Artist Spotlight: Jourgensen / Barker / Connelly / Rieflin (or; The Ministry Industrial Complex) [Part 4 of 10]

Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here.

Ministry – The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989)

Prior to starting work on the next Ministry album, Al Jourgensen had gone to Vancouver to produce Skinny Puppy’s Rabies (which was very divisive among their fan base). When Jourgensen returned, he brought Skinny Puppy vocalist Ogre with him. Ogre had toured with Ministry on the last cycle, and vocalist and keyboardist Chris Connelly had suspected that Ogre was going to be brought in to replace him in Revolting Cocks. Ogre and Connelly have always gotten along well, but even Ogre seemed to confirm these suspicions. “I tend to believe that [Jourgensen] went after many like-minded bands out there, trying to assimilate members of other outfits into the Ministry fold,” Ogre told Decibel Magazine. “Almost a military campaign of sorts to absorb and eliminate all competition. We became friends during RevCo… I believe he wanted me to front that unit and leave Puppy, as I was, at the time, one of the more prominent of the new industrial personas.”

Jourgensen didn’t just plan on absorbing industrial bands. He had an idea for the direction for the next album, and the inspiration came from S.O.D.’s <I>Speak English or Die</I>.  After hearing it, he decided he wanted to get into loud guitars again, and after seeing Texas band thrash Rigor Mortis, he invited their guitar player Mike Scaccia to collaborate. Scaccia declined, as Rigor Mortis was still active at that time.

For about a month prior to recording, bassist Paul Barker and drummer Bill Rieflin went into “pre-production”. It wasn’t pre-production in the sense that they were writing material, they were spending every waking moment watching movies and television, gathering samples for the upcoming album. The samples would play an important part of every track on the album.

Meanwhile, tensions between Jourgensen and the rest of the band were increasing (but it still wasn’t as bad as it was going to get). The band was split, more or less, into a day shift and a night shift, and everything was assembled into working songs later. Jourgensen would take the night shift, and then “The Book Club”, Barker, Connelly, and Rieflin would work the day shift. While Jourgensen was mostly isolated, he did have brainstorming sessions with other members on occasion, but mostly he acted as a gatekeeper, having the final say on what was done and what made the record. Although Ogre did not perform on the album, he did contribute lyrics to “Thieves” and “Breathe”. Connelly also credits Ogre with steering the general lyrical content of the album to social, ecological, and political themes.

(Jourgensen claims that he named those three “The Book Club” because he said they were stuffy and they claimed to have read so many books. Honestly, it’s more likely Jourgensen’s reaction to Connelly’s book Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible, and Fried: My Life as a Revolting Cock, which is a pretty realistic look at the dysfunction of this era. Connelly doesn’t pull punches on Jourgensen (or anyone else), but he also does give credit when appropriate. Connelly later revised the book with additional passages and pictures, and called it… The Book Club Edition.)

The other sort-of contribution of Ogre was the introduction of Angelina Lukacin to Jourgensen, who was a friend of Ogre’s wife. Jourgensen would call her up every couple of days and record their conversations, she would ramble on and on about this nonsense and babble incessantly. Jourgensen assembled some of the conversations into a dialogue ending with: “Do you believe in angels?”, with a demonic voice replying: ”NO.” But what’s scarier, is that Angelina would become Jourgensen’s second wife. More on that later.

Rieflin once said that you could guess, or have preconceptions about, who did what in Ministry. For the song “Test”, Rieflin recorded all instruments and wrote everything. Jourgensen had brought in rapper K-Lite to perform on it, and Rieflin was very unimpressed with this addition, as it was still a work in progress. To be fair, it was fairly far ahead of its time, but it hasn’t necessarily aged well. Jourgensen likes to hype it up by saying it predated “Aerosmith and Public Enemy”, and that statement is wrong in a couple ways.

“Burning Inside” was written primarily by Connelly, and was envisioned to be only vocals and drums. When the song “came across the desk” of Jourgensen, he doubled the length and speed, and added the other instrumentation. Connelly said it was probably the strongest end result of their working process.

The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste was released on November 14, 1989, and was the next step toward their more metal iteration. While it was a more aggressively hardcore album, it really was heavy on atmosphere, which is what makes this one of my favorite albums. I didn’t hear it when it was first released (I would’ve been 13, and I was definitely not that cool), but when I did hear it a few years later, it was not only exciting, but it seemed legitimately scary.

Ministry – In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (1990) / Ministry – Live Necronomicon (2017)

Ministry began planning their 40+ date tour to support the album. Along with the usual suspects of Connelly, Barker, Rieflin, and Ogre, Jourgensen added Rigor Mortis guitarist Mike Scaccia, guitarist William Tucker, drummer Martin Atkins (former Public Image Ltd., future Killing Joke), Jello Biafra, and singer/guitarist Joe Kelly (from Chicago band Lost Cause).

A tour of this magnitude was going to need a suitable opening act. One day, Sascha Konietzko received a letter from Wax Trax! stating that Jourgensen wanted KMFDM to open on the upcoming tour. Konietzko was unfamiliar with Ministry’s music, so he went to the record store, but they only album he found was With Sympathy. Thinking that KMFDM’s music was not a good fit, they left out the heavier aspects of their music during rehearsals. However, then they got to Chicago and saw the Ministry rehearsals with two drums, four guitars, and God knows how many synths, Konietzko realized his mistake. After a few days he got filled in on the then current Ministry sound, and was able to adjust the KMFDM setlist accordingly. “Every night Al fired us. He would get high and then come up to one of the KMFDM guys and say in all sincerity, ‘You’re off the tour’… Patty always had to make peace,” Konietzko recalled, “We would never have gotten our asses over to America, and I would not be where I am now. It jump-started KMFDM’s career.”

