Ministry Spoonmen

Ministry Spoonmen
Here's some insider news - Ministry and R. Kelly have been working side-by-side at Chicago Trax's recording studios for the last two years. An industrial rock/R&B crossover would be a corporate nightmare, but the parties aren't speaking.

"No, there is no collaboration," reveals Ministry's Paul Barker. "He's not really a very talkative guy." It is probably safe to say that the two camps don't share the same recording techniques. While R. Kelly may have been sipping a Courvoisier preparing to lay down his smooth leg-over tunes, Ministry were on more intense path in the pursuit of the completion of their mockingly-titledDark Side Of The Spoon . Work at a Texas ranch compound on their last album, 1996'sFilth Pig , resulted in a temporary break-up and drug possession charges. Back in Chicago, life has normalised, but what hasn't changed is their on-edge attitude in the studio. It's almost a battle to the death, as four men enter and one album leaves.

Every time we go in the studio, we have to bring ourselves to the brink of death or insanity.

"We just close the doors, bolt 'em and go crazy, literally," laughs Barker. "This notion that we are just killing ourselves in the studio with psychological breakdown kind of psychosis really sums up everything. I think we are retarded - every time we go in the studio, we have to bring ourselves to the brink of death or insanity. Living in Chicago again is a little less hectic - as far as the peripheral shit, it was not nearly as bad as Texas."

Barker's partner in musical mayhem, Al Jourgensen, is almost finished his sentence of five years probation for the drug possession charge. In the past, he's been outspoken about his distinction between drug use and abuse, and suffered for it when the Chicago press insinuated a link to him in the overdose death of poet friend. He may be guilty of giving mixed signals, but certainly Ministry's anti-addiction "Just One Fix" track's graphic video can't be misinterpreted (except by MuchMusic, who banned the clip depicting junk-sick youth - as if violent puking could set a trend).

Now, with a devilish sense of humour, Jourgensen sarcastically caricatures the cleaned-up celebrity syndrome, confessing he needs help over a swing-jazz rhythm in the new tune "Step": "I'd like to apologise to all my wonderful fans / I wish I could take all of you to the Betty Ford clinic."

"It is a complete parody," says Barker. "It is just that sentiment in general, primarily in the music business. To me, that song is so straight-forward and blatant, there is no misunderstanding what's going on there. Calling it '12 Step' would have been just a little too obvious."

What is obvious with Dark Side Of The Spoon is that the rockin' Ministry of thePsalm 69 , A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste and The Land Of Rape And Honey albums is back, after the Godflesh-style dirge of the slow-pacedFilth Pig . The trademark blunt riffs of "Stigmata," "Thieves" and "NWO" return in the form of the opening "Supermanic Soul" and "Bad Blood" (and provide a soundtrack to the trench coat action inThe Matrix ). Now their combination of guitars and samples (based around the live playing of drummer Ray Washam, from Rapeman and the underrated Scratch Acid) is commonplace, but before their sound was accepted enough to make them an arena rock behemoth, Ministry were looking at metal as an addition to their dance floor mix.

"For us it was a sound to be sampled. Our heavy riffing element was never a metal element. I think brutal is probably the best way to sum it up. It was a bludgeon, you know," he laughs. "When I first heard that Kirk Hammett in Metallica was interested in what we were doing, I just thought 'wow, that is so great.' Those guys came from the purist metal kind of thing, and we were coming from the dance thing. Our music is as heavy, if not heavier than the heaviest guys playing in this classically heavy arena. And now, it is really fascinating to me that there are metal bands with samplers and drummers with triggers out there playing 'metal,' like Fear Factory. Before, when we were doing it, we were pariah."