Reporting Brian Ives
October is Metal Month at Radio.com. Throughout the month, we’ll have artist interviews as well as mini-documentaries about metal, metal fans and the birthplace of metal. And book reports: reading is fundamental, even for headbangers, and we’ll have reviews of some of the best recent metal biographies and retrospectives. Horns up!
Generally speaking, there’s no such thing as “TMI” when it comes to rock star autobiographies. We want to hear it all! Al Jourgensen’s new memoir, however, may be the exception to that rule. In the third paragraph on page xxiii (this is just the prologue!) of his book, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, he describes sitting on the toilet while bleeding out of every orifice. Now that’s an, um, explosive way to start a book.
While there are tons of great stories about his bands (Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Lard and Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters), his friendships with William S. Burroughs and Timothy Leary, some downright bizarre sex romps and smack-talk about Robert Plant, Henry Rollins and nearly every former member of his bands; we still had some questions about stuff that didn’t make the book.
Happily, “Uncle Al” took our call to discuss what didn’t make his tell-all.
1. He engineered a Lee “Scratch” Perry album.
Which album? “I don’t know! I don’t even know what the album is called!” How did it happen? “I was living and recording in London, and I was engineering at a studio owned by [British punk band] Crass. I was engineering Lee Perry sessions.” That’s a lot of crazy. “You’re telling me! The Lee Perry stories didn’t make this book. That’s a whole ‘nother book: Just me engineering a Lee Perry album. There were, like, 10,000 pounds of marijuana in the studio. Back then I didn’t smoke at all so I was getting this contact high just being around these people. It was an interesting experience.”
2. The secret origin of his collaboration with Ian MacKaye.
In the book, he references Pailhead, his unlikely collaboration with Fugazi and Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye. Unlikely because, by then, Al was using any number of drugs, while MacKaye was a standard bearer for the straight-edge movement. In the book, Jourgensen says that MacKaye was onto him but was never judgmental about his drug use. But he never mentioned how they actually got together.
Jourgensen tells us: “So I was in London, and Crass and this guy John Loder had a record label and a distribution center. Ian used to come there to record. This is when he was in Minor Threat. I wrote this song that I thought was cool, ‘I Will Refuse,’ it wasn’t called that yet, I didn’t have lyrics. I just had this riff that I thought was cool. And this kid Chris Connelly [later of the Revolting Cocks and Ministry] comes up from Scotland and starts singing about weeping nuns. I was like, ‘I don’t know about this…’ And Ian happened to be in the studio after Chris Connelly left. I immediately replaced Chris Connelly’s lyrics, and had Ian sing it and we got along great. I love that guy to this day, I have nothing but respect for that guy. I even got him to drink a beer, or a few beers one night. So that was really cool. A little peer pressure never hurts!”
3. And, once and for all, he has no beef with Trent Reznor
The Nine Inch Nails frontman was, at one time, a Revolting Cocks roadie, and as detailed in the book, took quite a lot of crap from the band. Years later, Al and Trent did a recording of a Black Sabbath cover together (“Supernaut”) as 1000 Homo DJs, and it’s all good between them. “You know what, I love Trent. I know people think we have this big feud. We don’t! It’s such bull****. I love Trent, I would love to work with him again if he ever wants to.”
4. But he does has beef with Reverend Horton Heat.
Completely absent from the book was the fact that Al produced the Rev’s 1994 album, Liquor In The Front. “I like that record, but he was an a**hole to work with man. Oh god! I didn’t finish the album. I left with one song left to go. I quit! I couldn’t deal with him! The thing just got a little too hillbilly for me. in other words, it was like me being on an episode of Swamp People. Whatever. I thought the record was really good.”
5. Just how did Ministry get higher billing than Soundgarden and Pearl Jam at Lollapalooza 1992?
While the book does go into Al’s conflicts and friendship with Ice Cube and his crew on the ’92 Lollapoalooza tour, he never mentioned how his band played higher on the bill than Cube, as well as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam when both bands had been selling hundreds of thousands of records. “That was really cool,” he said. “They asked Ministry to be on the tour, and they gave us some kind of two in the afternoon slot. I said, ‘Ministry’s not a picnic band! We don’t go out there and play for picnickers in the middle of the day! We need our bones, our lights, our strobes, our pyro — I can’t do this during the day. I won’t do it!’ And so actually Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder went to the promoter and they both said, ‘We don’t care, put us down in the middle of the lineup, these guys have to be on this tour to make this tour work.’ It was actually because of them — Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell — that we got that slot right before the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We were the first band of the show to come on at night and to have pyrotechnics, and lights and things like that. And the poor Peppers had to come on after us with their diapers and their little helmets and play ‘Under The Bridge.’ Most of the people would leave [before the Chili Peppers]. I felt bad for them, actually.”
6. He’s never heard an Aimee Mann record, despite dating her.
To those who haven’t read the book, that may not be too surprising. But those who read the book know that they were an unlikely sort-of couple before she fronted ‘Til Tuesday; back then, she was in a band called the Young Snakes, and Al was trying to get her to quit to play bass for Ministry. In fact, he was so taken with her, he took up jogging to hang out with the fitness-minded Mann. But when asked about her music, he says, “I’ve never heard a single record that Aimee Mann has done.” However, he notes that Mann told him that the ‘Til Tuesday song “Voices Carry” was inspired by their relationship.