follow us in feedly
Helmets of blood: The Lost Gospels of Al Jourgensen
03.22.2017
11:03 am

Topics:
Books
Drugs
Music

Tags:
Drugs
industrial music
Ministry


 
First of all, let’s face it, there is no way to overestimate Ministry’s influence on rock ‘n’ roll. For one brief moment in time (let’s say 1988), they were the heaviest band on the planet, and they are clearly the greatest industrial-rock band of all time (unless you include fire tricks, then obviously Rammstein). And probably the best part about it is that they’ve been shepherded for the past thirty-something years by a complete maniac.

“God, I hate that guy. And he owes me an ass-fuck.”
- Al Jourgensen on Robert Plant

Frontman/chief-strategist/visionary Al Jourgensen started Ministry in Chicago in 1981. Originally they were a soppy synth-pop band (see 1983’s With Sympathy album, still a dancefloor fave among less sociopathic new-wavers), but as the 80s wore on, the drugs and the guitars and the psychiatric disorders took hold and by 1987’s Land of Rape and Honey album, the sound and vision had evolved into an ear-bleeding digital acid-metal nightmare. Shows became war zones. The band ushered in the 90s with hardcore sex and violence and enough Marshall stacks to topple the New World Order. Throughout it all, Jourgensen crawled through the muck of his own tortured psyche, drowning his psychosis with more psychosis in an endless orgy of sex, drugs and debauchery. And in 2013, he spilled the beans in a tell-all autobio, The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen,  that would swear even the most hardened drug enthusiast into a life of quiet sobriety. I mean, this is how the goddamn book starts:

“All that came out of me was blood, and there was so much pouring out of my dick and asshole that I started to panic. I didn’t want the toilet to overflow, so I took off the helmet, held it to my ass, and let the blood pour in there. I fell off the toilet and I tried to put the helmet back on, and about twelve ounces of blood matted down my hair and ran down my face, pooling with the blood that was dribbling out of my face and nose.”

 

A Young Al Jourgensen (with Stephen “Stevo” George) in his pre-pissing blood pretty boy days
 
Given that audacious opener, you may be expecting a redemption story. Well, he eventually gets his teeth fixed, but that’s about it. Mostly it’s just full-tilt gonzo, all the time. Just ask Butthole Surfers’ megaphone abuser Gibby Haynes, who is no stranger to bad craziness himself. Touring with Ministry was heavy even for him.

“I had never really done that, where it was girls, hotel rooms, girls, blowjobs. There were so many girls and so many drugs, so much nudity. I was lying on the floor, and Al glanced over at me and went, ‘Nice cock, Haynes.’ I was like, ‘Aw man, no one’s ever told me that before.’ That’s so sweet. It might not be true, but it’s nice to hear.”

Hayne is not exaggerating, either. There’s an incredible amount of really weird, gross group sex on display in this book, most of it involving Jourgensen, it being his autobiography and all.

“One night I fucked a paraplegic chick in a wheelchair. I think she had Parkinson’s. So she’s blowing a guy in our crew and I’m fucking her. She’s wearing a colostomy bag, and I was naturally curious. I stopped fucking her for a second and I started squeezing the bag back into her.”

And as soon as the fucking is over, the drugs, booze, paranoia and craziness starts back up. And it’s not just Jourgensen. Most of his cohorts are just as nuts. Here’s a snapshot from the book of life with Pigface/Ministry singer Chris Connolly:

“One day Chris comes running over, sweating and all freaked out, saying skinheads attacked him. I grabbed some pepper spray and a baseball bat; I didn’t have a gun back then. I go running outside to confront these skinheads who harassed my new vocalist. It was two ten-year-olds on their bikes. I asked him, ‘is that what harassed you?’ And he said yeah. I was like, “They’re ten-year-olds with tennis rackets. I don’t waste pepper spray on ten-year-olds.”

