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An Exclusive Interview With Ministry's Paul Barker

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Wednesday, May 15, 2002 @ 1:36 PM

Ministry's Bassist Barker On <

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Ministry is seen by many as a band that helped start an aggressive electro-industrial movement in music, which influenced a myriad of bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Fear Factory and Orgy. They are typified as much by the darkness of their lyrics as they are by the chaotic frenzy of their sound. Even though Ministry is seen as the type of group that exemplifies innovation and oozes credibility, their commercial sales haven’t necessarily reflected just how important they have been to the metal/techno scene for years. Just as the Ramones before them, Ministry cleared a path for countless other musicians only to watch as many of them enjoyed more recognition and sales than their predecessors.

The group is currently working on new material, which will be titled Animositisomina and has been characterized by lead singer Al Jourgensen as a disc of songs that are “double the hatred and double the time on my hands.” Until that is made available, Sanctuary Records has just released the Sphinctour DVD and CD, which chronicles the band as they toured extensively during the promotion of the Filth Pig album. The DVD is a simple yet powerful affair that communicates the intensity of their live show via the use of only one hi-8 camera and hundreds of edits while the CD is essentially a soundtrack of the festivities.

The pairing of lead singer Al Jourgensen and bassist Paul Barker has been both mythologized and vilified by the press and fans alike. Sometimes, the scrutiny has been unfair and sometimes it may have been warranted, but that’s life. There are few bands who attempt to show the human condition from as many painful, slummy angles as Ministry. Commercial viability or not, although their legacy may be doomed to a certain degree of confusion and misunderstanding, their presence in the rock world is undeniable.

KNAC.COM: Would you consider the Sphinctour CD and DVD a commercial segue into your new material?
PAUL: To a degree, yeah. Honestly, having to watch the whole tour and edit the tape made us pretty fucking tired of that material! In some ways it was inspirational. We love the energy, we think its really great and we’re happy that the DVD captures that passion.

KNAC.COM: How hard was it to narrow material down from all the performances that you viewed? Were there any particular problems posed trying to capture that live vibe on this project?
PAUL: The hard part was listening to sixty shows worth of material. On one hand, it wasn’t too difficult because we didn’t have any multi-track action to deal with -- all we had was board material. Just tapes of each show, so it was the same fucking thing, the same fucking fifteen or sixteen songs over and over. It was horrible. Sometimes, when we were listening to the shows, the first three songs might have been shitty, but then there would be one good one -- then the set would fall apart again. It was odd how some shows were consistently good all the way through, but then there would be some shows where everything just came together or fell apart for one song. Maybe it was that the fucking guitar cord came out -- just odd shit that happens.

KNAC.COM: That’s surprising. I would have figured that you would either have good shows or bad shows, but to hear you say that you might have a good song amidst other parts of the set that just weren’t working…
PAUL: I’m not saying that any parts of the show while it was being performed was just crap. I’m just saying that in reviewing it, it’s a compromise. You have to find the best performance versus the best sound. That was the compromise. We didn’t necessarily use the best sounding show. We tried to use the ones that were the best balance between the two -- the energy coming off the stage and Al’s performance. What happened a lot of the time in the smaller venues was that the vocals were really loud because all the music coming off the stage is much softer. You tend to have outdoor shows that have the better overall mix.

KNAC.COM: There was some question as to why you chose to document the Filth Pig tour.
PAUL: The main reason was because we wanted to have a visual document of the tour. In some ways we weren’t happy putting out the DVD and the music on it. We are tired of the music and blah, blah, blah. If Sanctuary wanted to put out a CD, ok, that’s fine with us, we’ll put one out, but the DVD has two more songs on it than the CD, and it was our primary focus.

