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By: Andrew Lyman

What is there left to say about Ministry? The band has existed in some form for over 25 years. Everyone has written everything about their albums, their breaking up, their past, present, and future. Is there anything new to add to the dialogue? That question seems to be the feeling behind the band calling it quits this year.  What more can be said? Bush is almost out of office. There are new projects to work on, and new territories to explore. The Ministry experiment is over.

The interesting thing is that, rather than fading out into irrelevance, Ministry have pumped out some of the best albums they’ve ever recorded in very short order. They sound as fierce as ever, the music can still knock a few teeth out, and to see them on stage for this final leg of their final tour, it’s clear they’re still having a great time doing what they’re doing. To talk to them you hear that they are, if anything, going to be even more active in the wake of Ministry. Most of the current members on the tour are active participants with active projects in Al Jourgenson’s new 13th Planet records. With a new Revolting Cocks album due out any day now, new stuff from Prong, Ascension, as well as some completely new bands, records, and collaborations in the works, it leads one to wonder if there will be much time to even miss Ministry.

You have got to give a band credit for willfully bowing out at a high point. The unanimous sentiment is that the tour has been fantastic, the new albums are some of the best in the band’s catalog, and the line-up is as sharp it ever has been, but a band self-aware enough to realize that the song is over is something of a marvel in the days of 70 year old Rolling Stones, post retirement Rush, and dusty reunion tour after dusty reunion tour. Granted, a band must first break up before getting back together, so Ministry could now threaten to re-unite at any moment now, but I tend to believe that Ministry is over and done with. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there will be a large crater left in the landscape of modern music when they finally pack up at the end of the summer and bow out, but it sounds like there will be plenty of new noise coming out of that hole to keep both friends and enemies stimulated.

Before the first of their 4 sold out shows at House of Blues in Chicago at the beginning of last month, I sat down and chatted with Sin Quirin (of Revolting Cocks) and Burton C. Bell (of Fear Factory and the Ascension). Here’s what that had to say about life in a post-Ministry future.

Andrew Lyman (Thirsty): First thing's first, how has the final tour been going?

<< listen to interview audio

Sin Quirin: It’s definitely far exceeded even what I thought the tour was going to be like. The crowd’s been phenomenal, the band is amazing, this touring line-up is top notch players everybody.

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Burton C. Bell: Yeah the band sounds great, it looks great.

Quirin: Tastes great.

Bell: The crowds are extremely positively receptive.

Thirsty: It is interesting that Ministry has been more productive in the last few years than they have in a long time. The albums have been really really good, some of the best stuff the band has ever put out. You aren't going through the slow petering out that most long running bands have.

<< listen to interview audio

Bell: Al seems like he’s on a deadline, not a deadline, but a timeline. He’s like “I’ve gotta be done.” He’s just over it.

Thirsty: But it’s not like you’re running out of activity. All of you have a lot of side projects going on, things you’re gonna pick up.

Bell: Absolutely, we’re all part of 13th Planet Records, so for us it’s not the end of working with Al, cause we’ll still be working with him in the next couple years. You know working on Revolting Cocks, Ascension of the Watchers, False Icons, Prong, and whatever else may come about, so to me, I’m looking forward, I’m not looking back. You know I’ve been a huge fan of Ministry for years, way back before Fear Factory, you know, and I personally think more bands should call it quits.

Quirin: I agree there are some bands that hang on a little too long, and in my opinion tend to go out not at their best. Am I a little sad that this band is coming to a close? Yeah ‘cause I’m such a huge fan. I would feel the same way even if I wasn’t in the band. But it’s one of those things, you respect an artist’s decision when they feel they’ve reached that point where I’ve done and said all I want to with this project. It’s a respectable thing to be able to say that, and I respect Al for that.

Thirsty: It’s great to go out on such a high point too though.

Bell: Yeah it feels good. It’s a good time. It’s not a like a desperate last plea for attention. You know, we’re selling out shows everywhere. You know he’s ending on a high note and that’s a good place to be. It’s a good place to end, remember it at a good point.

Thirsty: And it still seems really relevant too. Ending when it’s still got some force.

Bell: Absolutely. Everything he writes about, at least the last three records has been entirely about the Bush Presidency, and he’s made that his fuel. He honestly thinks when the Democrats get in it’s going to be all happy, and he thinks “I can’t do that, I wrote my worst records then!” When Clinton got in the White House he said “It was all over for me!”

Thirsty: We could fuck up and elect McCain. Do you have a contingency plan for that?

Bell: Well Obama could win, but they’ve rigged elections before. I don’t know if McCain does win I’m moving to Europe.

