Ministry's musical vision goes beyond the city limits

Conventional wisdom has it that a band must leave Chicago to have a successful career. Ministry is going in the opposite direction.

With several solid releases to its credit, the group returned here to record its most recent album; is building its own recording studio in town; and will wrap up 1989 with performances Saturday and Sunday at the Riviera. But don't expect Ministry's iconoclastic leader, Alain (or, as he is listed on the new album, Alien) Jourgensen to lecture on the value of civic boosterism.

"We've never been part of the Chicago scene," he said. "We see ourselves as part of a world music community. All this indigenous chest thumping is ridiculous. I think cream rises to the top no matter what. If you're good at what you do and work hard, something's bound to happen."

For Ministry, things began to happen almost immediately. The loose aggregation of musicians now centered around Jourgensen and Paul Barker first coalesced in 1981 and made its initial mark with several independent singles; the major label debut, "With Sympathy"; and popular alternative dance tracks such as "Work for Love" and "I Wanted to Tell Her."

In between projects with a growing collection of performers, including RevCo, Lard (including former Dead Kennedy member Jello Biafra), Lead Into Gold and Pailhead, Ministry next released "Twitch," "Land of Rape and Money" and, most recently, "The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste." With each album, it revealed an increasingly dark vision and brutal sonic attack, anguish set to a deafening foundry works beat.

"I really feel our music is very positive," Jourgensen asserted. "It points out problems that exist. We're realists. We can't paint a rosy picture if it's not there. We don't have the answers, we never claimed to, but we're not being depressing. I see us more as a catalyst and as a mirror of what's going on."

Expect the assault to be even louder and more relentless as the band expands to eight members (Jourgensen, Barker, past Ministry associate William Rieflin, Killing Joke and PIL player Martin Atkins, Terry Roberts from U.K. Subs, Mike Scaccia of Rigor Mortis, RevCo's Chris Connelly and Skinny Puppy's Ogre) for its current tour.

"It's the first time we've ever had shows without using any backup tapes," Jourgensen said. "It's going to be a nice change of pace. Most of these people we've worked with already. And in the studio, we basically all played live anyway. The only difference is it will sound more powerful on stage and it's more fun. Bigger is better," he concluded with a laugh. Jourgensen added that the Chicago dates will also be recorded and filmed.

"Whether it's released depends on how beautifully or dismally we play. That's the beauty of a live band situation. It's like playing Russian roulette-without the dangerous side effects."


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