“I Shaved My Chest To Fit Into This Girdle”: Inside Ministry’s New Photo Book With Al Jourgensen
Few bands have had such a storied visual career as industrial pioneers Ministry. Starting as a synth pop group in the late ’80s, the band took a hard left turn onto the mechanized freeway of industrial, merging mechanized beats and surging distortion with thrash metal riffs until they became the meanest beast on the road. With the band’s sound grew their imagery, over time transitioning from the shadowy lo-fi aesthetic of goth to the raucous, psychologically-loaded symbolism of the ’90s and finally championing the in-your-face darkness of the matured industrial scene.
Last month, the band released a massive new photo book titled Prescripture: A Visual History, which collects images from across the band’s elaborate, insane, and sometimes mind-bending career. To better understand the photos in the book, we asked frontman Al Jourgensen to tell us the stories behind a handful of his favorite pictures therein. Here’s what he told us…
“There’s always room for Jello. This was during the Bush eras you can tell with my shirt and Jello [Biafra] is wearing some kind of anti-war sentiment too. And I believe this was the night he burned an American flag on stage and ran out the back door and I was arrested. He’s always been my political comrade in arms.”
“This one looks to be during the Lollapalooza era and the photo is always nostalgic for me. I love seeing Mikey [Scaccia] and me in our heydey, he was my best friend and right-hand man.”
“Around this time I had time off and traveled with Anthrax on their tour. This picture was taken at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles in ‘92. They added Thieves to their encore and I’d join them on stage, which was a hell of a lot of fun.”
“We spent three days in a studio in Lawrence, Kansas with William Burroughs and got to hang out with him and really got to know him. It was amazing watching him read parts of his book, Nova Express, which we used for the remix on the B-Side of Just One Fix.”
“That whole European tour was pretty cool. In Norway, I remember the amphitheater we played at was beautiful, it was an outdoor venue built into the mountain like Red Rocks in Colorado surrounded by fjords and gondola trailer.”
“The Reload video — I had to shave my chest and legs and try to fit into this girdle to look like Jackie O. We filmed in downtown LA and the streets were closed off and for all these crowd shots they got kids who lived in the area and gave them like $10 a piece to go crazy when the cars drove by. It was the same team — Jeff Kinart and Doug Freel — who did the Fix movie. I just remember having a problem with the girdle and saying NO to shaving my mustache — that’s where I drew the line.”
“It was [recording engineer] Justin Leeah’s first time working with me at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, Texas and we had been up close to 72 hours at this point. If you look at his face, he looks like a hostage. Like the Peloton commercial. I wouldn’t let him leave, we spent hours zeroing in on kick drum frequency over and over again.”
“RIot Fest Chicago in 2017 was a memorable performance, my homebase and Nine Inch Nails played right after our set. But it’s also a photo that shows how much I love playing with Sin Quirin in this band.”
“I think people can sometimes forget I have done 70% of the guitar work on all Ministry albums. I love playing with these guys — Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto — and they get all the credit, which they should since they should they are better players than me. But it’s strange everyone views me as a leader singer; I hate lead singers!”
“After about a 10-year feud about a lot of different shit, this was the night  [Revolting Cocks frontman] Chris Connelly and I buried the hatchet on stage at the Riviera in Chicago. We realized we aren’t the Hatfields and McCoys, we are so much more similar than we are different on so many levels. It was so nice to see him, it had been 15 years at that point. We hit it off and since then all things have been groovy.”
“Performing (Every Day Is) Halloween again was cathartic. Dave Navarro and Dan Cleary were the ones that roped me into it, but it actually brought me joy. It was like a Marie Kondo moment, I didn’t have to discard this one.”
Ministry’s Prescripture: A Visual History is available for purchase now.
The drummer was also known for his work with KMFDM and Swans.
Talented young musician Jacob Velazquez wowed the America’s Got Talent judges with his skilful take on Fall Out Boy’s Centuries.