The psychedelic tale of when Ministry's Al Jourgensen helped William Burroughs with an issue in his garden

A montage of William Burroughs, Al Jourgensen and a raccoon
(Image credit: Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images/Bill Tompkins/Ruby Ray)

Al Jourgensen has lived a life alright. The Ministry leader invented industrial rock and his shadow looms large over Nine Inch Nails, Dillinger Escape Plan and more. He also managed to get through two decades of heroin addiction and come through the other side, kicking his drug habit in 2019. In the early 90s, Ministry were blowing up big and Jourgensen found himself making lofty new pals, not least famed Beat author William Burroughs and psychedelic drug champion Timothy Leary. He told Metal Hammer’s James Gill how this unlikely friendship came to be. 

“Warner Brothers weren’t going to release [Ministry’s 1992 album] Psalm 69 because we’d sampled some William Burroughs,” he recalled. “James Grauerholz [Burroughs’ Manager, and long term companion] heard that the new Ministry album was being delayed because of this, and called me saying, ‘No one’s even contacted us. You can use anything you want. In fact, why don’t you come and work with him?’”

The two met at Lollapalooza festival, he said, and they got on great, the net widening when Burroughs introduced him to Leary. “Me and Tim got along even better. I lived with Tim for about two years, and there was never a dull moment. Twice a week Tim would have these dinner parties, we’d have astronauts, business leaders, politicians, musicians… just a cross section of people. Tim called me the delinquent son he never had, because all his kids came out normal.”

The strangest tale of this friendship is the time when he dished out some useful horticultural advice for Burroughs, who was having trouble in his garden with some pesky racoons. “Bill loved his petunias, but these racoons would get in and trample ‘em down and eat ‘em, so he’d try and shoot them,” Jourgensen said. “He was a pretty good shot with a rifle, but they were just too fast for him, so I had him take his wafers of methadone and stick them out in the petunia plants. The racoons ate ‘em and the methadone slowed ‘em down just enough for him to shoot ‘em.” 

So there you have it. Pests in the garden? Just slip them a spot of medical grade opiates, and job's a good'un. (Disclaimer: under NO circumstances do we condone doing this to your neighbour's cat.)

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.