Artist Spotlight: Jourgensen / Barker / Connelly / Rieflin (or; The Ministry Industrial Complex) [Part 7 of 10]

Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here. Part 4 here. Part 5 here. Part 6 here.

Ministry – Dark Side of the Spoon (1999)

Over the course of 1998 through 1999, Ministry was back in the studio with Al Jourgensen, Paul Barker, Rey Washam, and Louis Svitek. During the recording of the album, on top of Jourgensen going through a divorce, he would shoot up heroin, nod off, and then shoot up coke to get himself to keep working. “I was using constantly,” Jourgensen said. “The methadone and heroin had completely destroyed my body. I’d bite into an apple, and a tooth would come out.” Jourgensen states he has zero recollection of the recording the album, or the accompanying tour, but he does know they were nominated for a Grammy for “Bad Blood” (they didn’t win).

On May 14, 1999, Ministry (and Pigface and Chris Connelly) alum William Tucker died from suicide. Tucker had been battling an unknown illness where he was in chronic pain. Connelly offers that Tucker had seen many doctors who assumed he was a junkie looking for pills. Unable to deal with the pain, Tucker ended his life. Tucker had just been hired on to be a touring guitarist for Ministry again for Dark Side of the Spoon.

The album was released on June 8, 1999, and had a mixed reception at best. “Bad Blood” and “Supermanic Soul” were more like their Psalm 69 heyday, and “Kaif” and “Vex & Siolence” could’ve been on Filth Pig. The rest of the album is just kind of limp and lifeless, it definitely feels like a contractual obligation record.

Lard – 70’s Rock Must Die (2000)

In February 2000, when clearly Y2K failed to kill us all, Lard released the EP 70’s Rock Must Die. I have to assume that this is just a vault clearing, as the sessions were from 1990-1992 and 1995-1997, and features drums from both Jeff Ward and Bill Rieflin.

In 2009, Jourgensen said that there would be another Lard album. However, Biafra disputed this in 2010 when he said that they’ve talked about it for years, but the schedules just never align. As of now, this is the last word on Lard.

Damage Manual – One EP (2000) / Damage Manual (2000)

After not speaking to drummer Martin Atkins for about eight years, Connelly received a call from him out of the blue. Atkins had been working with bassist Jah Wobble (Public Image Ltd.) and Georgie Walker (Killing Joke, Murder Inc.), and asked Connelly if he was interested in working with them. Connelly agreed to listen to what they had. Within a short time, he had lyrics written and was recording vocals in Chicago.

One was released in 2000, ahead of the album. The full album Damage Manual was released later the same year. The music is not like Murder Inc. or Killing Joke, it’s very post-punk with lots of dub. In fact, that’s where the similarities in Killing Joke and Damage Manual are, this group borrows from the early Killing Joke style of slathering everything in Dub. The music is good, and challenging, but really it should’ve just been one album. Both the EP and the album peter out at the end, and have the padding of the remixes.

As usual, the tour was an absolute disaster. “I have never known such incredible power struggles and ended up being a mediator between the other three,” Connelly recalled later. Wobble refused to go to rehearsals, and an actual physical confrontation erupted between the other three while Connelly was playing pool with the crew. The first tour wound up canceled, and the group managed to do a week’s worth of shows in the U.S. with Thrill Kill Kult’s Charles Levi on bass, but even that ended up collapsing in on itself as well, for undisclosed reasons.

Chris Connelly & Bill Rieflin – Largo (2001) / Chris Connelly & The Bells – Blonde Exodus (2001) / Chris Connelly – Private Education (2002)

Never one to rest on his laurels, Connelly began serious work on an album with Bill Rieflin that Rieflin stated was a decade in the making. Upon hearing the rough mixes, Connelly said, “I have not felt elation like that for years, I am really thrilled beyond words.”

Largo I guess could closest be described as folk, but it’s really primarily piano and voice centric, but does have some added bass and strings. There isn’t much more to say about it, except that it is practically as far away from “industrial” as you could get.

While the final mixing was being done on Largo, Connelly was finishing up his next solo album, Blonde Exodus. This is typical Connelly solo fare, at least until he started getting into experiments again in the later half of the 2010’s. Being “typical” isn’t a bug, it’s a feature, and one reviewer went so far as to say [paraphrasing] “Bowie would be lucky to be this consistent”.

Since everything was quiet with all of our other players during this time, Connelly finally got around to putting out his voice & guitar only album, Private Education.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

In 2000, director Stanley Kubrick called Jourgensen personally to ask him to have Ministry in his new film. Jourgensen hung up on Kubrick thinking it was a prank. Kubrick had been a fan of “Thieves” and the way they used samples from Full Metal Jacket. Jourgensen agreed, because, who wouldn’t? Unfortunately, Kubrick died a few weeks later. When Steven Spielberg took over the film, and was reviewing the notes, he saw that Ministry was slated to be in the film. Kathleen Kennedy called to make sure they were going to still be in the film, and they said they would.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence came out 2001, and the band “performs” in the film at the Flesh Fair, where the humans delight in destroying the androids, or mechs, or replicants, or whatever the hell they call them in that movie.  The single, “What About Us”, came out in 2000, and was the final release for Sire/Warner Bros. It’s a good track, but it sounds kind of derivative of “Bad Blood”, but it could be worse.

