Allen Jourgensen (keyboards/vocals/guitar) started producing music under the name Ministry, a name he chose after watching the 1944 film Ministry Of Fear (after considering several title variations including Ministry Of Fear, Ministry Of Truth and Ministry of Canned Peaches he settled on just Ministry), in the early 1980s in Chicago, with fellow members Frankie Nardello (vocals), Martin Sorenson (bass) and Harry Rushkoff (drums). Sorenson was a replacement for Tom Hoffman who had only recently departed.
Under this original configuration, three 7"'s were recorded between 1979 and 1981 under their original moniker Special Effect. Jourgensen then released the old band members of their duties, and replaced them with Stevo (drums) and Lamont Welton (bass) to create the 12" Cold Life in 1982. It was at this point they adopted the name Ministry. This line-up didn't last long, however, and the band was replaced once again with all new musicians, except Jourgensen himself, and the returning Sorensen. This new group featured Shay Jones (vocals), Walter Turbett (guitar), John Davis (keyboards), Robert Roberts (keyboards) and Stephen George (drums) for the singles Work For Love, Revenge (You Did It Again) and I Want To Tell Her (all 1983).
Jourgensen remained unhappy with the Euro-Pop direction his record company was pushing him into, especially with his solo debut, With Symphony (1983), which he described as "the first abortion of an album". Twelve Inch Singles 1981-1984 (1984) was a compilation, which attempted to cash in on his early career by the 'Wax Trax' label; it failed to go far. With the addition of Paul Barker (bass/keyboards) and Bill Rieflin (drums), the resulting Twitch (1986), on new label 'Sire', was more to his liking.
By The Land Of Rape And Honey (1988), the group had evolved into an Industrial Metal outfit, leaving Jourgensen to declare it the band's "true debut". On this album, several guest musicians made appearances for both live and studio work, with contributions from Chris Connely among others. By the follow-up, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste (1989), the band was experiencing the start of Ministry's new discovery by the masses. They had developed a stunning live show with disturbing imagery and a musical barrage. Jourgensen disliked touring but he played his part bravely behind a bone-encrusted microphone on the accompanying tours.
In Case You Didn't Like Showing Up (live) (1990) attempted to record the stage set. It was completed at a time when both Barker and Jourgensen were involved with several side-projects of varying musical styles, including Lard with Paul Barker and Jello Biafra (of Dead Kennedys), to name two, but Ministry remained the main interest for them. In contrast to the dark sound and socio-political lyrics of Ministry, the pair also formed Revolving Cocks, a humorous outlet for their talents,to release several albums Big Sexy Land (1986), Live! - You Goddamned Son Of A Bitch (1988), Beers Steers & Queers (1990) and Linger Ficken' Good And Other Barnyard Oddities (1993). Other projects such as PTP and Acid Horse came and went after only a few singles, with the Lead Into Gold project yielding only one album Age Of Reason (1990). They would also appear on the Nativity In Black tribute album to Black Sabbath as 1000 Homo DJs, a side project of Jourgensen's.
By the early 1990s the so-called Alternative music became popular with the masses, so did Ministry and Psalm 69 (The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs) (1992), assisted by the heavy play of Jesus Built My Hotrod on MTV, a track featuring guest vocals of Gibby Haynes (of Butthole Surfers), coupled the military beat of NWO (New World Order), the album was propelled into hit status making 27 in the U.S. and 33 in the U.K. It featured the return of Jourgensen, Rieflin and Barker along with guest performers Mike Scaccia (guitar), the returningLouis Svitek, Michael Balch (keyboards/programming) and Howie Beno (programming). After the release, Louis Svitek (ex-Zoetrope/ex-Mindfunk/ex-M.O.D.) joined Scaccia on guitars along with Duane Buford taking over keyboards for their 1992 Lollapalooza appearances, and debut European tour; both were huge successes. Also in 1994 Rieflin, in turn, was replaced by Ray Washam (ex-Didjits; drums). Filth Pig (1996) featuring Allen Jourgensen, Paul Barker, Mike Scaccia, Louis Svitek, William Rieflin and Rey Washam, many consider their best work, while Dark Side Of The Spoon (1999) featuring only Jourgensen, Barker and Washam showed them moving in a more Metal than Industrial direction.
And the band played on, as they say for the best of compilation Greatest Fits (2001) and the live effort Sphinctour (2002) followed and were now without the services of Scaccia nor Tucker. Tucker, for his part, had committed suicide in 1999 by slashing his own throat after taking pills. Animositisomina(2003) saw the membership of Allen Jourgensen and Paul Barker with Max Brody replacing Washam.
In 2004 Al Jourgensen returned to the studio with a revamped lineup rounded out by Mike Scaccia (ex-Rigor Mortis, of Ministry), John Monte (ex-M.O.D., of Mind Funk), Phil Owen (of Skatenigs) and Mark Baker (of Hellions) for possible future recordings under the Revolving Cocks side project moniker.
For their next album, Jourgensen released the song No W, a song critical of then-U.S. President George W. Bush; an alternate version of the track was placed on the multi-performer compilation Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1. The follow-up LP, Houses of the Molé (2004), contained the most explicitly political lyrics Jourgensen had yet written, with many tracks done in their classic industrial electro-metallic sound; the album boasted the most metal-, an LP on Jourgensen's own '13th Planet Records'. Featuring Prong's Tommy Victor and Killing Joke's Paul Raven, the album featured an even heavier thrash metal style. In July 2007, the band released Rio Grande Dub, an album featuring remixes from the band's 2006 Rio Grande Blood album.
Ministry's "final" album, The Last Sucker, was released on September 18, 2007.
On June 4, 2007, Al Jourgensen filed a Tortious Interference lawsuit against ex-bassist Paul Barker and 'Spurburn Music' in Los Angeles Superior Court (case #SC094122). The case was dismissed on October 24, 2008.
Paul Raven died on October 20, 2007, suffering an apparent heart attack shortly after arriving in Europe to commence recording for the French industrial band Treponem Pal near the Swiss border.
Two albums of covers/remixes, Cover Up (2008) and Undercover (2010) were released. All of these releases are credited to "Ministry and Co-Conspirators", since they feature collaborations between Jourgensen and other musicians.
Adios... Puta Madres, a live album featuring material culled from the band's final tour, was released in 2009 on CD and DVD.
On August 7, 2011, it was announced that Ministry was reforming and would play at Germany's Wacken Open Air festival, set to take place August 24, 2012. The reunion lineup featured Al Jourgensen on vocals, Mike Scaccia and Tommy Victor both on guitar, Aaron Rossi on drums, John Bechdel on keyboards and Tony Campos on bass. The reunion would yield two albums, Relapse (2012) and From Beer to Eternity (2013) before guitarist Mike Scaccia died following an on-stage heart attack, while playing with his other band, Rigor Mortis on December 23rd, 2012. In an interview with Noisey in March 2013, Jourgensen announced that Ministry would break up again, explaining that he did not want to carry on without Scaccia after the support tour for the album.
Footnote: Jourgensen's side project, 1000 Homo DJs, was so named when he decided to publish the left over material from his Land Of Rape And Honey album under another name and overheard a bad, and unauthorized, rendition of the Revolving Cocks song We Shall Cleanse The World. He commented to the 'Wax Tracks' label people he was with at the time (in their offices) that the only people who would hear that was "1000 Homo DJ's". The name stuck, and the resulting album was released under that name.