MINISTRY - CYBER ROCK OUTLAW PROPHETS

By: Mike Heck


WARNING FROM MINISTRY: READ THIS FIRST!

This parental advisory warning has been forced upon the artist by groups hostile to First Amendment rights. If you feel your First Amendment rights are being infringed upon, as the band does, please cut along the dotted line and remove this section of the cover art. Send the removed section, along with a letter supporting your First Amendment rights, to your congressional representatives and/or local legislators. We must not be intimidated by these right wing factions. Please support your local anti-censorship organization or, better yet, start your own!

JUST SAY NO TO CENSORSHIP!

To simply call MINISTRY an industrial band is not only inaccurate, it's false. Anyone familiar with real industrial music, the groups Throbbing Gristle, SPK, early Cabaret Voltaire and former "Throb" members Genesis P. Orridge's latter group Psychic TV, immediately come to mind just to name a few. While it's true, Ministry borrows "tools" from the industrial genre, the members themselves would probably admit that they are not an industrial group; (The evil "I" word).

Ministry recycles many influences to create their own genre of musical self-expression. Their results have come out original and creative and have inspired many groups to formin their wake, which is good; unfortunately most groups try to clone them and end up sounding phony. With the rise of Ministry's popularity, it seems the misguided "mainstream" press will refer to any music with samples, drum machines and sequencing as "Industrial." On this subject, the first half of Ministry, guitarist and vocalist Al Jourgensen states: "I use industrial noises, but so what? I use whatever it takes to get the type of atmosphere I want on a song. I use guitars, that doesn't make me Led Zeppelin."

Possibly a better term to describe Ministry's music would be Cyber-Rock. The fact that their songs supply the information and you, the listener, have to make up your own mind. States Al, "I like to keep the songs open, so people can have their own interpretation. People don't want to use their brains, they want to be spoon-fed. Ministry's aim is simple. We're powerless to make a physical concrete change. We want to make people question authority, pull up their own bootstraps and do it themselves. We're just serving as a catalyst."

The two parts that make up Ministry, Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker (bass & programming), was formed in '81 by Jourgensen and in '86 (after the "Twitch" sessions) Barker joined forming a solid partnership with Al. Though Jourgensen and Barker are the main men of Ministry, drummer Bill Rieflin (who joined in '87 before the album "Land of Rape and Honey") also contributes a good portion of song writing for the group. Mike Scaccia (former guitarist for Rigor Mortis) joined after 89's "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste" in time for that year's infamous tour. While Ministry have different "friends" drop by for touring and recording sessions, the group also had different band monikers to express their many musical visions. Their offshoot bands include: The Revolting Cocks, 1000 Homo DJ's, Lard (with Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys), Pailhead, Acid Horse (which not surprisingly contains members of Cabaret Voltaire, PTP and in the future Al and Paul's country project Buck Satan & The 666 Shooters.

In August, I received a call from Paul Barker. After talking a few minutes, we talked about a friend of mine (Marky) who roadies for them. I told Paul that my birthday was the next day and I would be at the Pittsburgh Lollapalooza show. He said, "great, we'll do the interview at the show instead and I'll stop by the R.O.C. booth to see you and hang out a bit." I get to the show and go backstage looking for Paul while at the same time he's trying to find me on the grounds. (Paul stopped by the R.O.C. booth three times hunting for me.) I finally catch up with Paul backstage where we talk a bit and I find out that Paul is really a cool guy. We hit it off and Paul invites me back to Ministry's dressing room to hang out and have a couple of beers. I'm thinking, wow! What a great way to spend your birthday, getting drunk with Ministry. My interview with Paul wasn't complete, but I had a great day talking with Paul and Al and other members of Ministry. Needless to say, Ministry was the most anticipated group on the Lollapalooza tour and while the Cleveland show was a bit better than Pittsburgh, the band did a great job performing songs from the newest L.P. "Psalm 69" (N.W.O. and Just One Fix) to old favs from "the Land..." and "the Mind..." and even Sabbath's "Supernaut" from 1000 Homo DJ's. Anyone who don't think Ministry was good enough to see at Lollapalooza because they thought the tour was business like...FUCK YOU! It was great!

The following interviews were compiled in August 92, in person and by phone. Al, Paul and Bill all have interesting things to say on censorship, social awareness and life in general. Let's see what's up with them.

ROC: Have you heard of Rock Out Censorship?

AL: Yes, Jello Biafra told me about it. I talk to him almost every week.

ROC: Cool!

AL: There can't be enough anti-censorship groups out there.

ROC: Here's a few issues.

