Ministry is an American industrial metal band founded in 1981 by Al Jourgensen in Chicago, Illinois. Originally a synth-pop outfit, Ministry shifted its style to become one of the pioneers of industrial metal in the mid-to-late 1980s. The band's lineup has gone through many changes throughout its history, with Jourgensen remaining the only constant as the band's main producer, singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. Notable musicians who have contributed to the band's studio or live activities include Paul Barker, Martin Atkins, Bill Rieflin, Chris Connelly, Nivek Ogre, Mike Scaccia, Rey Washam, Paul Raven, Tommy Victor, John Bechdel, Jason Christopher, Tony Campos, Burton C. Bell and DJ Swamp.
Ministry found mainstream success in the late 1980s and early 1990s with three of their studio albums: The Land of Rape and Honey (1988), The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989) and Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992), with the former of the two certified gold and the latter certified platinum by the RIAA. The 1996 follow-up album, Filth Pig, was also critically acclaimed but did not repeat the success of its predecessors; the album did, however, earn Ministry its highest chart position on the Billboard 200, peaking at number nineteen. The band has been nominated for six Grammy Awards, and performed at several notable music festivals, including participating in the second annual Lollapalooza tour in 1992 and co-headlining Big Day Out in 1995.
Ministry was dissolved in 2008 after 27 years of recording and performing, and Jourgensen had since stated that they would never reunite. However, the band announced a reunion in August 2011, and has released three more studio albums since then: Relapse (2012), From Beer to Eternity (2013) and AmeriKKKant (2018).
Ministry performing live at the 2016 Wacken Open Air
|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
Ministry's origins date to 1978, when Al Jourgensen relocated from Denver to Chicago, in order to study in University of Illinois. Jourgensen was introduced to the local underground scene by his then-girlfriend Shannon Rose Riley, and soon after joined a post-punk/new wave band Special Affect, replacing Tom Hoffman on a guitar and accompanying to vocalist Frank Nardiello (Groovie Mann of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult), drummer Harry Rushakoff (Concrete Blonde) and bassist Marty Sorenson. Following Special Affect's split, Jourgensen formed The Carmichaels, the short-lived band which featured Ben Krug, Tom Krug and Tom Wall (all of The Imports), and did numerous shows, including the one performed on April 30, 1981 with the local experimental band ONO as an opening act.
In this time Jourgensen had also met Jim Nash and Danny Flesher, the co-founders and the co-owners of the indie record label Wax Trax! Records who recommended him as a touring guitarist for a drag performer Divine. After playing a few concerts with the latter, Jourgensen—then living within an African-American neighborhood—had begun to write and record the songs in his apartment, using a newly-bought ARP Omni synthesizer, a drum machine, and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. At one point, he had presented a demo to Jim Nash, who had favored it and offered Jourgensen to record a single, as well as to form a touring band, certainly titled Ministry.[a]
The first line-up of Ministry, assembled by Jourgensen in November 1981, consisted of keyboardists Robert Roberts and John Davis, bassist Sorenson, and drummer Stephen George; initially, Jourgensen didn't want to perform vocals, but embarked on after he had auditioned twelve singers “who all sucked.” Nash had paid sessions at Hedden West studios, where the band's debut record, a twelve-inch single featuring “I’m Falling” and instrumental track “Primental” on the A-side, with the song “Cold Life” on the B-side,[b] was recorded with co-producers Jay O’Roarke and Iain Burgess and released in late 1981 on Wax Trax! in the US. In March of the following year, the single was licensed by British label Situation Two, with “Cold Life” as the A-side.
Ministry had performed their debut concert on the New Year Eve of 1982 in a Chicago-based club Misfits, and, in that year’s Spring, commenced a tour of the East Coast and the mid-West, supporting on occasions for the English bands Medium Medium, A Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club, and Depeche Mode. Meanwhile, “I’m Falling / Cold Life” single had found success in the UK and the US, reaching No. 45 in the Billboard Hot Dance/Disco chart with approximately 10,000 copies as of September 1982,:54 and thus scoring Wax Trax!' first hit.
