Al Jourgensen: I ended up feeling sorry for George Bush

Al Jourgensen holding a megaphone

With Ministry, Al Jourgensen helped to create and define industrial metal through the 80s and 90s, with albums like The Land Of Rape And Honey and Psalm 69 revolutionising heavy music itself. Beyond that, he’s survived heroin addiction, kidney failure, liver failure, hepatitis A, B and C and exploding stomach ulcers. He was also one of metal’s most outspoken critics of George W Bush’s reign in the White House. Judging by his new album, he’s not too fond of the current regime either…

Ministry have a new record out, AmeriKKKant. What should we be expecting from it?

“Well, people should expect what they’ve got. Basically, this album is the audio equivalent of Black Mirror; it’s holding a mirror up, or taking an old-school Polaroid, of where we’re at as a society. And I hold it up and say, ‘OK, this is what I’m seeing, this is where we’re at. Do you really want to be here right now?’ Because I sure as hell don’t! This is some fucked-up shit that’s going on right now globally, and not just in America with our orange shit gibbon running things. It reminds me of the 1930s and the rise of fascism. We never learn our lessons, so here we are again, and this record is me holding up a mirror to that.”

Politically minded rock and metal hasn’t been in the spotlight much in recent years. Do you feel like you’re one of the few metal artists attempting to invoke some sort of social change at the moment?

“I do, and I think that’s got a lot to do with social media. People want to like and be liked. They want to share a YouTube video of a rat taking a shower or a cat playing the piano to get likes whilst authoritative government figures are taking their pension and healthcare. That’s the whole thing about this record; it goes much deeper, and people will go, ‘Al’s just ripping on Trump.’ But it’s not about one man, it’s about a system that he inhabits.”

It feels like society is becoming increasingly fractured.

“Well, you’ve got this tangerine terror in The White House, and the rise of fascism, and then you’ve got people taking to the streets to protest, which, because I’m old enough to remember, really feels like the point in the 1960s.”

The 1960s was a time that led to great social change...

“But did it actually? To me, this feels like 1968, and there were some great points to the resistance in 1968, but it became trivialised and became just another fashion movement. Just cosmetic changes happened, not systematic ones. When you think about the 60s, with civil rights and gender equality and anti-war movements, what did we really get out of it? Bellbottoms, Woodstock, LSD and pot! We’re still in the same place. People are taking to the streets, but the system is still in place. So, you haven’t changed anything, you’re just wearing bellbottoms then and looking at cat videos now!”

Do you feel you’ve taken any kind of victories from your previous stances against, say, George Bush in the mid-00s?

“No. None at all. I also am at fault. I wasn’t raging at the machine, if you will, I was raging at the figurehead. I was raging at the logo! By the last of the three Bush albums, The Last Sucker, I was actually starting to feel sorry for Bush. I thought he was as much a prisoner of the system as any of us were. So, this is now about telling the next resistance movement that this isn’t about cosmetic change, it’s about fundamental change.”

How shocked are you that Trump is in this position at this point?

“I thought the election campaign was one big joke. But the human race has this fear built inside them from such an early age that if someone says, ‘I have all the answers’ then we just believe it. I went to bed on election night at 6pm because I knew at that point what we were getting. Actually, it was when Brexit happened that I just realised that there was no hope. I mocked it at the start and I got it badly wrong.”

If the world turned into a perfect, beautiful utopia overnight, would you have any music left in you?

“Oh yes! Creativity nourishes the soul. I might not make music, but I would certainly do something artistic: painting or writing, maybe. I’d have to find some way to do that.”

AmeriKKKant is out now and available to order from Amazon.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.