AL: Looks interesting. Any paper with Robert Anton Wilson in it is a good paper. I'll check these out.

ROC: Here's my review for "Jesus Built My Hotrod." What do ya think?

AL: Good review! Thanks! I usually don't like to read reviews. I don't need to get bummed out.

ROC: I noticed you dedicated "Just One Fix" to William S. Burroughs in Cleveland at Lollapalooza.

AL: Yeah. Actually we went to his place and recorded a few things.

ROC: Really? That's great!

AL: We're doing a remixed version of "Just One Fix" with him and probably a video with him in it.

ROC: Wow! That's cool!

AL: Yeah. Hopefully we can get it out soon.

ROC: Definitely! Can't wait! If you like the issues I would like to set up an interview with you, if possible.

AL: Well, I'm not into it today. We're going on our own tour in the fall. I don't do many interviews, but maybe we can set something up then.

ROC: That would be great Al. Thanks, maybe I'll see ya then. Take it easy.


PAUL BARKER

After reading my review for "Jesus Built My Hotrod" (for the CD and promo video) Paul Barker shared a story with me.

PAUL: (laughs) Actually a friend of mine was at the Smithsonian Institute the other day, and he saw, there was like, a Don Garletts' "Swamp Rat" dragster and apparently Garletts is part of an organization called like, (laughing) "Dragsters For Jesus," or something like that. It was printed on the car. It was pretty funny when my friend told me about that. Yeah, Dragsters for Jesus whatever, that is. No but your review was great. That was fairly insightful.

ROC: Thanks man, I guess your management company seen it and said they were going to fax it to you at the studio while you were recording "Psalm 69."

PAUL: You know what, I think we saw that, but we were totally going out of our minds at that point.

ROC: Did you know that one of the PMRC board members was charged with "engaging in immoral conduct with a patient"?

PAUL: (laughing) YEAAAAH! HA! HA! HA! Convicted?

ROC: No, but the board member (Dr. Thomas Redecki) had his license suspended for a minimum of five years. How do you feel about Tipper Gore becoming the next second "lady?"

PAUL: (laughing) She ain't no lady! I think they're gonna have to put a muzzle on her, because I think obviously she doesn't represent the majority and you know, the (the White House) can't be embarrassed and they can't let a fuckin' loose cannon out there.

ROC: When we spoke with Jello Biafra about this...

PAUL: Oh my God, Jello, I love Jello man! He can go on forever! He won't shut up!

ROC: Do you recall any specific censorship problems with MINISTRY?

PAUL: Well there's those fuckin' stickers. See, but maybe you know; has our music been cited for anything as far as the PMRC is concerned?

ROC: I believe there was a few things....

PAUL: ...Ah, I gotta tell ya, this is mysterious. O.K. I own the publishing company that published out music, and I remember I got a request from someone, kinda like pretending to be from BMI, who is our publishing organization. These people wanted lyrical transcripts of "So What," and "So What" is totally profane. So I just looked at this and just kinda thought, 'yeah right, what's going on here,' (laughing) you know. So I just threw it out immediately, it was fucking hilarious.

ROC: Well, I mean what you guys do on the live version of "Stigmata," Al's like "Fuck everybody, Fuck Tipper Gore." Ah, that's beautiful, ya know. You couldn't ask for much more than that!

PAUL: (laughs) Yeah!

ROC: I mean, I wish she would listen to that every morning and start her day off right!

PAUL: I mean, the beauty of the whole thing is like, ya know, the whole tirade keeps going and he's more totally self effacing, it's like, fuck you-fuck me, ya know? It's not like he's telling anybody what to do, you know what I mean? It's like, look, get a grip on it, take care of it yourself, that sort of thing. Look after yourself first.


BILL RIEFLIN

ROC: Since Ministry was one of the only bands to have an anti-censorship warning on "In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up Live," (LP & video), would you comment on your feelings towards censorship?

Bill Rieflin: Well, that's a mighty big topic here. Let me start with something that struck me a couple of years ago. I had the opportunity to go see Madonna when she was in Chicago on the Blonde Ambition tour. I didn't know anything about what was going on or what her show was about, but it really surprised me, ya know. It was really blatantly sexual and you know, tried to be erotic, and there she was rolling around on some bed with her hand between her crotch and there was the huge TV screens overhead with the camera honing in on that 'little bit' there. Not to sound like a prude because I'm not, but to a degree I was really shocked because it was really artless. It was really blatant, it wasn't subtle, which is fine if that's what she wants to do. And you know they'll let anybody go see a Madonna show. A twelve year old kid can buy a ticket and go see the show, which is fine, but at the same time there was all this business going on with the Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, where they were closing down museums and arresting people in...was it Cleveland or Cincinnati?