Around this time, the band drew the attention of the Arista Records founder and head Clive Davis, who offered the band a deal, promising to made them “the next Joy Division”—a claim that Jourgensen later viewed as false. Signing a six-figure, two-album deal, the band—with Jourgensen and George comprising the official line-up—moved to record at Synchro Sound studios in Boston, with producers Vince Ely (former drummer of Psychedelic Furs) and Ian Taylor (former acquaintance of Roy Thomas Baker).
Initially, a 12-inch single with the song “Same Old Madness” was recorded and planned for release, as well as its accompanying music video. However, “Same Old Madness”—both the song and video—did not surface until 2014; instead, “Work for Love” came out in January 1983 and peaked No. 20 at Hot Dance/Disco chart. Ministry's debut album, entitled With Sympathy (also known as Work for Love in Europe), was finished around this time and issued in May, reaching No. 94 in the Billboard 200. On release, the album was supported by two more singles—“Revenge” (of which the music video was reworked from “Same Old Madness”) and “I Wanted to Tell Her” (a reworked version of “Primental”)—and the concert tour during which Ministry was very well received by the large stadium audiences, as they supported for The Police during North American leg of their Synchronicity tour. It was in this capacity when he first met a Seattle-based band The Blackouts—namely bassist Paul Barker and drummer Bill Rieflin, as well their then-manager Patty Marsh, who later became Jourgensen's wife during 1984–1995.
In spite of With Sympathy's considerable success, Jourgensen's relations with Arista were acrimonious, due to Jourgensen's dissatisfaction upon his treatment as a commercial pop artist. Eventually, Jourgensen sent a demo tape featuring a cover version of Roxy Music song “Same Old Scene” before parting ways with Arista, suing the latter for taking advantage of him and his band, and thus violating a contractual obligations by their side.:78 Since then, Jourgensen has expressed dislike for the With Sympathy-era, often providing different (and sometimes conflicting) explanations for his antipathy.[c]
Departed from Arista, Jourgensen returned with Ministry on Wax Trax! as of mid-1984. Jourgensen, whilst being an employee in the Wax Trax! store, went on to record a new material. In Autumn 1984, Ministry embarked on a new tour with a renewed line-up, supported by a Belgian industrial dance act Front 242. During this tour, the Sire Records co-owner Seymour Stein had attended several gigs, trying to offer the band a new deal; Jourgensen, recalling his experience with Arista, declined an offer, but eventually volunteered on condition that Sire will give the resources to support the Wax Trax! imprint; as Jourgensen put it, “it was kind of a personal sacrifice to keep that company rolling and allow them to keep signing bands.” George left Ministry soon after this tour, disagreeing with Jourgensen over increased use of drum machines; George went to form the short-lived band Colortone, and, much later, to pursue a record engineer career. Ministry had released several singles through Summer 1985—“All Day”, “(Every Day Is) Halloween” and “The Nature of Love”, as well as the reissue of “Cold Life”—which were cited as marking Jourgensen’s first attempt at injecting industrial elements into Ministry’s sound. Initially the B-side on “All Day” single, “...Halloween” became viewed as a goth anthem similar to Bauhaus' “Bela Lugosi's Dead”; “The Nature of Love”, which came out in June 1985, became Ministry's final single on Wax Trax!; as of July 1985, the band was said to be signed on Sire Records.
Ministry debuted on Sire/Warner Bros. in late 1985 with the single “Over the Shoulder”, preceding the release of the band's second studio album, Twitch, in March 1986. Twitch was recorded and mixed largely at Southern Studios in London and Hansa Tonstudio in West Berlin during 1985, with the On-U Sound Records owner Adrian Sherwood and Jourgensen sharing co-production duties. Despite the contribution of several others (namely a Belgian singer Luc Van Acker and Sherwood's acquaintance Keith LeBlanc), the album's material was mainly performed by Jourgensen, listed as the band's sole member. Some parts of material, recorded during Twitch sessions, were later used for LeBlanc’s and Sherwood's other projects, most promimently LeBlanc’s solo album Major Malfunction.:20
On release, Twitch hit No. 194 in Billboard 200, and was supported by tour through US and Canada. Jourgensen assembled a new touring line-up, featuring the former Blackouts members Roland Barker on keyboards, Paul Barker on bass and Bill Rieflin on drums. Twitch received mixed reviews, with a music critic Robert Christgau stating, “Chicago's Anglodisco clones meet Anglodisco renegade Adrian Sherwood and promptly improve themselves by trading in wimpy on arty”; nevertheless, the album became viewed as a pivotal point in the band's discography, as it signaled the changes in Ministry's sound. In later publications, Jourgensen has credited Sherwood with giving the music an aggressive edge, as well as giving him the production advices, while considering the record “so Adrian Sherwood-influenced.”
