Ministry’s Al Jourgensen on Knitting, Being Haunted and Disliking R. Kelly
Photo: Allan Amato

Photo: Allan Amato

The Dead Kennedys‘ Jello Biafra once said of Al Jourgensen, “Every day he wakes in the morning he defies science.” That’s proven repeatedly with every blood-stained, drug-fueled, NSFW story in the just-published new memoir by industrial metal’s patron saint, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen. Jourgensen may sound like an arrogant asshat when he calls Hammer of the Gods “pussy shit,” but the supposed bad boys of Zeppelin don’t have anything on the Revolting Cocks/Ministry frontman/ svengali. This is a guy who had sex in mental institutions with nymphos. Who sued Clive Davis for trying to make him famous. Who roofied Trent Reznor so he could shave his head and eyebrows, watched dog porn with Chicago Cubs players, shot up heroin with William S. Burroughs, beat up R. Kelly for being pervy with his daughter, and almost gave up music for a life in the rodeo. Just open the book and throw your finger on any given page, and you’re liable to hit a sentence that makes you thank god you lived long enough on this planet to read something this batshit crazy. Here, I’ll do it right now. Boom, line at random: “I wasn’t supposed to be healthy enough to fuck yet, and I sure as hell wasn’t gonna jeopardize my marriage for a kinky fiddle-player.” In or out of context, it doesn’t matter. You’ll always wonder, What the fuck am I reading?!

I called Jourgensen after an all-night drive from northern Michigan to Chicago, with a sleeping toddler in the back seat and Ministry’s new album, From Beer to Eternity (out September 6th) blaring into my brain on headphones. I wasn’t exactly well-rested and mentally alert for our interview, but it didn’t sound like Jourgensen was either. If it was anybody else, I would’ve assumed from his slurred speech that he was drunk or stoned. But after reading The Lost Gospels, I’m pretty sure it’s just a little residual buzz from the mid-’80s.

I should start by telling you that I was at the Revolting Cocks show at the Metro in Chicago back in 1987.

Oh my god! That it one of the coolest shows that ever happened!

I didn’t know that at the time. I was 18 years old and it scared the shit out of me.

We had a girl shooting out chandeliers with a fucking shotgun.

I remember. I peed myself a little.

We had one girl stuck in our drum kit. The air conditioning broke down and it was like 130 degrees in there. And it was the first show we ever did. Dude, you were at a very special place. Let me tell you.

I’m still confused about the chickens. Why were there so many chickens?

That was the opening band’s thing. They did a Eurythmics thing, where they played “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” in half time and let out a bunch of chickens in the room with Annie Lennox masks. You remember that?

It haunts my dreams.

The club’s owner was not happy with us. But I thought it was the coolest opening act I ever had.

You definitely topped it. You came out and started cutting yourself with a razor blade. I’d never seen anything like that.

Thank you. We did another Cocks tour, but that was our best. Or our worst, I don’t know. For you to tell me that we came on and were better than the opening act is just like, it’s stellar, man. I’m freaking out just talking to you. You were at that show!

If I hadn’t been terrified and wanting to call my mom, I would’ve said hello.

We wouldn’t go onstage till we were paid in cash. So the poor motherfucker that owned the club had to drain every single cash register to pay us. Because otherwise, we were going to walk. And that would’ve been bad news. The audience was already pissed.

We had chandelier glass all over us. It was dark, and we knew that somebody in the club had a loaded shotgun. There were chickens everywhere. It was not a happy place to be.

Aw shit! You were at the right show, dude. You were at the right one!

I think I’m making myself sound way cooler than I actually was. I didn’t actually want to be there. It was an accident.

You just wandered in?

A friend took me. He was like, “Oh, these guys know how to party. It’ll be like a Replacements gig.” But then you start bleeding all over the stage. Which isn’t something I’ve ever seen Paul Westerberg do.

I still have those scars, man. I still have those scars. They’re up and down my left arm.

