Session with Patty Jourgensen

Patty Jourgensen is the ex-wife of Al Jourgensen, and was involved in the band throughout her relationship with him. She began as the manager for the Blackouts, played with the band on the 1984 tour and had more behind-the-scenes influence than could possibly be listed here. She very kindly agreed to do an email interview for the site. A huge thanks to elrey96 for setting this up, providing most of the questions and making it happen.


THE PAST

Q: Can you give your background prior to getting involved with Al/Ministry (childhood, etc)?

I was a booking agent in NYC and had a great run there. I helped a lot of bands from all over get noticed and several of them went on to greater heights. NYC in the late 70s and very early 80s was amazing. There was just something special happening there – it’s hard to put it into words but you could actually feel the bristling and crackling of the excitement. Sometime around 1983, things started changing – getting jaded and predictable, and I headed out to Boston where there were a lot of great bands but nobody doing anything for them on a national level. Boston has a very powerful music scene, but with a few exceptions, no one ever finds out about any of it because the bands never venture out into the world. They somehow remain content being big fish in little ponds and didn’t want to have to earn their way with a crowd of strangers. Too bad. I was never comfortable with working on the club end of things. I had some really big acts come through and the clubs I worked for were not hurting for money. Some bands come through were struggling just trying to get the gas money together to travel to the next city and the owners of the clubs would fight them for every nickel. I was always siding with them on money matters. Finally I wound up throwing a rolodex at one of the owners of a club I was booking in Boston in frustration. I’d had enough of his just-not-getting-it-ness. Fortunately, just prior to that outburst which resulted in my termination, I had stepped into management with a band that had just moved from Seattle to Boston called Blackouts, who were an amazing band full of amazing people. To this day they are one of the best live shows I have ever seen. Their singer, Erich Werner, was an incredible performer with a dance style like I had never seen before or since. He had this lurching movement that would pick up momentum and repel him from one side of the stage to the other. It was awkward and uncomfortable to watch, and jaw-droppingly cool. I didn’t know at the time what a huge part of my life they were going to be.


Q: How did you and Al meet?

Things were off to a slow start with the Blackouts and I got a job bartending at a club for extra cash. Al was in town recording at Syncrosound, the Cars recording studio. I was formally introduced to him by a mutual friend. He was at the club all the time, a lot more than I was, and had developed a bit of a crush on me. He used to come to me to make his drinks – bloody Marys. I was not interested in him for a couple of reasons: 1) he would ask me out right in front of his current girlfriend and I wasn’t interested in that being me one day, and 2) he was freaking crazy. All the bartenders would lay bets on how long it would take him to get thrown out for offensive behavior on any given night. I always bet on the earliest departure and almost always won, but then I was making his drinks. Funny story: to this day I don’t recall ever speaking to him, but apparently I had not-so- politely rejected him when he was looking for a date at the club I booked in NY. This was his pre-Ministry band. He was the guitarist in a band called Special Affect that was fronted by Frankie Fun (who later headed the Thrill Kill Kult). I was not a fan. But then, I wasn’t an early Ministry fan either. He never let me forget this.


Q: When you met Al, did he have the same drug and alcohol habits that people now associate with him? If not, what was he like and when did that begin?

