As the founder, face and principle songwriter of the industrial metal pioneers Ministry, Al Jourgensen has certainly had his fair share of excess and debauchery over the years, but these days his disposition is that of appreciation above all else. ”Everyday I have above the ground is a beautiful day to me,” a wise Jourgensen explains.
With 2021 being the official 40th anniversary of Ministry’s forming, Jourgensen acknowledges the past accolades, but doesn’t leave it to define the legacy of Ministry. While the band's milestones serve as important markers in their catalog, Jourgensen real focus is in moving forward in his musical career. “I’m not in the past when it comes to Ministry,” he said. “But we’ll probably celebrate the 30th anniversary for Psalm 69.
Anniversaries aside, moving forward for Jourgensen means crafting new classics. As a follow up to the 2018 critically acclaimed AmmierKKKant, Jourgensen is back and Ministry has yet another mechanical slab of brutality, called Moral Hygiene, the band’s 15th studio album. This album comes with some pure moments, caustic heaviness, indie rock fuzz, benevolent melodies and straight away rock tracks that assert that Jourgensen is not content with relying on legacy. Not to mention the politics. Jourgensen never strays away from politics and current events, and Moral Hygiene is a reference to the times we are currently in.
“We all need to get our moral compass in order, it’s almost like we need a societal douche,” Jourgensen said. “Just look at the suicide rates, from mental illness, drug addiction; the way social media has taken over lives. Then you have these dipshit anti-vaxxers who are all being selfish. I just think there are too many selfish and yes, immoral people out there. Society is selfish, so that’s what the title was getting at, as we need some moral hygiene.”
The album was created during the chaos and uncertainty of the Covid-19 Pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, in tandem with the civil unrest and amid swelling racial and political division that has coem to define the era in what has been one one of the most tense periods in modern history.
Following the adage of dark times resulting in great art, Jourgensen found inspiration in the turmoil and aimed to shine a light on those that were fighting to evoke change and societal strength. The track, "Good Trouble" was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, with the passing of Civil Rights leader John Lewis serving as the impetus. It's these stanzas that not only reassert Ministry's enduring relevance, but underscore Jourgensen's rank as an ever-important voice - utilizing the platform he helped to cultivate in a way that still advocates for common sense and change.
From a collaborative standpoint, Moral Hygiene assembles an impressive roster of cohorts featuring Cesar Soto, John Bechdel, Roy Mayorga, and Paul D’Amour. Flexing his continued versatility, the guest appearances on the album include a collaboration with legendary punk singer Jello Biafra on the song ‘Sabatoge is Sex,’ a cover of the Stooges classic ‘Search and Destroy,’ with Billy Morrison (Billy Idol), and NWA’s Arabian Prince on the track ‘Good Trouble.’ - a testament to Jourgensen penchant for always being able to keep the fans guessing.
“I have like 9 other side projects so I’m totally fine working with others,” he said. “This time around due to the pandemic, the mask wearing was different when we were in person to rehearse, but a lot of music was done digitally, that’s just how everyone records these days but it was cool. We had a few guests over at the studio, which was very pleasant.”
Moral Hygiene is an urgent album for these tense times. The record covers plenty of dystopian themes and socially relevant topics, but to Jourgensen, they are nothing new. “I’m still screaming about the same shit as I was back 30 years ago,” he said. “It’s blatant now, we’re dealing with fascist takeovers, destruction of the planet with climate change, societal collapse; all these things are part of the NWO. Also, the opiate crisis I wrote about in the song, "Just One Fix,"(from the 1992 Ministry album Psalm 69) - things are the same, and it just gets me angry that nothing has been fixed. I get the feeling I’ve been Chicken Little screaming the sky is fucking falling and no one is listening. All those classic songs stand up if you compare them to what is happening today.”
Despite the anger, Jourgensen is actually optimistic about the future. “I think there is no choice but to look up from here; we have bottomed out. The industrial age is on its last grasp, and hopefully we all survive. But I don’t know how things will turn out when the masses are under such control. People care more about photographing their omelette or looking thinner than they do about national voting laws, climate change or societal collapse. So I’m optimistic with a caveat; things might get worse before they get better but we can only go up from here in my view.”
With the new album Ministry plans to tour, and Jourgensen also has more music ready to go for another Ministry album. Then, he is seriously considering retiring the Ministry moniker. “Between this record, and the next record I have that will come out with this band, I feel I have gone as far as I can go with the Ministry sound,” he said. “ The kind of genre we created with the Ministry brand name has gone as far as it can go. But I still wanna do music, either in collaborations with other people under a different name, under my other side projects such as Revolting Cocks, Surgical Meth Machine, and LARD, or under my own name - I’ll work on experimental stuff and movie sound scores. My eventual ending of the band known as Ministry, should not come as a huge shock, it's just a natural evolution.”
But don't worry, Jourgensen said that he isn’t planning to retire anytime in the immediate future, and will put out at least one more album with Ministry and embark on at least two more global tours. “We haven’t been able to play shows and tour for almost two years, so you better believe we will tour to promote this album and my next one,” he said. “I changed my mind about touring. I used to hate it but now I actually like it and want to go back out and play as many shows as possible. We love playing the hits, and are eager to play new songs for our fans as well.”
Ministry will in fact celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste as well as the release of Moral Hygiene with the 2022 Industrial Strength Tour. Enlisting Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity for the cross-county jaunt, the band will look to spread their message of artistic aggression in a succession of performances that will no doubt be especially profound given the long layoff and the message of the new music.
Refusing to rest on his laurels, Jourgensen continues to be a pioneer decades into the game. Armed with a sense of civic responsibility, the Ministry brand of outsider art has always been a middle finger to the status quo and Moral Hygiene further adds to that legacy. Pissed off, powerful and important, Jourgensen's stylistic mesh is just as dynamic as the potent messages at the core of the songs. Ministry continues to be loud - with real intention.
Moral Hygiene is currently available via Nuclear Blast Records - HERE