 

El Duce, only just slightly more epically fucked than the guy from Ministry
 
He also spent more time with Mentors’ frontman El Duce than anybody in their right mind would.

“A couple of times he passed out in the aisle of the drugstore after stealing mouthwash. They’d arrest him and then we’d have to bail him out for being drunk in Walgreens. You can’t tell me that’s not cool, man.”

S’pose not!
 

What does this man have in common with Al Jourgensen? It might not be the first thing that comes to mind…

More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
Al Jourgensen and Gibby Haynes were Timothy Leary’s psychedelic guinea pigs


via Timothy Leary Archives
 
I knew Al Jourgensen and Dr. Timothy Leary were friends. Leary’s voice opened the Revolting Cocks’ Linger Ficken’ Good (see below), and when I saw Ministry at the Hollywood Palladium a couple weeks before Leary’s death in ‘96, Jourgensen announced from the stage that Tim was in the building. Jourgensen writes in his memoir that at the Palladium, he and Leary “hung out with Joe Strummer and Captain Sensible, and the four of us did more cocaine than you can fit onto a picnic table.”

But I was unprepared for the revelation, dropped as casually as a handkerchief two-thirds of the way through the same book, that Jourgensen lived with Leary for two years in the mid-90s, during which time both he and Gibby Haynes were test subjects for Leary’s experiments with psychedelics.

In the context of the book, this comes as a piece of good news, because at least Al is getting something like a doctor’s care. Fix, the depressing documentary filmed on Ministry’s Filth Pig tour (or “Sphinctour”), leaves no doubt as to the severity of Al’s multiple drug problems during this time, and the corresponding chapters of the book open dark new vistas of degradation. (One of Jourgensen’s war stories from this period includes the sentence: “She’s wearing a colostomy bag, and I was naturally curious.”)
 

Timothy Leary backstage at a Ministry show
 
At this point in the narrative, White Zombie bassist Sean Yseult has kicked Jourgensen out of their shared apartment on Melrose, and he has moved in with Leary. And here comes Gibby Haynes:

In addition to taking me in, Tim let Gibby Haynes stay at his house for a while. Tim encouraged us to take whatever drugs we wanted—he was the guru of LSD, after all. But as an academic and a researcher, he wanted to see what effects different hallucinogens had when they were coupled with different substances—coke, heroin, Nyquil, Hungry Man dinners. He would get all this hallucinogenic shit mailed to him from all these companies and universities and then test it on us every couple weeks. Actually, it was mostly on me. He kicked Gibby out of the house after he peed in the drawer of an antique desk in Tim’s office when he was off his head. So Gibby went and I stayed. Tim would get me to shoot up all these laboratory drugs that were based out of MDA—ecstasy and Ayahuasca, an Amazonian concoction made from shrubs, leaves, and Virola, a South American drug that you grind into a powder and cook down. Tim had me shooting up all this shit. He would be all excited and say, “Hey, I got a new package.” And I would groan, “Okay, fuck. Let’s do it.” I would shoot it up, and he would scribble down notes on how the drugs affected me. I don’t know what he was writing because to me the hallucinations were always the same.

I’d have these horrific visions of Hell and the apocalypse: naked people with blood spouting from every orifice; skies that turned black, then silver, then white again; winged beasts with razor-sharp talons; and, most of all, spiders of all shapes and sizes. They’d fall from the sky. They’d come up from the ground. They’d creep around corners and crawl all over me. I’d be screaming and trying to brush off the bugs. And I’d always end up staggering over to Tim’s blind dog, Mr. Bodles, that Lemmy, my dog, is probably related to. I’d grab his collar, and he would take me outside so I could breathe without spiders scurrying in my mouth and down my throat. Talk about the blind leading the blind. After an hour or so Tim would come out and stare at me. Then he’d take more notes and ask me some questions about how I was feeling and what I was seeing. He’d measure the diameter of my pupils and see if I could track his fingers with my eyes. I don’t know if I passed or failed; I just know I saw spiders. The stuff he gave me was so strong that it took effect in less than twenty minutes. The visions were instantaneous, and they were never enjoyable. But I’d subject myself to it because it helped him out somehow, and I knew if I did my job, my rent was paid and I had a place to stay.