One of the first things I noticed about Al was how the atmosphere in the room changed when he walked into it. You could feel it physically if you were paying attention. It didn’t matter who else was in the room at the time, all eyes were on him. He has an intense amount of magnetism and charm and charisma. Even when you wanted to deny liking him, it was impossible. He had all the qualities that make a celebrity, there was never any doubt that he would be successful. What a lot of people don’t know about him is that he is extremely intelligent. He was a math whiz. He could multiply numbers in his head faster than I could punch them into a calculator – BIG numbers. We were friends with Timothy Leary who was part of the academic and scientific community. Al used to be able to sit with Tim’s theoretical physicist friends and discuss mathematical equations like he did that for a living. He did a lot of things that went unexplained. Even though he tries very hard to come off as aloof, he is very passionate and sensitive. I’ve seen movies reduce him to tears. He becomes a different person when he is playing with his animals. In fact, the only possessions we fought over when we split up were the cockatiels. He can be very sweet and thoughtful. He can also be a complete ass. One thing you have to understand about Al is that he has always been the person he is. At no point did he change who he was to start behaving like a rock star. He was always larger than life and according to his mother’s stories, Al as a toddler was very much like Al the adult. That said, there was no end to the questionable behavior and there was plenty of drug and alcohol abuse back in our early years together (on both of our parts), but no addiction. That came later…well, it wasn’t apparent until later. In retrospect, it’s hard to say for sure. Unless you stop taking drugs for long enough to judge your condition without them, you have no idea where you stand. Stopping never happened back then, except maybe when hangovers were being nursed. We realized things were beginning to spin out of control in the early 90s, but that was also the period of time when the band was at its peak. We were both completely functional and even though we were struggling with addictions, it wasn’t holding us back in any big way. It was more of an inconvenient pain in the ass than anything else. By the end of the 90’s, I no longer felt in control of my life and Al had become frighteningly paranoid. He was consumed with the idea that everyone was against him and was sure he was being followed everywhere he went. It got so bad that at one point I subjected myself to a polygraph test to prove that I wasn’t leaving secret messages written on the wall in code to his enemies. We split up for the final time not too long after that. He left, and it was the best thing for both of us. We couldn’t use each other as a crutch or an excuse any longer. I am sure it saved both of our lives.


Q: When did you get involved with the band/performance side of Ministry?

That should never have happened at all. I was in the middle of booking a tour for him and the band were in rehearsal and were schedule to leave in 3 weeks for the first date. He came home one night and said that he wanted to teach me to play the synthesizer. I thought that would be great fun and suggested we get on that after the tour. He had this serious look on his face and said: “I mean right now.” He had fired his keyboard player and needed an immediate replacement. I had a very marginal understanding of keyboard instruments and NO experience with a synthesizer. I had three weeks to learn how to operate a synthesizer, and learn to play an entire set of songs. And finish booking the tour…while pregnant with our baby that was due in April. I wanted to kill him. I got all the easy parts, but I was terrified of making mistakes, which were inevitable. He came down hard on anyone who screwed up, but he was the hardest on me. I was miserable and it was a horrible experience. The studio is much more fun!


Q: Did you ever have the urge to perform a lead vocal or lead your own band?

Sure, when I was younger, but I got involved in the business end of things early on in my life and that is where I felt I would have the strongest presence and do the most good. There was also that small issue of talent that kept getting in the way.


Q: Do you know of any unreleased songs from that era?

There were some, but for the most part, good songs got recorded and used. Others were robbed for their good parts and the rest discarded. There was one song with the working title “Harmonica Song” that was a great song with a haunting quality. It never wound up being recorded. I assume that was because it wouldn’t have fit on any of the records he was working on at the time and it just never found a place to be. Great song, though.


Q: What does Al's Back Bay apartment and the name "Xavier Kirby" mean to you?

Oh! I HATED that apartment. It was SO haunted. Sometimes Al and I were so frightened by something that happened, or scary noises, that we both went running out the front door. It was the creepiest place on the planet and there were times you just needed to not be there – and it’s very hard to try to look cool when you are standing outside, shaking, in your pajamas. I suspect it was probably my hair-brained idea to have a séance type of thing with a Ouija Board to make contact with what/who-ever was making life so unpleasant. If I remember correctly, it was me, Al, my friend Lisa, and Bob, Brad and Stevo from the band. The Ouija Board spelled out the Name Xavier Kirby and that she had been murdered by her fiancée in Al’s bedroom closet (which used to be a dumb-waiter shaft before the building was modified into apartments, as it turned out). Since I was the one who took most of the heat there, I could never be there alone without feeling that I had to run for my life, I decided that she hated men and was trying to warn me away from Al. Al’s version was that she had fallen in love with him and wanted me out of the picture. Or we were all completely crazy. That’s also a possibility.


