Members: Al Jourgensen, Tommy Victor, Mike Scaccia, Paul Raven, Joey Jordison, John Bechdel
Alain Jourgensen was born 1958 in Havana, Cuba. He began Ministry in Chicago, Illinois, America in 1981. The original line-up consisted mainly of Jourgensen (vocals and keyboards) and Stephen George (drums), and Ministry's original sound was essentially synth-pop that was more melodic than the music for which Jourgensen would become known. In the incarnation of Jourgensen/George, Ministry created four 12" singles on Wax Trax! Records through 1984 (anthologized on Twelve Inch Singles). Their first LP, With Sympathy, was issued on Arista Records in 1983, and sold slowly. The music in With Sympathy, and the various singles that Arista issued in association with it, was melodic pop, unlike anything Ministry would record afterwards. Jourgensen has always expressed disappointment with Ministry's music during those early years, reportedly referring to With Sympathy as an "abortion of an album". According to him, after signing the record contract, all artistic control of Ministry was "handed" over to other writers and producers. Some of his preferred recordings from that era were collected into the CD Early Trax (Rykodisc Records, 2004).
By the mid-1980s, Jourgensen parted ways with George and the record-company, continuing the direction and sound of Ministry of pre-Arista period. Signing to Sire, Jourgensen performed mostly solo for Ministry's next LP, Twitch (1986), which didn't sell well. The music was danceable electronic music, but wasn't pop music, and the sound was harsher and more aggressive than what Ministry had recorded before. This would prove a pivotal move in the course of Ministry.
After Twitch, Jourgensen made the most pivotal change in Ministry's history when he became re-enchanted with the instrument he had taken up years earlier: the electric guitar. He also brought Paul Barker of the Seattle band the Blackouts into the Ministry fold to play electric bass in accompaniment; Barker would remain Jourgensen's bandmate through what are considered Ministry's golden years. With the addition of drummer William Rieflin, Ministry recorded The Land of Rape and Honey (1988). The LP was a smash success in the underground music scene and is now considered a classic and one of the most important albums in the subgenre of "industrial metal". The Land of Rape and Honey is arguably the best example of Ministry's sound, constructed of synthesizers, keyboards, EBM sequences, tapes, jackhammering drum machines, obscure samples, dialogue excerpted from movies, unconventional electronic processing, and, occasionally, heavy distorted electric guitar and bass. The album was supported by a tour in 1988, the music videos for Stigmata (remix) (issued as a single) and the title song of the album. Stigmata was also used in a key scene in Richard Stanley's 1990 film Hardware, although the band shown apparently performing the song was actually Gwar.
The follow-up, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste was as, if not more, acclaimed than The Land of Rape and Honey. Both albums included similar tight, thick soundscapes, but The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste was slightly harder with Jourgensen's guitar more heavily emphasized. The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste was supported by a tour through 1990, and by the singles Burning Inside (for which a video was made) and So What (a composition inspired by the movie The Violent Years).
Throughout the late 1980s Jourgensen and Barker expanded their ideas beyond Ministry into a seemingly endless parade of side projects and collaborations. Many of these bore Ministry's signature sound and the duo's "Hypo Luxa/Hermes Pan" production imprint. (These side-projects were also responsible for the delayed release of Ministry's next album.) Foremost of these was Ministry's alter ego, the Revolting Cocks. "RevCo", as it was fondly referred to, was essentially the same band plus Belgian vocalist Luc Van Acker. Jourgensen and Barker also formed Lard with Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra, Acid Horse with Cabaret Voltaire, 1000 Homo DJs with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, PTP with Chris Connelly and Pailhead with Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi. Barker released his own material as Lead Into Gold and Jourgensen produced and played electric guitar on Skinny Puppy's Rabies LP. Ministry would also inspire the industrial supergroups of the 1990s such as Pigface and KMFDM. The rarest recordings from these projects were later collected on the CD Side Trax (Rykodisc Records, 2004).
Ministry broke into the mainstream in 1991 with "Jesus Built My Hotrod" (co-authored by Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and Michael Balch). The music video was a hit on MTV, and the band scored second billing on the Lollapalooza tour. As the single would have indicated, the sound of the following LP, Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992), was the heaviest and harshest Ministry had put to record at that point, the focal point of the sound being Jourgensen's and new members Mike Scaccia's and Louis Svitek's electric guitars. KΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, which is printed on the record, is the Greek word for "head" followed by 69 in Greek numerals. The title was borrowed from Aleister Crowley's work: The Book of Lies (Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs). Psalm 69 became Ministry's biggest hit, including in addition to "Jesus Built My Hotrod" the singles "N.W.O." (a protest of the Persian Gulf War and attack directed at then-Pres. George Bush) and "Just One Fix" (a collaboration with poet/novelist William S. Burroughs).