 

Jourgensen and Leary horsing around
 
Elsewhere in the book, Gibby Haynes shares his own memories of the Leary years in an interview with the book’s co-author, Jon Wiederhorn:

When [Al] hooked me up with Tim Leary a lot of weird situations happened. We got kicked out of a Johnny Cash concert at the Viper Room because Tim was heckling Johnny Cash. The killer one was waking up in Tim’s study and seeing him feverishly typing three feet away from me. I was so hungover that I had pissed in his kitchen. He was nervously typing, like I shouldn’t have been in the room, and I discovered my dick was hanging out of my pants and was warm and moist.

Errr, what caused that?
Who knows? I guess when you sleep in Tim Leary’s study your dick comes out of your pants and gets warm and moist.

Maybe you pissed yourself?
I definitely pissed in his kitchen. Oh, and I let his blind dog shit in his living room. In the middle of the summer the sliding-glass doors to his house were open. I shut them in the middle of the night. I didn’t know you were supposed to leave them open because of his blind dog: It was the only way he could go outside to poop in the middle of the night. Not only did I urinate in his kitchen but I let a dog shit in his living room. I was not the consummate houseguest.

Is that why Tim kicked you out of his house?
The urine thing wasn’t really my fault. I was like, “Dude, your entire kitchen is white. That screams toilet to me.” There were probably three times I got so drunk in the middle of the night I got up and randomly urinated. It usually involved the color white. I peed on a couple one time, in their bed in the middle of the night. Their room was white.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
If you’ve got a few thousand bucks to spare, you could always attend the ‘Ministry Boot Camp’
01.26.2016
12:46 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Ministry
Al Jourgensen


 
Attention Ministry diehards! (If there are any still out there.) Al Jourgensen recently announced that three hundred lucky Ministry devotees will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay for the privilege of a big bath of Ministry love (including “access to band rehearsals” and “access to band’s soundcheck before show”) all while staying at the swanky Freemont Country Club in downtown Las Vegas at the end of May.

The whole affair is called “Ministry Boot Camp,” and it’s basically a massive Ministry fantasy weekend in which you can spend three nights in a fancy hotel room and have a Q&A session with Jourgensen, attend a Ministry show in the “VIP area,” get shit signed (one item only, greedheads!), and so on.
 

 
The full weekend has a tiered pricing structure in which you can pay $2,000 to become a Ministry “Sergeant,” $3,000 to become a Ministry “Major,” or $4,000 to become a Ministry “Colonel.” (I love the military metaphor, it’s just like joining the KISS Army!) The three packages are distinguished by how nice a room you get and if you can pick your roommate and stuff like that. But all three packages receive the following:
 

Three nights accommodations at The Golden Nugget (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
$50 food and beverage credit per day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Welcome reception with the band Friday night
Access to band rehearsals Friday & Saturday night
Access to band’s soundcheck before show on Sunday night
Access to full live show on Sunday night with VIP area
Q&A session w/ Al Jourgensen and Ministry
TBA daytime activities with Al Jourgensen and Ministry
Meet and greet with Al Jourgensen and Ministry including individual photograph and signing of one item (With Sympathy excluded)
Ministry merch goodie bag

 
Remember, don’t bring a copy of With Sympathy and expect Al to sign that shit! It ain’t gonna happen.

Upon reading this announcement, a friend wondered, “Does this mean he didn’t meet his Patreon goal?”

Turns out, that witticism may be dead-on accurate. Late last year (sometime in November, it seems) Jourgensen actually did start a Patreon crowdfunding project with the stated goal of generating $5,000 a month—as of now the page has stalled at $525.44 per month (which is still kind of impressive).

