Al Jourgensen of Ministry is releasing his experimental new album at Timewarp Records in Mar Vista
By Will Theisen
For more than 35 years, Al Jourgensen’s heavy brand of rock music has been rooted in satire and irony. He’s best known for his work with Ministry, a band that dominated the “industrial metal” scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s by daring to introduce humor to a genre defined by grim imagery.
With a reputation for embracing the unpredictable, his decision to hold a record release party for his new album, “Surgical Meth Machine,” at an old-school music shop in Mar Vista may seem like just another example of Jourgensen bucking a trend.
But the backstory behind the decision to debut the album at Timewarp Records shows a man who’s far more down-to-earth than his oversized public persona would suggest.
The connection was made at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, where Jourgensen is a regular. He’s gone for the last 18 straight months, only missing one weekend when he was on tour.
“We were there one Sunday, and there were these seven-foot tiki heads,” he tells The Argonaut. “They were out there for sale, and I said, this is absurd, I have to have these.”
As it turns out, the seller was Timewarp owner Shane Gudlow. They became friends before the album was recorded, and Jourgensen says the shop was “a no-brainer” to host a night for fans of the music.
“Just as the recording location didn’t really matter, it also doesn’t matter where it comes out,” he says. “We’re not trying to be trendy or hip, or anything like that. It’s just these people I bought some f-ing tiki heads from, and I thought they were cool. And I only, exclusively, hang out with cool people!”
The low-key release party also reflects the grassroots, DIY approach Jourgensen took to making the record, a 12-song set that he says wasn’t originally supposed to be an album.
“Me and my engineer [Sam D’Ambruoso] were just working on some ideas, which we do about four months out of every year,” he says. As it turned out, the music they were making didn’t quite fit in the style of Ministry — or any of Jourgensen’s many other side projects. Demo tracks such as “Tragic Alert” and “I’m Sensitive” eventually found their way to executives at the record label Nuclear Blast, who signed the project right away.
Jourgensen describes the recording process as experimentation in extremes: “We said, let’s see how fast we can push the tempo, without sounding completely unlistenable.”
When asked how his neighbors felt about that, he replies “They were none the wiser, thank God! We recorded it in my guesthouse, with Pro Tools, laptops and headphones.”
Jourgensen won’t be performing at the event, but attendees will hear tracks from the album and NWA founding member Arabian Prince will be deejaying. Notably absent will be the two figures responsible for bringing Jourgensen and Gudlow together in the first place.
“They’re sitting in my living room, man!” he said of the Hindu-styled statues. “Just these seven-foot tiki heads, staring me down every time I’m in there!”
Al Jourgensen of Ministry debuts “Surgical Meth Machine” at 8 p.m. Friday, April 15, at Timewarp Records, 12204 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista. Call (310) 636-8360 or go to the store to pre-order the album and get a wristband for the listening party.