Al Jourgensen Interview
Al Jourgensen is at it again. His creative mind has just blurted out another new project. His new album for the project ‘Surgical Meth Machine’ is about to be released on 15th April. Our own Isabella Griebel had the chance to have a chat with Uncle Al about the new project and life in general. And as always an Al Jourgensen interview is an event in itself.
Isabella: Your new self-titled album ‘Surgical Meth Machine’ will be out on the 15th of April. What can you tell our readers about the album?
Al: I don’t know. I enjoy it. It came out pretty good…I don’t know what else to say.
Isabella: Yeah, I had the chance to listen to it a few it times. I think it is quite different to what you did with Ministry. Do you reckon Surgical Meth Machine is a logical continuation from the Ministry sound or do you see it as something completely new?
Al: Well, we went to the studio just to record some ideas. Took about four months – I do that every year, periodically, four months, I just go in and record ideas and at the end of those four months I decide where those ideas are going within my little circus of bands that I have: Revolting Cocks, Ministry or so. Our whole mindset was just to go in and record experimentations on faster tempos and so me and my engineer Sammy [Sam D’Ambruoso] went in and, just alone, we recorded this stuff. At the end of the four months of recording, some people had come by and heard it and went like ‘Man this shit is dope, you gotta release this’. we’re like ‘whatever’. I mean, we didn’t have a band name. We didn’t have a band. It was just me and my engineer and we didn’t have any intention of releasing this and at the end of the four months, next thing I know, there’s a record contract and they cut me a check that actually cleared the bank account – I was impressed with that and next thing I know, I wake up and I’m talking to the likes of you folks. I don’t know what happened to me. No idea what’s happened. I mean it’s more of a case of like, songs writing a band, as opposed to bands writing a song. So take it for that.
‘I’m a surrogate mother and the universe impregnates me with ideas. I’m the carrier of those ideas for nine months – just like any expecting mother – and then I spit the ideas out of my vagina.’
Isabella: Where does the name ‘Surgical Meth Machine’ come from?
Al: Well, we didn’t have a name for it and they’re going ‘this is really good stuff. What are you going to call it?’ We’re like ‘I don’t know’. It was just me and my engineer and we’re like ‘well, we went about it pretty surgically, there were no other musicians involved, so that’s “surgical”. The first half of the record sounds like some methhead’s heartrate and so there is “Meth”. We did all the drums on machines so it became “Surgical Meth Machine”. It just seemed like a logical name at the time. I wasn’t even expecting this, really, to come out or have people like it or anything. It was just experimenting on some ideas that we had and next thing you know it’s this full-blown band so its kind of taken me aback to be honest with you, it’s like I was not expecting this.
Isabella: You must be on a pretty busy schedule. Could you run me through your upcoming touring schedule?
Al: Well, we’re just finishing off the last bits of the last Ministry tour just now, like almost three years after we wrote the album and, like I said, took four months in between just to go in and lay down ideas which became this but we’re still finishing off the Ministry tour which, I believe takes us to Europe this whole summer. So I’ll be doing that all summer and then at the end of the summer I’m going to go back in the studio record some ideas and whether that becomes a Ministry or REVCO album or it becomes something entirely new, I don’t know yet. Just depends what happens when we record it.
‘Open the shades on your window, look outside at the world and if you don’t have an album in you about that, then you’re not paying much attention.’
Isabella: Do you have any plans to come to Australia any time soon?
Al: Well, we just got back from there not too long ago in February [2015 – Soundwave festivals], I believe it was February, yeah and so, until we tour again on some projects, no plans right now but I don’t even have plans on a specific release or band or anything. It’s just whatever happens, happens and I said, I’ll go into the studio around September and I’ll try and wrap it up around Christmas and then we’ll see where we go from there. If I have a finished album or see what’s going to happen next and then we’ll decide if we want to tour and if we tour of course we’ll come down under, to the land of wonder, you know. I mean, I love it down there even though you people drive on completely wrong side of the road. But other than that, at least you got roo catchers on all your cars. It’s more like Al-catchers instead of roo catchers. I’ve crossed the street there many times and have been hit by your lovely drivers.