More Ministry, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ministry’s Al Jourgensen guests on the new single by ONO: A DM premiere
07.28.2015
09:44 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Ministry
Al Jourgensen
ONO


 
Now that ONO’s second incarnation has lasted longer than its first, the theatrical gospel/avant-noise performance-poet/musicians (did I leave anything out?) seem to be picking up long-overdue steam. Dangerous Minds clued you in on them a few months ago, in a guest post by Plastic Crimewave Sound/Moonrises psychedelia pooh-bah Steve Kraków, so I’ll go easy on the history here and refer you to that post, but the tl;dr is that ONO’s singer/invoker of spirits Travis and sonic guru P. Michael Grego led the archly arty Chicago band from 1980-86. They resurrected the project with new and returning members in 2007, releasing the album Albino in 2012, and going on their first tour in 2014, in support of the album Diegesis.

I was incredibly fortunate to have been in one of the opening bands for ONO’s very first show on tour last summer, and it is to my lasting regret that I didn’t think to shoot any video. Travis, resplendent in white (he often sports a wedding dress, to match his white beard) cut a compelling and shamanic figure while the band’s improvisations lurched about dizzyingly and unpredictably. I could not help but think that if only they had gotten out of Chicago more in their original incarnation, they’d be so much better known today. P. Michael was quoted in an excellent 2008 Rocktober article as having said “We toured in our mind, but not in our feet.” Pity. An ONO show can be described, but only seeing one is seeing one. Frontmen like Travis do not come along often.
 

 
But cross your fingers, if we’re lucky another tour could be in the offing, as ONO’s third new album since their reactivation is due this fall. Titled Spooks, the album features contributions from Tiger Hatchery drummer Ben Baker Billington, OBNOX singer/guitarist Lamont Thomas, and I shit you not Ministry leader Al Jourgensen. Jourgensen contributed to the band’s first album, Machines That Kill People, and has significant behind-the-scenes history with ONO. P. Michael again, from the same Rocktober interview:

We ran into this guy that was skating that turned out to be Al Jourgensen. He was in the Immune System and then he left them and then he was going into Special Affect. One night they were playing with Naked Raygun. Somehow we knew Naked Raygun, probably by going out dancing. No, we hadn’t played any shows at all, but Naked Raygun saw us somewhere. Special Affect was playing at the Exit, and Naked Raygun was opening for them. They asked us to go on after them, like at two in the morning. So the first ONO show was me, Travis and Mark [Berrand, guitar]. After that, we had gotten shows at O’Banions, Lucky Number. We played a lot of these old punk venues little by little. Mark eventually had to leave town; that’s how Ric [Graham, sax] got into the band. Al, who by then had left Special Affect and was starting up a group called Ministry, his girlfriend was Shannon Rose Riley at the time. He said, “I got somebody that would really be cool for you guys,” and he introduced us to her. She sorta played saxophone and the accordion. She was a character. She joined up with us, and Al said “I got this record deal. Thermidor Records (owned by Joe Carducci and Joe Boshard, distributed by SST) wants Special Affect singles. They had officially broken up, but he had told Thermidor Records about us. So they were interested. Al was going to go into the studio with us. We were gonna make a single. We were able to get a hold of Al and his engineer, which was Iain Burgess, so we went out to Chicago Recording Studios to record two numbers with Shannon, and Al was the producer.

 

 

 
Shannon Rose Riley—who Jourgensen credits with launching his career in his autobiography Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen—is still involved with ONO, listed in the band’s Punk Database page as “Sax-Bass, Percussion and Keyboards.” The collaboration with Jourgensen is called “Punks,” and you’re hearing it here first.
 

