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Al Jourgensen: Sex-O Olympic-O by Nicole_powers | SuicideGirls

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Al Jourgensen: Sex-O Olympic-O

Mar 11, 2009 0
He's been variously known under monikers such as Buck Satan, Alien Dog Star and Alien Jourgensen and is the brain trust behind such thought-provoking band names as Ministry, Revolting Cocks and 1000 Homo DJs. But Al Jourgensen, who cut a frightening figure with these bands' even more provocative industrial music when they emerged in the late eighties and early nineties, is a surprisingly friendly and relatable guy. Once the picture of cocaine and heroin rock star excess, the six-years sober Jourgensen is far more likely to be found at the opera than at an arena concert these days.

Last year, Jourgensen announced the official end of Ministry, and is now marking the occasion with a live CD and DVD (both called Adios. . . Puta Madres), featuring material that's been culled from the band's last tour. And while Ministry is winding down release-wise (a documentary, Fuchi Requiem, will be out later in the year), it's still all systems go for the industrial-techno machinations of Revolting Cocks (now called RevCo), which just released the saucy new album Sex-O Olympic-O.

In a telephone interview from his home in El Paso, Texas, Jourgensen, who is currently working with longtime co-hort/Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra on new music for their Lard project and will soon begin producing the new album from Prong, discusses why RevCo's latest is a personal musical highlight of his career. He also reveals how classical musicians party rock stars under the table and how life is better on the independent side of the music business.

Tamara Palmer: I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today.

Al Jourgensen: That's okay, for SuicideGirls, I'm on constant beeper call! I wear a beeper and if it rings from you guys, it's like, "Stop the presses! Everyone stop the bickering! Shh!" But it's kind of like having a harmonica player with a beeper; it doesn't happen much.

TP: But you're prepared in the event of an actual SuicideGirls emergency?

AJ: Yep, I'm prepared just in case. Yeah, I'm there. So, what have you got for me today?

TP: We should probably start by talking about the new RevCo album since it just came out a few days ago.

AJ: Yeah, that's a pretty good album. Have you heard it?

TP: I have. I'm not the biggest trainspotter of your entire career, but it does sound like you've reached a new level of technical precision. It's so clean.

AJ: Yeah, I actually had to work for that one for a living, profession-wise! And in that case I have to give myself a pat on the back, great self-satisfaction.

TP: Are you normally your own harshest critic?

AJ: Yeah, a lot of other times you put it on tape or digital, just let it fly, get drunk and forget about it until a couple of months later. But this was actually eight hours a day trying to make it sound all professional. The production on it sounds like we had a $500,000 budget and we did it in a garage in El Paso for about 5,000 bucks. I love taking those little challenges, those hurdles, to make you seem like something you're not, which is always what the Cocks have been. There's a couple partiers in the band and a couple porn freaks in the band, but, to be honest, we're a bunch of posers.

TP: All just sitting there, drinking tea?

AJ: There's a couple guys in the band that are married now. Some of them don't want anything to do with the lifestyle and they just come to get their little vicarious thrills for like a week and hang out with the real weirdos and then they go home feeling like they're Vikings.

TP: All pumped full of Cock street cred.

AJ: Right, right, right!

TP: When you first came out, I was in junior high school and I just remember how terrifying the name Revolting Cocks was to me. But it also made me curious to know what you sounded like.

AJ: Well, you know how the name came about, right?

TP: I don't, actually!

AJ: We went to a corner pub in Chicago in 1983, me and these two Belgian crazies, Richard 23 of Front 242 and Luc Van Acker. We wanted to do work together and we wanted to do a band, so we cemented it by going to the corner pub and throwing bar stools through windows and just basically attacking each other and breaking everything in the bar, starting a fight with the bikers and this and that. The owner of the place, I'll never forget, was this guy named Dess. He came and yelled at us, he had this big accent and he said, "I'm calling the police! You guys are a bunch of revolting cocks!"

TP: Your life's work and mission was defined for you, right then, was it?

AJ: Yes!

TP: The RevCo album is released independently on your label 13th Planet, but you've been working this way for quite some time. How does it compare, doing it yourself versus working with larger corporations who are so focused on how many sales the album gets in the first couple of weeks and forget about it after that?

AJ: Oh yeah, especially now. It didn't always used to be like that. But now, you know what? The entertainment business is just a nuisance to the major corporations that own the record companies. The record company is like a leper or pariah within a company like General Electric or something. They wish they didn't have it in their hair, but they keep hoping for some big American Idol hit that can actually make them some bottom line. But they don't want to deal with the artist and they don't understand it. It's just gross.

I remember a time when I was releasing records in the nineties and I didn't even know my record was out. People would have to tell me. There was no build-up. But when you're on your own label, you have to nurture it, stroke it with care. This is starting to sound like a porno: Stroke it with care! But you know what I mean? It's different, I'm actually involved in the process of marketing releases and dates and schedules and interviews and blah, blah, blah. Back then, I didn't give a fuck. There wasn't a three-month lead time, they'd tell me I had an interview today and I'd be like, "Okay, about what?" And they'd be like, "You released your album," and I'd be like, "Really?"

TP: Are you sure this also didn't have something to do with your lack of sobriety at that point in time, that you might have missed your release date because you weren't really paying attention?

AJ: Well, yeah, c'mon, that's probably part of it. But now, even if I wasn't sober, if you own your own label you have to be hands-on and involved. Or your label is basically your own band, like some kind of vanity label. I have other bands to worry about, too, and so you actually have to suit up and show up for these people and work this thing. Yeah, it's a lot different than it was back then, but there's no way I could have done what I'm doing now back then as a spoiled, pampered little rock star. And then you just grow up.

