Monday, September 10, 2007

Watch Yourself: The End of Chicago's Industrial-Metal pioneers

After nearly three decades of writing, recording and touring, Chicago industrial-metal legend Al Jourgensen stated his latest album, The Last Sucker is the final chapter in the Ministry legacy. Although this is the end of an era for Jourgensen and his fans, it marks the dawn of an even more prolific time creatively and professionally for the 48 year old musician, record label owner, producer, wine aficionado and Chicago expatriate.

“I just see these bands hanging on way too long and making crappier and crappier music and just doing it for the money. I just didn’t want to go that route,” said Jourgensen of his bands demise. His decision comes at an appropriate time, as The Last Sucker, the final Ministry album and third in a series of releases (including 2004’s Houses of the Molé and 2006's Rio Grande Blood) attacking the Bush administration drops on September 18th, 7 days after the anniversary of 9/11. “I really feel we are doing our best work, if not ever, at least in years and years with the new line up we’ve had over the last two records,” said Jourgensen of the album. Much like the last two records, The Last Sucker is a politically charged manifesto as crushing and abrasive lyrically as it is musically, rarely taking a moment to slow down. Throughout his career, he has experimented, grown and changed, but the end result of a tried and true Ministry record are all here - insanely heavy riffs, danceable electronic drums, and driving rhythm, all held together by Jourgensen’s trademark guttural scream. Tracks like “The Dick Song,” “The Last Sucker,” and “End of Days Part 1 and 2” chastise the Bush/Cheney administration correlating their war agenda directly with the destruction of not only the United States, but the world, in a detailed account of apocalypse. It’s a suitable end for a band whose career has spanned four presidents, two wars, terrorist attacks and constant global unrest.

The Last Sucker also marks another release for Jourgensen’s constantly expanding record 1abel, 13th Planet. Initially a vehicle for his projects, the label has morphed into a full-fledged machine complete with recording studio and practice space which he owns and operates. The shift from musician to producer and entrepreneur is a welcome return to his days of owning Wax Trax!, the visionary industrial label that also spawned the Chicago record store bearing the same name. “Ministry takes up a lot of time,” said Jourgensen. “Between 2 months of talking to you knuckleheads, 7 months of touring and 7 months in the studio, it takes a year and a half for me to get through a Ministry cycle. I could be doing 6-7 projects in a year by doing other stuff.” Currently, he’s finishing up production the final Revolting Cocks record, getting ready to release the new Prong album Power of the Damager and working on Burton Bell of Fear Factory’s latest ambient creation, Ascension of the Watchers. In the coming months he will also begin composing the soundtrack of a horror movie entitled Wicked Lake and to coincide with Ministry’s final shows in Chicago, an album of cover songs is being released. “I enjoy working with other people so doing all these other side projects and production is great for me. That’s what I want to do anyway,” said Jourgensen.

In his spare time, Jourgensen is something of a red wine connoisseur, a passion he unearthed while recording in El Paso, TX after kicking a lengthy stint of heroin abuse. “The owner of the studio was a complete red wine connoisseur. I had finally kicked my heroin habit and was pretty clean and didn’t want to relapse so he suggested I try a glass of red wine with dinner every so often. He really taught me the finer points of it and it’s worked out well ever since,” said Jourgensen. “I’ve never relapsed, but now I probably spend more money on really decent wines than I ever did on heroin,” he said jokingly. Though he only periodically collects bottles of wine, there are some he feels are truly worth the money. “An affordable, really good bottle of wine is a French wine from the Bordeaux region of the year 2000. It’s probably the best year they’ve had since about ’75,” he said.

Although the The Last Sucker signifies the end of Ministry, it is by no means a death rattle for Jourgensen or the band that’s been the primary focus of his life for the past 26 years. Rather, it’s an explosive finale of a legendary band retiring at the top of their game. And instead of offering statement as defiant as his bands swan song about the legacy he’s left on Chicago music and the genre he helped shape, he casually responded with, “I don’t know, ask me in about 10 years, I’m still right in the middle of it.” – Stephen Kane

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