force was that whole Bakersfield scene that Buck created. First of all, let me back up a little bit. When I was sixteen I got a Class B license to drive a large truck. This was up in Colorado. And if I listened to anything country, about the closest I came was Skynyrd. Something like that, but I was more like a Zeppelin or Pink Floyd kind of guy. But I’d have to drive all these washers and dryers – my dad owned a Montgomery Ward outlet store up in this ski area in Colorado – and I’d have to drive all the appliances in this big rig over these mountain passes to this other Montgomery Ward store in Hoosier Pass. In the Frisco, Breckenridge, Summit County area of Colorado. And none of the truck-stops had anything I wanted to listen to, so I started buying country stuff. And I latched on to Buck Owens. And I did a little research on it, read up a little bit about him, and found that whole mid-fifties, early country scene – which was like punk rock to me. Which was exciting – it was like fuck you to the establishment. This guy, he just packed up and moved to Bakersfield. That just wasn’t done back then: you either made it in Nashville or you didn’t make it. And Buck was like, “Fuck you!” They used to say, “You write all the songs and we’ll take ninety per cent of all the profit and just be a good boy and don’t complain.” – that was Nashville back then. And he just said, “Fuck you!” and I really got into that spirit. And then on top of that, just getting into the fact that, yeah, country songs are simple – but they’re supposed to be. They’re all cry-in-your-beer stuff, but it’s all real shit. When you listen to that stuff, viscerally, you feel this person’s fucking pain. Robert Plant… I love Led Zeppelin, okay? But I’m not really getting it viscerally when I’m hearing him sing about Hobbits and all that shit. Maybe that’s just me, but it just doesn’t register to me. I love all the melodies, I love Page’s guitar work and production and the whole band; and I love Plant’s voice, too. But I can’t relate to that. And I must admit I’ve never been to a Renaissance Faire. When I listen to Buck Owens or Johnny Cash, those words ring true. When I first started out in Ministry, I didn’t want to be a singer. I didn’t want to be the guy up front in the hip-hugger pants singing about Hobbits and knights and castles and all that shit. I always wanted to be the guitar-player and producer. I was always a Page guy: always wanted to be Jimmy Page, never wanted to be Robert Plant. To me, a night of reading Crowley was far superior to six groupies in a bed. I don’t know – call me weird – but that was always much more preferable to me. I didn’t want to be the singer, so when I first started having to be the singer for Ministry, it was very difficult to figure out what the fuck I wanted to write about and I was always a little bit insecure about baring my soul. And just even the sound of your own voice, if you’ve never heard it recorded, it’s weird. So it took me a long time to get over that; but by the same token, you know – God works in mysterious ways – that’s why I put so many effects on my voice. Because I hated it, and that became a sound of its’ own which other people copied. And it was just my way around circumventing my fear of having to be the singer. Then you get to a point where you’re actually writing lyrics before you’re writing songs. And then you learn to hit notes while you’re singing and you’re getting a little bit more comfortable being the front man and it’s a progression and an evolution. I don’t think anyone goes in and becomes just a lead singer and front man, and if they do, I would worry about that person because his ego is way ahead of his career. And I’ve met a few like that. Trust me, when I was auditioning singers putting Ministry together in 1981, a lot of egos were way ahead of their careers back then. To this day, I really don’t like singers. I distrust them. I’m more of a hang out with the guitar players and roadies guy. Although, to be fair, guitar players definitely have their egos, too; especially if you put the word “lead” in front of there. Then they start getting a little bit full of themselves. Anyway, that was all part of my inspiration of getting this whole thing together: I’d talked about it but I wasn’t prepared to do it. The truthfulness that George Jones or Johnny Cash or Buck Owens sings about comes through so blatantly clear to me and that is just such a fucking cool thing to hear. Truth coming out of your speakers.
ROCKSALT.MX: It’s pure.