 
After the jump a taste of live ONO that actually captures the chaotic feeling of being there… and more!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Al Jourgensen & Trent Reznor’s cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Supernaut,’ remixed by Die Krupps


 
By about a thousand lengths, Black Sabbath’s best song is “Supernaut” from Black Sabbath Vol.4. You’re free to argue the point, but you won’t change my mind. Yeah, “Paranoid” and “Iron Man” are obviously among metal’s greatest works, and the MONSTER riffs from “N.I.B.” and “Into the Void”  are indelible. But “Supernaut?” BEST. PERIOD. The hefty physicality of Tony Iommi’s performance of the main guitar riff melts me down into a puddle every time I hear it, and when Ozzy wails “I wanna reach out and touch the sky / I wanna touch the sun but I don’t need to fly”  I goddamn believe HE CAN, with or without mountains of drugs. It’s absolutely perfect.
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘The Game is Over’: Previously unreleased Ministry song from 1983
03.25.2015
07:52 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Ministry
Al Jourgensen


 
In late 1983, after completing the With Sympathy tour, Ministry hunkered down at Pierce Arrow Recorders in Evanston, IL, to write and demo new music. Four songs were tracked in what would be just about the last gasp of the band’s first incarnation. The band’s singer/guitarist/keyboardist Alain Jourgensen, keyboardist Robert Roberts, and drummer Stephen George were joined by touring bassist Brad Hallen to work on the songs “The Game Is Over,” “Let’s Be Happy,” “Same Old Scene,” and “Wait,” none of which were ever officially released.

Which may have been because the band was about to change dramatically. Founding keyboardist John Davis was already out, and Roberts would exit for good soon after these sessions, and while George and Hallen would remain on board in diminishing capacities, appearing last in a remix of song that made its way onto the Twitch LP, Jourgensen’s increasing interest in the danceable industrial music typified by Cabaret Voltaire was steering Ministry away from the dark synthpop they’d been pursuing, and towards the much more aggressive sound of the band’s lasting fame. But from what one can hear of those four dead-end demos, Ministry may well have evolved satisfyingly even without such a major sea change. Here’s “The Game is Over.” It’s never been heard before—I couldn’t even find it bootlegged, and believe me, I hunted. It’s of a piece with all of Ministry’s early work, but, and perhaps this is due to the prominence given bassist Hallen, it feels more organic and flexible than With Sympathy, and more in line with the band’s live recordings from that era.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Saturn Drive’: When Alan Vega met Ministry, 1983
10.20.2014
02:03 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Alan Vega
Ministry
Al Jourgensen


 
Saturn Strip, Suicide frontman Alan Vega’s third solo album and his first for a major label (Elektra), kicks off with the single “Saturn Drive,” a six-minute hybrid of early Ministry synth and sequencer sounds and Vega’s futuristic rockabilly. Co-written by Vega and Alain Jourgensen, the single was recorded with the whole With Sympathy team: Jourgensen plays keyboards, his original Ministry partner Stephen George drums, and Ian Taylor and (former Psychedelic Fur) Vince Ely are credited with producing the song’s basic tracks. Vega’s staunch supporter Ric Ocasek, who produced Saturn Strip (as well as the second, third and fourth Suicide albums), also appears on the song playing guitar and keyboards.
 

 
Vega’s lyrics to this time-traveling sci-fi epic aren’t easy to find online, so I’ve transcribed them for you from my tear-stained copy of Cripple Nation:

Wild stormy Monday
A gray rain came
Touchin’ Infinity’s prison
The creature made a war
Take the plane to Saturn
Celebrate their comin’
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century

High price soldiers
Knockin’ down Eternity
Soda city delusions
Snake knows for sure
Winning by confusion
It’s a losin’ game
Saturn’s rings of reason
So’s a lonely street
Profits by the billions
Got the mornin’ line

Momma’s future children
Buy a bad machine
The computer knows nothin’
It’s feelin’ sympathy
What price glory
It’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Follow the Indian
Lookin’ for that comet
Feel that fantasy
Huh oh yea fantasy
Yea

