Anyone familiar with the 20-year career of industrial metal band Ministry knows that if you try to set your watch to the group's album-release schedule you'll never be on time for anything much like band conductors Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker. In other words, just because Ministry have entered the studio to record doesn't necessarily mean they'll have a new album under their belts before the apocalypse.
"For the past five albums, we've been trying to beat the gestation period of the blue whale, which is 14 months," Jourgensen said Tuesday afternoon from Barker's home in Austin, Texas. "And we have yet to beat that blue whale."
Considering Ministry have just released the live album Sphinctour, the band's true fans probably figure they'll have to wait until the next Winter Olympics for new product, though Jourgensen, who has always thrived on unpredictability, said Ministry devotees should soon be flying high.
"This time, that little blue whale pup is f---ed because we're gonna do it in two-and-a-half months or my name isn't Orville Redenbacker," he said.
And Ministry have another surprise up their dirt-encrusted sleeves. Their next album, Animositisomina, which is scheduled for a fall release, will be their fastest and heaviest offering since 1992's Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. The band has foregone the stark, doom-laden tempos of recent LPs in favor of the storming, electro-fueled chaos of classics such as "Stigmata," "Burning Inside" and "N.W.O."
"This new record is harder than getting hit over the head with a shovel full of cement," Jourgensen said. "The title is the word 'animosity' spelled forward and backwards, so it's animosity through and through. We only have one song that's even sort of slow, so it's definitely all too fast for a Boca Raton retirement community. I'm pretty amazed by it all considering we're all in our 70s."
Jourgensen said the songs on Animositisomina are injected with a level of rage and rancor Ministry haven't felt in nearly a decade. He credits the renewed degree of hatred to a number of social, environmental and business factors.
"We're just pissed," Jourgensen explained. "We're a bunch of old, cranky men now. It's lyrically all autobiographical and it's about relationships over the long term and the short term. I've moved back to Texas and experienced a lot of things in my life that have gotten me pretty cranky enough to chase the kids off my lawn, anyway. I yell at them when they interrupt 'Wheel of Fortune.' "
"Punk rock inspired us not because of the music, but because of the attitude, and we're still punk rockers," Barker added. "The world is still f---ed up and our society is completely hypocritical. There's still plenty to be enraged about."
At present, Ministry have five songs almost finished, including "Animositisomina," "Crucial Bitch" and "Impossible," and another seven in a lesser state of completion. Unlike past records, which were completely created in the studio, the bandmembers wrote and workshopped Animositisomina from their Texas homes.
"Usually we just go into the studio when we're out of money to pay rent," Jourgensen jested. "All of a sudden we say, 'Well, I guess we better do something,' so we go in and things just come out. But now technology has made it so you can really get it to sound at home like it would in the studio. So basically, technology has caught up with our decrepit way of working."
Ministry's creative output has been assisted not only by their new surroundings, but by their revised work ethic. Before, the studio was a mad scientist's laboratory teeming with piles of samples, loops and demos. This time, the band feels more in control.
"We just let rip without whatever preconceived notions we may have had before," Barker said. "In the past we would specifically not want to do 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' 'D,' 'E' or 'F.' We knew exactly what we didn't want to do, but then what was left? Also, we used to try to apply every sound in our 20-year library to each individual song to see what worked. We're not doing that anymore, so it's a lot more streamlined."
"The songs have been popping out of us like crazy," Jourgensen added. "It's like in the old Catskills when they used to write 50,000 songs for the old Borscht Belt."
Maybe Ministry's recent productivity also has something to do with Jourgensen's current bill of health. In the past, he's lived on the edge, documenting his battles with drugs in songs such as "Just One Fix," and album titles like Dark Side of the Spoon. Today, he claims to be living a more salubrious and sober existence.
"I'm not gonna say I've found God or anything," he joked. "You don't have to worry about having some kind of Ministry Christian album. But I've just learned where my boundaries are. I'm definitely a survivor at this point. Cockroaches, Texans and me are what's gonna survive after a nuclear war."
He and Barker exchanged chortles, then Jourgensen addressed the argument that says drugs can sometimes be a creative aid. "It's good to be able to find a creative place," he said. "But if you keep having to depend on [drugs] to get you there, you haven't learned anything, have you? Now I don't have to do any kind of massive substance pile to get there. I'm already there."