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CHECKING IN WITH . . . AL JOURGENSEN : Revolting Developments From Ministry's Main Man

October 17, 1993|ROBERT HILBURN | Robert Hilburn is The Times' pop music critic

During his last Calendar interview, in July, 1992, Al Jourgensen was sitting in the moonlight at 2 a.m. on the patio of a Palo Alto hotel. It was the eve of the second "Lollapalooza" tour, and Jourgensen--the leader of the band Ministry and one of rock's genuine renegades--was fingering his fourth Jack Daniel's and Coke and saying how much he dreaded being part of what he termed the "alternative rock circus."

Now, Jourgensen is sitting in the noon sun on the patio of Cafe Luna on Melrose, ordering a cappuccino. He's talking about how much fun he had on "Lollapalooza" and how he is now eager to hit the road in late December with his other band, the Revolting Cocks--or RevCo, as Sire Records sometimes politely labels the six-piece band for marketing purposes.

If his attitude is more positive and his drinking habits more healthy, Jourgensen's rock vision remains radical.

Unlike Ministry's unsettling "Psalm 69" last year, the music on RevCo's "Linger Ficken Good" album is mostly good-natured and amusing--in keeping with the philosophy of the band. "We're about girls, guns, booze, drugs, stupidity," Jourgensen jokes. "Everything that's great about American culture." (See review, Page 68.)

Besides bringing us up to date about the new album, Jourgensen, 35, spoke about the surprising success of "Psalm 69" (nearly 1 million in sales), his lifestyle and RevCo's outrageous tour concept:

'Lollapalooza '92'

"It was the first real commercial thing we had done since the Arista (Records) days (the early '80s), and we were all prepared to hate it. By the second day, however, we were having a ball, partly because the guys in Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were just so great to us."

Their New Popularity

"By the end of 1992, the band had become insanely popular--at least by my standards--and I had to deal with that. It was like going around for years telling everybody not to trust anyone over 30 and suddenly hitting 30 yourself and having to readjust.

"With us, there was the old 'Kill anyone who is popular' type of underground thing that we were weaned on. But I knew we didn't sell out, so I couldn't go around hating myself or feeling embarrassed."

The Integrity Thing

"The main thing in measuring integrity is someone's motive and intent, not how many records they sell. Our intent in Ministry was never to be big. We just wanted to make enough money to live and to buy a studio, which we have done in Austin.

"Now the Cocks is a different story. We were a sellout from the beginning, but we didn't hide it. We set out to be the real great rock 'n' roll swindle--forget about the Sex Pistols. We wanted to take it where Johnny Lydon and Sid Vicious went, only further."

Ministry vs. RevCo

"I'm more protective of Ministry. We'll spend 18 months on a Ministry record, preening and primping, getting it all right. With the Cocks, it's like, 'Hey, it's Friday night, let's party.' We did the new record in two months."

The New Tour

"We are going to have this 15-piece horn section, all dressed in togas with 'RC' logos on the bandstands--our own Tower of Powder (sic). Then, we'll have these five jazz and blues cats from the South Side of Chicago. They are going to be the band. The Cocks will be sitting at a buffet table having grapes fed to us by toga-clad women while we are waving at the crowd.

"The idea is to show how stupid a lot of rock touring and rock idolatry is--our version of Robert Altman's 'The Player' . . . the corruption, the laziness, the unartistic side of the whole thing. With all the tapes and sequencers onstage these days, half of the bands aren't playing anyway--and most of the ones who do are just playing junk, so what's the difference?"

Image

"If I did all the stuff I've been accused of--or credited with--there's no way I could make all this music. I'd be drinking myself into the grave. Even though we have fun, we work hard. I had a heroin problem, on and off, for years, but I woke up one day about six months ago and it struck me that my lifestyle was stupid. I was living what other people want me to do. . . . They were writing about it and I was doing it."

Lifestyle Now

"I am just a lot more confident . . . probably happier than ever over the last six months. The second the tour is over we are going into the studio and work on the Ministry album."

The 'Psalm 69' Album

"I'm happy with it, yet I don't feel we have come close to making the perfect Ministry record. In fact, I think the definitive Ministry record so far was (1988's) 'Land of Rape and Honey' because we really didn't know what we were doing in the studio. The more you think, the more you ruin things. Art has to come viscerally, otherwise forget it."

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