Q: Did you move with Al to Chicago when Ministry moved back, or did you stay in Boston at first?

By the time he was done recording in Boston and was ready to move back to Chicago, I was pretty crazy about him, but I didn’t really know him that well and I was still reluctant to go with him. He tried to persuade me by flying in his friend from Chicago, who was also booking agent, to convince me that Al could be trusted and that I should take the risk. I didn’t know this guy either and there was no way this plan should have worked on me, but it did and I left with Al for Chicago.


Q: The infamous Phil Donahue appearance has popped up on youtube. Any memories ?

Wow. This thing just won’t die! The Phil Donahue show contacted Al’s lawyer about getting him on the show. We were told the topic was going to be music business related, and about the new music that had taken over the clubs. What it actually turned out to be was a “punks are people too” defense which we would have had no part in had we known. Phil was not amused with Al and overlooked him for most of the segment. I was shown more than he was. What a waste of time. We could’ve been sleeping.


Q: Can you give us a brief description of what the Wax Trax Store and scene were like in Chicago? Do you have a favorite memory or story?

The coolest thing about Wax Trax was that they were doing something that no one else was doing. Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher were so brave. I almost never do interviews, but I agreed to do one about 3 or 4 years ago on the “Industrial Music Scene”. The interviewer, of course, got around to asking about Wax Trax and suggested that Jim and Dannie were bad businessmen and had run the label into the ground financially. That just made me angry. I had to remind him that they had run a successful record store for years selling music that did not have wide appeal. When they started a label, it was to do things differently than the others – the way they felt it should be done, and their intentions were not related to profit. They sunk more money into things like packaging that were not of high importance to other labels. Yes, that ate into profits, but I don’t think that makes them bad businessmen. They were idealistic and wanted to make a statement more than anything else. They left a huge mark in the music world and Wax Trax stands alone in their style and list of accomplishments. When I got to Chicago, after having lived and worked in New York, the scene was kind of low key by comparison. I was used to the glitz and glamour and celebrities everywhere. But I really came to admire it. People were really committed to the music scene and worked hard to keep the touring bands coming into the city and always promoting new things. What it sometimes lacked in shininess, it more than made up for in passion. Chicago is a great city.


Q: Did you have any interest or were you invited to the Wax Trax Retrospectacle in 2011?

I’d heard there was some kind of event going on remembering Wax Trax, but I wasn’t sure what it was about and I didn’t ask.


Q:How did Al get involved with Chicago Trax? Did you spend much time there? What was it like?

Al had been working with Chicago Trax before we met. If I remember correctly the studio was initially located in Reid Hyams’ basement – I am pretty sure I remember being there a few times. Then it expanded to the building on Halsted (there was some really great music coming from that building) and then eventually the big warehouse. A lot of big names came through that building. It was so large we actually lived there for a while.


Q: When you did you become more associated with the business side of Ministry?

I started on the business side of things with Ministry initially. I was a booking agent and manager when Al and I met and my taking over his business was a natural progression. It worked out well for me because one of Al’s first duties as my new boyfriend was to use Ministry’s down time at the studio in Boston to record what was to be a shop-able demo tape of the Blackout’s for me to take to labels in New York. They got along so well that within weeks most of the members of the Blackouts were working with Ministry and soon became permanent Ministry members. Wax Trax did release that Blackouts recording, but their very talented singer was left unemployed, which I felt horrible about, but Ministry already had a singer. It all kind of came together as it was meant to be.


Q: Could you tell us a bit about the period between With Sympathy and Twitch namely the lawsuit. Were the Twitch songs leftovers from WS?

