"It's the worst album in the history of mankind": This is the soundtrack of Al Jourgensen's life

Al Jourgensen headshot
(Image credit: Derick Smith)

“I turned sixty-five last year and decided to finally become a fucking adult,” Al Jourgensen says, laughing. “So I took out all my dreads and my piercings, all that shit. Now it’s just my natural hair and whatever else I got left.” 

Jourgensen may have dialled down his distinctive look, but his music as leader of industrial-rock brutalists Ministry is just as uncompromising as ever. Their latest album is the socio-political HOPIUMFORTHEMASSES.


The first music I remember hearing

The first song I was cognisant of was the Rolling Stones19th Nervous Breakdown. Compared to The Beatles or The Monkees, the Stones were rough around the edges. Then you’d read about their maniac lifestyle and drug arrests, so I naturally gravitated towards that.

The first song I performed live

Probably (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. It was 1977, and I joined a covers band on guitar during my senior high school freshman year at college in Colorado. We were called Slayer. Seriously. I had a good laugh about that with Tom [Araya] years later.

The guitar hero

I went to see Robin Trower recently, and got to meet him backstage. And I realised how much Bridge Of Sighs meant to my development, in all ways, shapes and forms. I couldn’t believe he knew my stuff too. I was like: “Whoa!”

The songwriter

I’ve always wanted to meet Colin Newman [Wire]. I especially love the way he accentuates esoteric points while making it very clear what he’s trying to say. I try to emulate that with my songwriting. He’s the bee’s knees, man.

The singer

Tom Waits proved that you don’t need a great voice to be a good storyteller. I always wanted to be the guitar player, I never wanted to be a singer. He helped me make it through that transition to Ministry frontman, not being self-conscious that you can’t sing worth a fuck.

My cult hero

We once toured with The Mentors, an eighties punk band based in California. GG Allin was nothing compared to [singer/dummer] El Duce. And I know because I beat the shit out of GG Allin in an elevator in New York for throwing up all over me. 

My guilty pleasure

I’ll tell you, I’m a closet Cher fan. It started when I was eight. I just thought she was the hottest woman in the world. And all her songs are so damn catchy. I’m just a sucker for stuff like Believe.

The greatest album of all time

Wire’s Pink Flag just blew me away. It’s a punk rock warrior record, but they were already starting to sound like early Syd Barrett at times. That and the first Killing Joke album [self-titled] really focused my direction on where I wanted to be.

Favourite live album

Nothing beats Humble Pie’s Rockin’ The Fillmore. That’s the seventies rock record. There’s also FM/Live by Climax Blues Band.

The best record I've made

I think Ministry made incremental gains between Moral Hygiene [2021] and HOPIUMFORTHEMASSES. Then there’s this film score I just did [Long Knife], and the next thing is a Ministry album with [ex-member] Paul Barker. I’m not being evasive, it’s just that my best stuff hasn’t been written yet.

The worst record I made

I find flaws in all of my records. But the situation around With Sympathy [1983 debut] was bad, with [label boss] Clive Davis interfering, appointing producers and backing musicians, telling me where I could go, making me cut my fucking hair. They signed me because I was unique, then they tried to make me a eunuch. In that sense, personally, it’s the worst album in the history of mankind.

Ministry - I Wanted To Tell Her (Music Video) - YouTube Ministry - I Wanted To Tell Her (Music Video) - YouTube
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The most underrated band ever

I saw Laika & The Cosmonauts at the first or second South By Southwest, and they were so good I asked them to open for Ministry. During the off season they’re reindeer herders, then they rehearse for the whole winter, playing 1950s surf tunes. They live way the hell out in the Arctic Circle.

The song that makes me cry

Some of the old country stuff draws out emotions, like Crying Time.

My Saturday night party song

If it’s Saturday night and I’m pretty drunk, and somebody puts on Buck Satan’s The Only Time I’m Sober Is When You’re Gone, or Just Got Paid by ZZ Top, either of those will probably get me into trouble. That’ll trigger my rowdy side from thirty or forty years ago.

The song I want played at my funeral

Tom Waits’s The Piano Has Been Drinking is humourous. Because whatever people might think of me on my deathbed – there’s been good and bad – I can just blame it on the piano. I just love it. For once I’m not taking accountability.

Ministry's 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.