After 40 years in the music business, there’s very little that shocks Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen, a free-spirited rock ’n’ roll lifer who’s stared into the abyss more times than is strictly healthy. But the afternoon when ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons rolled up to a Texas nightclub and offered to take Jourgensen out for dinner was one occasion when the pioneering industrial metal singer was left speechless and awed, not least when Gibbons cheerfully confessed that he’d been ripping off Jourgensen’s music.
As Jourgensen tells Dave Everley in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, he was in Houston, Texas in 1990 to play a club called Numbers with his side band Revolting Cocks when he received word from the club owner that Billy Gibbons wanted to meet him.
“He pulled up in a 1934 Mercury, wearing a white suit,” recalls Jourgensen. “Me and Mikey [Scaccia, RevCo guitarist] got in and we were just flabbergasted: ‘It’s Billy fucking Gibbons, in a white suit, with the beard, in the middle of the day.’”
Gibbons told the pair that he was a fan.
“I love what you’re doing,” he said to the astonished duo. “I want to take you out to dinner.”
As Jourgensen remembers, Gibbons took Scaccia and himself to an Italian restaurant, with the RevCo duo still in disbelief as to how their day was unfolding.
“I finally asked him: ‘Why are we here?’” says Jourgensen. “And he goes: ‘Well, I figure I owe you a dinner, because my career kind of hit a rough patch there, but now we’re selling records hand over fist. The reason is because we switched over to programmed drums, and all the drum samples we got were from Ministry and Revolting Cocks songs’.”
“We just freaked out,” Jourgensen admits, “it was such a rock-god moment. With all the egos and lawyers in the music business, it was pretty ballsy of him to say: ‘Yeah, I just ripped off all your shit, I’m gonna buy you dinner.’ That was good enough for me.”
About 10 years later, Gibbons dropped in on a Revolting Cocks studio session at El Paso’s Sonic Ranch, and ended up playing guitar on two new songs, Prune Tang and Pole Grinder, which finally saw the light of day on RevCo’s 2006 album, Cocked And Loaded.
“The wine cellar there has bottles that are worth literally fifty thousand, a hundred thousand dollars,” says Jourgensen. “We broke those out that night and got shit-faced.“
“Billy had brought a bigass bag of hatch chiles from New Mexico, so we were drinking ridiculously expensive wine and having this chilli-eating competition,” he recalls. “That’s the one time I’ve seen him not so suave, cos he got down on all fours and puked all over.”