After Twitch, Paul Barker became Jourgensen's primary collaborator in Ministry; until his departure, he was the only person credited as a member of the band other than Jourgensen. Jourgensen made the most significant change in Ministry's history when he resumed playing electric guitar. With Bill Rieflin on drums, Ministry recorded The Land of Rape and Honey (1988). The album continued their success in the underground music scene. The Land of Rape and Honey made use of synthesizers, keyboards, tape loops, jackhammering drum machines, dialogue excerpted from movies, unconventional electronic processing, and, in parts, heavy distorted electric guitar and bass.
The album was supported by a tour in 1988 and the singles and music videos for "Stigmata" and "Flashback". "Stigmata" was also used in a key scene in Richard Stanley's 1990 film Hardware, although the band shown performing the song was Gwar.
The follow-up, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste was supported by a tour from 1989 to 1990. Due to the complex nature of the album's drumming, a second drummer, Martin Atkins (formerly of Public Image Ltd. and Killing Joke), was used. In addition to Atkins, a ten piece touring line-up was formed, consisting of Chris Connelly (keyboards and vocals), Skinny Puppy vocalist Nivek Ogre (vocals and keyboards), Joe Kelly (vocals and backing vocals) and guitarists Mike Scaccia, Terry Roberts, and William Tucker, with Jourgensen, Barker and Rieflin serving as the group's core members. This tour was documented on In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up. Two singles, "Burning Inside" (for which a video was made) and "So What" were released from the album.
Barker released his own material as Lead into Gold and Jourgensen produced and played electric guitar on the Skinny Puppy 1989 album Rabies. Atkins and Rieflin also formed the band Pigface, which featured Barker on several tracks, as well. The smaller of these projects were later collected on the CD Side Trax (Rykodisc Records, 2004), and the RevCo discography was remastered and reissued.
After completing the Revolting Cocks tour in early 1991, Jourgensen with his bandmates began work on a follow-up to The Mind... at Chicago Trax! studios, amidst issues brought on by growing substance abuse. During these initial sessions, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers came in Chicago and recorded vocals for what became "Jesus Built My Hotrod", which hit No. 19 in the Modern Rock Tracks chart with approximately 128,000 copies as of mid-July 1992; considered Ministry’s first and biggest hit, it built significant anticipation for then-upcoming album, tentatively titled The Tapes of Wrath. In an attempt to move away from drugs and find fresh perspective, the band relocated from Chicago to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to record at Royal Recorders studios for ten weeks. After considering the Wisconsin sessions a “washout”, they returned in Chicago to complete the album – now entitled Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs, after Aleister Crowley's The Book of Lies – by early May 1992, with only nine of about thirty songs written being chosen to feature. It was released on July 14, 1992 and peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard 200 chart. Soon after, Ministry joined as one of headliners for the second Lollapalooza tour with Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden, among others, before commencing a tour of Europe and the US, with Helmet and Sepultura as supporting acts.
In October 1994, Ministry performed at the eighth Bridge School Benefit charity concert, with sets consisted of cover songs (most prominently Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay") and one original song, "Paisley", which was intended to be on their next album. Building the studio in Austin, Texas, the band proceeded to record their new studio album in July 1994. After refusing to perform drums on a cover version of “Lay Lady Lay”, Rieflin parted ways with Jourgensen midway through the recording process, with Rey Washam (formerly of Scratch Acid and Rapeman) performing a rest of the album's drum work. In 1995, Ministry was one of the headlining acts for Australia and New Zealand's Big Day Out touring festival. In spite of their growing success, Ministry was nearly derailed by a series of arrests and drug problems. Completed at Chicago Trax Studios, Filth Pig was released in 1996. For Filth Pig, Ministry stripped all synthesizers and most samples from their style and made the music almost entirely with ultra-noisy guitars, heavy bass and live drums.