AL JOURGENSEN: And it’s simple stuff! No one’s going to be telling him, like a 5/4 beat going into a triplet section. It’s gotta be a nice simple sweet “Goddamn it – my dog got run over” or something. Keep it simple. There’s more truth in that than a bunch of fuckin’ math rock. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with math-rock, I’ve done it myself and actually wrote from the head instead of the heart. There’s something to be said for that, too; but to me I just found it really appealing and although I kept talking about doing it, I wasn’t ready. So… that whole thing with the bleed-out, for me, just made it all come home to roost. I was finally comfortable with my own voice and doing what I do; and I was bored, you know, if I wanted to do another Ministry thing… and not only that, but I’d said that’s it and that’s it! I didn’t want to keep it coming back like a bad sequel – with a hockey mask doing “Ministry, Part 13!” It just seemed like the perfect time in so many different ways. The planets were aligned for it and if you don’t take advantage of situations like that you kick yourself in the ass forever. Which is good, because I don’t have a single bruise on my ass from kicking myself – it’s a nice clean, baby-soft ass! (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: Any idea when you’ll be able to get this out?
AL JOURGENSEN: As far as when the Buck Satan record is going to come out, talk to Angie. I honestly don’t have a care in the world if it ever comes out, whether it’s bootlegged and downloaded… that’s her specialty. I have no clue, no idea. The artwork’s already done, I know that.
ROCKSALT.MX: That’s a start.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, the artwork’s been done for twenty years. We pulled a Martin Atkins – we did the t-shirt way before the band!
ROCKSALT.MX: So do you consider this a band, or a project?
AL JOURGENSEN: It’s more chance than anything. There’s no country people on it. A bunch of industrial people are on here; we just strapped in and let the roller-coaster go where it wanted to go. I didn’t know where it was going, Mikey didn’t know where it was going. We had a little bit of a game-plan, like for instance the girls playing fiddle – I was talking to them about classical stuff and they wound up here a week later because their schedule had an opening and they said they’d give it a shot. And they were amazing! They’d never done it before, fiddling like that, country! Talk about a “Wow!” moment – for them, too!
ROCKSALT.MX: It sounds like it really came together better than you expected.
AL JOURGENSEN: It always seems to be the best when it happens that way, with no agenda. Again, going back to “Land of Rape and Honey,” I remember reading “Naked Lunch” and reading Burroughs’ stuff back then and doing cut-up work on tape. Which really hadn’t been done – it had been done with words where sometimes you write out a story and cut it up, cut up different words and throw it on the floor and put it up in random order – and I was doing that during “Rape and Honey” with actual recording tape. And that’s where we got that sound. And that hadn’t really been done – I think (Karlheinz) Stockhausen might have tried it for a while but everyone said it came out like garbled nonsense – I kinda used it sparingly, but it was a “Wow!” moment when I thought, “This is really cool!” I’d sit there for weeks in a room by myself just chopping up tape with cigarette burns and coffee stains on it and I’d lose track of which was which, which was forward and which was backward and I’d just piece it all back together and hope for the best. There was a lot of failure involved there that sounded nonsensical, and then there were some other things that had no plan and came out really cool. And there was no guarantee that it was going to work out that way in spite of my actions. And some of them weren’t cool; but a lot of it was. Those always come out the best – when it’s by chance, you know? At least to me; for me trying to sit down and conceptualize something, it always falls short. There’s so many variables and different influences in your brain, and just in life, you might have to switch guitar players in the middle of it – something could always happen. So for me, sometimes my best work is to go in there with not a fucking clue. The less I know the better. And it seems to work. I don’t know, at least for me.
ROCKSALT.MX: Well, the record is sensational. Certainly unexpected and so much fun – that’s the thing. I mean, I was surprised at how much I liked it. You must be excited for people to hear it.
AL JOURGENSEN: I am; but as far as I’m concerned, the little cogs up in my head – before it starts getting cobwebs up there again – they’re starting to turn. And I’m really thinking about this great, like total junky jazz, you know? “Jazz For Junkies!” It’s basically what I’m thinking about now that I’ve gotten the Buck Satan thing out of me for a while, I’m on to something else. But it is a really good record and I’m really pleased with it. So Angie’s working on that now, so I’m sure if it comes out she’ll let me know! (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: You mentioned it briefly before and I wanted to talk about it: “Take Me Away” – it’s a very powerful, slow country ballad. Is that the first song like that you’ve ever written?
