Ministry’s Last Stand Brings Al Jourgensen 'From Beer to Eternity'
There was a time when Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen said the band’s 2012 album Relapse was absolutely, positively going to be the final Ministry album ever. Exclamation point! End of sentence. Done! Then again, there was also a time when the industrial metal pioneer said 2007’s The Last Sucker would be Ministry’s coup de grace. But cut the dude some slack.
Back in 2007, Jourgensen was leaking blood from every orifice and, little did he know it, but he would eventually implode and almost die from a ruptured ulcer. Then he got better (mostly, except for his 13 bleeding ulcers). To fulfill a decade-long threat to his longtime fans that he would someday record a country album, Jourgensen formed Buck Satan & The 666 Shooters with his best friend and longtime Ministry guitarist Mike Scaccia, Static-X bassist Tony Campos, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, and The Dusters bassist David Barnett. Together, they wrote the riotous, rollicking country-core album Ladies Welcome, Bikers Drink Free.
While tracking and between—Hell, probably in the middle of—drinking bottles of cheap red wine, Jourgensen and Scaccia started jamming with some metal riffs just for shits and grins. Problem was, they came out so fucking well that Scaccia was able to convince his buddy to use them on a new Ministry record. A couple more drinkers and rockers—Prong guitarist Tommy Victor and Rigor Mortis’ bassist Casey Orr—joined the team, and Relapse was born.
The band planned to do a short U.S. tour and a lengthy overseas run in 2012 and then return to the U.S. in 2013 for a longer, more high profile tour of American sheds and arenas and possibly an inclusion on a major package tour. Then, Jourgensen almost died again, and, like every time that happens, it kinda put a crimp on things. The band was on tour in France at the time, and Ministry’s frontman was suffering from severe dysentery, which he came down with in Los Angeles at the beginning of the run. By the time he got to Paris, he was so dehydrated, he was barely aware of where he was. Onstage, excessively hot temperatures at the Paris venue provoked heat exhaustion. Add that to the dysentery and you’ve got a lethal combination. Eight songs into the set, Jourgensen stumbled over to keyboardist John Bechdel and told him he didn’t know if he could make it through the show. Jourgensen's wife/manager Angie Jourgensen rushed onto the stage to catch Jourgensen as he collapsed. He was rushed to a hospital in Switzerland, which diagnosed his illness, controlled his raging fever, pumped him full of fluids and antibiotics, and basically saved his life.
But Jourgensen took the ordeal as a sign. No more touring. After the last show in St. Petersburg, Russia, he returned home to El Paso and started brainstorming for a new album. When he doesn’t create like madman, Jourgensen tends to drive himself and those around him crazy, so he decided to break his word (again) and do another Ministry record with Scaccia, guitarist Sin Quirin, bassist Tony Campos and, for the first time in a decade, a live drummer—in this case, Aaron Rossi, who had toured Relapse with the band.
During 19 days in December, Ministry wrote and recorded riffs for 18 songs. Then they went their separate ways for Christmas. “This was one of the most creative Ministry tracking sessions ever. The band was on fire!” Jourgensen says. “We were having fun, we were coming up with great ideas and experimenting with everything we’ve ever wanted to do, from Stones-y blues to dub and, of course, heavy guitar-based rock. It was too easy. No fighting, no problems. Nothing goes that well without the floor eventually falling out.”
Tragically, Ministry's final creative hour with Scaccia came right before they broke for the holidays. Three days after leaving the Ministry sessions in El Paso, in the early hours of December 23, Scaccia suffered heart failure onstage while performing with his other band, Rigor Mortis, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Scaccia’s death both devastated and motivated Jourgensen.
“Mikey was my best friend in the world and there’s no Ministry without him,” he says. “But I know the music we recorded together during the last weeks of his life had to be released to honor him. So after his funeral, I locked myself in my studio and turned the songs we had recorded into the best and last Ministry record anyone will ever here. I can’t do it without Mikey and I don’t want to. So yes, this will be Ministry’s last album.”
Jourgensen tirelessly worked on From Beer to Eternity through March 2013 at 13th Planet Records in his El Paso compound with co-producer Sammy D’Ambruoso, and engineer/keyboard programmer Aaron Havill. In addition to producing and mixing, Jourgensen wrote all the lyrics and took his traditional role behind the mic and the console. “It was the most emotionally difficult project I’ve ever done, but it was the most rewarding,” Jourgensen says. “Mikey was amazed with the songs when he was working on them, and I know he’s looking down at us now and he’s totally stoked with what we came up with.”
From Beer to Eternity is scheduled for release in September, but there will be no tour. Instead, Jourgensen will promote the album in the press along with his authorized biography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, which comes out on DaCapo Books in August. “Maybe we’ll do one big show with Tommy and Sin and the guys who made this band possible for the past few years. That would be a nice tribute to Mikey. But I can’t do a whole tour without him. Ministry was his life almost as much as mine, and I’m afraid it has to die with him. But damn if we didn’t go out with a bang!”
The music from this footage is used in the song “Thanx But No Thanx,” which features William Burroughs’ legendary “A Thaksgiving Prayer."
The Tracklist for From Beer to Eternity
Hail to his Majesty
Punch In The Face
Side FX include Mikey's Middle Finger (T.V.4)
Thanx But No Thanx
Change of Luck
Enjoy The Silence
Jon Wiederhorn is the co-author of the book “Louder Than Hell: the Definitive Oral History of Metal,” which comes out May 14 on !t Books/Harper Collins. Follow him on Twitter - @louderthanhell