On February 2, 1990, the band recorded and filmed a show in Merillville, Indiana with hopes of releasing it in the future. Sire Records wasn’t involved initially, but did end up putting out a trimmed version of the show. The result was a live EP and a home video (only ever released on VHS) called In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up, which is a great title for a live record. Both were eventually released in September of 1990.

The show itself, however, was significantly longer than what was released on the album. The album is only six songs, and features lots of overdubs. The video is eight songs, adding “Breathe” at the beginning (with its kickass drum into), a Jello Biafra spoken word bit in the middle, and “Land of Rape and Honey” near the end. Some sources site that the band had to wear the same clothes the night after this show so they could have enough video coverage for the VHS release, which they were pretty pissed off about.

In 2017, Cleopatra Records apparently got the keys to Jourgensen’s live vault because they released nearly the complete show as Live Necronomicon, with the overdubs removed. It includes to Pailhead songs (sung by Joe Kelly), a Skinny Puppy cover (“Smothered Hope”), two Lard songs (sung by Jello, natch), and a cover of Public Image Ltd’s ”Public Image”. The only things missing from making this show 100% complete is the performance of Revolting Cocks’ “Stainless Steel Providers” (released as a RevCo B-side, and added onto the 2004 remaster of You God Damned Son of a B*tch), Biafra’s two spoken word pieces (on of which has never been released), and a tease of an unknown country song (also never released). It was most likely trimmed down in the earlier Sire version because they weren’t looking to promote songs by bands that were releasing songs on Wax Trax! or Alternative Tentacles.

(I say Cleopatra has the keys to the Jourgensen vault because they released two other Ministry live albums, 2015’s Toronto 1986 and 2019’s Chicago / Detroit 1982, which I cannot believe he let out. Jourgensen must’ve been hard up for cash.)

Lead Into Gold – Chicks & Speed: Futurism (1990) / Lead Into Gold – Age of Reason (1990)

It was more natural to talk about the live albums and tour with The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, but we need to double back and talk about the other albums of 1990.

Not sure when these came out, people aren’t exactly talking about these, but Barker’s Lead Into Gold released the EP Chicks & Speed: Futurism and the album Age of Reason. They have one song in common, “Faster Than Light” (which has Trent Reznor in the video but he’s not on it), although the single version is about a minute longer. Most of the releases are heavy, and dirge-y. They aren’t always the easiest to listen to, but I think it’s an interesting cousin to the Ministry sound.

The CD version of Chicks includes the earlier Idiot single, but the vinyl and CDs are all out of print. You can usually find them pretty cheap though, it’s not like people are tripping over themselves for these. I did manage to trick some college friends who weren’t into this music to email TVT Records (who were the rights owners at the time) and request a reissue. It didn’t work, obviously, and she said, “I did that thing you asked, but I don’t really understand it.”

Lard – The Last Temptation of Reid (1990)

Lard is back with more of the same, but this time the aggression is turned up to eleven. Ok, maybe ten and a half. I’ll explain. The album is heavier than The Power of Lard EP, but it could just be because there’s more of it. It’s all a billion samples, thrashing guitars, and Biafra ranting like an absolute lunatic over the top of it all. Jourgensen, Barker, Biafra, and Ward (and Rieflin on “Mate Spawn and Die”) do a good job of holding it down and making it an engaging listen, at least for the first two-thirds. But, near the end, it devolves into the dirge like material of “Time To Melt”, but mercifully shorter than thirty-two minutes. The cover of “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” is fun at first, but overstays its welcome. While album closer, “I Am Your Clock”, is typical Biafra nonsense. However, anything that gets Biafra into doing actual music should be commended.

Revolting Cocks – Beers, Steers + Qveers (1990)

The next big RevCo album was released in May 1990, but was recorded in small pieces here and there over a span of 3 years, as part of the batch recording the collective was doing at that time. The single for “Stainless Steel Providers” was released in 1988, which is why it was included in the earlier Ministry tour.  The B-side is “At the Top”, a song written by Van Acker and Connelly, and it’s one of my favorites.

RevCo had plans for a double A-side single, the first song being a cover of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”, and the other being Rod Stewart’s “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” The idea was that both songs were sung by these upstanding, adult contemporary singers, but were also pretty trashy. Unfortunately, the songwriter of “Physical” threw an absolute fit over some new, more scandalous lyrics. Connelly re-did the lyrics and vocals at the 11th hour for “Physical”, and included it on the album. The “banned” version would eventually be released (not sure how that changed or why), and “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” ended up being shelved for a few more years.

The album also has a studio version of “In the Neck”, one of the first things Connelly wrote and sang for the band. There’s also a punishingly long jam with Ogre on vocals for “Get Down”. One thing that I really like about the album as a whole, as that as trashy as it is, it has some super great gems buried in it like “Razor’s Edge” (with a vocal by Luc Van Acker — the Belgian Megastar!), and “Something Wonderful” with its sick baseline.

Next week: Solo albums, more side projects, and $750,000 worth of drugs!