Ministry’s Al Jourgensen.
Photo: Paul Elledge.
Billed as a backstage pass to the scariest band ever, Fix – the Ministry Movie, from director Doug Freel and Gigantic Pictures, documents the band’s 1996 Sphinctour through North America and Europe in all its sordid details.
This is not Spinal Tap. The volume is certainly at 11—way past 11, in fact—as are the excesses: drugs, alcohol, drugs, women, drugs. But bandleader Al Jourgensen, instigator of the Industrial revolution, isn’t in it for laughs. He’s consumed the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, and it has very nearly consumed him; legend has it that he’s flat-lined on more than one occasion.
For Freel, a newly recovering heroin addict who was initially embedded with the men in black in order to obtain footage for a Warner Bros. electronic press kit, it must have been a grueling tour. But he captured the band at what may well have been its peak, and some of the live performance video—all shot with Freel’s single Sony VX1000, one of the first pro-sumer DV cameras—made it onto a live DVD release. Some of that live footage reappears in Fix, but much of the behind-the-scenes video is only now seeing the light of day.
The sound is really good throughout, especially the performances, which may have had a little post production work, although FOH mixer Bill Sheppell is credited for the board mixes. At least one song sounds identical to the original release, to these ears.
There would arguably have been no industrial metal music without Ministry, which finally called it a day in 2008 after 27 years on the road. Metal proponents Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Jonathan Davis (Korn), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction), Maynard James Keenan (Tool) and Lemmy (Motorhead, himself the subject of a recent documentary) all make appearances in Fix to testify to Ministry’s industrial evangelism. At times, the film loses focus a little, spending rather too much time with guests such as Davis, but that’s perhaps not surprising given the apparent lack of involvement in the film from the band, especially main man Jourgensen, other than some voiceovers provided by Sphinctour drummer Ray Washam.
In March 1982, my band, Medium Medium, launched our second US tour in Chicago. Opening act for five of the dates was Chicago-based Ministry, which was kind enough to lend us its backline after our rental gear was destroyed en route to the first gig. But that band is not the one we see in Fix; indeed, Jourgensen now disowns that early-’80s electro-pop version of Ministry.
After that period, the drugs appear to have really kicked in. In Fix, UK producer Adrian Sherwood (who, coincidentally, had already produced Medium Medium’s second single, in 1981) talks about how everyone involved with recording Twitch, the 1985 album that started Ministry’s industrial evolution, was on speed. By 1996’s Sphinctour, Jourgensen was shooting speedballs and had become so paranoid that he thought he needed a bulletproof vest for the Texas shows.
If nothing else, Fix is a cautionary tale of the deleterious effects of drug consumption. But it’s also a lasting monument to the lords of industrial metal, a gang of Vikings sweeping across the countryside, laying waste to everything in their path and running off with the womenfolk. For some, this may be the stuff of nightmares, but for others, it’s clearly addictive: Jourgensen recently announced that Ministry will reform and play four shows in March 2012. Just one more fix.
Fix – the Ministry Movie