AL JOURGENSEN: Oh, yeah. By far. There’s nothing even, like, close; and it’s just a nursery rhyme. I repeat it over and over, there’s nothing – when I was sitting there with tubes in my arm and wondering if I was gonna die, it was kind of like a spiritual experience, it really was. And like I’ve said, I’ve actually died two other times, and those were way back in the day from OD-ing on heroin, and I left my body – the previous times – and it was such a feeling of exhilaration. At first I was kind of panicked, when you see your own body lying there and everyone else is worried, you’re worried for the other people that are worrying for you, kinda hovering above. It’s kinda weird, man, and that happened to me twice. That didn’t happen to me this time, and to be honest, that song was – “I’m ready. And if you’re ready to take me, I’m ready to go!” You know? I’ve done about everything I’ve wanted to do, and in other words, there was no fear of death and whatever comes after, for me. And that song was written, sitting there in my head – there’s only like four lines in it or something like that – and just to let whatever universal power is out there, “if it’s time, ya know, I’m not gonna fight you on it. It’s cool with me! What’s next?”
ROCKSALT.MX: It’s moving and it’s really… pretty. I’ve got no way else to describe it.
AL JOURGENSEN: I’ll tell you what, when I left my body those other two times, that’s about the only way to describe it – it was really pretty. It really was. And you try to explain to people and I know it sounds like some bad show on the Science channel, the paranormal where people come back from the dead, but that shit actually happened to me and it was really profound. And it really restored my faith in, well – you die but you keep moving on. Or at least a part of you – your atoms, your thoughts, your ideas, the universe… Hell, everything keeps moving on. Which really puts you in a nice humble spot and it really teaches you a sense of humility; and about what you’re doing – you have all these people who are telling you either A. you’re a piece of shit and your music sucks – like on all these fucking internet things, which, by the way – I still don’t have a computer or email or read any of that stuff – or B. you have all these people telling you how great you are and it’s like – really? Am I that important that you’re going to spend all your time in your mom’s basement writing shit when you could just go out and get a job or a hobby or something. So anyway, all this made me do is realize that everything I do is really dumb – I have a really dumb job. Like whenever I toured, I didn’t feel like a lead singer or part of a band or part of an event or even art. I felt like an overpaid babysitter or basically a traffic cop for a moshpit. “You over there on the right, put that knife down – you don’t need that shit! Hey! Quit slammin’ into that guy! Can we get security over here? That’s guy’s hurt – that guy’s hurt!” And I mean, really? And they gave me a lot of money to do that? They should pay people that run nursery schools or teachers the same amount of money. Because that’s about what I felt like I do on tour. I just found the whole thing ridiculous, basically. You know, all that said, I just came away more humble about my life in the scheme of things.
ROCKSALT.MX: There is also a great song on the Buck Satan album, “Ten Long Years In Texas” and it’s really funny – it almost reminds me of that song “Take This Job And Shove It.”
AL JOURGENSEN: Johnny Paycheck. I’ve met Johnny a couple of times, too, over the years, so maybe it’s “take this life and shove it!” It’s really funny because I’m into a different set of weasels, basically. Because now I concentrate on soundtrack and film work and I really enjoy that because there’s no band egos. If you produce some band there’s always somebody mad that they’re not loud enough or this and that or blah, blah, blah. It’s just so boring because you’re not just a babysitter but you also have to have a Master’s in Psychology and Psychiatry. It has very little to do with the music at that point, it’s more about appeasing egos and all this other bullshit which is just tiresome, okay, and it takes away from the music. So what I really like to do is lock myself in with an engineer I know I can work with, and we both know our roles, and just work alone and work on somebody else’s vision of the visuals in a film or TV show, and work in tandem putting the right sonic embellishments onto that vision of what the movie should look like. And that’s such a great working relationship especially since you don’t really know the director or anything or if you do, you certainly aren’t part of the shooting – that’s his vision. So I want to do the best I can on making sure that the sound is my vision of what I see of his vision. I find it a really interesting process and it’s the thing that I look forward to the most, working these days – that kind of scenario working with creative people coming from a completely different medium and coming from a completely different space than where I’m coming from. I know the studio like the back of my hand because I’ve been in one, outside of touring, for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week for however many years. I mean, if I don’t know something about a studio now then put me on life support! But to work with someone from a different medium – that’s why I worked with Burroughs or Timothy Leary – they’re coming from a different place, but it’s really not so different, you find out. It’s just the instruments they use – they use a pen, I use a synth. You know what I mean?
AL JOURGENSEN: At any rate, back to my point before I started rambling (laughs) now that I’m dealing with the soundtrack stuff, it’s like a whole other set of weasels! I swear to God! It’s like I’ve hit Level Two on some Nintendo game. It’s Hollywood weasels instead of record business weasels – in fact, this is actually a higher level of deceit and weaselness. (laughs) And for me, this is almost impossible to believe after surviving twenty-eight years of the record industry; to see that after jumping into the Hollywood snakepit that if it’s not as bad, it’s maybe even a little worse.
