A Tasty Interview with Al Jourgenson and Paul Barker
Note: This is the second part of a two-part interview. You can view the first part here.
How did Ministry get the part in AI? You guys were definitely the best thing in the movie.
Al: Oh yeah, that movie sucked. Here we go, OK, I’m into the snappy repartee now. Stanley Kubrick liked us. I don’t know why. I liked him up until Eyes Wide Shut. But he liked us and before he died, he wanted to make sure we were the band in there. That’s cool, isn’t it?
I can’t think of anything cooler, he directed my favorite movie of all time, A Clockwork Orange.
Al: A Clockwork Orange…what about Dr. Strangelove? That’s my favorite. And Lolita‘s pretty good too.
Paul: A Clockwork Orange is pretty awesome.
Al: Anyway, he wanted us on there, so we got dumped in Spielberg’s lap, which leads us to another anecdote, another story. You want to hear a story?
I sure do, and I also want to find out what the Steven Spielberg experience was like.
Al: Well, that’s the story, see? This is a great segue, you’re just rolling, right now.
We’re in the groove.
Al: We’re in sync. We’re like a fucking 808 box. We met Spielberg and he was kind of like, he didn’t know what to make of us for a couple of days. Him and his handlers kind of stayed away. Finally it came time for the introduction, OK? I got a little bit of the devil in me, or something in me, and decided to tell him, after the basic, “Steven Spielberg, this is Al Jourgenson. Hi how, ya doin’?” I was like, “Look Mr. Spielberg, we can’t do this movie. We were under the impression that this AI was a porno movie and it’s short for “Anal Intruder” and… we can’t do this.” He didn’t get the joke at first. He went running off with his handlers like, pretty fast, with me chasing after him going “Joke! Joke! Just a joke…” We got along better after that, so, that was good.
But everyday there was a new [thing that] AI [stood for], like, “Anal Incest” or “Animal Indecency.” AI became many things to us.
Paul: We actually had body doubles, or stunt doubles, for the film, for really long shots or in case we didn’t want to be on stage during explosions. In other words, when they had long shots — where there was a shot, say, from here to the other side of the street — they would tell us, “If you guys don’t want to be on stage, we can use your doubles because you’re just going to be in the farthest distance.”
Al: But we live for entertainment, man, so we were there. We were there for all the explosions and shit too, which was kind of unsettling.
How many days did it actually take you to film that scene?
Al: Two weeks.
Paul: 12 days. [Laughs]
Well if they had 12 days of footage why didn’t they at least put the whole song in the movie?
Paul: Well, since we didn’t have shit to do with the final movie, believe me, we were just thrilled that we got to go out there. It was really awesome. We stayed on the Queen Mary! That scene was shot in the Spruce Goose hangar right next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. It was super cool!
Did you write “What About Us” specifically for the movie?
Al: Just, exclusive, it was exclusive for the movie, right Paul? That was our crowning [makes gagging sound] moment [makes gagging sound again] musically.
It is a great song.
Al: No it’s not, get over it. You were on a roll until just now. Let’s call a spade a spade. Does fur ball ring a bell?
Well, it was the best thing in the movie, which, in many ways, was just so horrible.
Al: I’ve completely destroyed my teddy bear since then. And not only that, it [Al refers to the Teddy Bear Super Toy from the movie] was a constant pain in the ass on the set. “The bear is down! The bear is down!”
Did you meet any of the actors in the film?
Al: Oh yeah, they were great. What’s his name!? Donny Joel Osmond [Al refers to child actor, Haley Joel Osment], he was a fan. And Jude Law, he was not a fan, but he became a fan, because we threatened to…
Paul: We threatened to kick his ass and take his tickets to go see Radiohead. They played like two shows in the United States, and LA was one of them. He had tickets to the show.
Al: He was cool…
Paul: He was totally cool.
Al: He wouldn’t hang with us, which I think made him cool.
He’s a good actor, I think.
