Ministry has paved a unique path for the past four decades, from its early days melding elements of dark wave, synth pop and metal to pioneering the industrial metal scene as its sound became darker and heavier. These days, front man Al Jourgensen’s growling vocals are found delivering no-nonsense commentary on the turmoil of the world enveloped in heavy guitars and machine-gun precise drums.
The band recently played a slew of festival dates in the United States and Europe, as well as recently supporting Nine Inch Nails when they returned home to Cleveland.
In 2019, former TOOL bassist Paul D’Amour joined Ministry. The Travel Addict caught up with Paul to discuss the band’s politically-charged work, his family vacations to Turkey and what a perfect day looks like when he’s home in California from touring.
Ministry recently played Hellfest and some other festivals in Europe. What were the highlights of the European festivals?
Hellfest was amazing. They just put on such a good festival and treat the bands really well. The highlight for us was playing with Killing Joke because we’re just in a mutual admiration club – we adore them and they adore us. It was a fun night.
And they have their own cheese monger that flies around with them. It was amazing. He was a young fan of theirs back in the day and then he turned into this fairly accomplished cheese monger.
Any time they come to France, he shows up with the most incredible cheese and these dusty ass bottles of wine. It was quite a delight.
Were you able to do any sightseeing while you were in Europe?
Not so much in France, but after the festival some of us went to Barcelona for a week. We went for one show, so we were like, well, let’s just go have some fun, too.
So we hung out in Barcelona and went to some flamenco shows, had some tapas and wine, as you do.
I’m sure you saw everything Gaudi.
Yeah, there was some Gaudi for sure. We went to the park (Park Güell) and had a picnic. It was cool.
Your band plays the Ukrainian national anthem and shows the Ukrainian flag at each show now. Why is that important to you?
I feel like anybody with eyes can see what an injustice it is, the domination and current regime of Russia just throwing their muscle at somebody for a reason that nobody with a heart or mind can tell, aside from just trying to conquer. Ministry is a fairly political band so it goes with our ethos in general to point those things out.
Ministry has a song called “Good Trouble”, that’s a tribute to John Lewis, where Arabian Prince (from NWA) records one of Lewis’ monologues for it. How did that come about?
That was just part of what was going on during the Black Lives Matter protests. Those words were pretty powerful in that time period. And they became especially powerful, after his passing. It just struck a chord for all of us.
You’re from Washington State, but you live in LA. What’s your perfect day look like at home?
I actually live in Ojai, which is a little hippie mountain town.
It’s within striking distance of LA to be able to go to a rehearsal or a meeting or a show or do city stuff, but then you come back and it’s just quiet. There are only 8000 people in the town.
What’s your perfect day look like there?
You know, just working. I have a studio in my house and that takes up some of my time. Behind my house there are 75 acres of orchards and hiking trails. It’s easy to have a good day here, for sure.
Is your band Lesser Key active right now?
I don’t know. We keep flirting with trying to do some more music. We’ll see. I wouldn’t call it active, but there’s still a shimmer of hope for it.
Has travel ever inspired any of your music?
Oh, for sure. I was just in Turkey traveling with my family. We were there for three weeks and there’s music everywhere – from the saz players and the songs from the mosques and the minarets that you hear several times a day, it is just really inspiring.
Have you ever brought any of the travel experiences into your music?
I think there’s a feeling there for sure, but not directly. I like some of the microtonal things that come from Eastern music, and I think it certainly finds its way in in unexpected ways.
Is your family from Turkey?
My wife is half Turkish and so her father lives in Antalya for part of the year. It’s amazing. More people should go and visit Turkey; it’s just a rich, wonderful place.
What are some of your favorite places to visit there?
I love just enjoying the beaches near Antalya. We had a wonderful day in Istanbul walking through the markets and then we took a little boat ride up the Bosphorus.
It was really neat to see all these different palaces and little villages along the river. It was cool.
There are so many layers to that city. It feels like you can’t even scratch the surface in a short visit.
Once you sort of get over seeing the things that you obviously need to see – like the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and all of the visually striking things – there are still all the neighborhoods and different cultures that are there to explore. It’s a pretty special spot.
You recently played Louder than Life in Kentucky. Do you have a favorite bourbon?
Oh, I don’t know. I’m going to get myself in trouble if I name one. I don’t know, I’m pretty easy to please in the bourbon department, so I wouldn’t say I have a favorite.
I feel like everybody has a bourbon now.
Oh, yeah, I know. Everybody’s got a wine label or a microbrew or something like that. I don’t know why I don’t. What’s going on?
You should, you have an orchard in your backyard!
I’m too busy drinking it to make it.
Any highlights at Louder than Life?
Well, we got to play with Nine Inch Nails, so that was good. We also opened directly for them a few days later in Cleveland for their big hometown show there after their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, so that was a blast.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Well, let’s see. I have a few different projects that I’m working on that we can talk about a different time, but it’s going to be cool. And then we’re working on another Ministry record at the same time.
You’ve toured all over the world with Tool and Ministry. Do you have any favorite tour locations, stops or venues that you like to play?
Everywhere that there’s people freaking out to hear your music is the best place. I don’t know if I have a favorite spot to play.
You know, some nights become special and you’re not really sure why, just because there’s a certain energy in the crowd that night.
I just talked to Ash Costello from New Year’s Day, and she reminded me that you guys have a Halloween song.
Oh, right. Yeah, “Every Day is Halloween”. That one rarely gets busted out, but we’ll see.
Is Halloween your favorite holiday? How much do you love Halloween?
I’m a musician, so I just hang around with freaks all the time. So Halloween is kind of amateur night.
Every day is Halloween. That’s what it says in the song, right.
What’s your favorite song to play?
I don’t know. I mean, we’ve been playing a lot of the older songs, so those feel like such a big part of my musical self, even though I wasn’t in the band at the time.
Those songs are so ingrained in my musical zeitgeist. “Burning Inside” and “Stigmata” get me going for sure.
How long have you ever gone without playing music? Do you play every day?
No, I definitely take extended breaks, like sometimes I won’t play for a couple of weeks. But if I do that, I always come back and just explode with ideas.
Music doesn’t always come from being dexterous with the guitar. It comes from being inspired, listening and hearing new things.
When I was younger. I was like, everyday I’ve got to play. And now I’m kind of like, okay, the good things don’t always come from all of that hard work; sometimes it just comes from inspiration.
What’s your dream vacation?
Dream vacation. Oh, I don’t even know! That’s a tough one. I have been to Jamaica and had a pretty nice time there. That was kind of stuck in my memory.
We stayed at The Caves in Negril once and that was really amazing. We went to a badass reggae show of locals only and saw the Bounty Killer.
So you’re a beach or tropical person.
I do enjoy the Caribbean.
The answer is almost always beach or mountains.
I like both, for sure. I grew up in the Cascade Mountains, so that’s my second home.