The creature’s nothin’
Just a stain on a wall
Death Row gets a window
Here comes Eternity
A million candelabras
Ya gotta have a scheme
Dr. Doom got a lash
It’s a time machine
That comet got religion
Yesterday
Snake eyes
Layin’ on the shore
It’s a losin’ game
It’s lonely streets
I got that mornin’ line
Yea what price glory
There’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century
Yea, it’s the wrong one
The wrong one

I had really hoped Jourgensen’s memoir would shed some light on how this collaboration came to be, but I found no mention of Vega. Maybe Al will reveal all in one of the upcoming sequels?

I realize the fruits of this collaboration might not be to everyone’s tastes. But look at it this way: if Vega and Jourgensen hadn’t worked together on “Saturn Drive,” Vega never would have delivered this completely insane performance of the song on Spanish TV, which must be seen to be believed.
 

 
Click here for Vega and Marc Hurtado’s 2010 remake of the song, “Saturn Drive Duplex.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Ministry’s first video was for a song that has never been released. Until today. Sort of.
09.16.2014
09:17 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Ministry


 
In 1982, an up-and-coming dark dance-pop band from Chicago called Ministry made its first video. The band would later go on to great fame and influence for pioneering a hybrid of industrial dance and thrashy heavy metal, but at the time of that first video shoot, they were straightforward synth-pop Anglophiles, in a career phase the band’s leader Alain (later just Al) Jourgensen would soon disown. Ministry’s evolving sounds and broken fan base were discussed at some length in this Dangerous Minds post last year, so we’ll rehash none of that here, except to say that if you’re among the many who consider the band’s early years to be artistically fallow, there’s some music at that link that may change your mind.
 

The early years certainly weren’t cosmetically fallow.

But back to that first video: the song was called “Same Old Madness.” It’s typical for a band’s first (or second, or ANY) video to accompany a single, but “Same Old Madness” was never released in any form. In fact, it’s seeing its first-ever appearance on physical media TODAY. Thirty-two years after the video was shot, “Same Old Madness” is finally seeing daylight as part of Cleopatra Records’ expanded reissue of Ministry’s Twelve Inch Singles 1981-1984 collection, which contains more than double the material of the original 1987 version on Wax Trax.

But there’s a wrinkle—one could justifiably argue that the song in the video has STILL never been released, as the song appearing on the expanded comp has significant variations from the one in the video. I searched for a version I could embed in this post to no avail, but the collection appeared on iTunes in advance of the physical release, and the preview of the song there has all the differences on display. It’s also on Spotify in its entirety, unsurprisingly. If you compare it to the video below, you’ll note that it has some jangly guitar added to the background of the chorus, and that the vocals are just insanely tarted up. In an effort to sort out why there were multiple recorded versions in circulation for a song the band never even saw fit to put out, I asked the band’s original keyboardist, Rob Roberts, for some history.

The session details involve working with Iain Burgess at, I think, Chicago Recording Company. And that version is the one featured in the video. The version with guitar and big vox FX added was kind of a rarity. I’m surprised to see it surface on this new release, to be honest. It’s the same basic tracks as the video version, but the guitar and FX and editing were added in Boston. It sure sounds like the same kind of editing that’s in “A Walk In the Park” and even the “Work for Love” dub/dance edits. The overdubs, arrangement and editing that appears on the Cleopatra release had zero input from Al or anyone else in the band. Al didn’t even play the guitar overdub. It was worked up by the crew back at SynchroSound in Boston with Ian Taylor behind the board. Neither my source nor I can remember exactly who played guitar, but it was either Walter Turbitt [Groove Brothers] or Elliot Easton [The Cars].