In spite of their growing success, Ministry was nearly derailed by a series of arrests and drug problems. The band didn't issue their next album, Filth Pig, until 1996. For Filth Pig, Ministry stripped all synthesizers and most samples from their style and made the music almost entirely with ultra-noisey guitars and real 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. Filth Pig was supported with the singles/videos Reload, The Fall, Lay Lady Lay (an unusual and unexpected cover of Bob Dylan's old hit) and Brick Windows and with a tour in 1996 (the live performances were later anthologized on the Sphinctour album and DVD in 2002), but was unenthusiastically received and was thought by some to be a lazy effort. Jourgensen would later consider Filth Pig one of Ministry's best records, even though the sessions were remembered as a time marred by his habitual use of heroin (including one event resulting in an arrest of possession of heroin). He commented in RIP Magazine saying that record companies are "enablers", because they won't pay him in crack, they make him go buy it on the street. The album has been considered by Jourgensen to be his response to fan expectations of where Ministry's sound was heading.
The members of Ministry experienced greater devastation when former guitarist William Tucker committed suicide in 1999 by cutting his own throat. Ministry then recorded their final studio album for Warner Brothers, entitled Dark Side of the Spoon (1999), which they dedicated to Tucker. For Dark Side of the Spoon, Ministry tried to diversify their sound by adding some melodic and synthetic touches, similar to the Jourgensen/George sound, to their usual electro-metal sound, but the album wasn't well received. To this day, it is the one album Jourgensen barely remembers recording due to his overwhelming drug addictions. "It felt like I was operating on Dealer Standard Time," he later confided. However, the single "Bad Blood" appeared on the soundtrack album of The Matrix and was nominated for a 2000 Grammy award. The band would record another song, What About Us? for the Steven Spielberg film AI: Artificial Intelligence and make a cameo appearance in the film.
Parting with their longtime record imprint, Warner Brothers issued the collection Greatest Fits in 2001. During 2000-2002, record-company (Warner) disputes resulted in the planned albums Live Psalm 69, Sphinctour and ClittourUS on Ipecac Recordings from being cancelled (although its contents had been compiled), resulting instead in Sphinctour appearing on Sanctuary Records.
With Ministry somewhat active once again, Jourgensen and Barker focused on developing songs for a new record during 2001 and 2002. Ministry issued Animositisomina on Sanctuary Records in 2003. The sound was pure heavy metal laden with voice effects, and matched the ferocity (if not upped the ante, with the song "Animosity") of Psalm 69 (though it featured an almost-pop cover of Magazine's "The Light Pours out of Me").
Barker left the Ministry camp for somewhat cryptic reasons in 2003, but stated in early 2004 that his family life was his main focus at that particular time. Jourgensen then freely continued Ministry with Scaccia and a roundtable of fellow musicians. For Ministry's next album, Jourgensen remade "N.W.O." as "No 'W'", turning the composition into an attack on ex-Pres. Bush's son, Pres. George W. Bush; an alternate version of the track was placed on the multi-performer compilation Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1. Ministry's new LP, Houses of the Mol? (2004), contained the most explicitly political lyrics Jourgensen had yet to author, with songs in Ministry's classic punky electro-metallic sound played messier, more crudely and more freely than ever before. For Ministry's Evil Doer Tour in 2004, Jourgensen teamed up with PunkVoter and Music For America (MFA) to encourage more youth to register to vote in the upcoming national election. The use of the word mol? in the title is quite significant; mol? is a fine Mexican sauce made from chocolate. Jourgensen chose the word because the delicacy is nearly black and resembles oil, a mainstay of the economy in Texas, George W. Bush's home state. The title was also said to inspired by their surroundings in El Paso, Texas, where they recorded the album. The band's 2006 album Rio Grande Blood continued in much the same vein, featuring many Bush samples and accusing the George W. Bush administration of complicity in the 9/11 attacks on "Lieslieslies".
In May 2006, Jourgensen told Billboard.com that the next Ministry album - The Last Sucker - would be the band's swansong:
"...it's also about this corrupt administration. That seems to be my muse; everyone seems to think I write real shitty music when a Democrat's in office. So we'll do that one, and then me and George Bush go riding off hand-in-hand, into the sunset."
Continuing the frequent lineup changes, Ministry's current MasturbaTOUR featuring Paul Raven from Killing Joke, Tommy Victor from Prong, and the newly confirmed drummer Joey Jordison of Slipknot.
In 2004, Jourgensen started his own label, "13th Planet Records". See also: Revolting Cocks
1983 - With Sympathy
1986 - Twitch Si
1988 - The Land of Rape and Honey
1989 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
1992 - Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck
1996 - Filth Pig
1999 - Dark Side of the Spoon
2003 - Animositisomina
2004 - Houses of the Mol?
2006 - Rio Grande Blood
2006 or 2007 The Last Sucker
1985 - Twelve Inch Singles
2001 - Greatest Fits
2004 - Early Trax
2004 - Side Trax
2005 - Rantology
1990 - In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up
2002 - Sphinctour