Listening to the debut album from Al Jourgensen’s Surgical Meth Machine is like going on a roller coaster ride. The first half of it is frantic, loud and distorted, unrelenting in its heaviness. Then the back end of it lets off and gets a bit more melodic. Given that his primary project, Ministry, started out as a synth pop band before turning into a metal/industrial machine, this makes perfect sense. Recorded over a period of time with engineer Sam D’Ambrouso, the band’s self-titled debut album will be out on Nuclear Blast on April 15th. We caught up with Jourgensen to talk about the album, social media, and this November’s election.
Talk to me about genesis and formation of Surgical Meth Machine.
Pretty much it all started at the end of recording From Beer to Eternity with Ministry. My engineer Sammy and my guitar player and best friend, the late great Mike Scaccia who died during the making of that record- a lot of the stuff we really liked but we were also screwing around with faster rhythms and we joked you had to be on meth to do this kind of stuff. We put it on a shelf, and when the record came out, Mike died. And Sammy and I decided to work with brutal, faster music. This record was done on and off over time, dicking around, with the premise of brutal fast music, and in the process we moved to California. And as soon as we did that we went to a doctor and got our medical marijuana cards, cause that’s legal out here. You can tell almost exactly when we got our weed cards, cause the record went psychedelic- completely from meth to LSD. It’s pretty obvious. Have you heard the whole record?
The album actually seems like it seems it starts really heavy and gets more melodic. Was that intentional?
Well, like I told you- it wasn’t intentional. It was a by product of the environment we were recording in!
Was the album recorded chronologically?
Yeah, we didn’t plan on doing it that way. We didn’t know it was going to be an album. We were just fucking around. Sammy would program beats and I would come up with riffs and it was an ongoing process, we had some friends come down, but the only one that ended up on the record was Jello Biafra. He did guest vocals but tried to make the entire thing a Lard record. And I was like no, we’re gonna keep doing this. It was a project that was never intended to be a band but it came out really fun and we decided to release it.
It actually reminded me a lot of Lard at first. Is there going to be another Lard record at some point?
Yeah, we’re working on it. We’re trying to figure out scheduling. It’s one of the problems of having side projects (of which I’ve had many). It’s not a matter if you want to do, it’s getting the logistics down. It’s hard to drop everything and do one thing.
Is Ministry still a thing? Mike’s death hit you pretty hard.
It hit me especially hard- little Mikey! 30 years, literally like blood, you know? Of course I didn’t want to do another Ministry record. Let it die, we had a good run. But we had so much fun making this record with the spirit of Mikey. Yeah, we’re still finishing off the From Beer to Eternity tour. We’re finally playing Europe this summer. Then we’ll see where we go from there. I’m not sure if or what I want to do with it. I’m just a studio rat, and record stuff not knowing if it’s gonna end up anywhere. Sometimes I have enough on the shelf where I go “wow, this stuff’s pretty good,” and we put it out. It’s just getting a bulk of ideas down and decide where they go later.
The most funny song on the record is “Unlistenable”- I’m sure you’re getting asked about it a lot.
That was the point!
Every time I play it I have to show someone else. What are you trying to say in the song? Besides all `the call outs on other bands?
I even call myself out! It’s kinda like a parody of the song “I’m Sensitive”. It’s about our social media culture and the haters. My daughter’s 30 and for years it’s been a big part of her life. I’m just amazed at the transformation of an entire generation that’s chained to social media. A lot of this album is making fun of social media. Everyone has their voice and is safe in their anonymity and can spew the most venomous shit. It’s a take off on social media.
You’re on social media, aren’t you? Facebook?
I mean I have a page. But I just found out the other day I have a Twitter account – I’ve never been on Twitter! I’ve been on Facebook, I’ll go on for about a month during political season. I’m pretty aware and opinionated. I don’t take pictures of my food or make friends or count my likes, but I’m not completely immune to Facebook. The Twitter thing is new, I may check that out someday. It’s really limited use. I’m talking about people that are obsessed.