ROCKSALT.MX: Can you maybe give me an example?
AL JOURGENSEN: Oh. I did some music for that… NCIS or something – is that a show?
ROCKSALT.MX: NCIS? Yeah, I think there’s a couple of them.
AL JOURGENSEN: It’s a cop show or something – I have no idea. I’ve never seen the show. And they asked me to do some music. So I did this really heavy Jamaican dub, circa early eighties Linton Kwesi-Johnson – heavy, heavy, heavy tricked out dub stuff – because that’s what I wanted to do, right? Well… the guy almost had a heart attack. He was like, “What IS this?” And since I’ve never seen the show or know anything about what it’s about or know who’s in the show or have any interest to, to be honest… this guy’s having a heart attack and he’s screaming at me on the phone! Because I sent him this… it’ll come out someday, it’s just sitting on a shelf now – it was obviously rejected. I think it’s super-cool, but the guy had a stroke. I don’t know what I’ll do with it – I’ve got a lot of stuff like that, sitting around that I’ve recorded and I keep telling Angie “We don’t need to buy insurance when we buy a plane ticket, our insurance sits up on that shelf!” (laughs) You know? Because Jimi Hendrix is still putting out new albums! – But anyways, this guy is freaking out! So I asked him, “Well what do you want?” And he specifically told me, in that Hollywood kinda jargon, “I just want Al to be Al!” And right away I think something’s wrong when someone talks to you in the second or third person – imagine if I came up to you and said, “That’s just not the kind of product that Al Jourgensen would put out!” you know? So he’s just “I want Al to be Al!” – and I thought I was being Al, I did this awesome dub thing – and I said, “What do you want?” And he said “I want something like ‘Stigmata!’” So I go, “Well, why don’t you just license ‘Stigmata’?” which seems to me like kind of an obvious thing to do if you’re that hell-bent on that song. And he’s like “No, no, no! We need something new, but I want it to sound like ‘Stigmata’!” So… I sat down and I basically covered ‘Stigmata’ without a vocal on it. And I made slight changes here and there, just as an experiment and I sent it to the guy. And the guy FLIPS OUT! LOVES IT! HE COULDN’T BELIEVE HOW COOL THIS WAS! And it was just me and a drum machine and I changed, like, one note in the progression and sent it to him. And he says, “You’re a genius!” (laughs) I mean, really? You see what I’m talking about? This is a whole new level, Nintendo Level Two, of weaseldom. There should be a videogame for this, negotiating yourself through the snakepit that is the entertainment industry.
ROCKSALT.MX: (laughs) Wow.
AL JOURGENSEN: You see what I’m talking about.
ROCKSALT.MX: But you’re going to keep at this and not go out and promote Buck Satan?
AL JOURGENSEN: Nope. That does not interest me whatsoever and especially now. You know, on tour and stuck on a bus with a bunch of stinky rockers right now, I’d be a drinkin’ fool.
ROCKSALT.MX: Right, of course. I’m sorry to -
AL JOURGENSEN: No, it’s okay. I’m just, basically, really liking my sobriety. And the last time I kicked – dope and coke and all the other shit – I immediately had to go on tour because we needed the money. Not “we” but all of our managers, business agents, tour managers, record company – everyone needed the money so throw Al out there and I go out and everyone makes their money and I come home two hundred thousand dollars in the hole. And I had just gotten clean – and never relapsed – and I had people out there handing me eight-balls of coke in the parking lot before soundcheck. Just people coming up to me, “Hey man, I’m a big fan and I love you and I know you love this shit!” just handing me bags of coke. So I managed to figure out a way to diffuse it – because when you’re looking at this stuff, there was this one time this guy handed me – it wasn’t like dull, crappy coke; this shit was sparkling like diamonds – and he hands me this bag and I just autographed it and gave it back to him! (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: (laughs) Oh, my God – what did he say?