Al: He acted his way out of hanging with us a couple of nights. [Both Al and Paul laugh]. Ba-dum-bum! I tell you, we’re on a roll! Let’s keep it going.
When you were sitting through the film, what did you think of the finished product?
Paul: What is the question? [I repeat the question in a variety of different ways]. What I liked about the movie? What did I like about the movie? Ahhhhh…I liked the aspect that [laughs] I didn’t get any fuckin’ free popcorn, fuck you…
[Note: At this point, I notice Al is on his knees on the carpet in front of me]
Why are you on your knees Al?
Paul: (Laughs uncontrollably) Mammy! He’s going into his Al Jolson routine right about now!
No one has ever gotten on their knees in front of me during an interview before. Anyway, you liked the aspect of what? What was happening?
Paul: Fuck. The concept that the consciousness of mankind was embodied by these cheeseball…
Al: Oh, shut up!
Paul: You shut up! She asked me what I liked about the movie!
Embodied by cheeseball what?
Paul: Well, robots. At the end of the movie, the fucking two million years later, or whatever…
Al: The climate changes were great! Like, with the sky going by real fast! And lots of years going by… kind of like our career!
Paul: No… the last twenty minutes of the movie, I thought, was the most interesting part of the movie. That fact that there was pseudo-sentient robots commiserating with this one… what do you call it?… um…
Al: I’ll be back. [Al exits]
Paul: Okay, goodbye. What do they call those things? Prototype robot, in that it had actually lived during the time of humans. I thought that was fairly interesting. Do you see what I’m saying?
Yeah, I liked the dark aspects of the film. Little parts were great, but then it got too Spielberg/Disney.
Paul: Well, sure it was horrifying to me as well. But then, after the fact, I remember I was reading about it and, in fact, Kubrick wanted to hire Spielberg to do that movie, specifically. He had asked him to do it because he wanted it to be a huge production, something that, I guess, Kubrick felt that he couldn’t do [himself]. So, I mean, it seems odd that, yes, you and I agree that there was too much cutesy bullshit in the movie, however, that’s what Kubrick wanted. It seems…ridiculous, because who are we to doubt what Kubrick wanted?
And that’s his legacy, or swan song, isn’t it? Isn’t that the last thing he did? Or was it Eyes Wide Shut? [At this point, Al returns from his trip to the bathroom with an interesting story and this conversation went elsewhere until I was able to reign it back in.] Did the appearance in AI help revive interest in the band, because wasn’t that about the same time that you guys got dropped from Warner Bros?
Al: Absolutely none. It must have been our Academy Award winning performance.
Were you supposed to be a cyborg robot also?
Al: Yes, some kind of a genre like that, yeah, with the King Diamond fucking make up on, underneath. That was an hour and a half every morning, at 5:30 in the morning, getting King Diamond put on me, which was not really fun. I told them I wanted a Lemmy look, and then they came up with this huge talking mole, but I nixed that.
Also, in the video for “What About Us,” you played a pretty cool guitar that had a TV screen on the body showing an image of your face. Was that just an illusion done in post production or was that a real guitar?
Al: That was the way the guitar was. You know that harmonica thing I had on? Which was also a post-apocalyptic type look…
Al: Fur ball. OK, that had a little fiber-optic camera in the harmonica, which ran down into the guitar, which had an LED screen in the middle of the guitar, so the camera was on me — “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille,” you know, Sunset Blvd. — and then just went right to the guitar. In case they didn’t have LED screens up top, which they did, people could focus on me. Because it’s all about me.
Did you get to keep that guitar?
Al: I tried to steal it, but I couldn’t even get the mask. It all goes to a Steven Spielberg Museum, believe it or not.
That’s pretty gay.
[Paul and Al laugh hysterically].
Paul: I can’t even think, this music is so fucking loud.
A couple of days ago, I was going back into my collection and playing a bunch of Ministry records, just to immerse myself in the whole Ministry vibe…
Paul: I think that was two fur balls, that one right there.