ROC: Cincinnati.

BILL: ...and I thought there was something terribly wrong when anybody, anybody could buy a ticket and go see Madonna in a huge mass cultural event, and you know, when you look at the numbers between the people going to art galleries and the people going to a Madonna concert it's a little different...um...and they wouldn't let people go in and see these photographs. They were actually arresting and threatening to put people in prison for showing something, and I thought there was a real incredible gap between those two and...uh...I found it really ironic and really sort of disgusting.

ROC: Well, something really similar to this would be what Jello Biafra of the D.K.'s went through with the "Penis Landscape" poster by H.R. Giger, inside the "Frankenchrist" LP.

BILL: You have to ask the question, why is this being done, what the hell are people so afraid of? Are they afraid of seeing something that they don't like, are they afraid their children are going to see something that they don't want them to see, and somehow come out really twisted and warped, are they afraid that children are going to actually see something that might be inspirational or might ask questions that might get them thinking about things for themselves?

ROC: Exactly! I mean that seems to be the big paranoia with the PMRC and Tipper's rules, but what's ironic and hypocritical about this is that one of the PMRC Board Members was charged with "immoral conduct with a patient."

BILL: Oh, is that right, I didn't know that.

ROC: In fact it happened in Illinois. (Ministry are based out of Chicago.)

BILL: Wow, that's pretty good! Yeah, sure I mean there's a real double standard on morality around here let me fuckin' tell ya. I mean, the funny thing about Republicans is that their gimmick is usually 'get big government off your back, pull back on regulations, ya know, just let it all happen without the centralized world, but when it comes to social issues and morality they want to dictate everything. They want to tell us everything! So there's a real discrepancy, there's a real schizm in their philosophy. They're totally fucked up. I mean it's just inconsistent ya know. On one hand they'll say 'get big government off your back,' and then they're going to turn around and tell us what we can and can't see, what we can and can't watch, and if we can or can't have an abortion, and whatever. And true, it's not only Republicans, but the Democrats too. They're making the biggest waves right now. Obviously Tipper Gore is Al Gore's wife, a democrat who started the whole fuckin' mess with the PMRC, huh?

ROC: Which brings me to my next question. How do you feel about Tipper Gore becoming the next second "lady"?

BILL: Well, I feel probably about as good as the possibility of Bill Clinton being the next President. I don't have any respect for any of these people. I think they're all frightening (laughs) ya know. It just means that we all gotta work a hell of a lot harder, ya know. (In a disgusted voice) We have to pay attention and not let anybody fuckin-get-an-inch! It just means more vigilance, it means a lot of work; and that sucks, ya know! It's not like we don't have enough to do, but now we have to police our own government.

ROC: Back to Ministry's anti-censorship warning on the live album/video. Whose idea was it to include that on the cover?

BILL: As far as I can remember, at the time it was Al who put it together. Yeah, that was the band who put that on there, you bet.

ROC: That was great! That was one of the best things I've seen a band do. Very encouraging.

BILL: Well, it's like this.....(disgusted voice) I mean, the whole thing (censorship) is so stupid. It's so totally stupid that the record companies actually agreed to put stickers on their records, ya know, just to get these shitheads off their backs, they compromised themselves. That's my point of view.

ROC: Some of the Ministry releases have had warning labels on them. Most bands are not bothered by this, obviously it bothers you.

BILL: Well of course it does. I think it sucks! I think it's scary! I think it's unnecessary, it's uncalled for! It's repressive, ya know. It's constrictive.

ROC: You know that's great. You're one of the few people in bands who've actually been against the warning labels. Most bands that I interview would say things like, "it's an added bonus, it will generate more sales."

BILL: Ah fuck them man! Fuck them! That's bullshit! That's bullshit, they're just totally suckered man, they're duped! They've swallowed the bullshit, ya know, they've swallowed it and now they believe it, so.....to hell with them.

ROC: It's really great to hear you say that. It's too bad more people in the business don't feel the way you do. That would make the battle that much stronger, to overcome this moronic censorship bullshit.

BILL: Yeah. I don't know, it's like nobody really considers the possible ramifications of the whole process.

ROC: Tipper Gore laid-low during the election and claimed that she was opposed to the PMRC, the very group that she started. We view it as more of a tactic until her husband gets in the White House so that she possibly could impose more power. Any thoughts on this?

BILL: Yeah. There's a couple of points of view to this. One is that since she becomes the wife of the Vice President, she'll be able to sort of have her run. The other point of view is that, as the Vice President's wife, she is not allowed to make waves at all, whatsoever, and that any problems would be nipped in the bud. So, as far as that goes, I can't predict really what may or may not happen.

