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Back In Black 

With no junk in the trunk, Ministry's Al Jourgensen regains form

You think your life is tough? Try carrying a ravenous, 200-pound monkey on your back for a decade. Such was the fate of Ministry guitarist Al Jourgensen who just two years ago killed the "horse" habit, completing the circuit from drug-user to used-druggie to drug-free. With his newfound sobriety he's forged the best Ministry album since they headlined Lollapalooza in 1992.Losing the junk has made a tremendous impact on not just his life, but his ability to record.

"I no longer live on Dealer Standard Time, so in that sense it's been great for my career and writing. And you feel healthy and you're not sick. It hasn't really changed anything as far as my songwriting or like the way I go about producing it or anything. It's just nice to be aware and not living on someone else's dime and time," says Jourgensen. "It became almost like self-imposed insulin for diabetes. You're not getting anything out of it except keeping from getting sick. Why are you going to be sick, because you're doing that shit, so it was the dog chasing its tail and I'm glad I was able to pull myself out of it."

The new album, Houses of the Mole, revisits the chunky, industrialized guitar roar of early Ministry albums The Mind Is a Terrible Thing To Taste and Psalm 69, mining a wealth of heavy throb and ever-amusing samples including a snippet of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" (aka The Omen theme) for the Dubya-dedicated, "Wrong," and a plethora of spliced Bush remarks. Needless to say, Jourgensen has a bone to pick with the current administration.

"They're complete fucking liars. Completely corrupt, completely greedy and it's just gross. It's time for a regime change," says the perpetually black-leather clad Jourgensen. "Karl Rove is the closest thing to Satan on earth. I mean, I can't believe the arrogance of these guys! They will do anything they want and then spin it any way they want."

Like their classic anthem, "So What," Houses of the Mole paints a dispiritingly bleak picture, but musically, this is their tightest work in a dozen years, if not ever. Jourgensen credits the departure of longtime collaborator Paul Barker, and the recording of the album as an entire band for the first time since Psalm 69.

"Not only was I living on Dealer Standard Time but I was working on Paul Tightening Standard Time. I'd put everything in the computer and he'd type for two and a half days. I was ready to put Nair on his legs, shave him and put him into secretarial clothes. It was nice the immediacy of this record, to just jam and have it go to tape," he says.

"I think it's not only the recording style [that unites it with Psalm 69] -- but back then it was before I was completely underwater in a walking coma, and I pretty much dictated what was going on, and subsequently, until I got clean again, I would pretty much not give a shit. I only gave a shit about whether the dealer was coming that night," Jourgensen adds.

Besides the new Ministry album, he's also working on a new Revolting Cocks, which he describes as so puerile and juvenile, "the next crime I commit after this Cocks record, I'll have to go to family court." Another Lard record is also on tap with Jello Biafra. But as busy as he is, Jourgensen assures me he isn't long for this world -- the music world, that is. He suggests he'd like to keep at it for another five years, and then return to his first love, teaching history, for which he got a degree from the University of Colorado more than 20 years ago.

"This rock career kind of set me on a different path than I thought, though it's nice because now I can afford to live on a teacher's salary," he says. "But I don't want to keep doing this forever. I don't want to be doing nostalgia reunion tours at state fairs when I'm 55 or something like that. I'll leave that for REO Speedwagon. It doesn't really interest me, so we're trying to haul ass while we're all still healthy and having fun about this whole thing and then get on with the next part of my life.

"I'll just ride quietly into the sunset. I'll be happy."

Ministry plays the Tremont Music Hall Tuesday with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and Hanzel and Gretyl. Tickets are $20 and the doors open at 7pm for this 16-and-up show.

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