Was that pre-meditated? Were you like, “Let’s see how many veins I can open?”

I don’t know what got into me. I just decided to cut myself. Dude, seriously, you went to the best show ever!

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Let’s talk about your book. It’s hands down the most entertaining rock memoir I’ve ever read.

You read the book? And you’re still talking to me? You don’t think I’m a complete asshole?

I wouldn’t want you babysitting my toddler. But as rock legends go, you make Keith Richards look like a pussy.

No! No, no, excuse me! I know Keith! I’m up there with him, but there’s only one Keith Richards and that’s it and shut the fuck up! Don’t ever compare me to him again. He’s the real deal. I’m kinda like the Walmart version of Keith Richards, alright?

All due respect to Richards, but his blood transfusion was just an urban legend. You actually had your blood replaced.

That’s true, man.

You write in the book that the doctors replaced “every ounce of the poisoned blood in my system with new fresh blood.”

It changed my entire body thing. And apparently my new blood came from a lady in Kansas.

No it didn’t.

Now I’m into knitting!

Is that true? That sounds like a joke.

I swear to god! They told me! The doctors told me! The next day I woke up with this real hankering for knitting. And they told me the blood came from Kansas, from this old lady.

You’ve had a few near death experiences, right?

Not near death. I’ve died, man. I’ve been dead.

Mötley Crüe‘s Nikki Sixx claims he was clinically dead for two minutes. Do you have more time on the death clock?

I’ve got way more minutes on him, man. Fuck him. Two minutes, really? Fuck you, Nikki Sixx. I’ve got at least eleven minutes of full-on dead.

That’s a lot. That’s not all at once, right?

Fuck no.

So how many times have you technically died?

Three times. Three times. And every time the doctors are like, “You’re really lucky.” And I’m like, “Yeah, whatever. Where can I get a drink?”

It really feels like you’ve lived every rock urban legend. The stuff they pretended to do, you actually did.

These are urban legends! I don’t lie! Everything in this book, it’s been fact-checked. The guy who wrote it with me, he did his due diligence.

I don’t mean you. I mean all the other stories about rock stars. Like, for instance, that story about Stevie Nicks having such a high tolerance for coke that she hired a roadie to blow it up her ass.

Wait a second, wait a second! This is true! This is true!

Come on. No it isn’t.

I was managed by Fleetwood Mac‘s manager for awhile. We’d sit down and he’d tell me all about Stevie Nick’s cocaine anal thing. They had a roadie just to do that! That’s not an urban legend.

You’re fucking with me.

I am not fucking with you. I had the same manager. That girl likes coke up her ass, that’s all there is to it.

Have you tried this? Is cocaine more effective if it’s shoved up your rectum?

I have no idea. I’d just shoot the shit. There was never any anal shit going on there. Jesus. No, I was just a regular junkie.

You told Jello Biafra in 1989 that you thought you were going to die. And yet here you are, more than two decades later, still alive and kicking.

That’s right, motherfucker.

What’s your secret? Is it dumb luck? Do you expect the worst and therefore avoid it?

No, no, none of that shit. I have a cockroach gene. I have it in me. All my friends are dying around me, and I’m still kicking. It’s got to be a cockroach gene. There’s no other way to explain it.

How long do you plan to be around? Are you going to be one of those 100 year-old super seniors that Willard Scott wishes a happy birthday to on a Smuckers jar?

Fuck no. Listen, my grandfather died at 73. Timothy Leary died at 75. William Burroughs died at 78. I want to go somewhere around there. In the 70s. That sounds nice.

Despite all your wild behavior in the book, you don’t always tolerate it in others. Like R. Kelly.

That douchebag!

You’re angry that he pissed on a piano in your Lake Geneva studio. Which is weird.

How is that fucking weird?

Well, how do you know it wasn’t your piss?

I didn’t fucking do it.

But you could have. It wouldn’t have been out of character for you. Did you have the piss sent to a CSI lab?

It was his piss. I’m 100% sure.

