On November 9, 2016, Ministry founder and frontman Al Jourgensen woke up with a new project in mind. “We are making a fuckin’ album – right now,” he said.
That was the morning Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States. Jourgensen — affectionately referred to by Ministry fans as “Uncle Al” — was not feeling particularly affectionate towards the future commander-in-chief.
On March 9, the industrial metal pioneers released “Amerikkant,” their fourteenth album. Ministry will be bringing their fusion of artistry, politics, dark imagery, and potent performativity to the Wellmont Theater in Montclair on Saturday, April 21.
The new album is certainly not limited to a blistering attack on Trump. Rather, “Amerikkant” serves as an indictment of the social and political climate which allowed his election. “Trump is just one pimple on the rash. And I found that out while doing the three [George W.] Bush albums,” Jourgensen said in a recent interview with “Rolling Stone.” The band’s anti-George W. Buch trilogy ” includes “Houses of the Molé” (2004), “Rio Grande Blood” (2006), and “The Last Sucker” (2011).
While their new album and tour finds Ministry raging and critical of the U.S. government, a lot has changed in the last years. In addition to the Cuban-American singer-songwriter Jourgensen, the band includes guitarist and chief songwriting collaborator Sin Quirin, Cesar Soto (guitar), Tony Campos (bass), keyboardist John Bechdel and drummer Derek Abrams.
However, the new album and tour also feature an impressive guest line-up, including vocalist Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory), live scratcher DJ Swamp (Beck, the Crystal Method) and NWA’s Arabian Prince.
New Pulp City spoke with Ministry’s guitarist Sin Quirin, who has been Jourgensen’s chief songwriting collaborator for over a decade. He explains that band decided to bring in guests early on in the process. “We wanted to step outside of our comfort zone and normal writing bond,” says Quirin, who has two Grammy-award nominations with Ministry. “We just felt like it enhanced things.”
According to Quirin, the band still struggles with the loss of long-time member Mike Scaccia, known for his guitar work in Ministry as well as Rigor Mortis and the Revolting Cocks. After Scaccia died onstage in 2012 while playing the 50th birthday celebration for Rigor Mortis singer Bruce Corbitt, Jourgensen was pretty sure he would call it quits. However, he left the door open to new work “if the circumstances are right.”
“No one is ever going to replace Mike Scaccia,” says Quirin. “That’s not anything that we ever thought about doing.” Quirin and guitarist Cesar Soto worked on restructuring the guitar work for “Amerikkkant” and the subsequent tour.
“Cesar came in three years ago but I’ve known him for around 18 years or so,” Quirin explains. “I started to move over to stage right where Mikey used to stand … I did take over some of the things that Mikey used to do and Cesar kind of almost stepped into the role I was in when Mikey and I were together in the band.”
While Quirin joined Ministry in the 2000s, he describes himself as an old school fan of the band. “I’m always thinking about the old stuff. Always, constantly,” he says. “If you listen to ‘From Beer to Eternity’ , the stuff I brought to that was very ‘electronic-y.’ That was because of my heavy influence from the early Ministry records.”
“Uncle Al” will turn 60 later this year. Although he’s been performing since the late 1970s, he’s never felt fully comfortable in front of an audience. “I’ve never liked being onstage,” he told Billboard. “I’ve always thought that playing live is re-creating, not creating. Outside of maybe one or two people, everyone I know loves playing live.”
When it comes to live performance, Quirin serves as a complement to Jourgensen. “I think I’m the complete opposite of Al with that,” he says. “If anything I feel more comfortable onstage than I do anywhere else throughout the day. The hour and a half I’m up there … I feel completely natural more so than in the other 22-and-a-half hours throughout the day.”
So with a decidedly anti-Trump album, has the band come across any Trump supporters in the audience or outside the performing venues? “Honestly, that’s something we thought about, but it hasn’t happened,” Quirin says. “We haven’t heard from anyone at all. I still figured we’d get a couple people we would hear from.”
Their album is blistering and biting. Their performance is robust and stirring.
“I will not stop making music,” says Jourgensen. “You just make it a nice Utopian world. All right? Then I’ll shut the fuck up.”