Artist Spotlight: Jourgensen / Barker / Connelly / Rieflin (or; The Ministry Industrial Complex) [Part 5 of 10]

Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here. Part 4 here.

Pigface – Gub (1991)

After the tour for The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste was completed, drummers Martin Atkins and Bill Rieflin started a new project called Pigface, which seems to have run from the tour bus directly into the studio. Usually, the reason for the project is stated as being to dispel any notions of “band chemistry” by members, by having a different “line-up” for every track. It has been stated, however, that part of the reason was that Ministry’s hired hands wanted to blow off some steam after getting free from Al Jourgensen’s oppression on tour.

Most perplexing of all, was that the group hired Chicago native Steve Albini to record and engineer the album. While it’s well established that Albini hates nearly almost everything, he was especially vocal in his disgust for Jourgensen, Wax Trax!, and the entire scene, saying “Unrelentingly stupid music in every incarnation. It takes a worldview clouded by inexperience to get anything out of this crap. It’s phony and borrowed and dress-up and superficial on every level.”  To Albini’s credit, he did single out bassist Paul Barker, Atkins, Rieflin, and future Ministry drummer Rey Washam as being “great musicians”. So, there’s that.

Gub’s studio sessions were fraught with disagreements and arguments, which is to be expected with the amount of talent involved. In addition to Rieflin and Atkins, there was vocalist Chris Connelly, guitarist William Tucker, Barker, vocalist Ogre (Skinny Puppy), vocalist En Esch (KMFDM), David Yow (Jesus Lizard), and a baby Trent Reznor before he was a household name.

The album is a hot mess, but it’s not without its charms.  Connelly’s songs are the best of the bunch, but he’s expressed he doesn’t care for the album. As a whole, it’s interesting in just how primitive the whole thing is.

Chris Connelly – Whiplash Boychild (1991)

Running concurrently with the Gub sessions, Connelly was hitting the studio once or twice a week to work on what would become his first solo album, with contributions from Rieflin and Tucker. Connelly was aiming for something as a departure with his work with Ministry and Revolting Cocks (“I had no interest in doing what many people from bands do when making solo albums – i.e. sound exactly like the bands they are from”). The result is an album with heavy David Bowie and Scott Walker influences, two artists he has never been shy of showing his fondness for.

It seems that with the implementation with Web 2.0, a lot of the earlier interviews and things for artists has just evaporated with the deletion of the GeoCities and Angelfire sites, so there isn’t much about this album out there, not even in Connelly’s book. Whiplash Boychild is somehow a whole album, yet its songs are disparate, with only Connelly’s voice truly tying it together.

Ministry – Jesus Built My Hotrod (1991)

Ministry had gone into Chicago Trax studio, and they were having long marathon recording sessions, same as they always had for their previous albums, attempting to create the follow up to The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. By this time, Rigor Mortis guitarist Mike Scaccia was more or less a part of the band now (but listed as “additional personnel”, as is tradition). Unfortunately, Jourgensen was deep into his heroin addiction, and again, still not as bad as it would get. The group’s entire advance of $750,000 had been shoved up the arms of Jourgensen and Scaccia.

Connelly has been working feverishly on a track, the track that was closest to being complete, but he was not able to wrap his head around it. He rewound the tape over and over, trying to make progress on it, but was unable to do so. Meanwhile, the pressure from Sire Records was mounting, as they were desperately looking for something to show for their investment.

At the same time, Jourgensen had been to the local stop of the inaugural Lollapalooza tour, which had featured Nine Inch Nails. Jourgensen went to get some face time with Trent Reznor, but instead, ended up hanging out with Butthole Surfers vocalist Gibby Haynes. Jourgensen invited Haynes to the studio to hang out. Jourgensen decided to see if Haynes could contribute to the track, and sat the shit-faced singer in front of the microphone, and played the track. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is how “Jesus Built My Hotrod” was born (the “lyrics” would be recycled into Butthole Surfers’ “Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales”). Connelly, for his part, wasn’t too bothered by the resolution on the track, “It’s so crassly catchy, what’s not to love?”

Sire was frustrated with the band, and demanding something to show for their investment. Jourgensen sent them the only things they had. In an attempt to recoup some of their expenses, the label released the single, which became a huge seller, selling some 138,000 copies almost immediately (as of 2013, over 1.5 million copies).