It’s my own dumb ass looking the wrong way. It’s not anything you guys did wrong. Yeah, I love it down there but the point is that I never know what the touring schedule is or what band is going to come out with a record or anything, I just, like I said, just go and record and if people like it that’s even better and if not, well, then we just keep working on our ideas until we come up with something that we like, you know. And that’s pretty much the thing, four months of the year spent recording and then eight months trying to figure out what the fuck just happened.
Isabella: Alright, so…really no future plans with Ministry? It just comes as it comes basically?
Al: It all depends. I never know. That’s the beauty of it, it’s all pretty organic. Like, we don’t go in there like: ‘Wow, Ministry needs to do an album and we have to tour and then I have to do press and this’ but it’s just like, ‘if it happens, it happens’, if not, it doesn’t. I mean there’s tons of stuff on the shelves right now of ideas that we’ve recorded in previous years that maybe someday will see the light of day, maybe not, you know, I just never know what’s going to happen which is the beauty of it. I mean it’s a good job if you can get it just doing what you want to do and if it works, it works and if it doesn’t, well c’est la vie.
Isabella: You’re a really experienced musician. You’ve got more than three decades in the industry and countless albums with different bands. Do you have a particular album release routine like, do you check social media or do you maybe hide from the media or do you have a quiet drink with some friends?
Al: Well I mean, I think my favourite is for the same reason that I was saying it’s just, you just go in the studio, perform once and see what happens. I think the Buck Satan album I did – a country record that I did – is actually my all-time favourite because it was just so much fun to make. I really had a lot of fun in those four months that I was in the studio so that one was a lot of fun and there are a couple of others along the way. I think I’ve done like thirty albums or something, I don’t know and a couple of them are bound to be good somewhere I mean, god, I don’t know, I just know I had a lot of fun making the Buck Satan record – that was my favourite. This one, like I said, wasn’t even supposed to be a record or a band. People heard it and said: ‘This shit is dope man, you gotta release this stuff” you know? It’s like ‘ok, we’ll release it’. Next thing you know they cut me a check and it actually didn’t bounce and so I was really happy with that. So actually, every check that I get for recording that I do, that doesn’t bounce, is always a really good project for me. I actually didn’t get ripped off; this project is amazing.
Isabella: I sure liked the album.
Al: Good. That’s good. You see that’s like the little bonus cherry on top of your ice-cream. If you all like it too, then it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Isabella: So where do you draw your inspiration from these days?
Al: Well, what I really do is maybe open the shades on your window, look outside at the world and if you don’t have an album in you about that, then you’re not paying much attention, ok? So it’s pretty easy, you just turn on the telly, put on your laptop or stare out the window and you can pretty much find something to write about, I think, I don’t know, for me anyways.
Isabella: So how has the way you write and record songs changed over the years?
Al: It hasn’t for a long time. I just go on and record and then what happens is – think about it like this, okay? Pretend I’m a surrogate mother and the universe impregnates me with ideas and I’m the carrier of those ideas for nine months –just like any expecting mother – and then I spit out the ideas out my vagina and then the record company swoops in and raises the baby and so I have no say-so in how it’s raised. I’m just a surrogate mother for ideas and then it’s raised by somebody else and then a few years later I might hear that record that I did – like six, ten years ago or something – and go ‘oh yeah, that was fun’. But it’s really that simple and that organic. It’s like songs writing a band not bands writing songs. I just record ideas and if people like it that’s great and if not, I just would go in the studio anyways because I really have no social skills or nothing to offer society. I mean, I would be working at like a home-improvement store, you know. Like putting away shopping carts and handing out directions to where the screwdriver aisle is or being a prep-cook at a local breakfast chain or something. I mean that’s the only skills I have outside of what I do so, I just do what I do four months of the year and then the other eight months – it’s like the old American Marine saying. It;s like ‘Kill ‘em all and let god sort ‘em out’ so you know, once I spit the baby out of my vagina it’s up to other people. Whether they like it or want to promote it or anything like that. I just record, man, that’s what I do because I have no other social skills. I guess that’s the best way to put it, man. I hate to like blow the whole mystique of rockstar-dom and shit but that’s what happens with me anyways.