AL JOURGENSEN: I don’t know but that brings up a whole new thing: I wonder what that kid did with it? Either he’s got it on his wall, framed; or he’s got it in one of those fire emergency boxes behind glass “Don’t Break Unless In Emergency!” (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: (laughs) So touring is out for now, I see.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you go from a five hundred dollar-a-day habit to nothing and had to be exposed to it in no time at all. Literally, the turnaround time from rehab to tour was like, three or four months. After I’d gotten clean, next thing I know I’m back on the road doing the same shit – and as we all know, the definition of insanity is banging your head against a wall and expecting different results. I managed to get different results but it left a really bad taste in my mouth. Which was actually kinda cool about the last tour we did, the C U LaTour, was that I had known for a few years that it just really didn’t interest me anymore and that one tour left me with such a bad taste – for “Animositisomina” – that I had planned for this. Which made the last few tours so much fun, especially the last one, because I didn’t need to do this anymore. So I actually kinda had fun: it was a nice way to go out. And the band that I had are all close friends of mine – I have a very private life and a close circle of friends – and those guys were buddies. Which was such a departure because Ministry was like The Who on steroids. Townsend hated Daltrey, Daltrey hated Townsend and they’d go out and do a kickass show and then after they’d run like cockroaches when the kitchen lights come on. That’s what Ministry used to be like – that’s all I knew for years. So that’s what made it kinda fun on those last tours, the Rio Grande Blood tour and – Raven, rest in peace, I always think about him every day – and Tony was such a great replacement for him and such a great guy. And it was fun again. So I wanted to be able to go out on top instead of, like, going back to the scene of an accident. Just happy to get out unscathed like the airbag actually deployed! (laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: (laughs) Well, Al, I think the record is tremendous and I hope it finds a home somewhere.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, I have a new manager now. This guy specializes in estates; he runs the entire Ramones estate and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy! They’re nowhere in the league of the Hendrix people, still trying to find one last piece of meat off the carcass, you know? But he does that and he does Cheap Trick and Ace Frehley and now he does me. It was just like, “Let’s find a guy that understands that I’m so sick of this!” To manage me and he gets it. He doesn’t call me up with these ideas like, “Hey I just got you on this tour with Def Leppard in South America!” It’s not even worth the minutes on my cell phone talking about something like that. And he understands that. So I’m in a really good peaceful place right now and surrounded by good people and, you know, to go out with some other manager looking for a high-paid, high-stress reunion gig would kinda cheapen the last couple tours that I had. So maybe he’ll be able to get this Buck Satan record out, we’ll see.
ROCKSALT.MX: So it’ll be a while before we see you on the CMA’s I guess.
AL JOURGENSEN: (laughs) Ah, no – Hell no! As a matter of fact, this is the story I got from Dave, our manager and Angie – I could tell they wanted to talk to me about something and they were both kind of beating around the bush about it – they were going to ask me something they both knew I wasn’t going to like (laughs) and I’m finally like, “Look! Out with it, okay?” And they went, “Well, we do have a very interested label” – I’m not going to say their name – “but you’d have to change the name from Buck Satan to something else.” And I just said, “Okay. Next topic.” (Laughs)
ROCKSALT.MX: Oh, man!
AL JOURGENSEN: And the CMA’s – just look at country music now! Is it really country music? I mean, what is that? What do you call that abomination? What would you call it?
ROCKSALT.MX: Uh… you mean that “big-hat country music?”
AL JOURGENSEN: Ahh… I call it “product.” Product. I don’t even call it music. So I’ll never be at the CMA’s I don’t think. I didn’t even want to go to the Grammys. I got thrown out of the Grammys when we got nominated! Suffice to say I was the first in line for the Grammy party across the street, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine!
ROCKSALT.MX: Well, I’m not a country expert by any means, but I am really enjoying it and I think other people – even people who wouldn’t know you from Minsitry – would dig it as well.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, that’s great! Cool! Definitely spread the word, then, because I’m really proud of this record. And there’s no better test for me than – if we got off the phone right now – I could actually listen to that record and not puke! And especially not puke blood! (laughs) There’s some real shitkickin’ stuff on there that’s been brewing up between me and Mikey for many, many years! So I’m just happy it came out as good as it did.