I don’t even remember this lawsuit. I am guessing that Arista were claiming that some Twitch songs were recorded on their dime. I wasn’t around when With Sympathy was recorded, but I don’t believe that to be the case. I am pretty sure the Twitch songs were all recorded for that album during that session and just prior to that. If you listen to the tracks on Twitch, there is a very different feel to that album. I don’t see how Arista could assume those songs were written during With Sympathy, if that is the basis of the claim you are talking about.


Q: Did you enjoy your time with Ministry/revco?

Are you kidding me?? Hell, yeah! It was turbulent and tumultuous, but it was more fun than I can even describe. I am honored to have had a part in what I consider to be some of the best music to come from that period of time. It was different from what everyone else was doing and so everybody was watching what was happening in our camp. Also, from a business stand point, it put me in a unique position. Ministry was a guaranteed sell-out – a guaranteed winner. No matter what we did, it worked and was successful. That gave me the opportunity to do things in an unconventional way and slant things to our benefit. No one could say no to me because I could just give my business to someone else. We got away with a lot of things.


Q: Is there one tour or band member(s) you remember being especially difficult? Any interesting stories would be appreciated.

I didn’t like the Lollapalooza tour – but maybe that was because we had to relinquish so much control. The pay was crap, but the exposure was great and really worked for us at just the right time. We almost pulled out of the tour right before it started, though. We were set to go on before the Chili Peppers, who were closing the show, and we got a call from the Lollapalooza people telling us they were pushing our schedule ahead by about 30 minutes or so. This was probably because the show would exceed time limits and violate noise regulations…we didn’t much care about the reasoning, we had spent thousands on video production for an outdoor show. A lot of time went into calculating when sun would set and what video or slides would work best earlier in the show with partial daylight. This wasn’t acceptable and I told them so. Al walked into the room and I explained, while the Lollapa-losers listened, and Al yells: “WE DON’T DO PICNICS! Hang up the phone, Patty.” I told them I was calling my crew back and hung up the phone. They called back about 10 minutes later and put everything back as it was. I guess it was worth it to pay the fines. As far as band members go, Ministry has always had the greatest people in the band (and crew). If I were to go out and hand pick people to hang around with, it would have been them. The only person I did not enjoy working with was thankfully only there for one tour - Martin Atkins. What a whiny, bitchy diva he was.


Q: Do you still talk to Barker, Connelly or Rieflen?

I have had some recent contact with Chris, but have completely lost contact with Paul and Bill. I think about them all the time, though. They were a huge and important part of my life. I hope they are well.


Q: Are the number of musicians that have come and gone (in Ministry/Revco) over the years surprising to you? And why do you think that the turnover has been so great?

During the years that I was a part of things, I don’t feel there was any big turnover to speak of. Al worked with different people in different capacities, so it was natural for some people to come and go. Al worked with a lot of people on a lot of projects. Chris Connelly sometimes was, and sometimes was not, involved with Ministry. He was usually involved with the Cocks. They eventually had a falling out, but he was there way more than he wasn’t. I think the worst departure was with Mike Scaccia. Al blamed him for something he was not responsible for and would not listen to reason. I was very happy to learn that they had gotten together again, even though it ended the way it did. Al is devastated. I’m sure he feels very lost without Mike by his side. I don’t know what is going on with current band members. I do know that he has exasperated a lot of people close to him.


Q: What are your fondest memories of Al and the band? When was it the most fun?

There was no period of time that wasn’t fun. Yes, there was work that had to be done, touring sucked, and there were times when the partying got out of control even by our standards, but none of it was anything that I would change if I could do it again. It was an amazing experience, and every moment of the ride was memorable. Some of my fondest memories with Al are of us playing word games or tossing a ball back and forth in the living room talking about trivial things. And watching him play with our animals. Music-wise, it was going into the studio and hearing what they had been working on. I remember him playing back the start of Jesus Built My Hot Rod. It was a brick wall of synths and guitars and it was so powerful, it physically threw me backwards. And the Pailhead sessions. Burining Inside. There is so much.


