"We're all in this together": In a world getting crazier and crazier, Ministry's Al Jourgensen is the unlikely voice of sanity

Al Jourgensen headshot
(Image credit: Derick Smith)

The unsinkable Al Jourgensen has captained industrial rockers Ministry for more than 40 years now, and has survived severe drug and alcohol addiction to emerge as a voluble campaigner for social justice and systemic change. 

Ministry’s new album Hopiumforthemasses, featuring cameos from Jello Biafra, Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hutz and Corrosion Of Conformity’s Pepper Keenan – is boisterous and ballsy, covering dirty politics, climate change, corporate bullies, media misogyny and much more.


There’s a lot of socio-political venom in the songs on the new album, a prime example being Goddamn White Trash

As the world gets crazier and crazier, Hopium is trying to address societal changes we’re going through. Pepper [Keenan] sang back-ups on Goddamn White Trash. He’s from the Deep South, and we had a really long, deep conversation before he agreed to do it. He’s like: “Are you making fun of us?” Absolutely not. I’m trying to make people aware of the lack of education, the surplus of disinformation and how it affects different regions of the country. 

The message is we’re all in this together, because we’re all being fucked by everybody. I sent him a rough mix of that track afterwards. He called me from his porch somewhere in Louisiana, with all his hillbilly buddies, and they’re going: “This is awesome!” 

How come Ministry has returned to the band format for this album? 

This current line-up has been together for almost eight years. And as we’ve gained trust in each other we’ve actually become a band in the studio too, rather than it just being me and my engineer, Michael Rozon. So this was a real jam.

Has that been liberating for you? 

It’s liberating in that I don’t have to concentrate as much on the ideas and arrangements. I can trust my people to come up with something that Ministry would approve. It means I have to do a lot more production work, but less songwriting. It’s kind of a trade-off, but Ilike it. 

Anything else in the pipeline? 

I just got done with a film score to a documentary by Greg Palast, which follows what happened to the Osage Nation after Killers Of The Flower Moon, right up to the present day, and how they’re still being fleeced by industrialists and state legislatures. It’s called Long Knife and comes out in March. Expect the title song from the movie to be played live, it’s badass. 

At various times in recent years you’ve threatened to wind down Ministry. Does the band still have legs? 

Oh yes, but it’s going to be different this year. Aside from the new album, we’re doing the Cruel World festival in May at theRose Bowl here in Los Angeles. The stipulation is we have to play stuff that’s thirty-five years old or more [Ministry will play selections from 1983’s With Sympathy and 1986’s Twitch]. 

The problem is that I burned all those tapes in a backyard barbecue in Chicago in the eighties, so I have nothing to go on. But we’ve managed to work up some amazing versions of that stuff with the new band. It’s a lot heavier, so I can now see where I was going forty-something years ago, when I just didn’t have the resources. This early stuff is starting to sound like arena rock, which is cracking me up!  

Hopiumforthemasses is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.