Al: Two and half fur balls.
OK, what does that mean?
[Paul and Al stick their fingers in their mouths and make fake gagging motions].
Okay, anyway, I was looking at the cover of Filth Pig the other day and it struck me how that’s a pretty timely image, the guy standing there with the flag and wearing the button that says “Don’t Blame Me.” Some pretty scary shit is going down in this country right now and I wondered if you guys are at all frightened by or concerned with the increasingly conservative yet war-mongering political environment? And will that affect your music at all?
Paul: It will affect our music, because we’re leaving the country. You have to. I mean, you have to be an ex-patriot. This is absolutely disgusting. These fucking Right Wing Assholes…
Al: We’re moving to Sun City.
Al: Joke joke.
Al: Thank you!
Paul: They’re so self-serving and so hypocritical. It’s like, now that they have control of every branch of the fuckin’ government…
Another reason to be angry, right Al?
Al: Yeah, of course.
Paul: The point is, once again, it so hypocritical, now [sighs heavily] they’re all gloating and saying, “Okay, now we have the responsibility of the American people to do the right thing…” You know it’s like, give me a fucking break! You just want to summarily shoot them, that’s all there is to it.
It’s like the song says, “Save me from the people who would save me from myself.” Do you know what that’s from?
Al: Jello Biafra?
Gang of Four. Oh, speaking of Jello, are you guys still doing stuff with him, is there still a Lard project going on?
Al: Jello will not agree to ride in a horse trailer behind the tour bus. Otherwise we’d do a Lard tour. [Paul and Al laugh] We love Jello. There’s always room for Jello.
Did either of you see the film, Bowling for Columbine?
Paul: No, I have not.
Al: No, I have not.
I recommend it. It’s very disturbing, and profound.
Paul: So I understand, I saw a review of it, actually. When I first heard about it, I thought for sure that it would be this completely Left Wing kind of, “Well, obviously, people who have guns, they are the problem and all guns should be registered,” and all this kind of thing. But then I came to realize that, in fact, Michael Moore is a member of the NRA, so he’s not going to completely make fun of that whole…
Al: Because there’s nothing better in the world than taking old Bryan Adams CDs and going skeet shooting. We have to have guns, if for no other reason, to eliminate old promotional copies of very bad CDs. And I got really good at nailing these CDs in Texas, seriously. Because, in Texas, they hand out guns at the border, when you cross from Oklahoma. You are given a gun, whether you want it or not.
Paul: And that hits on this whole thing the [DC-area] sniper, and his cohort. They were kind of like Batman and Robin, you know what I’m saying.
Ammo Boy and Sniper Man!
Paul: Sniper Man…yeah that’s right. What’s great about that is I read in the paper the other day, something about, some NRA people, fearing that there’s going to be some huge backlash because, once again, people were going to demand that all guns get registered and be licensed and all this sort of thing. And the person was going on to say, “Well, if they didn’t have weapons they could just [laughing] use bows and arrows or knives or something.” And I was thinking, no way! Those people are such chickenshits, there’s no way that those people would chose to do exactly what they did with a bow and arrow or go up with knives [laughs heartily until he is gasping for air].
Wasn’t the whole thing behind being a sniper, perhaps, the element of surprise, and maybe not getting caught?
Paul: Ya think? I mean, come on!
If you run up and attack someone with a knife, I mean, maybe there might be a witness.
Paul: Ya think so?
Al: Unless you were a superhero with regular LL Bean shoes or regular Dockers. [All laugh].
Al, What do you think of the current Chicago scene?
Al: You mean the Chicago Black Hawks? [Paul starts laughing] Because that’s what I know about it, I follow my hockey team, that’s about it. I know nothing about it…isn’t there a band called Fucked Up Pumpkin or something? I have no idea what goes on there, except for my team.