Q: After hearing/reading about Al's book - is there anything you'd like to clear up or set the record straight on?

I haven’t actually read the book. I have been told by some friends from the early days that he has rewritten history and that his account of things is way off. I did hear some of what was written about the beginning of our relationship and almost none of it is factual – even small things are wrong, such as him claiming I was pregnant before we got married. I don’t think he is so far gone that his memories have escaped him, I suspect he has a reason for telling what I have heard are out and out lies. In my case, I believe that since his relationship with his current wife started before our relationship actually ended, he may have told her a version of things that cast him a better light and now is stuck with those stories. This is easier than admitting that he lied. I don’t care about that stuff. It doesn’t have any bearing on my life. What does bother me is that he continues to portray himself as the womanizing, party monster. He downplays all his best attributes, and brags about things that were always the least appealing side of him. The worst of it, to me, is that he sounds brain fried – like Ozzy Osbourne. I hate to think that his mind has turned to mush, but honestly, when I listen interviews he’s done in recent years, it sounds intentional. I always thought of Ministry as smart music and his behavior now detracts from that. It’s a crime.


THE PRESENT

Q: What are you doing now? What did you do post Ministry?

When I was a teenager, there were two things I wanted to do with my life: one was to work in music and the other was to work with animals. As a teenager, music was by far the cooler choice. When Al and I split up, I had several opportunities to stay in the business, but there was nothing in it or about it that made those offers attractive. There were no bands I was excited about and without the passion, why bother? So I now work with parrots and their owners, trying to help them take better care of their pets and help people with rescued birds bring them around to where they can trust humans again. It is very rewarding and surprisingly educational. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to do both of the things is life that most interested me. Not everyone gets that opportunity once, let alone twice.


Q: Any connection to the music scene?

No. I check in occasionally to see what is going on, but there is nothing that there that interests me. In fact, it makes me sad.


Q: Have you remarried?

No. I really didn’t want to get married in the first place. I hate the whole “ownership” aspect of it. Marriage was his idea and, as usual, he talked me into going along with his plan. We got married at city hall by a woman who looked exactly like James Brown. Right down to the hair style. The joke of the day was “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”.


Q: Do you still follow Al's career or do you make it a point to avoid it?

I don’t pay attention what he is doing. I haven’t liked his music for years now, so I guess it’s fair to say that I do make a point to avoid it. I hate that he went into the death metal thing headlong. I am used to him setting musical trends, not following them.


Q: What kind of music do you listen to now?

Aside from going through yet another 70s rock phase, I have been listening to a lot of movie soundtracks lately. The Mission (Robert DeNiro film) is amazing.



Q: DISCOGRAPHY

If you have time, could you give us a brief description of each release you were involved in and any memories, stories, etc. As fans we mostly want to know what the mindset was going into each release and any circumstances or conditions around each.


Q: With Sympathy

I wasn’t there when the album was recorded, but was there for some of the single remixes. I got the feeling that Al was trying to do and be what was expected of him. His producer kept telling him to “enunciate clearly!” That was really annoying, but he handled it well. And by the way, the English accent thing was more an homage to the bands he loved than anything else. He was not trying to come off as British. The Stones used a southern accent and no one crawled up their ass for it.


Q: Every Day is Halloween/All Day/Twitch

This was all recorded around the same time. Part of it was done in Chicago and part in London. I was pregnant. The baby cooing at the beginning of The Angel was our daughter who was nursing while I was doing my vocal. Crash and Burn is still one of the coolest songs ever!


Q: Big Sexyland/Revco-YGDSOB (What was the show like? Was it as chaotic as the folklore surrounding it?)

I remember the sessions (and our house) being very chaotic when the Cocks were working. Folklore does not even come close in describing a Cocks live show. I described it as something similar to bar room brawls from an old Western movie. It was always walking the line of being out of control and our road crew was always threatening a mutiny. The shows were really hard on them – drunk girls trying to dance and tripping over cords and unplugging things and oh, so much more. Ministry was a much more serious business in the way it was run. The Cocks was Al’s way of letting his hair down, so to speak. It was complete madness. Anything you heard was probably true.