Quite a few recognizable names get disparaged in this book. Did you give them advance warning?

Like who? R. Kelly? Fuck him.

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What about Madonna? You wrote that when you met her, she smelled like tuna and dog shit. She’s probably not going to like that description.

I don’t give a shit. But I’m telling you, that’s what she smelled like.

Her denial alone would be amazing publicity.

Sure, I’ll take it. I’ll send her a copy.

My favorite story in the book, without a doubt, is when you’re dating Aimee Mann in Boston. That’s bizarre enough right there.

Aimee is great. I have nothing bad to say about her.

But your sex is constantly being interrupted by ghosts.

That’s right. And that’s why I won’t ever go there again. Ever, ever, ever. No shows, no nothing. That place is haunted.

Your old apartment, or Boston in general?

Boston in general. I will not go back there. Books used to come flying off the shelf at Aimee. You could ask her. Things would fly off the shelf!

And you’re sure it was a ghost? It wasn’t just whatever drugs you were taking?

No, no, I did the research! I actually went to the Boston Public Library and looked it up. I had this elevator that came up into the house, and this girl apparently killed herself in the elevator. She was in a bad car accident and was disfigured, and she knew she couldn’t get laid anymore. So she threw herself down the elevator shaft.

She killed herself because of lack of sex?

Pretty much. So I’m living in this building, and I’m seeing Aimee Mann. And this girl ghost, whoever she was, she was a hottie-tottie, man. And now she was dead and she was pissed off.

She wasn’t getting laid as much as you were?

I guess, I don’t know. Every time I had a girl over, she would throw books off the walls, making us both really uncomfortable.

It wasn’t just Aimee then? She threw books at all the girls you were sleeping with?

It was mainly Aimee. I really liked her. She’s great. But it was a difficult situation. What’s that song she did in the ‘80s? “Voices” something.

“Voices Carry?”

Yeah! That was written about me.

What? No. Are you sure?

That’s what I heard. That song is about me and it was about our dysfunctional relationship in Boston and all the books that were flying off shelves when we tried to have sex.

You’re going to make so many people go back and listen to that song just to try and piece together the clues.

Good. You know what? I hope she makes a billion dollars off it. She’s a nice person, man.

That part in the video where Aimee and her wifebeater-wearing boyfriend go to a concert at Carnegie Hall, was that supposed to be you, too?

I don’t know. I’ve never seen the video. I’ve actually never heard the song. [Laughs.]

But you’ve taken her to Carnegie Hall?

Yeah. It was a long time ago.

Was Boston the only city where you’ve had sex interrupted by ghosts?

There was also Austin, Texas. I had a ghost freakout there.

I’m going to need details.

I bought the place from Steve Martin. You know, the comedian?

I’m familiar with his work.

He sold it to me for cheap. Because it was haunted as fuck. While Steve Martin was living there, a girl died in the hot tub.

Are you sure? Did he tell you that?

It’s true! I had this black keyboard player at the time, Duane Buford, who would crash at my place, and he used to come out of his room looking like one of the fucking kids from that show. You know the one I’m talking about.

I kinda don’t.

About the poor fucking kids in the 20s.

Little Rascals?

Little Rascals! He would come out of his room looking like that kid from the Little Rascals.

Buckwheat.

Buckwheat! Buckwheat! I was like, “What’s wrong with you?” He was freaked the fuck out. His hair was standing straight up. We had bats flying around the room. Tarantulas all over the walls. We had this flying armadillo with leprosy that used to attack us. This whole place was fucked. I am so happy I’m not in Austin anymore.

I feel like I should ask you about this flying armadillo with leprosy, but maybe it’s best if we just leave it at that.

That fucker is gone.

You’re at a point in your life when you don’t have to live anywhere that’s infested with flying armadillos with leprosy.

Fuck that. I live in nice houses now. I’m in a place now, the house loves me. I’ve got no problems with it.

Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen is out now on Da Capo

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