ROCKSALT.MX: It’s too bad that Buck Owens didn’t get to hear it.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, he was one of the best and one of my heroes, obviously. Buck never sold out, he stayed true and that’s what’s so cool about that guy. My other hero, actually, was Gram Parsons. I’m friendly with his daughter, Polly Parsons, and I sent her a copy. She was like, in tears, and said I kinda sound like her dad. Because, there’s the Ministry voice that I alternate with the other voice – my “Oh, Brother Where Are Thou?” old-timey shit, you know? And it’s so funny because she really thought my old-timey voice reminded her of her dad, and that was the biggest compliment that I could ever get. Because to me this Buck Satan record is just updated Gram Parsons with new technology. Obviously a little heavier because look at the knuckleheads I had playing with me! Static X! Rigor Mortis! If Gram had those fuckers with him, I’m sure he would have done a little bit more uptempo two-step two! (laughs) But I really dug what Gram did and he’s my second all-time favorite country artist behind Buck Owens.
ROCKSALT.MX: There’s a lot going on there…
AL JOURGENSEN: Well it also has that late-sixties California feel to it – Commander Cody, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Poco, Gram Parsons – if you go back and reference it to that, that would be a starting point. Only then I throw in programmed drums and Ministry vocals here and there, and there’s some leads on there that are just shreddin’! Stuff like that and we just started mixing in what we know how to do – but the catalyst was Buck Owens. But the template, the way we went about it as basically Gram Parsons. And then we just kind of took it from there.
ROCKSALT.MX: Well, it’s incredible! I can tell you that in the short time I’ve had it, my iTunes play count says I’ve played it twenty-seven times – and that’s in about twenty-four hours, not in a row.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, thank you. I’m glad you like it, because I haven’t gotten a lot of feedback on it – not many people have heard it – beyond changing the name! I don’t know if I told you, but when I was on the phone with Buck Owens trying to get him to play on this -
ROCKSALT.MX: You haven’t talked about this.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, here’s how that whole thing happened. His long-time assistant, for thirty-something years – I don’t want to call her a secretary but let’s say right-hand person – her son was a huge Ministry fan. And he had read somewhere that I was a big Buck Owens fan. So this kid somehow gets backstage at a Ministry show and we exchanged numbers and addresses and all that, and the next thing I know I’ve got autographed Buck Owens pictures and posters coming to the house. I was freaking out! Next thing I know, I’m on the phone with him and I told him, “I want to do this country record and I really want you to be part of it and you’ve meant so much in my life” and this and that – and all real heartfelt shit. And he goes, “Well, what’s the name of the band?” And I said, “Well, everyone says I’m kinda like your evil twin, so we named it Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters.” And he paused, because he was a very devout Christian by the end of his life, and then said, “Well, I’m sure it’s really good, but I don’t think I can do that.” And I’m going, “No, no, no! You don’t understand – I’ve changed! To Buck Satan means to DEFY Satan! To Buck him! To buck his wishes!” And he went for it! (laughs) And he said, “Well, we can talk about this at dinner…” And that’s when we set up the dinner; and the only way I could get that dinner was to tell a white lie that this whole thing was to defy Satan. (laughs) Imagine! So this thing has some very interesting roots and stories, this project. It’s really evolved over the years and it’s had some interesting twists and turns.
ROCKSALT.MX: It’s very special to you.
AL JOURGENSEN: It is. It’s a very special record, to me. It certainly isn’t something that somebody paid us to make. And it’s been this long, slow evolution – in the immortal words of Jerry Garcia, “What a long strange trip it’s been!”
ROCKSALT.MX: There is one thing I wanted to ask – I saw on the internet – there’s some band out of England who call themselves Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters. And I was confused at first because I thought it might be you, but it’s clearly not.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, we’ve had the name for over twenty-five years, so I don’t know what that’s about. We’ll have to have Angie and our manager look into that I guess. I don’t think whoever these people are that they’re gonna wind up sounding like us, that’s for sure! (laughs) It took a pretty weird eclectic class of knuckleheads to do this record, I’ll tell you that.
ROCKSALT.MX: No way – this is incredible. I can’t wait for people to hear it so I can say I was right! (laughs) You know how they say all rock journalists started out wanting to be rock stars? I wanted to be an A&R guy; and I believe in this record!
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, that’s great Mick. I’m really glad you like it.
ROCKSALT.MX: Thank you, sir. It’s really great to talk to you and I’m glad to hear you’re doing so well – and I’m sure your fans will as well.
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, all right then Mick. You stay in touch we’ll let know how things progress down here. You take care now!
ROCKSALT.MX: You too, Al! Thanks!
AL JOURGENSEN: Well, get to typin’, man! I’ll talk to you soon!