All rock stars have had to grow up over the last few years because of the economic crisis and everything bottoming out, everything being about bottom lines -- there's no room for art anymore. A lot of people have had to grow up. Bret Michaels had to go out and get a reality show, although I think he'd probably do it anyways! But you know what I'm saying. People have had to grow up and face the sobering consequences. But we saw this coming for a long time, so we were prepared and built our bunker.

TP: Back to the album for a minute, can you tell me about the songs "I'm Not Gay" and "Lewd Farrigno?" Where did they come from?

AJ: I'm glad you touched on both of those, because I think those two and "Wizard of Sextown" and "Robo Banditos" are four favorites on this record, and are all true stories. Here's the best part. Our singer, Josh Bradford, who is certifiable; I mean, he's insane, okay? He lived in El Paso for about a year while we were doing this record, and the best part is: I couldn't handle him in the studio. I was like, "You're a freak. You have to get the fuck out of here. Go do your vocals at home."

He lived in an apartment complex and I gave him this little mixer board and some headphones and a microphone that he could do his vocals in, on headphones. So nobody heard the music, they just heard him screaming at 3 in the morning, "Lou Ferrigno!" Loud as he could, waking up the whole apartment complex. It was this gated community condo and they voted to throw him out thinking he was a terrorist or something because, at 3 in the morning, they'd wake up to him screaming the chorus of "Lewd Ferrigno." He got thrown out of his house for doing these vocals, which I had to respect him for, because nobody could hear the music, they'd just hear him screaming into a microphone, repeating and chanting the same thing over and over again and not making any sense. They didn't understand he was recording music, they just thought he was going on some weird rant. It was awesome!

TP: Why do you live and work in El Paso, anyway?

AJ: It's like a real accident that I wound up here, but now that I am here, I will never leave. I will be dead and buried here. Maybe as you know, I lived in Chicago for 30 years and that's the only city I really, really like. I love Chicago. But here? It's amazing weather, real estate prices are so cheap -- I couldn't have the compound that I have here, in L.A. And I gotta say I love L.A., people think it's cool to bash it, but I love it. We lived in Venice Beach for like three years, me and my wife.

TP: That's a great place to live.

AJ: I love that place. But there's no way we could have what we have here anywhere near L.A. We'd have to go way the fuck north or way down south to get the kind of property we have here. We have a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful place. It's a gigantic compound with a recording studio, and people come to see us so we constantly have a stream of visitors and people from all over the world that are here and they stay here. And it's gorgeous, we have waterfalls and ponds and things in our backyard. Where am I gonna get that in L.A. for less than like $25 million dollars? Which, I don't have, sorry.

TP: And if you did, you would probably think of better things to do with that money, right?

AJ: Yeah, so here it's just really cheap real estate, really great weather and then you take the rest. The rest for us is, instead of hanging out on the [Sunset] Strip on a Friday or Saturday, we go the opera or we go to the symphony. The El Paso Symphony is great and we've actually donated a ton of money and equipment to them and we work with them whenever we need strings or anything like that on a record. That's our scene. Instead of going to the [Rainbow] or the Whisky on a Friday night and paying ten times the amount of money you need to live there just so you could say you were at the 'Bow? I'd rather be here and go hang out with the symphony. Which, by the way, party much more than fuckin' rockers.

TP: What? I don't believe that, actually.

AJ: No, really. Rockers are pussies. The country people and the symphony people party way harder than rockers. So rockers are pussies.

TP: So the string players are getting all strung out and shit?

AJ: Let's not go quite that far. But let's go with getting completely naked and running down streets.

TP: Having real fun.

AJ: Not only that, but somehow the people in the symphony always get absinthe. Rockers get stupid shit like coke and heroin, while the symphony goes for absinthe. I love to hang with the symphony crowd.

TP: As an artist that breaks ground, I think you do have to hang outside of your expected circles. Why would you just want to hang out with people who follow you?

AJ: You know, there's safety in numbers. Me, I'm in a completely foreign environment if I'm at the Rainbow on a Friday night. I completely feel ill at ease and nervous and weird. Some people live for that night at the Rainbow so they can hand out cards and talk about how they're gonna be in some cosmetic surgeon's son's band. It's no longer how great the music you write is, it's if you're on a retainer and a beeper.

TP: I understand you're not too fond of the computer, either.

AJ: I don't trust it. One solar flare, one meteor away from having no satellite communications, and then what are you going to do? I don't even like phones because I can't see you when I'm talking and I want to know [what you look like]. You work off of facial expressions and you work off of humanity and it's just all so cold to me. I'm kind of old school about it, but then I go into the recording studio and I'm using multi-million dollar equipment that I know exactly how to use and it's like being a 747 pilot.

TP: That's what I was getting at, like you obviously embrace technology in the studio.

AJ: Right, but not in my personal life. That's the last thing I want to be bogged down with in my personal life is a cell phone. Having someone call me while I'm driving so we can have a chat and I can wreck my fucking car or drinking lattes while talking on the phone and texting, that's just stupid.

TP: A woman was arrested last week for breastfeeding and texting on the phone while driving.

AJ: Oh God, is that a felony?

TP: I don't know, but it should be.

AJ: You know what's funny? I've had that exact same charge breastfeeding!

VIEW 14 of 14 COMMENTS
haloovfire: I don't know how I missed this before. Although its dated, it's still a great article. Dec 10, 2012 walton808: Hats off to you Al Aug 2, 2014

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