The songs were played mostly at slower tempos than the very fast ones that were used for the compositions on their previous three LPs, giving it an almost doom metal feel. Filth Pig was supported with the singles/videos "Reload", "The Fall", "Lay Lady Lay" and "Brick Windows" and with a tour in 1996 (the live performances were later anthologized on the Sphinctour album and DVD in 2002). Jourgensen has subsequently said that he was severely depressed during this period, that Filth Pig reflects this, and that he dislikes performing music from Filth Pig.
Ministry recorded their final studio album for Warner Bros. Records, Dark Side of the Spoon (1999), which they dedicated to William Tucker, who committed suicide earlier that year. For Dark Side of the Spoon, Ministry tried to diversify their sound by adding some melodic and synthetic touches to their usual electro-metal sound, along with some jazz influences, but the album was not well received. However, the single "Bad Blood" appeared on the soundtrack album of The Matrix and was nominated for a 2000 Grammy award.:72
In the summer of 2000 Ministry was invited to that year's Ozzfest. They would fill in the co-headliner position left vacant by a failed-reuniting of the original Judas Priest. Ministry was later dropped from the bill after a management changeover, and had been replaced by Soulfly.
After Ministry parted ways with Warner Bros., the label issued the collection Greatest Fits in 2001, which featured a new song, "What About Us?". Ministry would later perform the song in a cameo appearance in the Steven Spielberg film AI: Artificial Intelligence. During the years 2000–2002, disputes with Warner Bros. Records resulted in the planned albums Live Psalm 69, Sphinctour and ClittourUS on Ipecac Recordings being canceled. Sphinctour was released on Sanctuary Records.
Around 2001, Jourgensen almost lost his arm when he was bitten by a venomous spider. He did have a toe amputated after accidentally stepping on a discarded hypodermic needle. Around this time, by his own admission, Jourgensen was suicidal and decided to call an acquaintance he had met years earlier; the acquaintance, Angelina Luckacin, helped Jourgensen give up his massive substance habit (which included heroin and cocaine "speedballs", crack, LSD, various pharmaceuticals and as many as two full bottles of Bushmills whiskey per day). Jourgensen and Barker, along with Max Brody who had joined as a saxophone player for the 1999 tour, focused on developing songs for a new record during 2001 and 2002, with the band issuing Animositisomina on Sanctuary Records in 2003. The sound was strongly heavy metal laden with voice effects, and matched the ferocity of Psalm 69 (though it featured an almost-pop cover of Magazine's "The Light Pours Out Of Me"). Animositisomina, compared to previous releases, sold poorly and singles for "Animosity" and "Piss" were canceled before they could be released.
Barker left Ministry in 2004. He stated that the trigger was his father dying while the band was wrapping up a summer tour in Europe, and also stated in early 2004 that his family life was his main focus at that particular time. Jourgensen's second wife Angelina Lukacen stated in 2013 that he fell out with Barker over the band's finances. Jourgensen continued Ministry with Mike Scaccia and various other musicians.
For Ministry's next album, Jourgensen released the song "No W", a song critical of then-U.S. President George W. Bush; an alternate version of the track was placed on the multi-performer compilation Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1. The follow-up LP, Houses of the Molé (2004), contained the most explicitly political lyrics Jourgensen had yet written, with songs in Ministry's classic industrial electro-metallic sound played messier, more crudely and more freely than ever before, giving the album the most metal-oriented sound of their career. In 2006 the band released Rio Grande Blood, an LP on Jourgensen's own 13th Planet Records. With Prong's Tommy Victor and Killing Joke's Paul Raven, the album featured an even heavier thrash metal sound drawing comparison to Slayer. The single "Lieslieslies" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance at the 49th annual Grammy Awards. It, along with another song on the album, "The Great Satan", is also available as a downloadable content song for the 2008 video game Rock Band 2. In July 2007, the band released Rio Grande Dub, an album featuring remixes from the band's 2006 Rio Grande Blood album.
