Artist Spotlight: Jourgensen / Barker / Connelly / Rieflin (or; The Ministry Industrial Complex) [Part 2 of 10]

Part 1 here.

Ministry – Over the Shoulder (1985) / Revolting Cocks – Big Sexy Land (1985)

Al Jourgensen went to London to record Twitch, with parts already done in Chicago, and then onto Brussels to record parts of Revolting Cocks’ Big Sexy Land.

Ahead of the album, Sire released “Over the Shoulder” (with “Isle of Man” and “Twitch” as B-sides) as a single in November of 1985. Jourgensen is still singing in his faux British vocal here, but the music is much harsher and more electronic than With Sympathy. Sire Records hired a video director who had done the cover art for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The director hired two kids to steal a Mercedes, then hired them to trash a supermarket when the supermarket wouldn’t allow them to film there. The next day, the supermarket had changed their mind (which is weird to me), and allowed them to film the video, which is mostly just Jourgensen being carted around while people were actually shopping for real. Also, this single starts the trend of Jourgensen having single versions longer than the album version, this time by a minute and a half (he does this for every album up to at least Filth Pig.

Also released in November 1985, was Revolting Cocks’ debut full length Big Sexy Land. The album was named after a German porno house that was in West Berlin, with its storefront facing the Berlin Wall and East Berlin. Jourgensen tried to get the owner of Big Sexy Land to let him have RevCo play their first ever show there, but he wanted 20,000 Deutsche marks, so that didn’t happen.

The album is a much more danceable version of Ministry, and more depraved. As Jourgensen himself once explained, if the two groups are at a party, Ministry is brooding in the corner talking philosophy and dragging everyone down, while RevCo is dancing with a lampshade on his head. The album is full of heavy beats and crazy samples, and the bass, especially on “Attack Ships On Fire” is just sick. Also, “You Often Forget” features drums by Blackout Bill Rieflin, which is the first time he and Jourgensen worked together.

After the album was completed, Jourgensen and Adrian Sherwood (Twitch producer) did a remix of “You Often Forget”.  Front-man Richard 23 (Front 242) hated the remix, and quit the band in a rage upon discovering that Wax Trax! had already released the new version as a single without consulting him

Ministry – Twitch (1986)

Sire released Twitch in March 1986, and the album entered the Billboard 200, peaking at 194 and lasting for just 4 weeks. Blockbuster! I can only assume the album was bought by people who were With Sympathy fans… oh to see their faces. The album is a mish-mash of EBM, electro, and industrial dance, it’s largely a mish-mash of players as well. While the album is mostly done by Jourgensen and producer Adrian Sherwood, it does have contributions by his wife Patty Jourgensen, bassist Doug Wimbish (future Living Colour), Luc Van Acker (Belgian Megastar!), original Ministry drummer Stephen George, and drummer Keith LeBlanc, who became an in house session musician for Tommy Boy Records, and eventually was a featured on the bulk of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine.

There was a rift between Sherwood and Jourgensen, as Jourgensen was trying to learn (i.e., steal) his production techniques, which Sherwood was not very happy about. Jourgensen would take notes on toilet paper where levels were set, then after leaving the studio would meet up with Van Acker and start shouting numbers, and then they would try to figure out what they meant later.

After the release of the album, Jourgensen enlisted three-fourths of The Blackouts: Roland Barker on synths, Paul Barker on bass, and Bill Rieflin on drums as the new touring version of the band.

PTP (Programming the Psychodrill) – “Show Me Your Spine” (1986) / Fini Tribe / Revolting Cocks – “Stick” (1986-87)

In 1986, Jourgensen was hired to write a song for inclusion in 1987’s Robocop. Director Paul Verhoeven was a Ministry fan, and asked Jourgensen to write something for the club scene. The result was PTP’s “Show Me Your Spine”. It was an instrumental in the movie, and not included on the soundtrack. Eventually, Jourgensen brought in Skinny Puppy vocalist Ogre to do vocals on the track, but it sat on the shelf for years, until being released on Ministry’s 2004 collection of side projects called Side Trax. But this wouldn’t be the last word on PTP.

Across the pond, Fini Tribe vocalist Chris Connelly was working for a record distribution company that serviced all of Scotland, where he was paid mostly in free records and hash. One of his free choices was Revolting Cocks’ Big Sexy Land, with which he was immediately enamored. Connelly was desperate for any forward momentum for Fini Tribe, as pretty much everyone hated them, they were either too weird or not weird enough. He called the label to tell him how much he loved the record, and asked if he could come down to London to deliver them a Fini Tribe tape (which would be the basis for their EPs I Want More and Make It Internal).