Those of you who take an interest in Ministry’s early years might enjoy Roberts’ extensive, thoughtful and informative Q&A on prongs.org. And that being said, I’ll not keep you from that early video any longer.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Early Ministry KICKED ASS
10.06.2013
12:31 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Ministry
Al Jourgenson

early ministry
 
Before he settled in to his current incarnation as a neck-tatted steampunk junkie purveyor of industrialized speed-metal for dimwitted bros, Al Jourgensen was a genuine innovator in post-punk synthpop and industrial music. The consensus narrative of his main band Ministry’s career trajectory holds that after an early anglophile period that’s as big of a let’s-pretend-it-didn’t-happen embarrassment to most their fans as Pablo Honey is to Radiohead snobs, the band really got started with the industrial dance masterpiece Twitch. From there, three breathtaking and influential albums of increasingly unparalleled aggression appeared, Land of Rape & Honey, Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, and Psalm 69, which brought Ministry to an acutely mid-‘90s alterna-fame, whereupon they proceeded to dive more or less headfirst into metal, and, depending on your particular bent, either totally, fist-pumpingly FUCKIN’ RAWKED BRAH or descended into a spiral of cartoonish self-parody and never released another listenable recording ever again ever.

The consensus narrative has a point about Twitch. It WAS a huge leap over their debut, With Sympathy (listen to the full LP on YouTube here), to the point where it sounds like a totally different band (Ministry was by that point basically Jourgensen’s solo project), and compares extraordinarily well against the touchstones of its genre. Compare its single “Over the Shoulder” with the benchmark dance hit “Sensoria” by industrial founding fathers Cabaret Voltaire.
 

 
But largely because of that leap, With Sympathy remains Ministry’s early shame in the eyes of a lot of fans, and its creator, as well. Jourgensen has repeatedly disavowed the album, saying he wanted a harder sound, but that his vision was compromised by label interference and pop production. And every time he says that, eyes roll back in their sockets, and you wish he’d quit pretending he was born a cowboy-hat-and-facial-piercings hardass and just own his early work.

However, listening to live tracks from the band’s first incarnation - Jourgensen, drummer Steven “Stevo” George, and keyboardists Robert Roberts and John Davis - you really have to allow that the man has a point. The live band is sharp where the album is tepid, anxious where the album languishes. Sympathy has always had its defenders, and however fey it may seem in comparison to the work of Jourgensen’s enduring fame, it’s an important document in American post-punk. But good God, it could have been so, SO much better.
 
the scam lies down on fraudway
 
Much of the best live material that can be readily found from that era of the band has been uploaded by YouTube user TheRobSquaredShow, who, unsurprisingly, turns out to be early band member Robert Roberts. Roberts has also let slip an eye-opening CDR rarity called The Scam Lies Down On Fraudway, a recording of a 1982 Chicago concert that features KILLER versions of Sympathy tracks “Effigy” and “Revenge,” plus the very early single “I’m Falling” and its 12”  flipside “Primental.” Sadly, that recording is nowhere to be found online as of this writing - hell, evidence of its existence doesn’t seem to have found its way to the Internet yet - but what is there on Roberts’ channel is the band’s earliest known live recording. The early band comes off as caustic, headstrong and confident, and far more in line with the thorniness of the post-punk synth a-list than attempted radio singles like “Work For Love” would suggest. Credit drummer Steven George with a lot of that - few enough synth bands harnessed the energy of a live drummer, and it’s to Jourgensen’s credit that Ministry did. (It remains a major demerit that Jourgensen sang in an affected British accent so preposterous that Billie Joe Armstrong can almost be forgiven.)
 

 

 

 

 
For a treasure trove of information on Ministry’s earliest years, check out Roberts’ detailed interview on prongs.org. And while you’re devouring that info, enjoy “Same Old Madness,” the video for a terrific early track that, astonishingly, seems to have never had an official release.
 

 
Fans of Ministry’s late incarnation may be interested to know - if you already didn’t - that their new album, From Beer To Eternity, was released last month, and due to the death of longtime guitarist Mike Scaccia, it will evidently be the band’s last.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment