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Biography : Ministry

We live in a culture that celebrates the mundane and ordinary, as if tying one's shoes were an act of epic proportions deserving of a reward. The truth is that the world has gotten much more dangerous. As a result, art needs to follow suit. The music scene needs Ministry now more than ever, and on Animositisomina, the band throw down the gauntlet.

Ministry founder Al Jourgensen explains it simply. "I got pissed off again!".

With those five words and an exclamation point, Jourgensen succinctly nails down the very thing that's fueled Ministry's bile pump since day one. Over the course of eight albums and over a dozen tours, Jourgensen and partner Paul Barker have left scars on musical genres ranging from dance to alternative rock to industrial to metal. Now, with the Sanctuary Records release of Animositisomina, Ministry have returned to write new chapters in the handbook of sonic devastation.

"I feel like that little kid in front of the TV set in the movie Poltergeist," Jourgensen says. "'I'm baaaack!'"

"We had a really good time making this record," says Barker, laughing. "Unlike other ones!"

Al Jourgensen formed Ministry in 1979 as a post-punk dance unit reconciling his love for fast, aggressive music and admiration for the British New Wave scene (Wire, Killing Joke, the Slits, et al). In the early '80s, he worked with respected dub/noise-funk producer Adrian Sherwood on several projects (code name: Dog) for Sherwood's On-U Sound label before signing to Warner Bros. The first Ministry release for WB, 1986's Twitch, was a mixture of dance tracks held together with over-modulated beats and room-clearing white noise. After the release of Twitch, Jourgensen met Paul Barker when he was producing Barker's band, the Blackouts, for an EP release on Chicago's Wax Trax! label. The two forged a friendship over their love of British post-punk and deafening noise, and became musical partners soon afterward.

In 1988, when the headbangers and the hardcore punks were worshipping their respective flavors of Mötley Crüe and Youth Of Today, Jourgensen and Barker crafted The Land of Rape and Honey, an aural ammo clip that napalmed the walls separating musical idioms, expanded the possibilities of what could constitute as "extreme music," and, in the process, gave birth to America's industrial-rock scene. The mind is a terrible thing to taste followed in 1989, spraying powdered glass on the burgeoning "alt-rock" scene. Through their long-term relationship with Wax Trax!, the duo released a plethora of records (credited to entities such as Revolting Cocks, Pailhead, 1000 Homo DJs, Acid Horse and PTP) that featured a rotating cast of players (at times including Cabaret Voltaire, Fugazi's Ian MacKaye and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor) and an equally dizzying array of working methods and genres.

When it seemed that the musical landscape was littered with parasites more concerned with their haircuts than trying to match Ministry's raw power, Jourgensen and Barker recorded Psalm 69, a record that emphasized straight-ahead heavy-metal thunder. "We wanted to record an album with guitar, bass and drums," Jourgensen said at the time. "We wanted to use conventional weaponry for mass destruction." For their work, they were rewarded with a high slot on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour and their first platinum album. 1995 saw the release of the epic Filth Pig (which Jourgensen, up until recently, cited as his favorite in the Ministry canon). In 1999, the band issued Dark Side Of The Spoon before parting ways with Warner Bros. Soon afterward, Ministry made an appearance in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi drama, A.I.

In an attempt to cash in on the band's profile, Warners issued a compilation; Greatest Fits, later that year, that featured a new track, "What About Us." Barker and Jourgensen aligned with Sanctuary in 2001.

The following year, Sanctuary issued Sphinctour, a live disc and DVD document of the band's 1996 world tour in support of Filth Pig.

When the laser touches down on the first nanosecond of "Animosity," the first track on Animositisomina, it is readily apparent that there is only one Ministry; the rest are merely cover bands. Everything Barker and Jourgensen have built their formidable reputation upon - punishing aesthetics, heightened urgency, cathartic fury and technological abuse - has been intensified for maximum effect. The electro-based "Unsung" is a swaying high-tension line that's arcing sparks and impossible to subdue. "Stolen" crackles like burning skin, and is as subtle as a tanker truck explosion.

Longtime fans will note that the blistering cover of Magazine's "The Light Pours Out Of Me" is a song Ministry had been playing in their live sets as far back as 1988. "Broken" is a metallic rave-up with down-home Southern charm - like the family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While the disc is spinning, you might want to check over your shoulder - if it makes you feel safer.

Besides being back at the top of their game, Animositisomina also heralds significant changes in the Ministry camp. On every Ministry release, Jourgensen's lyrics were buried in corrosive studio distortion. The vehemently anti-authority duo refused to preach to their listeners, demanding that audiences interpret Ministry's music to their own ends. For the first time ever in the band's history, Jourgensen has acquiesced, allowing the disc's lyrics to be included in the package. Fortunately for Ministry fans, all the changes did was take the energy level up a fistful of notches.

Anyone familiar with music trends over the years cannot deny the influence Ministry has wielded. Jourgensen and Barker readily admit that much of their early methodology has since become public domain (see Nine Inch Nails, Static-X, Rob Zombie, ad infinitum). But instead of being bitter and jaded, the duo just redefined their muse. It's been proven for a while: Ministry make the rules - and they can break 'em if they damned well want to.

"What keeps me going is that we can still make challenging music that still kicks ass," Barker testifies. "Ministry has gained enough respect from enough people to pay attention to what we are doing. That gives us a certain amount of latitude to do things that people may think are far out, yet still able to captivate."

"Those fuckers better be in shape," says Jourgensen, issuing a warning to neophytes unaware of Ministry's fury. "I can't wait to see audiences getting winded and panting, 'I wish a younger band would come on. I'm tired.'"