You wrote about checking into rehab-
Where, on Facebook?
It was right after the Super Bowl.
That was the last time!
How are things going?
Well, as soon as I got out my wife packed up and left me with an empty house.
Yeah so, I started drinking again. It was successful again. Then I got blindsided by the whole thing. I’m glad I went, you learn stuff about yourself. It is what it is.
You’re a political person, what are you thoughts on this election?
Well, we only have a half hour. If you really want to get me started you better unpencil your calendar for the day and tomorrow- through next week. I’ve got a few things to say. Democrats are business as usual, despite the fact they’ve got a social democrat, whatever the fuck that is. It’s just a moniker used to scare people during the Cold War. It doesn’t phase me. It’s business as usual, trying to court the minority vote, promising they care- this and that. But the Republican shit is must see TV. It’s amazing, they don’t even bother fact checking anything. They created a monster they cannot control with their policies of trying every possible way to convince the people they are anti-big government, yet are determined to have the final say about women’s uteruses and vaginas- they are the biggest big business of all- yet claim to be anti big business. They claim to be for the poor with social values and the poor realize they’re not supporting us at all with their policies- they support Wall Street!
Because they hate homos, they must be ok? This is the kind of stupid strategy they’ve been using for years and it’s starting to fray around the edges. People are starting see how hypocritical their policies truly are. And this is the biggest cruel joke of all- the people that support Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – they are your enemy and yet still attract people because they like guns and hate homos. And that’s about it. Every aspect of their life is influenced by horrible Republican policies. Let’s start with the environment- we all have to live here and yet the Republicans want to dismantle the EPA! They want to make it like the Industrial Revolution where lakes caught on fire! They don’t care! As long as there’s a buck to be made. The lowest common denominator is what will unite a low-class uneducated people. They can destroy the economy, the environment – start wars, so long as they don’t like abortions, homos and love guns.
Trump even said he loves uneducated people.
What I’ve been saying for months, is that all people – Romney said what I’ve been saying for months. I even had a Facebook post. People are into the cult of personality that is Donald Trump. As much as I rant, the cult of personality is a main aspect. What’s going to get him in trouble is when he releases his tax return. Of all people, Mitt Romney and I agree on one thing: that is going to be the ultimate Donald Trump sinkhole. Facts and numbers. Once people figure that out, they’ll start to jump ship. He’s gonna throw a temper tantrum, like the petulant child he is. In all likelihood – Hilary Clinton is going to be our next president. Which is okay, I guess. It’s better than most. I’m basically a Bernie guy- and even he’d be my second choice. I’m an Elizabeth Warren fan. If Bernie was smart and wanted to win, he’d make a pact with Warren to be his Vice President. They’re basically on the same path, except Warren’s a little more liberal with gun rights. If it was a Bernie -Warren ticket; Hilary wouldn’t stand a chance. I don’t think anyone would stand a chance. It would make movement in the world- it might make movement in the congressional elections and we’d finally regain control of the Senate! In which case we could get a lot of movement on policies that make sense for the world and society. But it won’t happen. So we better be nice to Hilary. I know she’s like a dull vanilla ice cream bowl, with cherries and hot fudge, it’s okay I guess. It’s better than the dangers of the Republican party at this point. I’m sorry to waste most of your interview on politics.
It’s okay, I opened that can of worms.
Hey, it’s actually still in the works, but Ministry might be playing across the street from the Republican National Convention this year (Ministry). Jello Biafra’s band is also scheduled to be on the bill. So both of us are gonna take on the GOP. Let’s see who comes out standing.
Nice! Any chance of a collaboration? I guess it’s too early to tell at this point.
Nah, we’ll both be there with our bands. There’s some talk of me doing some reporting for some magazines. I might be hanging around the Republicans for a few weeks- me and Jello, that’d be so much fun.
If that was a reality TV show, I’d watch it in a second.
That is such low-hanging fruit for me.