Ministry was formed in 1981 by Alain Jourgensen (born October 1958, Havana, Cuba) in Chicago. He had moved to the U.S. with his mother while very young and lived in a succession of cities, eventually working as a radio DJ and joining for a while a new wave band called Special Affect.
In 1983, Ministry, then a synth pop act, released their debut album. Over twenty years and many line-up changes later, it had has placed an indelible boot print in the backside of alternative music, leaving their beginnings far, far behind. 1985 spawned Al's most prolific and best-known of the many Ministry-based side projects, the Revolting Cocks. A who's who of industrial dance music and all around good-time guys, the faces in this project changing with virtually every new release.
In 1986 the 2nd Ministry album, 'Twitch', was released, and despite the contribution of several others, Al is listed as the band's sole member. On the album Al took for the first time a more active role in the production and mixing duties, in this case alongside a certain Adrian Sherwood, who more or less oversaw production of the entire release.
After veering towards harder beats and the liberal use of sampling in his own music during the mid 1980s, Sherwood midwifed Ministry's transformation from poppy techno-weenies into the dark, edgy industrialists, as it is known and feared today. It was Sherwood's influence that transformed Al's faux-English pop singing into a distorted, whispery menace, raising the electronic beats in the mix to a mechanistic assault, and bringing in a heavy quotient of noise for percussive and atmospheric effect.
Keith LeBlanc, himself a long time Sherwood collaborator and also in on the Ministry sessions, recalls Al being in London:
"Yeah. Then he came to London and all [he] wanted to do was to pick Adrian's brain. So Adrian kept mixing these tracks I had done for him. And Al kept saying: 'No, it's crap, man, I don't like that' ... A month later Al was in the same studio getting the same exact sound ... and Adrian realized [that Al] had really done a number on him. As a result, a lot of the tracks I did for Al, he didn't want. He just said: 'I don't want 'em, keep 'em'."
As a little known result, much of the rejected material was re-worked and released on Keith's monumental album (WR 005); in all but name, the first album release by the mighty Tackhead.
"So when I came back to London, Adrian said: 'Well, look man, all these tracks you've done for Al - he doesn't want 'em, what do you wanna do?'. I said let's re-work them. And part of those were on Major Malfunction.
Actually, the keyboard player on [the track] 'Move' is Al Jourgensen. I called him up and said: 'How do you want me to list you on the record?'. He goes: 'just call me Dog'. So I called him Dog, right? About two years later he calls me up, very upset that I had called him Dog on the record, and why didn't I list his proper name?"
Al's opinions and claims of the whole encounter are, perhaps unsuprisingly, quite different:
"Tackhead was basically shit that I wrote that was recorded with Adrian Sherwood [during the sessions for Twitch]. I didn't want to put [that material] on Twitch, because on the second side of that album I wanted to go in more of a noise direction. I wound up having all of these songs done, and I traded Sherwood five [of those] songs for three [others] ... [plus] an ounce of speed and some engineering lessons. Then Gary Clail did his shit over what I had already done, and took my vocals off. So, I had the original Tackhead tracks with me singing, which are basically Ministry tracks, because I wrote them. Keith LeBlanc and Doug Wimbish ... guys from the Sugarhill Gang ... are on those. It's really a cool thing."
Ending a brief, not always mutually beneficial, but nevertheless remarkable working relationship with Adrian and associated On-U Sound crew, Dog's final credits were for playing keyboards on the Barmy Army's intrinsically football-themed 1989 album 'The English Disease' (ON-U LP48). Over and out.
(Adapted and supplemented from Steve Huey's All Music Guide entry - as reproduced at www.emusic.com/artist/-/11578598/), a 2004 interview with Al by Gail Worley formally transcribed at www.ink19.com/issues/september2004/interviews/ministry.html and a 2002 interview with Keith LeBlanc by Paul Moore for 'Technology Works' magazine.