Listen to The Self-Titled Album From Al Jourgensen's New Project, Surgical Meth Machine: Exclusive

Courtesy Photo
Surgical Meth Machine

When this writer offers Al Jourgensen ebullient praise for his new project, Surgical Meth Machine (due April 15 on Nuclear Blast), by telling him its self-titled album is “crazy, absolutely rocking, insane, and I love it!,” the 57-year-old Cuban-born, Chicago-bred provocateur of industrial music drolly replies, “Would you expect anything different?”

The answer is no. The multitalented producer, musician, arranger, singer, sampler, agitator and wine enthusiast has worn many hats (and bandanas) in his career but is infamously known as the frontman of industrial powerhouse Ministry. He started out playing new wave synth-pop and turned Ministry into a juggernaut of electronics, drums and guitars. Along the way he had une affaire de coeur with some illegal substances — a journey he recounted with trademark candor in his 2013 biography Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen — but his productivity and output was incongruously prodigious.

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Surgical Meth Machine (SMM) is the latest endeavor for Jourgensen in a long line of side projects like Revolting Cocks, 1000 Homo DJs, Acid Horse, PTP, Lard and Buck Satan & The 666 Shooters. Featuring only Jourgensen and engineer Sam D’Ambruoso, the idea was born during the recording of Ministry’s final studio album, 2013’s From Beer to Eternity. (Jourgensen pulled the plug on further Ministry records after the death of longtime band member Mike Scaccia in 2012.) “We came up with this idea to [have the music] go as fast as a human being could possibly go,” says Jourgensen. “And then we did other stuff.”

Listen to Surgical Meth Machine’s self-titled album below:

What makes SMM different from other Jourgensen efforts is that it takes the gritty, thrilling aspects of Ministry and merges them with the lighter facets of his side projects. The result is an album that’s a vivid pastiche of his styles, from the manic metal blast of the first single, “Tragic Alert” (which sounds like Ministry at 600 mph) to the melancholy crooning of “I’m Invisible.” Jourgensen says SMM is presented chronologically. “The first song we recorded is the first song on the album, et cetera, et cetera, all the way down. About halfway through the recording I moved to California and got my weed card,” he recalls with a laugh. “And mysteriously, the album slows down considerably. That might explain the dichotomous nature of the record. It was fun making it that way: We didn’t even know it was going to be a record.”

Watch the video for “I’m Invisible” below:

Among the highlights of SMM are “I Want More,” featuring Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys fame; “Unlistenable,” an outrageous metallic diatribe against what Jourgensen considers bad music; and the frenzied rocker “Gates of Steel,” which bleeds into “Spudnik,” a coda to the former song. “‘Gates of Steel/Spudnik’ is my Derek & The Dominos ‘Layla,’ a seven-minute epic journey,” explains Jourgensen. “‘Gates of Steel’ is an anthem-type song, and ‘Spudnik’ becomes like the second half of ‘Layla’ with the piano solo, but with a guitar breakdown.

“That last half of the record was a gas,” he continues. “We were stoned out of our gourd and deep into existential territory the whole time we were recording, from what I remember of it. For me, though, SMM is songs that write the band and not a band that writes the songs, which is a back-assward way of working, but it seems to work for me. And I’m in a good place right now [thanks to] my California weed card!”

After Jourgensen is done promoting SMM, he’ll go back out on the road as Ministry. The band will play four U.S. dates starting in late spring before heading to Europe in July for a run of dates this summer. Jourgensen says of SMM touring, “If fans want to see SMM tour, then the fans have to buy our T-shirts. If enough people buy them, then I’ll know I can come out and play before a sea of pink and black shirts. Buy the album, of course, but the T-shirt money goes directly to me,” he says with another laugh.

Ministry 2016 summer tour dates:

May 26          Freemont Country Club, Las Vegas                  

July 15          Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.                      

July 16          Skyway Theater, Minneapolis               

July 17          Agora Ballroom, Cleveland                              

July 28          Madrid Arena, Madrid                                  

July 29          Maison de le Musique, Le Garric, France                  

July 30          Xtreme Fest, Albi, France

July 31          Schurr, Lucerne, Switzerland                        

Aug. 2           Yotaspace, Moscow                                

Aug. 3           A2, Saint Petersburg, Russia                               

Aug. 5            Wacken Open Air, Wacken, Germany                            

Aug. 6            Essigfabrik, Koln, Germany                     

Aug. 7            Huxleys, Berlin                        

Aug. 8            Backstage Werk, Munich, Germany                

Aug. 10          Arena Wien, Bezirk Landstrasse, Austria             

Aug. 11           Brutal Assault Fest, Jaromer, Czech Republic                              

Aug. 12          Garage Saarbrucken, Saarbrucken, Germany                      

Aug. 13          Alcatrazz Metal Fest, Kortrijk, Belgium                    

Aug. 14          Doornrosje, Nymegen, the Netherlands               

Aug. 16          Tramshed, Cardiff, the United Kingdom            

Aug. 17          O2 ABC Glasgow, Glasgow                    

Aug. 18           O2 Institute, Birmingham, the United Kingdom                

Aug. 19           O2 Ritz, Manchester, the United Kingdom                

 Aug 20           O2 Forum Kentish Town, London