Q: Land of Rape and Honey

This is the album that made people stop and take notice of Ministry. All kinds of new things were happening and it seemed to me that Al was feeling a lot of pressure with this album. He knew he was onto something special and didn’t want to drop the ball. He didn’t. This is also when I became aware of what Al had to offer. He would call me and ask me to find him a pan flute player or something and I would cringe wondering what he was up to. But he never failed to have my jaw on the floor with what he produced during that period. I never questioned or doubted him after that.


Q: Pailhead

This was such a great collaboration. I had my doubts about this working because Ian Mackaye was straight edge and Al was…not. Ian seemed really uptight and rigid in his personality and I wouldn’t have been surprised if it turned out badly for them both. To their credit, they were amazing together, although not destined to be lifelong friends. The name Pailhead was coined by Ian, who told Al he was surprised we had given our daughter a conventional name (Adrienne) when he was more expecting something like “Pailhead”. The song No Bunny was about a conversation between me and Adrienne during the ride home from picking Ian up at the airport. Adrienne, who was probably 6 at the time, was claiming there was a bunny in the road and I kept on telling her there was “no bunny” and that it wasn’t “funny”.


Q: The Mind is A Terrible Thing to Taste

This is a great album with classic Ministry songs and Warners were really beginning to take us seriously. We continually made them money without them having to lift a finger because we did everything on our own in-house. In fact, they never took out a single ad for one of the records until Psalm 69 had already gone platinum. Then they jumped on board, mostly out of shame. We didn’t exactly hide the fact that we found their “machine” to be incompetent and that we were only there to use their distribution network. We did the rest ourselves. Al was no slouch when it came to business. This is also the period when the drug became serious and concerning for anyone watching. In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (Why were some of the setlist regulars omitted from the film and CD?) We were getting a reputation for having a great live show and decided to do a live album. I don’t think the video was arranged with Warner/Sire at the time but was something we were doing on our own in the hopes it would turn out well enough to release. We hired a mobile recording unit and a film crew to shoot/record two Chicago shows so we would have tape and footage to edit back and forth from. I never heard such whining when I told everyone they had to wear exactly the same thing in both shows. Unlike a lot of bands, there was very little post production done on this record sound-wise. Ministry was so tight live that there wasn’t much “fixing” that needed to be done. The video editing was another story. I think we probably had time constraints put on us and had to limit the number of songs to fit the time allotted.


Q: Beers Steers and Queers

It is really hard to remember Cocks sessions, they were so crazy and so many people were involved. I remember that we had a record release party for the album for our friends at our loft in Chicago. It was called a “barbecue” in keeping with the Cocks theme, but the grill never got turned on at any point. We sent out 40 invitations and 400 people showed up. We had to call the clubs in town to borrow their bouncers and bartenders (we had a huge wet bar in the loft). We had a convenience store stay open all night to supply cases and cases of beer and liquor (which they didn’t mind doing for us at all for obvious reasons). The party started Saturday night and the last of our guests left Monday morning. Typical Cocks bash.


Q: Psalm 69

The thing I liked best about Ministry was that each album was a departure from the last. Every record was heading the band in a new direction and this one wound up defining them – for better or for worse, depending on who you are talking to. It took forever to record and Warners was calling me all the time asking if there wasn’t some way to speed things up (they already understood it was pointless to make demands). I kept telling them to relax and that this one was going to be worth the wait. They had grown to trust me because I was reasonable and played fair with them. They told me many times that if it weren’t for me and Paul Barker they would have been scared off year prior. Al could be such a pain in the ass and so stubborn. In exchange for a lesser recording budget, Ministry had complete artistic control. It was an arrangement that was worth every dime. If Warner’s had any part in the decision making, Ministry would have been something else altogether.

 


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