The B-side, “TV Song”, was just a tossed off experiment where Rieflin and Scaccia were playing as fast as they possibly could.  Connelly threw some lyrics together, which were then sung (shouted) by Jourgensen: “Connect the god damned DOOOOOOOOOTSSSSS!”

Chris Connelly – Phenobarb Bambalam (1992)

While working on trying to write something for what would become “Jesus Built My Hotrod”, Connelly wasn’t coming up with nothing. He just wasn’t coming up with anything that would work with that song. So, he was working on his second solo album at the same time he was working on what would become Ministry’s Psalm 69. Ultimately, it would be a good thing for Connelly, as Barker let him know that every thing they had done for Psalm 69 was being scraped, except for the two track that had already been released on the single.

Connelly’s band during this time was comprised of Atkins on drums, Stuart Zechman (future Stabbing Westward, but only on their debut Ungod) on bass, and Chris Bruce on guitar. Bruce would later play with George Clinton, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Seal (he played on “Kiss from a Rose”). Connelly later said, “It was amazing to play with a guitarist who was playing with empathy and intuition, and not his dick.”

During the recording of the album, Connelly’s girlfriend had committed suicide. He was actually questioned by the police under suspicion of foul play, as his girlfriend was married. She and her husband were separating anyway, and she and Connelly had put down a deposit on an apartment when this happened, her husband found letters and pictures of them together, and turned the police Connelly’s way. After getting this cleared up, Connelly went into the studio and recorded all of the vocals in four hours, and refusing to do overdubs. William Tucker attempted to get Connelly to re-record some of his vocals, but it was no use.

Released some time in 1992 (I’ve been able to nail down a definite date), Connelly pretty much disavows the album. It’s a shame, because the album is urgent and emotional, and it follows that Bowie path with a slight bit more aggression. “Ignition Times Four” and “Dirtbox Tennessee” are as close as Connelly’s solo work ever get to RevCo territory. “July”, which was the single, is an emotional and raw vocal performance. There are some great, slow numbers as well, such as “Too Good to Be True” and “Heartburn”.

The album has been out of print forever, it’s not on Spotify, and it’s not available digitally on Amazon. But, Discogs does have some copies available if you feel so inclined.

Ministry – Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed, and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992)

Meanwhile, Ministry is at an impasse with Sire Records. Basically, Sire has sunk a sizeable amount into the next Ministry, and they have to decide whether to take the loss, or double down on Jourgensen and company. Thanks to the huge sales of the “Jesus Built My Hotrod” single, Sire Records doubled down, and gave Ministry an additional $750,000 to crank out the next album. Jourgensen was actually disappointed, because now he was going to have to actually do some work (his words, not mine).

Connelly, is more or less not involved with Ministry at this point, but still part of RevCo. Don’t worry about him, though. He’s already got out a solo album in 1992, as well as two other things we’ll talk about later.

Jourgensen readily admits that he was too messed up on heroin during the recording of the album, but fortunately Scaccia carried a lot of his weight on the record, at least guitar-wise. The band was joined by former Front Line Assembly keyboardist Michael Balch and M.O.D./Mind Funk guitarist Louis Svitek, as well as returning drummer Bill Rieflin. During this time, Barker took over the business side of the band as Jourgensen was too messed up to do anything of use. Barker ended up moving the recording to Wisconsin to try and separate the band from drugs… but of course it didn’t work.

Psalm 69 was eventually released and was hailed with almost universal acclaim. The album takes shots President Bush (the first one), war, drugs (Is “Just One Fix” a cry for help or glorifying shooting up?), and of course organized religion. I can remember the first time I heard “N.W.O.”, and it scared the shit out of me. The album has an updated “TV Song” called “TV II”, and I find it funny that as much as Jourgensen has claimed to hate Connelly, he mines that vein a few more times.

The band was invited to the second Lollapalooza, which in the words of Jourgensen meant “more money and more drugs”. By now, Jourgensen was supplementing heroin and cocaine with crack, so the point he was literally smoking crack onstage. It’s a wonder he ever survived, because this continues to go on for decades. Connelly went to see the band backstage at the Chicago stop where Jourgensen refused to speak with him.

