by Johnny Papan
VANCOUVER – “The easiest way to rule somebody is to divide and conquer the populous by fear. Turn society one against the other. That’s part of the old fascist playbook, it’s the very first thing you do. You sign onto the free press, you divide and conquer. Now it’s being weaponized by the internet.”
AmeriKKKant is the fourteenth studio record to be released by industrial-metal outfit Ministry. This album is an audio articulation of aggression felt by many working-class people around the world. Its distorted sound frequencies, pounding bass and in-your-face, guttural vocals scream an atmosphere of internalized dread and frustration. It’s a social comment on the world we live in and the greed, idiocy, and fascism displayed by many of its political leaders. The album’s opening track “I Know Words” features warped sound bites of the current President of the United States, who many would consider the official mascot of today’s planetary political fuckery.
“It’s become one of those moments like: ‘Where were you when Kennedy got shot? Where were you when man landed on the moon? Where were you when Trump got elected?” explains frontman Al Jourgensen, who served as songwriter and producer of his band’s new album. “I went to bed at around six o’clock that night [when Trump was elected] because I knew that he was going to win. I could see the way things were going. It’s not just Trump, it’s society as a whole. If you look at Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, the Philippines, I could see how the world is trending. His inauguration is when I thought, ‘You know what? I’m gonna make a fuckin’ album about this. Man, this is some fucked up shit going on around here.’”
AmeriKKKant’s artwork features the iconic Statue of Liberty, a symbol meant to represent American freedom, using her hand to cover her face in embarrassment as fighter jets fly over a smouldering New York City. Although AmeriKKKant’s text is in white, the three K’s, signifying the Ku Klux Klan white supremacy group, is highlighted in red, the colour sported by the Republican political party Trump leads. The Statue’s tabula ansata, which in reality has the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence inscribed in it, emits smoke from a fresh bullet-hole.
“Trump was my muse, but this album is not about him,” Jourgensen claims. “Trump is just an indicator of what’s going on, he’s sounding the alarm. We have much bigger problems than Trump, but he’s symbolic of the systematic problem that we have.” He continues: “This album is more about getting towards systematic change; it goes a little bit deeper than just a bunch of Trump sound bites, but he’s the perfect person to represent how society is going right now.”
Titles of tracks on the album confirm Jourgensen’s musings. Songs like “Victims of a Clown,” “Wargasm,” “We’re Tired of It,” and “Twilight Zone” indicate that Jourgensen feels he’s living in an episode of that very mind-bending 1960s anthology series. The record’s first single, “Antifa,” inspired by the extremist anti-fascism movement, has stirred a slew of controversy.
“The Antifa movement needs to be explained to North Americans because we’ve never had an overtly fascist ruler like we have now,” he says. “Antifa is short for anti-fascist. In 1930s Europe, it became really prevalent against the [Francisco] Franco regime in Spain. Against Mussolini in Italy. Against Hitler.”
Controversy draws from Antifa’s motto, which is to oppose fascism through direct action. The conglomeration has embarked on militant protest tactics which often include property damage and physical violence. Though Jourgensen supports the group’s ideologies in standing up for themselves, he thinks their fight fire with fire approach is the wrong way to go about getting their message across.
“The problem [with Antifa] is a lot of the tactics that they use are the same things they’re rallying against: ‘If you see a skinhead on the street, beat him up,’”says Jourgensen. “Don’t beat him up, talk to him. I’m not for or against the group, but I am very against fascism and I am for people standing up for their own individual rights.”
The touchiness behind the song and music video has resulted in some online backlash.
“Of course there’s going to be a lot of negative pushback,” he says. “A lot of that comes from robot trolls. They just want to stir the pot and keep people mad at each other, and it’s ridiculous. The internet started out as a phenomenal concept. What was once called ‘the Age of Information’ has now become the age of disinformation. What started out as a knowledge building facility has been destroyed. People are more concerned about how many likes they got on sharing a YouTube video of cats playing piano than they are of the system taking away their pension, their health care, or putting a nuclear waste dump on where they live. [The internet] has been weaponized and used by governments for their own agendas to keep people in their place while they make profits.”
At this time, the dynamic of American politics remains unclear. With Trump’s win, some celebrities including Kanye West and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have stated their interest in running for president, bringing up the question of whether or not government is on the verge of becoming nothing but a popularity contest for the rich and famous.
“All of these celebrities are really uneducated on the grey issues of world politics and the subtleties of ruling,” Jourgensen says. “Nothing is black and white, and to have these people running, it trivializes everything. What is politics now? Oprah, Kanye, Trump: it’s all the same. I’m sure they all have different opinions and everything, but they’re not suited for doing anything about this. I don’t think celebrities should run for office, but I do think they should have a voice, just like an auto worker in Flint, Michigan should have a voice. I think politics have been trivialized to where we don’t even believe in it. We have nothing that we believe in anymore.”
“We need to make systematic change,” Jourgensen concludes. “I think a lot of that starts in individual self and cosmic awareness. I don’t mean to get all hippy on you but they can change all the institutions they want. People need to start really thinking deeper; in other words, the human race has to start playing chess instead of checkers.”
Ministry performs at the Vogue Theatre (Vancouver) on March 29 at Union Hall (Edmonton) March 31 and the Palace Theatre (Calgary) on April 1.Ministry, Palace Theatre, The Vogue Theatre, Union Hall