After 23 years fronting Ministry, Al Jourgensen still knows how to make one hell of an entrance.
"I come out and I beat the fuck out of a guy wearing a suit and a George W. Bush mask, then I anally rape him and kick him off the fuckin' stage," says the 46-year-old singer-guitarist, his cackle rife with malevolent glee, as he talks about his band's current tour. "And I think the people are kinda gettin' into that -- these are the most violent pits I've ever seen and definitely the most intense shows we've ever done."
No, this certainly isn't the Vote for Change concert series (see page 67 for that). The cause may be the same, but Ministry isn't pulling any punches -- Jourgensen and his thrash-industrial cohorts are throwing down with all the bile and rage they can muster, fully intending to whip crowds into an anti-Bush frenzy furious enough to last through Election Day.
"He's a dangerous motherfucker, and he's gotta go," Jourgensen snarls. "This whole administration is just the most corrupt and vile and inept administration I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing, and I've lived through Nixon, Reagan and the first Bush. I hate these fuckers, and I'll do anything I can to get rid of them. That's why we're working hard to register voters at the shows and get people to actually go to the polls. We're not just like, 'I'm for Kerry because Bush is a dodo and a poo-poo.' No, we're fucking rolling up our sleeves and getting in people's faces and making them aware of what's really going on. If people, especially the kids, would have bothered to vote last time, we wouldn't have this recurring Bush cockroach problem."
Anyone familiar with Ministry's back catalog knows Jourgensen's neither a rabble-rouser-come-lately nor entering the present battle unarmed. 1988's dark, groundbreaking The Land of Rape and Honey -- Ministry's third studio album and first great one -- spewed plenty of sociopolitical vitriol. And on 1992's Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed & the Way to Suck Eggs -- the group's commercial (and arguably creative) apex -- Ministry memorably rammed samples of Bush 41's "New World Order" sloganeering against crushing guitars, turning "N.W.O." into a scathing indictment of what Jourgensen saw as American global imperialism.
But that stuff is child's play compared to Ministry's latest album, Houses of the Molé, a blistering, top-to-bottom, no-holds-barred, hardcore-inspired assault on Dubya. "Ask me why you're feeling screwed/And I'll give you the answer/There's a colon, dick and bush/just a-hammerin' away/Ask me why you feel deceived/And stripped of all your liberties/It doesn't take a genius to explain that today," Jourgensen explodes on opener "No W," while strains of Carmina Burana and the prez uttering "We're fighting evil...one person at a time" get mashed to the concrete by bludgeoning riffs and .50-caliber drums.
A similar onslaught continues unabated for the subsequent eight tracks, all of which begin with the letter "W": "Waiting" chugs frenetically like a hybrid of the band's classics "Thieves" (from 1989's The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste) and "Jesus Built My Hotrod"; "Worthless" finds room for a molten guitar solo amid the ruthless pounding; and the punishing "WTV" plays like an extended version of the thrashy break in Skinny Puppy's "Tin Omen," (which Jourgensen co-wrote and produced). And "Wrong," possibly the album's best track, sports a gripping bass line, an especially fiendish guitar bite and the disc's creepiest Bush sample ("Tonight I have a message for the people of Iraq ...go home and die....") along with some of Jourgensen's most stinging lyrics: "Whoever told you that you were bright?/The skull and bones, the conservative right?/You're like a plague turning day into night/Atrocity."
Jourgensen says he feels reborn creatively and is pleased by both the critical response to the album and the intensity he sees at the gigs. But that's not without its perils.
"I had a fucking wrench thrown at me two nights ago in LA, and it bounced off my fuckin' head. I assume the guy was pro-Bush. He probably didn't like seeing the president get butt-raped." -- Michael Alan Goldberg
We Love You, Too
If there's one valid criticism of St. Louis music writers, it's that we love too much. Our love seems particularly boundless when the subject involves anything related to the Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/ Wilco triumvirate (see this week's Radar Station on page 67). We are thrilled that Son Volt is getting back together. We are overjoyed that Wilco's new album is doing well, even if it isn't all that great. We simply love to love those guys.
But all of our civic pride cannot compare to the praise of London-born actress and budding songstress Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting). For her "celebrity playlist," available for download from Apple's iTunes music store (www.itunes.com), Driver chose Son Volt's "Tear-Stained Eye" and Wilco's "Jesus, Etc." as tracks one and two, respectively. In her written description of her chosen songs (which also include such non-St. Louisans as Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley), Driver begins thusly:
"My three favorite things to come out of the Midwest are Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt and Wilco. When most bands split up and the different factions re-form anew, the results are often extremely dodgy. It's a testament to both Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy that they carried on being so brilliant after the demise of Uncle Tupelo."
Hear that, St. Louis? Brilliant! Even though Brits throw that word around rather lightly, Minnie surely means it to the full extent. And while Driver doesn't rate on our three favorite things to come out of London (that would be 1) the Kinks, 2) the BBC and 3) the birds on Carnaby Street), we'll accept the compliment on behalf of the Belleville boys.-- Christian Schaeffer
While We're Talking Bush
Although San Diego's Black Heart Procession churns out minor-key ditties that perfectly stoke the lovelorn's fires, many folks don't realize that at least half of what the group does takes place with tongue firmly planted in cheek. What good is heartbreak if you can't laugh about it a little? Principal songwriters Pall A. Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel are not all woe and worry all the time; they actually do have functioning funny bones.
In order to prove this, we chatted with Jenkins about a subject most dear to our hearts here at the RFT: facial hair. There ain't nothing funnier than a moustache, and there ain't nothing more badass than a beard.
The Riverfront Times: So, what's up, you still rockin' a beard?
Pall Jenkins: No, it kinda comes and goes. It hasn't been a long beard for a little while. I used to have the big long beard. Right now it's kinda short, but it's still, you know, facial hair on there. I don't like to be caught with nothing on there.
What do you like about beards?
I think that they're very sexy. They look good on the men. They make men look better. And also, if a girl is dating a guy that has a beard, you know she's looking deeper than just the outside.
What does the moustache mean to Black Heart Procession?
That's Dimitri, that's his calling, just to be the moustache. He used to sport that. We always teased him because he always had a really nice moustache going. We used to highlight it in the photos. That's definitely his power source. Ladies, men, everyone just flocked to that guy. There's no stopping him.
Why do you think heavy-metal dudes are so into goatees?
Evil. They look evil. It's the evil factor. You put a goatee on anybody, and suddenly they're evil. Their eyes turn into little cat-eyes and shit.
What kind of facial hair can we expect from the BHP when they come to St. Louis?
Well, we'll have our hot-pink jumpsuits probably; we usually spray-paint the hair blue with green chops. It's like an aqua mixture. Platform boots too. -- Guy Gray