Ministry – Sphinctour (2002)

Initially, Ministry was going to release a trio of live albums on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Label, but Warner Bros. intervened after artwork was already created for the first release. Well, that’s the story anyway, that Warner Bros. somehow stopped it, despite Sphinctour actually coming out on Sanctuary Records, with accompanying VHS/DVD.

The album is Frankenstein-ed together from various dates through 1995 and 96 while the band was touring for Filth Pig. I’ve never cared for it actually; I never thought the sound quality was that great. I thought they sounded messy, not in a spontaneous fun way, but in a “I-can’t-function-without-drugs” way.

Meanwhile, Bill Rielfin contributed drums, bass, synthesizers, guitars, and programming to four songs on KMFDM’s 2002 album Attak. In 2003, Rieflin contributed drums, loops, and vocals to two songs on WWIII. At some point during this time, he toured with the band as their live bassist.

Ministry – Animosititisomina (2003)

After the tour for Dark Side of the Spoon, they entire band quit, except for Barker and Max Brody, who was hired as the touring saxophonist.  Brody, who was also a drummer, moved onto the drum throne. Louis Svitek was back to recording with the band, and Mike Scaccia came back after the album was released and resumed touring with the band. Also, Adam Grossman of Skrew (Jourgensen produced their debut album) joined up, and only played on “Animosity”, and then was gone, but there’s never been any official reason for his inclusion or departure. “Unsung”, “Lockbox”, “Piss”, and “Impossible” started as tracks for A.I., and the cover of Magazine’s “The Light Pours Out of Me” was a song that the band had covered for a long time. Barker once said that he was in a record store that was playing a bootleg of a Ministry show, and the cover was so bad that he would’ve been embarrassed if anyone from Magazine ever heard it.

The sales of the album were disappointing, and further singles (“Animosity” and “Piss”) were canceled. The band embarked on a tour, the highlight of which was Connelly joining them onstage at one date to perform “So What”.

Jourgensen doesn’t talk about the recording, except to say that he was completely sober during the recording and was completely miserable as a result. He states that he hates the album, and he blames, you guessed it, Paul Barker.

Pink Anvil

Recorded back in 2001, Pink Anvil was the project of Barker and Brody. After the Dark Side of the Spoon tour, Jourgensen was terribly sick in an attempt to get clean, and Barker was depressed as Ministry wasn’t moving forward. The duo was just working on stuff to stay busy, and then unexpectedly been invited to play a rave on Halloween. The duo, calling themselves Flowering Blight, came up with a setlist worth of material and played the show. The duo was immediately signed to Ipecac Records, and changed their name to Pink Anvil. Halloween Party, released in 2003, is basically some avant-garde / experimental noise. There’s not really anything more to say about it, except that “Rubber Suit” has a Godzilla sample.

The duo played Ipecac’s New Year’s Eve Bash 2002, and recorded it, but Ipecac wasn’t interested. They self-released New Year’s Eve Party in 2014. Cubed was the third and final Pink Anvil album, recorded in 2002, but shelved until its release in 2015.

Ministry – Houses of the Molé (2004)

In 2003, while touring for Animositisomina, Jourgensen’s wife and business manager Angie Jourgensen accused Barker of stealing from Jourgensen.  Barker finished the tour, but quit the band as soon as it was over. Now, obviously, I wasn’t there, but do you know of any junkies that can keep track of their money? The only one I can think of is Duff McKagan, and that’s because he actually went to college so he could do the research to find out where Geffen Records spent his money.

During the recording sessions, John Monte (M.O.D. / Mind Funk) was brought in to play bass for the album, but overdosed while rehearsing for the tour. Drums were performed to an unknown degree by Rey Washam, but his performance went uncredited. The rest of the drums were provided by Max Brody and Mark Baker.

The album was released on June 21, 2004 to mostly positive reviews. For someone who hates Psalm 69 so much, Jourgensen sure didn’t have a problem rehashing the thrash metal template for this album (or the next three). This was the start of his “Bush Trilogy”, and all of the songs start with “W” (except “No W”, but c’mon), which Jourgensen said was not planned. Sure. Also, for as much shit as he talks about Connelly, he went to the well of his “TV Song” template with “WTV”. But all snark aside, it’s a pretty good album, and I was actually disappointed at how good it was because I wanted to hate it since Barker had left.

After the tour, Angie Jourgensen would also accuse Mike Scaccia of theft, causing him to quit as well.

Damage Manual – Limited Edition (2005)

Connelly and Atkins attempted to resurrect Damage Manual, without Geordie Walker and without Jah Wobble. Instead, they enlisted Steven Siebold of Hate Dept. on guitar and bass, and Connelly also supplementing with additional guitar. After the release of Limited Edition, the band made two attempts to tour, both failures. The first canceled due to a family emergency for Atkins, the second for an undisclosed illness with Connelly.

The album is mostly really good. It leans more on Kraut-rock than traditional post-punk or industrial, but those elements are also there. It’s also not anything near Murder Inc., so that’s out of the way. It’s not as experimental as One or Damage Manual, but it’s not exactly pop music either. The drums are front and center on this album, and no better example is “South Pole Fighters”, which is just drums with some accented bass and synths, and Connelly’s thick Scottish accent talking about some nonsense. “No Act of Grace” is a heavier guitar rock song, while “Mad Dialect” uses guitar as more of a punctuation to hold up the simple beat and the repeating synth lines.

It also has a remix of earlier Damage Manual track “Expand”, remixed by Can.

Next week: The return of RevCo (sort of), a vanity record label, and Chris Connelly gets creepy.