However, things changed when Ministry was going to embark on their own headlining tour and would have setlists longer than the 40 minutes allowed by Lollapalooza. With more playing time planned, Barker called Connelly to come onboard as second vocalist. Connelly was happy to do it, and had more than enough time to prepare as Jourgensen kept delaying the tour.  Across Europe, Jourgensen went to great lengths to make his drug connections, usually to the detriment of the show. One instance in particular, the band dressed Connelly up as Jourgensen, because Jourgensen was a no-show. Jourgensen showed up literally seconds before going on stage after taking a train across Europe to get his stash. He completely lost his shit, saying that his own band was trying to replace him. The show went on, but Jourgensen and Connelly would never be the same.

Murder Inc. – Corpuscle EP (1992) / Murder Inc. (1992) / Locate, Subvert, Terminate (1999)

Elsewhere, drummer Martin Atkins had joined the reformed Killing Joke, and released Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions. The album was a heavier affair than their most recent synth/pop version.  The band went on tour and then broke up suddenly when singer Jaz Coleman disappeared (as he was wont to do, repeatedly). With a European tour scheduled, Connelly got work of this and offered to front the group.  The European tour was canceled, but the band liked the idea of working with Connelly on a new project, as they had been up and running and didn’t want to sit around waiting.

Atkins and Connelly got together with Killing Joke guitarist Georgie Walker, bassist Paul Raven, and original drummer Paul Ferguson. They also enlisted touring Killing Joke keyboardist John Bechdel (brother of cartoonist/author Alison Bechdel, of “The Bechdel Test” fame). The group started in Chicago, and then moved to the remote wilderness of Minnesota to record their then unnamed album from their then unnamed group.

The band settled on calling itself, and the album, Murder Inc. in some form of compromise that no one was psyched about, but no one hated enough to argue over.  The band, however, had an uphill battle to climb. It seems like they intended it to be a real, ongoing thing, but they had to escape the idea that they were just “Killing Joke with Chris Connelly”.

But the album sounds almost nothing like Joke, despite the presence of their powerful rhythm section (with two Joke drummers) and their incendiary guitar style. The band released the Corpuscle EP ahead of the album. “Murder Inc. [Busted Corpuscle Mix]” was an alternate take of the upcoming title track, with the nasty f-word taken out. There’s also “Mania [7” Mix]” and “Mania [Righteous Mix]”, which the difference is really just the synth intro being longer. The EP closes with “Motion Sickness”, which is one of my favorites, and is not on the proper album… sort of.

Murder Inc. came out in 1992 on Atkins’ own Invisible Records. Connelly’s vocals alternate between the harsh rasp of and the soaring croon… and a sort of rap on the title track, but not rap like the Pet Shop Boys are rap.

Then, coming as a surprise to everyone, Sisters of Mercy were playing a single show at NEC Birmingham and asked Murder Inc. to open. The band managed to turn this opportunity into a five date mini-tour around England, every show turned out to be less than great. The show opening for Sisters of Mercy saw most of their equipment malfunction, and Connelly did a number of songs accompanied only by drums.

Then, in 1993, Murder Inc. was released again by Futurist Records with completely different artwork and a reordered track list. They dropped “Mrs. Whiskey Name”, and added “Motion Sickness” and a Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) remix of “Last of the Urgents”. I’ve never found any rhyme or reason as to why this exists, but of course, I had to have them both.

Invisible Records released Locate, Subvert, Terminate: The Complete Murder Inc. in 1999, but it wasn’t really complete, as it was missing the remix of “Last of the Urgents”. It did add some live tracks from the mini-tour of dubious quality, though.

Pigface – Fook (1992)

Pigface had gone on another tour of Europe, which much like their albums, was mixed bag. During this tour, part of their next album was recorded in London. Fook, which is considered Pigface’s best album, included Atkins, of course, but also regulars En Esch (KMFDM), Ogre (Skinny Puppy), William Tucker (Ministry), with newcomers Paul Raven (Killing Joke, Murder Inc.), Andrew Weiss (Rollins Band), and Lesley Rankine (singer for tour opener Silverfish). Connelly did a duet with Rankine on “Ten Ground and Down”, and Atkins dusted off “I Can Do No Wrong” which had been recorded earlier during Gub. Connelly wouldn’t hook up with Pigface again until 2003’s Easy Listening and their most recent studio album (as of this writing), 2009’s 6.

Next week: The band fractures become deeper, they take more drugs, and Ministry plays its first and only acoustic show!