Isabella: Do you have any advice for young musicians who are just starting out in the industry?
Al: Well…considering I don’t even consider myself a musician – I consider myself a surrogate mother – it’s hard for me to tell musicians what to do. I could tell you like how to sit on ideas for nine months and put out a healthy baby. Other than that? Advice? Yeah, probably: Go to your local home-improvement store and apply now because the music business sucks.
Isabella: Is there any favourite piece of equipment that you have that you’re really attached to?
Al: God, this is going to sound really horrible and I’m going to be loathed by all your readership but I’m just telling the truth so don’t hate me, hate the truth. The truth is that I haven’t bought a piece of equipment in probably thirty years. These companies give me their stuff to try out and then I try it out and just go ‘well okay, that made a good album or something’ but you know it just changes. I don’t know what’s currently hip or what’s good or anything like that. I don’t know like what other people use or what my favourite brand is or anything like that. Okay, alright. Here’s one okay? Schecter guitars. That seems really good. They made me a lot of really nice guitars that – I basically draw it up on a napkin and I sent it to them, like a bar napkin. I’m at a bar. I’m having drinks and I come up with this idea for what I think my next guitar should look like and I scribble it out and I sent it to them and about six months later, at my doorstep, is some guitar that looks remotely like what I drunkenly drew one night about six months ago. And so, Schecter is really good – I think they’re my favourite company because it actually kind of resembles what I drew on a napkin – so it’s cool.
Isabella: Is there a favourite venue you played at?
Al: I don’t really have a preference for any of them. I mean, a crowd is a crowd anywhere in the world and a crowd is no different outside or inside. I don’t have a favourite or a least favourite. It’s just like an occupational hazard for me to actually put me on a bus or some form of transportation and get me to a different place to play in front of –what seems to me like – the exact same people I just played in the night before. And the hotel seems exactly the same, except that all the wi-fi codes and the streets are different and people drive on crazy sides of the road and stuff like that. Other than that, it all kind of blends in to the same show. I mean, you’re just kind of numb because the whole premise of touring to me – I don’t like it. I like being in the studio because you’re creating stuff and when you tour, you’re basically re-creating stuff unless you want to go up there and smoke pot and just jam like Grateful Dead or something like that. Then I guess you might be creating something, but other than that its re-creation and I prefer the creation aspect of what I do. You know what I’m saying, so to lug yourself around just to re-create something you did like six months ago – or in this case this summer its something I wrote three years ago. Now I have to slug around and re-create that, just so people can come see some old, stoned, white dude on stage recreating what he wrote three years ago. To see some old, white dude up there prancing about kind of ruins it for me or would for me if I was on the other end of the stage, you know what I’m saying?
Isabella: I’m sure you’re just being modest.
Al: No, I mean that’s honestly how I feel. It’s just like, I’ll do it, I understand. Some people like it but for me it’s just like ‘shouldn’t I be getting back to the studio about now and writing some new stuff before I have to go apply for a job at a home improvement store?’
Isabella: Do you have a new idea for a new side project
Al: Well, I just started working with this guy named Arabian Prince, which, he was one of the original founding members of N.W.A. You know that movie, like, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and all that shit. So, me and him have been working on some beats and we’ll see what happens. I don’t know but, we’re not officially into the studio until September so I know he’s going to be around, because we live real close to each other. So we’ll see what happens. It may come out as a band or it may not, I don’t know, we’ll see. But right now I’m having fun just hanging out with him and I guess he’s doing a remix on one of the songs from the SMM record so we’ll see where that goes and if not I’ve got plenty of other stuff to keep me busy and keep the crime rate down in my neighbourhood. Because if I’m in the studio, mysteriously, the crime rate goes down so it’s awesome. It’s a win-win for everyone.