ROC: How do you feel about kids not being able to buy albums because it bears a sticker or because of their age?

BILL: What do I think about that, I think it's the stupidest thing in the fuckin' world. I mean, give me a break. For me it's like being under the drinking age and not being able to go see a band because they're playing in a bar. Well forget it! I want to see this group and because I'm of a certain age does that mean that I can't experience this thing? Does it mean my thoughts or feelings are not valid? Does it mean I'm less of a human being? Does it mean I love music less than other people? What crap!

ROC: What about certain record outlets being hassled by the cops or "citizens groups" just because they stock or display certain albums?

BILL: (in a sympathetic voice) Oh well come on. You know the answer to that question. Of course it's crap. I mean, it's crap. It's bullying. These people are trying to bully record vendors, record clerks, the record labels and their companies. They're trying to bully them so that they do what they want them to do. They're trying to dictate a certain morality and to say that is the status quo in America, when in fact, it's not.

ROC: Do you have any thoughts as to why certain segments of society are so afraid of certain types of music and try to repress it?

BILL: This has been going on in certain levels, certain degrees now since, ya know, Elvis. Elvis came on and all of a sudden everyone was like, 'Oh, it's frightening, it's scary,' ya know. All of a sudden it's like everybody's fucking sheep out in the country or something. Then it's like, woooo it's the Beatles, look out, long hair. Woooo now its the Rolling Stones, wooo-watch out. Wooo, now its Jimi Hendrix, oh fuck, now its the Sex Pistols, holy shit, ya know. It's just the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. There's no difference.

ROC: Obviously racism plays a key role in this also. Back then you had people like Pat Boone recording horrible "cleaned up" versions of Little Richard songs as well as the never ending attack on rap music today.

BILL: Yeah, I mean there's certainly a level of racism involved in a lot of this stuff. I mean look at what's been targeted, ya know. Rap music has been really hammered on. I absolutely think there is a racist element.

ROC: Are you aware that major corporations like 7-UP, COORS and others are supporting, and in some cases even bankrolling some of the most powerful censorship groups today? How do you feel about that?

BILL: Uh...I'm not surprised to hear things like that, really. Adolf Coors, from what I was told gave office space to the PMRC.

ROC: Right, exactly.

BILL: Um...I mean, what do you do? You find out who these people are and you don't support them. You don't purchase their products or, you write to them and tell 'em you think they suck. I'm telling ya, the U.S. is a consumer commercial society. If the consumers actually put their heads together and decided what they were and weren't going to consume, based on social and philosophical issues, we could turn this nation upside down. But, if you don't know anything about it, then you can't act, and sometimes it's really hard to know what's going on. These people don't like to advertise these things. We rely on folks like you, and the paper put out by Dave Marsh to help us know what's going on.

ROC: Thanks! It hasn't been too easy. Some fundamentalist groups have tried unsuccessfully, to give us problems.

BILL: The level of hypocrisy in this country is so profound. I mean, that's the whole deal; I think part of this whole morality kick is, in part, a smoke-screen to hide the hypocrisy.

ROC: It's refreshing to hear someone in your position sounding more militant on this censorship issue, compared to a lot of the artists out there.

BILL: Well, I mean, why do we have to put up with this shit, ya know. If I want to use the word 'fuck' on a record, why do I have to have a sticker that says, 'Oh it's offensive,' ya know. It's like...fuck off man, people have been using 'fuck' on records for years, and why now! Why now? Things have been going fine, you know.

ROC: Can you recall any censorship attacks with Ministry?

BILL: We've probably had more problems with the Revolting Cocks (Ministry's off-shoot group). We've been picketed here and there. Community groups have tried to prevent us from playing in certain places. Members of Parliament in Britain have wanted to keep us from entering the country.

ROC: For the most part, most of the major labels have done nothing more than play lip service to fighting censorship while caving in to the PMRC and other censors. What do you feel that artists like yourselves and records companies, could or should be doing?

BILL: What should we be doing? Standing our ground, standing up for principles and not budging, ya know. Unfortunately a lot of the time it means endangering your career, and if people do this to make a living, they need to feed themselves, they need to pay rent. Maybe they have families, children, wives, husbands, whatever, ya know. That's a real serious consideration, ya know. Are you gonna give up everything and endanger the well-being of your family? It's a tricky balancing act. It's not easy. But it helps to be of a singular aim.


Editors Note: Wow! What can you say after this? ROC thanks Al, Paul and Bill for this great interview. We welcome readers comments on this and other articles in THE ROC. --JW--

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