Al “Fucking” Jourgensen, is the undisputed king of Industrial music. The Godfather of a genre he helped to create and mold into something millions of fans have grown to love throughout its 30+ years in development. You can’t say his name without thinking of heavy guitar riffs, crushing drum beats and unmistakable samples. Even his image is iconic and recognizable. You immediately think of a man in black, with top hat and flowing dreadlocks. And lets not forget his wild life and crazy antics that make Motley Crue look like school boys.
Alejandro Ramirez Casa was born in Havana Cuba in October of 1958 to Cuban - American parents. He lived there just a short time before moving with his mother to the United States to the suburbs of Chicago. She remarried a Norwegian stock car mechanic and driver named Jourgensen from which he would be immortalized under. This won’t be the last time for a name change as we have learned throughout his illustrious career of bands and new personas that seem to grow from each. He bounced back and forth between Colorado and Chicago during his early years for school before truly calling Chicago his home.
Jourgensen was a DJ and musician from an early age. Starting in college as a club DJ then in the late 70’s he and fellow industrial icon Frankie Nardiello (AKA Groovie Mann) and Harry Rushakoff formed Special Affect. This was short lived and only produced an album and 7” EP. They worked together for a couple years before separating ways. Nardiello going on to create My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Rushakoff off to form Concrete Blonde. Jourgensen of course left to create his soon to be life long baby, Ministry. Jourgensen has helped to spawn several great groups since the beginning, these being just a couple. His influence spread like wildfire.
After Special Affect dissolved, Ministry was formed in 1981 and by 1983 they released With Sympathy. It was during this time Jourgensen was experimenting with the early synth pop sounds he has long disassociated himself from citing, “That shit was garbage and an abomination, it should have never had the Ministry moniker.” Ironically, during that first stage of Ministry, Jourgensen produced a cult classic that many consider a must have in any Neo Industrial Goth collection called, Everyday Is Halloween. But that sound was short lived and by 1985, a completely new Ministry sound was born. The “real, true Ministry” as Jourgensen puts it.
Jourgensen really came to life in the mid to late 80’s. This is where he truly found himself, his style and what he worked so hard to become. He was constantly working on honing his craft through editing, producing and mixing. He would sit up working late into the night in the Chicago Trax studios creating a Midwestern Industrial Revolution Empire. He surrounded himself with talent. A core group of musicians became his right hand band and side project counterparts including Paul Barker, Bill Rieflin, Chris Connelly, Nivek Ogre and Mike Scaccia. His passion for music isn’t just contained in one heartfelt project, but a string of them including his first real break out from Ministry as the Revolting Cocks.
1985 - 86 were milestone years for Jourgensen. This is where he established himself as a force to be reckoned with releasing two iconic and powerful releases. The newly discovered Ministry, producing the heavy dark, industrial sound, Twitch and just months later, the equally iconic sounds of the Revolting Cocks, Big Sexy Land on Wax Trax! The Spring of ‘85 even saw the birth of a daughter, who many years later, would defend at his recording studio against another up and coming Chicago artist, R. Kelly, where he smashed a suitcase against his head.
Jourgensen life really took off from there. He also produced other peoples music including Skinny Puppy’s, Rabies and other side bands came to light as well such as Lard, Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters, 1000 Homo DJ’s, PTP, Pailhead and Acid Horse to name a few. Ministry and RevCo being his constant go betweens for decades.
At this point we can ad a few more pseudo names to Jourgensen including Hypo Luxa, Alien Dog Star, Buck Satan and Uncle Al.
In the early 90’s Jourgensen and Ministry found critical and commercial success. One of which being Grammy nominated for the now legendary 1992 album, Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. The track, N.W.O. bringing not only the Grammy nod, but the Ministry name to the mainstream.
Jourgensen continued to produce and release music through the 90’s with great success. His popularity reached far outside of Chicago and the underground “Industrial” scene. Legendary film producer Stanley Kubrick was such a fan that he had created a spot for Ministry. It was a gig to be in his upcoming movie, A.I: Artificial Intelligence. There, Ministry played a futuristic band in a disturbing new world creating another mega hit, What About Us, immortalizing the band forever on the silver screen.
Throughout the 2000’s, Jourgensen continued to produce and record music with Ministry, RevCo and Lard as well as side projects. He also moved most of the recordings in house with his own label, 13th Planet Records and relocated from Chi-town and to El Paso, TX.
From the late 2000’s to now, Jourgensen has been through some ups and downs including taking a few years off from the band that made him, to the loss of his best friend and Ministry cohort, Mike Scaccia, fighting an ugly divorce, to battling drug addiction and trying to rebuild the empire so many revealed as gospel. He even somehow found the time to write a tell all book about his life called, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen, that held nothing back. His latest quote, “I Don’t Fucking Care” becoming a reoccurring theme in his life and art. He may not care, but you should.
To date, he’s earned the respect of his peers around the world from bands like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and KMFDM. Jourgensen continues to influence and change in his many different incarnations. His style is and always will be deeply rooted in Industrial, but he’s not afraid to venture out and create new forms as most recently can be heard in his latest project, Surgical Meth Machine.
Now based out of LA, Uncle Al has added even more titles under his belt. At 58, he’s acting in movies, producing new music with a new project, Surgical Meth Machine and performs select shows with the band that started it all, Ministry. He still gets out to flea markets. Still gets to Blackhawks games as much as possible. He still visits the town he calls home. Still makes music that matters. Is there anything this man can’t do?
So, who is Al Jourgensen? As you have can see, there is no simple, one sentence answer. The man himself is as complex as his roots and origins, but you can be sure, he is a force to be reckoned with. A multi Gold and Platinum selling artist with the passion and drive to constantly create and entertain as well as a father, music fan, flea market attendee and avid Blackhawks fanatic. A producer, musician, author and composer that lives and breaths music. Imagine what the next thirty years is going to bring.
(written by James Currie)