”I think we just want the new album to be completely relentless and aggressive and in your face… Our experiments are going to be kept to a minimum on this record.”
KNAC.COM: As far as the creative process for making a new album versus ten years ago, what would you say is the biggest difference? There has to be a lot of growth from then until now.
PAUL: The problem is, you get more cynical. That’s an issue. I think we just want the new album to be completely relentless and aggressive and in your face. Although we are going to be doing some experimentation -- for instance, it’s not going to be straight ahead rock n’roll -- we are not going to allow ourselves to go off into another planet or something. Our experiments are going to be kept to a minimum on this record. It’s just for the hell of it. We think we can still do it. The theme of this new record is animosity, so the new album title, Animositisomina is what we’re going with. The title isn’t a new idea for us -- it just wasn’t suitable before.

KNAC.COM: When you listen to the radio, do you ever begrudge bands that have taken elements from your sound and made them more commercially successful?
PAUL: No, I don’t because I don’t think that… first of all, it’s not completely dog eat dog. There’s plenty of money for everybody. We have chosen to create our own history and guide our own career. I don’t necessarily want to say it was a conscious decision, however we were offered many, many, lucrative opportunities which we turned down. And so, looking back at those, had we made the other decision to go with the opportunities and so forth, we would have probably sold a lot more records, but that’s not really an issue for us.

KNAC.COM: You do realize though that there will be a lot of people who would wonder whether you actually made those decisions or whether there were certain factors that contributed to you not being able to do it -- like whether Al was too strung out or unwilling to work.
PAUL: No, we definitely were the ones who decided that we weren’t going to do those things. Nobody is going to tell me that there was some other reason for it. Anyway, it’s ridiculous for people to think that because of the whole touring aspect of this band. Since I have been working with Al, we’ve missed a total of four shows. That’s just ridiculous.

KNAC.COM: That is a commendable record, but you do have to admit that when many people hear the name Ministry, they think “loud”, “drugs” -- and a potentially combustible lead singer.
PAUL: [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: You laugh, but there is a large amount of people out there who would say that if they had to make a list of who might be the next Layne Staley, that Al would certainly be at or near the top of the it.
PAUL: Well, that’s funny because it’s not going to happen. I am happy to say that. You know, Al and I have been doing press lately, and that’s what someone said yesterday. They brought up the same point -- he went off on a tirade on it, “Now that’s not going to happen” and blah, blah, blah. I mean, come on -- his constitution, he’s a bull. Whatever, I’ve been with Al a long time.

KNAC.COM: Why do you think there are so many who are quick to condemn Layne or Al for their drug problems, be they either perceived or real?
PAUL: I don’t know because I think that drug use and rock n’ roll has been glamorized, you know, since the ‘60s. I think that there’s still a mystique there, perhaps. Whatever, it’s been romanticized as if there was something cool about it.

KNAC.COM: For example, Al gets voted as one of rocks biggest “bad asses” on VH-1.
PAUL: What does that mean?

KNAC.COM: Exactly, is it the possible drug connotation? What does he do? What is the criteria to be a bad ass?
PAUL: I don’t know. Obviously, he wasn’t #1, so what does everyone else do?

KNAC.COM: Is he bad enough? Is he bad enough to work with that you don’t want to see #1 or 2?
PAUL: Well then, the question becomes who’s doing the voting. I’m sure popularity has a lot to do with it as well as the perceived notion of ultimate rebellion, coolness and all that shit.

KNAC.COM: Do you see him in that light or do you see him as just a guy in the band that you happen to work with?
PAUL: Al is definitely not just another guy in a band that I work with. We definitely have a relationship. Al is classic -- there’s no question about it -- and that for me is really fucking wonderful. He is, in many ways, larger than life. Ministry is very aware and happy with the knowledge that the success we have is for the most part squarely on our shoulders. We’ve done things wrong so many times and pissed off so many people and all of that kind of shit. Pretty much 90% of what we’ve done since I’ve been working with Al has been to completely rub everyone the wrong way, so we’ve been successful with that. I don’t know how much the public knows, but we’re really happy that we did it our way.

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