Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen has been accused of doing drugs plenty of times (he insists he's clean now), but recently a fan who'd heard cuts from the industrial metal band's upcoming Animositisomina hit him with an accusation he never expected.
"This guy asked me, 'Um, are you doing steroids?' " laughed Jourgensen, a man who makes Rob Zombie look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. "The dude goes, 'Man, you're voice sounds so much meaner than usual.' I considered that a high compliment, indeed."
Many old-school Ministry fans were disappointed by the band's last two studio albums, Filth Pig (1995) and The Dark Side of the Spoon (1999). Animositisomina, which is packed with the same sort of sonic punch as Ministry's prime material from the late '80s, might just win back listeners who abandoned the band after Ministry played Lollapalooza.
"I think there's a similarity between this and the early stuff because back then the music was what everything was about in the first place, and it's like that again," said Jourgensen. "There was a camaraderie and an energy there because we really felt focused on the actual hardcore meat and potatoes of the whole thing, and it was wonderful to be back like that."
Songs like "Animosity" and "Lockbox" might set the mosh pit ablaze like old nuggets such as "Thieves" and "Burning Inside," but Animositisomina displays musical growth as it makes a nod to the past. Most noticeably, Jourgensen sings. Sure, he still screams in a caustic, distorted voice that can shatter glass at 20 paces, but he also actually hits musical notes and sings melodic passages.
"It's those damn Dean Martin CDs I keep buying," he growled. "I dunno. I just can't help it. A little bit of vino, a little bit of Dean. You just start caterwauling around the cactus."
Bassist and co-writer Paul Barker offered a little more insight: "Al is an excellent vocalist, so it's just a matter of finding a vehicle that he would be comfortable singing more melodically on. And that was a really pleasurable aspect of working on this record."
To avoid many of the past distractions they've faced when recordeding in their Chicago studio, Ministry set up camp in a remote desert location 40 miles from El Paso, Texas. To the surprise of their label, management and even themselves, they were able to complete the disc in less than four months — about four times faster than they've worked in the past.
"We knew we were paying for the studio and we had to get stuff done," Barker said. "So Al and I would just be at each other's throats all the time to try to make something happen. And it worked."
During their stay in the desert, Al and Paul were inspired by the lack of outside distractions, but there was plenty of stimulation to motivate them.
"There were plenty of coyote, cactus and sand," Jourgensen said. "We were right near the border of Mexico. There were 1,700 acres of pecans and then this compound for the studio. Everything around was just desert, so these illegal immigrants would swim across the Rio Grande and use the trees as cover. And every night there was Border Patrol there. It was like 'CHiPs' times 10. It was hard to predict when they'd swoop in, otherwise we would have sampled it."