Sunday, November 23, 2008

fuck art
lets kill

nothing makes me feel older than going back to the music of my youth. okay, everyone does that shit no matter how old you are. and the beauty of the passing days is that everyone gets older, no exceptions. and frankly, what is time anyway but an accretion of days, months and years. duh, you say, and i agree but we all have moments where we remember something that happened years ago and think it was just a few weeks ago.

anyway, last night hanging out with a group of poets the discussion turned to the problems of, and the lack of success, being publishable, teaching and so on. all relevant topics i'm sure. at any rate, i wonder what the hell we mean by success. our discussions were not specific about poetic success, yet a couple of the group are young, early to mid-20s, and by nature younger writers start by feeling out the ground as they try to establish the art of writing in their lives.

which again brings me back to the music of my youth. lately, i've been listening to a few songs by the chicago-based industrial band ministry. i hold the band as an exemplar of metamorphosis for when they first started in the early '80s they were a rather derivative faux-english synth-pop band. by the mid to late '80s they transformed themselves into a nihilist, thundering wash of distorted guitars, steely synths, using samples from movies and speeches while the vocalists, both al jourgensen and paul barker, distorted their voices by artificial fx. in other words, very little in pop music had heralded such a change in tone and sound from a band.

so then, ministry was a group that i focused on as i was moving toward poetry. what i liked about them, and still do, was their nihilism. i was not a hardcore nihilist but i was approaching life and art as interwoven parts of a whole as existential tendencies began to burble in my burgeoning identity as a man and poet. listening to their music i worried less about art, which i held then, and honestly i still do, as sacrosanct and turned my attention to the making of my chosen fields of expression without thought of audience or the unforeseeable future. and tho ministry achieved considerable popular success i wonder if that was their goal when they changed their sound. in the mid '80s only a few cities, largely populated like l.a. and nyc, had fm alternative music radio stations. and back then radio airplay was the main vehicle for any sort of commercial success.

which is a long way of saying that as i was feeling my own way upon the ground of contemporary letters ministry was one of the influences that pointed a way toward doing whatever the fuck i wanted to do and not worry about whether it would get me published in antioch or poetry. who cares. yes, i made mucho mistakes. i still do. it's that art of doing that makes a life, ain't it. so fuck art. lets kill.


At 4:07 AM, Blogger kevin.thurston said...

please rank (presented in chronological order) the land of rape and honey, the mind is a terrible thing to taste, psalm 69

At 4:16 AM, Blogger kevin.thurston said...

also, 'commercial success' i think is appropriate, but not to be over blown. there was a time where it seemed liked 'industrial' was about to be the next big thing, but then got skipped over for the 'rap metal' that good bands ('rage against the machine') and bad bands ('korn', 'limp bizkit') both made a shit ton off of.

i think the 'nihilism' you speak of is what prevented ministry (and many other bands, such as 'sheep on drugs' and 'skinny puppy') from breaking through whereas trent reznor's 'nine inch nails' played up the brooding, romantic end of 'genius' and so was able to achieve mass sales.

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Ernesto Priego said...

I still remember the excitement of listening to The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste for the first time. And then the live video, that I saw in a pirated VHS, In Case You Don't Feel Like Showing Up. It was also amazing to see them collaborate with Jello Biafra.

Were you also into the Revolting Cocks, by any chance?

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Steve Tills said...

Let's kill TIME

David Bromige had a line about "killing time." I think it was one of his, shoot, I can't remember what they were called -- hold on, I'm in the Library, my library, so I'll look it up maybe... Well, shoot, I can't find it at the moment, but I think they're in his MY POETRY and just called "Lines" -- anyway, one of them is, I think,

Don't waste time

Kill it


Bests, Steve :)

At 11:05 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...


LAND OF RAPE AND HONEY was the album that turned ministry from an annoying synth-pop band [tho i love their single 'everyday is halloween'] to a fucking force. it is essential.

however, THE MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO TASTE is my all-time favorite for this is the sound that i found when i first heard the band. it is harder i think than THE LAND and it is just before their big commercial success. plus it is downright ruthless in imagery. i remember when i worked at a restaurant called RICKY'S BISTRO back in '90 which had a nightclub called CLUB PANIC that became THE place to go for about 6 months or so. anyway, the guys who set up the sound systems and did the dj'ing where these hardcore ministry freaks. one of them had the lyrics to 'so what' written in magic marker down the side of his levi's jeans jacket. in other words, i might be a bit sentimental about this album but it still remains my favorite.

PSALM 69 is a solid ministry album that keeps the music corrosive even as it was getting heavy mtv airplay. i still get moist eyes when i hear 'n.w.o.'

i lost track of the band after that. i don't even own any ministry cds now. what i had back then was on tape that was lost years ago.

and i agree that ministry paved the way for mediocrity to get better radio time. i do like trent reznor, but he'd probably be belting out phil collins tunes if it weren't for ministry.

but i do have to point out that skinny puppy were making their noise long before ministry. and even further was a band called chrome that we'd fucking groove to back in the day way before ministry.


i remember the concert video and after being out of punk rock scene for some years i got a kick out of seeing jello biafra at the end.

didn't get much into their side projects at all. i remember the revolting cocks 'steers, beers and queers' and a bit of pigface and i think pailhead. but really, i wasn't an industrial completist. if it weren't for a couple of friends back in the '80s i'd probably never have heard of ministry. just the same, there were some songs by my life with the thrill kill kult that i dug as well as gay bykers on acid, which i think is simply one of the best band names, ever.

what really interests me is not simply ministry's sound but how they got to that sound. i think ministry complicates artifice,how they completely metamorphosed from an anemic fakery to an authentic contruct of anti-art. i suppose there are glimpses of al jourgensen's obsessions with the macabre in ministry's earlier incarnation. but if you were a fan of the earlier stuff i would think that when you picked up LAND you might've wanted to kill yourself from confusion. their trnasformation is, as KUNG FU PANDA's po says of kung fu, AWESOME!!!!

steve! wonderful to hear from you. bromige is a master.

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

Yes, and I believe his SPADE with Richard Denner is a good example why we are not unwise or imprudent remarking that.

Happy Thanks, Giving, Receiving, Loving, Amigo, and all bests, as always from yr compadre in western NY.

:) Steve


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