I hate my fans," huffs Al Jourgensen.
The thing is, he's not kidding. Not even a little bit. And it's this hatred of his own fan base that, at least in part, accounts for Jourgensen's decision to retire Ministry, which also happens to be his most popular and lucrative project. At least, it's the one with the longest lifespan. Rising out of the new wave in the early '80s, Ministry quickly became an industrial pioneer with its trebly grind of mechanistic drums, samples, guitars, and shrieks. Eventually, the sound morphed into a kind of post-metal outfit with a thick wall of steroidal guitar, a sound the band maintains today. Throughout, though, Ministry's always had a knack for anthems which lend themselves to the fist -pumping vibe Jourgensen has tired of.
"I've got other shit to do," Jourgensen says glumly. As surly as he admits to being, Jourgensen is hardly unapproachable. He laughs a great deal and comes off more like a hilarious, grumpy old uncle than a rock star prick. Fittingly, at 49, Jourgensen makes no bones about getting old.
"In my 20s," he grouses, "touring was awesome, but I feel like a fuckin' paid organ-grinder monkey up here, where they put a quarter in my tongue, twist my ear, and I'm supposed to spit out the hits. I'm just over it. I'm too old, too drunk, and too cranky for this."
He also insists that pulling the plug on Ministry has been a long time coming.
"I said it in interviews like three years ago," he explains, "and unlike all these other people, I'm keeping my word. I run a record label, I produce, I do soundtracks, I love working with other people. I have a history of it. So I don't really need this aggravation. Talking to you knuckleheads [in the press] for two months, doing a six- to eight-month tour, and then having to be in the studio... by the time I look up, it's two years of my life wasted on Ministry when I could be doing 20 projects in that time."
Among them, Jourgensen is promising to revive his twisted country alter-ego, Buck Satan ("I'm doing it!") and the Revolting Cocks, with whom he plans on working before bowing out and letting the band go on without him as a "franchise." ("They're the new Menudo," Jourgensen quips.)
In the meantime, Jourgensen still has some important final work to do. Not unlike George W. Bush's final months in office (the same president the band has directed three entire albums' worth of venom toward), Jourgensen is working overtime to cram in some last licks to be remembered by.
"I didn't know I'd have to do three albums," he says, "but we reelected the idiot. I figured I'd do one album and then I'm outta here. The next thing I know he's back in office."
Not surprisingly, the final album of Ministry originals, 2007's The Last Sucker, unfolds as an angry, song-by-song dismantling of the entire administration.
"They're complete idiots," Jourgensen continues. "And they have to go away. This country's got to move on, because if this country doesn't move on, the whole world's not going to move on. It's that interconnected. And the world's in shambles now. Meanwhile, they're stuffing their pockets with so much money. Why do you need that much money? What are you gonna do with it? I don't understand that. That's just inherently wrong. I don't get it. How much is enough?"
Jourgensen has been on both ends of the economic spectrum. "Trust me," he says, "I was a rich motherfucker in the '90s. And I lost everything. I wound up sleeping on a fuckin' crack dealer's floor with my last guitar that I hadn't pawned yet. I used to be rich, dude. Now I'm just happy."
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, Jourgensen (who, his publicist claims, knows every single member of Congress by name and follows politics avidly), harbors no naïve notions of sweeping change once Bush is gone. And he's got other politicians in his crosshairs — including Barack Obama, whom he's supporting.
"I've come out for the undercover brother — you know, the Muslim sleeper cell guy that's running?," he says sarcastically. "But I think he's full of shit too. And so is Hillary. And McCain's just senile. I'm a Kucinich guy. Either way, something's got to happen. But basically, I don't even care if they're Republican or Democrat, I think we should vote every incumbent out of office. Every one. Clean up the whole fuckin' muck in Washington. It's like a swill pond over there."
Still, Jourgensen suggests that the day may soon come when Ministry gets to play the White House.
"We just may!" he says. "Because we're doing a benefit for Obama in Chicago. If you do that and raise enough money, they put you in the Lincoln room!"
Seeing Ministry crashing in the White House would take a miracle. With as much shit as they talk on their albums, Jourgensen realizes they're more likely to wind up in Guantanamo.
"It'd be a free ticket home!" he answers gleefully. "I was born in Cuba. But that's what I'm talking about. This is the climate of fear that they've installed in this country. I do all these European interviews, with Russian and Polish magazines. They're freaked out, asking me, 'How do you get away with that?' Is that what it's come to? And now, I mean I'm sure my phone's tapped. But I don't really fuckin' care. I don't do anything illegal."
For all his bluster, Jourgensen says he's already received, shall we say, a friendly nudge from the government. While touring behind the first of his anti-Bush albums, 2004's Houses of the Molé, Jourgensen opened each show with a simulation of himself shooting Bush in the head.
"Immediately after that tour," he says, "we got audited by the IRS. But we were kind of anticipating it, so we had all our papers in a row, all the i's dotted, the t's crossed, and they couldn't get us on anything there."
Vindication, as far as the tax-collectors were concerned. But the process was so time-consuming, Ministry had to cancel a tour — a real pity, as audiences were deprived of the chance to see Ministry with Willie Nelson.
"Yeah," he laughs, "that crowd would have loved us!"
For all his ire — and for the sweeping breadth of Ministry's body of work, which ranges from the light synth textures of the band's 1983 debut full-length With Sympathy and runs through industrial milestones like The Land of Rape and Honey and The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste to the quasi-metal locomotive guitar drive of Psalm 69 and Filth Pig to now — Jourgensen has made the head-scratching decision to bring the band to a close with... what he describes as a "party album" of cover songs.
On Cover Up, the current incarnation of the band, which features three past and present members of Prong, including thrash guitar innovator Tommy Victor, the band covers such gems as "Radar Love," "Mississippi Queen," "Space Truckin'," and "Bang A Gong."
In a word: Huh?
"Man does not live by anger alone," Jourgensen deadpans, this time not laughing. "We had some fun on this cover record. We wanted to go out with that as opposed to all the yelling and fist-shaking and all that shit. We're not completely obsessed. A lot of people are starting to think that. We can actually be fun too."