Eventually, Connelly did make it down to London and presented the tape. It just so happened that Jourgensen was in London at the time, and the contact at the label asked Connelly if he wanted to meet him. Of course, he said yes. They hit it off immediately, and after a night of drinking and doing speed, Jourgensen insisted they hit up a studio.  Connelly just put down some lines of spare things in his head, and he added vocals to a demo that Jourgensen had with him. After the brief recording session, Connelly was hired as the new singer for Revolting Cocks.

“Stick” remained on the shelf until it was included in Connelly’s career retrospective Initials C.C. which was released in 2002. Of course, you recognize the song as Pailhead’s “I Will Refuse”, but Connelly bears no ill will, stating “It was an honor to be erased by Ian [MacKaye].”

Pailhead – Trait (1988) / Lead Into Gold – Idiot (1988) / Revolting Cocks – Live! You God Damned Son of a B*tch! (1988)

While the recording sessions for Ministry’s The Land of Rape and Honey seemed to stretch on into infinity, the members cranked out some short live side projects. Kind of like when I would play City of Heroes and then get bored before I maxed out my levels and I would start a new character. Anyway, everything was happening at Chicago Trax studio, where usually the main Ministry project would be in Room A, and whatever else they would think up would go to Room B.

Jourgensen hooked up with former Minor Threat and future Fugazi front man Ian MacKaye for the project Pailhead, despite MacKaye being straight edge and Jourgensen being Mr. Heroin. It’s largely a mystery how they hooked up initially, but they basically did it because they were coming from the same place as Jourgensen was making hardcore with machines, and they also wanted to prove they could do it without killing each other, because everyone knew they were so different.

The band ended up being called Pailhead, after MacKaye expressed shock that Jourgensen’s daughter had a normal name, and not “something like Pailhead”. The band released “I Will Refuse” (with “No Bunny” as the B-side) in 1987, and then released the Trait EP in 1988. The CD version includes both releases.

Around the same general time, Paul Barker had recorded his own solo project titled Lead Into Gold. Lead into Gold is a much more dirge style industrial project, where everything was done by Barker. The first release, titled Idiot, has three tracks. The title track is a cover of his old band, The Blackouts, and also has two new songs, “Hatred” and “Blackened Heart”.

I actually managed to get this, and the other two Lead Into Gold releases, sealed for next to nothing in the early 90s when people were dumping vinyl. The cool thing about these three initial releases it that all of the covers are embossed. I remember showing my dad, who thought the covers were cool, but wrinkled his nose when he asked me what type of music it was and I told him.

During all of this, Connelly was flown back to Chicago to prepare for the first new show by the new lineup of Revolting Cocks. While work was ongoing on The Land of Rape and Honey, this would be the first time that Connelly would meet Rieflin, Barker, and Van Acker. The four got along famously, and managed to create a reasonable anchor for Jourgensen’s increasingly unhinged and drug fueled behavior.

In between rehearsals, Connelly was hanging around Chicago Trax, waiting to be put to good use (this is how he ended up contributing background vocals to the album).  One afternoon, Barker and Connelly went into Room B at Chicago Trax and recorded what would become “Stainless Steel Providers”. The song was assembled when Barker took Connelly through the literal industrial district on the back of his motorcycle.

On September 4, 1987, RevCo played their first show with the revised line up. Connelly had weathered some abuse from people asking him who the fuck he was, because they were expecting Richard 23. Jourgensen did spend the rehearsals perfecting his Richard 23 impression, which Connelly later said was spot on.

Prior to the show, Connelly and Van Acker went to a record store and berated a clerk to play Big Sexy Land so he could write down the lyrics to his “party anthem” “Attack Ships On Fire”.  In the accompanying concert video, Van Acker can be seen holding out his leather hat in front of his face to read the lyrics. I won’t post the video, because it does have the occasional topless woman dancing in it.

Jourgensen claims that the rest of the band hated the live recording and thought it sounded terrible, and they went in and re-recorded it in the studio. I’ve never found any corroborating evidence that it was re-recorded. The live album and video, Live! You God Damned Son of a B*tch!, was released in 1988, and was titled for something Bill Rieflin yelled at bad driver in Chicago.

Next week: Ministry’s “scary” reinvention, and Jello Biafra!