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Thirsty: Yeah.

Quirin: Yeah.

Thirsty: Do you guys have anything going on outside of the label, outside of the bands not related to music that you are working on now or in the near future?

<< listen to interview audio

Quirin: It’s pretty much all related to music. Everything I’m doing or going to be doing in the near future is all related to music in one way or another. And thank god! I thank my lucky stars every day that I’m able to do it.

Bell: Absolutely.

Thirsty: It still feel really exciting and involving?

Quirin: Absolutely man. This is the best time of my life right now, I’ve been having a blast, and we all have projects coming out that we all feel strongly about and proud of, and they’re really good, so I think it’s a good time for us right now.

Thirsty: Ministry has always been a very confrontational and aggressive band, particularly towards the Bush Administration(s). Do you plan to continue that spirit with the projects you're moving into in the future?

<< listen to interview audio

Bell: Well you know, I pay attention, but I don’t really like to write about political stuff as it is. I write about whatever is on my mind really I try and keep politics out of it. That’s my personal opinion.

Quirin: That’s what it’s been like for me as well in my other bands I’ve been in, I know what’s going on, I keep an eye on it, but I don’t write lyrics anyway, I do music, but it’s never been a big topic in my other projects. I knew what this was going into it, and I was fine with it.

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Thirsty: So what is it for you then?

Quirin: It’s about the overall feeling that I get from music. From creating it and from preforming it. That’s what it’s always been about for me. It’s that sort of indescribable feeling that I feel like I can’t live without it. It’s like breathing for me. So wether they’re talking about George W. Bush, or Rockin and Rollin’ all  night I get that same feeling.

Thirsty: 13th Planet Records seems to have a really strong and exciting group of artists and musicians involved with it.

<< listen to interview audio

Bell: Yeah it’s like an artistic community, that’s what Al wants to build up. I’ll probably be working with Sin, I’ll be working with Tommy, I’m already working with John, I’ve worked with Tony already in the past, so they’ll be around, and that’s the way it should be. You keep each other inspired, you keep each other working, you go “Hey I got an idea, let’s try this,” and you have this whole pallet of musicians to pull from, and everyone knows their own thing in a special way so it’s cool. Al’s always had a knack for collecting good groups of musicians to work with, he’s a;ways been talented that way, so he’s got an ear.

Thirsty: So in that sense do you see yourselves more helping to build this community rather than on the forefront so much?

Bell: I think it’s both. I don’t even think about it like that. It’s like, if I wanted to I could use Tommy Victor, you know, he’s inspired definitely some Fear Factory riffs in the past, so it’s like I get to go to the source. So it’s not like trying to be in the forefront, it’s just trying to do good music with people you respect.

Quirin: Which is the ideal situation to be in. To have a group of guys that are great at what they do, for me, that I’ve been a fan of for so many years, to now be able to call em up and be like “Hey I’ve got this idea.” Is fucking awesome. Is fucking phenomenal. And that doesn’t happen in a lot of record labels. You don’t feel that sense of community that we do right now. So I think it’s a great place to be.

Thirsty: Do you feel it took all the years with Ministry and the other projects to be where you are at now?

<< listen to interview audio

Quirin: Absolutely. Looking back and seeing where I am now, I wouldn’t change a thing if that’s what it took to get me here, obviously. Everything is a learning experience. Music itself is a learning experience. I don’t think you’ll ever get to the point where you’re like “Okay, that’s it, I’ve reached the point where I know everything, I learned everything, I’m good now.” You learn every day man.

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Thirsty: That’s fantastic to be, you know, a lot of people are seeing this as the end, Ministry is done, that’s the end of an era, but from everything I’ve gotten, it’s this total high point, it’s this apex, and that’s great.

Bell: Exactly. For Al and all of us, it’s not an end, but more of a beginning.

Quirin: It is. There is always other new ideas and possibilities that are now going to spring from this.

Thirsty: Are you conscious of the fact that Ministry has been one of the most pun-heavy bands in history? (C U La-Tour, Mastruba-Tour, Houses of the Mole', Mind is a Terrible thing to Taste, Last Sucker, etc, etc, etc...) It's interesting to have such an aggressive band be consciously poke fun at what they're doing. How serious should all this be taken?

<< listen to interview audio

Bell: Personally I’m not that serious, but when it comes to my work I’m serious about it.

Quirin: Yeah of course. Like you said we take what we do very seriously, because it’s what we love to do, but we don’t take ourselves that seriously.

Bell: Well said.



All opinions expressed by Andrew Lyman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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