Interview With Doug Chamberlin

Doug Chamberlin, who played Keyboards for Ministry in 84, was kind enough to answer a few questions via e-mail. Prior to Ministry, Doug was in the Chicago band Scarlet Architect. Those who wish to check out Doug's more recent musical workings can check out his projects McDonald/Chamberlin and Schedule II. Many thanks to Doug for taking the time to do this!

Q: You mentioned sitting in on some of the Cold Life sessions. Any memories from that (what songs were played, who was involved, any interesting stories, etc)?

Chamberlin: While Ministry was in the studio recording Cold Life and I'm Falling, I sat in on a little Casio MT-30 and played the chord climb up for Cold Life. I don't recall if this was my idea or if Al had written it but not yet recorded it. I also don't remember if my take was saved for the final cut or if it was re-done.

Q: During your Scarlet Architect tenure, did you have any interaction with Ministry? Any live dates together?

Chamberlin: We opened for ministry a couple of times around town and in Minneapolis. I hung out almost every weekend that we weren't working with Steve-O and/or Al and the rest of our gang. On occassion Al burrowed gear from us for gigs or recording sessions.

Q: There were several other bands in the Chicago scene that were supposedly involved with Al. Do you know if anything ever happened with 8 1/2, VCSR, or Adventure Set? Other than mentions in interviews, I haven't been able to dig up any info.

Chamberlin: I recall 8 1/2 and VCSR. I know Al was in the studio with 8 1/2 for their sessions. I don't recall ever seeing them or VCSR live. Maybe I did. These bands were suburban bands. The guys in these bands seemed to be very well heeled, compared to us city bands. We rather regarded these suburban bands as little rich kids; we called them 708's after their area codes. We, of course were the more refined and authentic 312's: the City bands. I don't recall any of these bands releasing albums. Maybe 8 1/2. Of these three bands, 8 1/2 was definitely the most popular.

Q: How did you come to join Ministry?

Chamberlin: Early in 1984, I had just completed work on a single of my own and did a commissioned performance piece for ARC Gallery in Chicago based on one of those cuts, "Action Painting". Stveve-O called me and asked if I had anything band-wise going on. I had left Scarlet Architect in earnest in 1983 so I told him no. He asked if I would be willing to join Ministry to do a tour this coming summer. I was thrilled and said yes. I reasoned that I could afford this time off from my solo stuff because I could come back to it as a member of Ministry and it would be that much easier becuase I would have greater integrity as as artist. I began rehearsing with Ministry in March of '84.

Q: After leaving Arista, Ministry began releasing a few 12"s off Wax Trax. Was that an effort to keep releasing material while looking for another major label, or was Wax Trax home for a while?

Chamberlin: Wax Trax had been home for Ministry's first EP, "Cold Life/I'm Falling". After leaving Arista, Al had some very danceable cuts like "Everyday is Halloween" hanging on the vine. He placed these cuts in prominent positions in our live sets to feature them. When it comes to actual business like what was decided when between Al and Wax Trax, I'm in the dark. Al was well into the process of making Ministry his exclusive property and things such as contracts or business decisions were not shared with me. I'm guessing that it was a matter of convenience for Al as well as Wax Trax to release "All Day/Everyday" on Wax Trax. Every day is Halloween became a huge signature song for Ministry after the summer of '84.

Q: Was there alot of material from that period that went unreleased?

Chamberlin: Yes indeed. I had kept my band notes from that period until 1987 when a house fire burned these keepsakes. I don't recall actual song titles but I do recall a bass line or two from songs during that period. These songs were unique; they were definitley transitional cuts from Al's techno pop era to what would become his more industrial flavored bash material. These cuts had identifiable verse/chorus patterns but they were definitley more aggressive, angrier; perhaps somewhat disdainful of the audience after a punk sort of attitude. Al was certainly becoming more politically astute at this time as well. To my recollection it was only All Day and Everyday is Halloween that got released from this period. That leaves cuts like "Oceanside Away" and five or six other great tunes that never got released.

Q: Halloween turned out to be quite memorable in retrospect. Was it a pretty big hit at the time? Is there a story behind its use in a beer commercial?

Chamberlin: I've talked quite a bit about it already but again, it became a signature song for ministry for a year or so. Some one in Al's business camp sold rights to the song to either old Style Lite or Bud Lite. A video ad was shot at Smart Bar or Metro for the television commercial. So you'd be watching a Chicago Cubs baseball game and on would come this goth sort of synth tune with denizens of Smart Bar dancing about in near darkness all hawking beer. After a while this all sickened Al. He grew to hate the song and what it had become. There were stories of Al going about Chicago to various clubs and destroying any and all copies of the vinyl he could find. i don't know if that was true but it goes to illustrate the disgust Al felt toward his own tune. It was a huge hit. I have only fond memories of the cut because it was Ministry's signature tune from my period with the band. But for Al I guess that it was this albatross that maintained an outdated image of the band and made it harder for Ministry to move into their new more aggressive material.


Page Last Edited on 2005-06-12 18:56:17 UTC CST (6959)