On June 4, 2007, Al Jourgensen filed a Tortious Interference lawsuit against Paul Barker and Spurburn Music in Los Angeles Superior Court. (case #SC094122) The case was dismissed on October 24, 2008.
Paul Raven died on October 20, 2007, a month a two-day after the release of The Last Sucker. He suffered an apparent heart attack shortly after arriving in Europe to commence recording for the French industrial band Treponem Pal near the Swiss border.
Al Jourgensen remixed and co-produced Spyder Baby's "Bitter", which was released by Blind Prophecy Records in early 2008.
A song titled "Keys to the City", the theme song for the Chicago Blackhawks was released on March 5, 2008. In addition to this single, two albums of covers/remixes, Cover Up (April 1, 2008) and Undercover (December 7, 2010) were released. All of these releases are credited to Ministry and Co-Conspirators, since they feature collaborations between Al Jourgensen and other musicians.
Ministry's "farewell" tour, the "C-U-LaTour", started its North American leg on March 26, 2008 with Meshuggah performing as special guests and Hemlock as an opening act. They played their final North American shows in Chicago on May 10 and 12, 2008. The final date on their farewell tour was at the Tripod in Dublin, Ireland on July 18, 2008. During the performance, Jourgensen repeatedly reaffirmed it would indeed be the last ever Ministry show. Due to a large demand for tickets, an extra gig was added at the Tripod on July 19, 2008. The band again played to a full house. Ministry's final song at this show (and ostensibly their last ever live performance) was a rendition of their cover version of "What a Wonderful World".
A documentary film called Fix: The Ministry Movie was planned for release sometime in 2010. However, the release date was pushed back to early 2011. The documentary premiered at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival. Jourgensen sued the maker, Doug Freel, for failing to fulfill his part of the contract (giving Jourgensen approval over the final cut, along with "thousands of dollars"). The lawsuit was dropped in July 2011. On July 21, the film was screened privately at the Music Box Theater in Los Angeles.
On August 7, 2011, Ministry announced they would reform and would play at Germany's Wacken Open Air festival, set to take place August 2–4, 2012. The reunion lineup featured Al Jourgensen on vocals, Mike Scaccia and Tommy Victor on guitar, Aaron Rossi on drums, John Bechdel on keyboards, and Tony Campos on bass.
Jourgensen told Metal Hammer in August 2011 that Ministry was working on a new album called Relapse, which they hoped to release by Christmas. Regarding the sound of the new material, he explained, "We've only got five songs to go. I've been listening to it the last couple of weeks and I wasn't really in the mood, I was just taking it as a joke. Just to pass the time at first but [Mikey's] raving about it. It's like, dude c'mon, this is not about Bush, so… that part's over. The ulcers are gone and Bush is gone so it's time for something new. I think this is actually gonna wind up being the fastest and heaviest record I've ever done. Just because we did it as anti-therapy therapy against the country music we would just take days off and thrash faster than I've done in a long time, faster than Mikey's done in a long time. He just did a Rigor Mortis tour and said it was easy compared to this Ministry stuff so it's gonna be brutal and it's gonna freak a lot of people out."
Ministry announced on their website that they entered the studio on September 1, 2011 with engineer Sammy D'Ambruoso to begin recording their new album. During the third webisode featuring behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Relapse, a release date of March 3, 2012 was announced.
On December 23, 2011, Ministry released "99 Percenters", the first single from Relapse, and began streaming it on their Facebook page two days later. On February 22, 2012, Ministry released a second single, "Double Tap", which was included in the April 2012 issue of the Metal Hammer magazine. On March 23, 2012, Relapse was released.
In an interview with Noisey in March 2013, Jourgensen announced that Ministry would break up again, explaining that he did not want to carry on without Scaccia. He explained, "Mikey was my best friend in the world and there's no Ministry without him. But I know the music we recorded together during the last weeks of his life had to be released to honor him. So after his funeral, I locked myself in my studio and turned the songs we had recorded into the best and last Ministry record anyone will ever hear. I can't do it without Mikey and I don't want to. So yes, this will be Ministry's last album." The album, titled From Beer to Eternity, was released on September 6, 2013. Jourgensen stated that Ministry would tour in support of From Beer to Eternity, but would not record any more albums. In an April 2016 interview with Loudwire, however, Jourgensen mentioned the possibility of making another Ministry album "if the circumstances are right."
When asked in July 2016 whether Ministry was going to release another album after From Beer to Eternity, Jourgensen stated, "When I was asked, it was after Mikey passed and the entire media immediately starts asking me what is going to happen to Ministry. He wasn't even buried yet. I thought, 'Fuck you.' I was really pissed and really angry. I said, 'Fuck Ministry and fuck you for asking.' They want to comment on Ministry when my best friend had died. It's been more than two years now, and I got more ideas and I have done albums with Mikey and have done them without him. It's time to get another record out. I have a bunch of songs written in my head. I wanted to have time to mourn before people start asking me about touring dates. It was sick. I was bombarded and email boxes were overloaded with 'what are you going to do now?' It was kind of creepy."
In February 2017, Ministry began working on their fourteenth studio album, titled AmeriKKKant. The album, released on March 9, 2018, includes guest appearances from Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory, former N.W.A member Arabian Prince, DJ Swamp and Lord of the Cello. During their performance at the Blackest of the Black Fest in Silverado, California in May 2017, Ministry debuted their first song in four years, "Antifa", which, at the time, was expected to appear on AmeriKKKant.
Predominately considered as an industrial rock[sources 1] and industrial metal band,[sources 2] Ministry has been classified under many others genres, including EBM/industrial dance, techno-rock, hard rock, heavy metal, speed metal, thrash metal, and electro-industrial; their early output has been categorised as new wave, synth-pop, dance pop, electronic dance, and dark wave. In the April 1989 issue of Spin Magazine, an author Michael Corcoran labelled the band as “industrial disco;” in 1994, writer Simon Glickman used this term as well. AllMusic's Steve Huey states that, previous to Nine Inch Nails' rose to mainstream popularity, “Ministry did more than any other band to popularize industrial dance music, injecting large doses of punky, over-the-top aggression and roaring heavy metal guitar riffs that helped their music find favor with metal and alternative audiences outside of industrial's cult fan base.” Despite frequent descriptions of the band's music as industrial, Jourgensen disputed the use of this tag in several publications since early 90s, preferring instead to identify his style as “aggro”, and, much later “industrious”.
Everyone interprets the name, Ministry, differently. Some people interpret it religiously... To a lot of people I’m the Ministry of Assholes and others think I’m the Ministry of whatever. The whole point being that the name conjures up the image of a big omnipotent corporation behind closed doors, in darkened rooms, wheeling and dealing, powerplay type of thing. So to some people the name is along government lines and to others it’s along religious lines, but when it all boils down to it what’s the fucking difference. Power brokers is all that it is, behind closed doors, running your lives. And that’s what it’s supposed to conjure up and that’s what I wanted to generate and that’s what it will always be within Ministry.
With its bouncy synthpop rhythms and lyrics all about woe-begotten Goth life, it's up there to ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ on the short list of universal Goth anthems...
In 1996, after the release of their album Filth Pig, pioneering industrial rock troublemakers Ministry set out on a worldwide tour, leaving dazzled and dazed audiences in the wake of their brutal live shows.
Industrial metal veterans MINISTRY debuted a new song called "Antifa" during their May 27 appearance at this year's edition of the "Blackest Of The Black" festival, which took place May 26–27 at Oak Canyon Park in Silverado, California.
Everyone puts us in this ‘We’re an industrial band’ [stuff]. I don’t know about industrial because I never worked in a construction site or an industrial site. What is industrial? ZZ Top uses drum programming and samples and stuff. Is ZZ Top industrial? I don’t think so. So I’ve never considered us an industrial band. We’re an industrious band. How about that? We’re still around after 35 years. That makes us industrious. But I don’t know about industrial.