[Just then, Lenny Kravitz’ “Fly Away” comes blaring out of the sound system, prompting me to ask Al…]
What do you think of Lenny Kravitz?
Al: I think he’s really short, man. It was really great, when I saw him the first time, I played in that band Pee, with Johnny Depp for awhile, right? We were there [at the Viper Room in LA] the night that what’s-his-name, the River Runs Through It kid died?
Al: River Phoenix, thank you. We were opening for Lenny Kravitz that night and the only thing I remember is that I was on stage when that kid died.
This is a great story!
Al: Oh my god, here we go! The real inside gossip. But, before the show I got thrown out of the dressing room because I was kind of inebriated, at sound check, ’cause I decided I wanted to play pedal steel that night, in the band, instead of guitar and there was no part for pedal steel, but I said, “I’ll make one!” So, I see Lenny Kravitz in the dressing room and the “secret room” at the Viper Room — you know, the one with the one-way glass – and he was 5’1″ when I met him and then he’s my height, like, an hour later. I started stomping on his boot and he had steel toed platforms, that fucker. I couldn’t get to his toes, but anyway, he grew nine inches — NINE INCH platforms. I mean, this is like Sylvester Stallone times four or five, something like that. Then I got escorted out by his posse, and they used my head as a battering ram on the door. So, that’s what I think about Lenny Kravitz. He’s very short. Other than that, I have no comment. [Al makes gagging sound.]
Al: Fur ball.
Paul: An infinite fur ball on that guy.
So, if you’re not into the Chicago scene anymore what’s your stock in Chicago Trax these days? Or does R. Kelly own the studio now?
Paul: No, no, no, R. Kelly doesn’t own it, no. He did have some interest in the studio, but I don’t think [he does] anymore. But we’re still partners in that studio, yeah.
And I guess you didn’t want to record there because there would have been too many distractions?
Al: In a BIG way.
Paul: That’s a good guess.
Al: Ad nauseam infinitum.
How did you meet your wife?
Al: Fourteen years ago in Toronto, at a Ministry show. That’s it. I saw her and I said, believe it or not, my first words to her were “Here’s my room key.” Because she’s gorgeous and she’s great and she keeps me on the straight and narrow.
The love of a good woman can be a powerful thing.
Al: Who said that? Jello Biafra?
I think I heard it in a song.
Paul: It was in a Spielberg movie, I’m sure of it! Yeah! That was the moral of the story.
If it’s cool to ask you this, what was your impetus for cleaning up?
Al: I found a new drug, and the drug is senility. When you get to my age it’s the ultimate freedom. I can go out in my Depends at 6 in the morning and walk down the rain soaked street and say hello to my neighbors wearing nothing but that and combat boots, and it’s chalked up to senility. And you can’t do that with drugs. Senility is much cooler…and it’s legal. It’s a legal high.
How long have you been senile now?
Al: Four months. Four months with nothing. Life’s a bowl of cherries now, not a bowl of pits. It’s good.
You look healthier.
Al: Thank you, I’ve been working out, too, because this set means everything to us. This upcoming tour, man, it’s like, I hate to say this because it’s so cliché, but I really feel sorry for the band that follows us, if there is such a thing. I’ll tell you this, the guy that did the AI sets for the Flesh Fair thing? He’s doing our sets for Ministry, plus eight people and we’re doing a two hour set, too.
Al, do you still have an interest in car racing and monster trucks and stuff like that?
Al: [Laughs] I have an interest in avoiding speeding tickets these days. It’s in my best interest. Other than that, yeah, I have an interest, but as a spectator. I was so fed up, I was going to quit [the band] for awhile and just go to Skip Barber Formula One school and do that routine for awhile. But things didn’t work out, because the law and me are like oil and water.
[Note: Al is wearing a black t-shirt with the word “Police” emblazoned across the chest.]
This interview originally appeared in the December 2002 issue of MK Ultra Magazine, and has been reprinted here by permission of the publisher.