The guitarist extraordinaire speaks with ReGen on his days on the Thirteenth Planet helping to usher in both of MINISTRY’s exits, plus just what he has instore with his new band Supermanic and the busy life of a radio show host.
An InterView with Sin Quirin of MINISTRY and Supermanic
By Ilker Yücel
Since landing on the Thirteenth Planet in 2006, first as a member of the Revolting Cocks and later joining in the ranks of MINISTRY, Sin Quirin has been riding a wave of critical acclaim and artistic esteem. His skills not only as a guitarist but also as an accomplished keyboardist/programmer and songwriter have taken him around the world as one of modern music’s most consummate professionals, working with such acts as Lords of Acid, American Head Charge, and his new band with vocalist Kallaghan, Supermanic. With the release of the final MINISTRY album From Beer to Eternity, as well as the impending release of the Supermanic EP, along with his current gig as a co-host of the Sin & Sanaz show on TRadioV!, Sin Quirin has a lot on his plate to be proud of. Speaking with ReGen about his time in MINISTRY including his thoughts on the late Mike Scaccia, the guitarist extraordinaire also talks about how much work co-hosting a radio show really is, and even lets us in on his future goals to usher in a new era of ’70s inspired funky disco!
Quirin: I’ve been busier than I usually am when I’m working on music. I’m not working that much on music right now. The radio show’s kept me really busy.
One can imagine how time consuming a radio show can be.
Quirin: Dude, I’ve learned how time consuming it is.
Well, we will return to talking about Sin & Sanaz later. Regarding the new MINISTRY album, you had a significant role on From Beer to Eternity, co-writing a good number of the tracks.
Quirin: I did. I think I co-wrote seven of the songs, and four or five of them was just me and Al, but I definitely was all over this record. I’m very proud of it and I’m extremely happy with how it came out. It’s probably the record with the most that I’ve ever done out of all the albums I’ve done. I was able to tap into all the electronics and all of the heavy guitar stuff; I think I brought everything to the table on this album and thankfully, Al was digging what I brought, and I hope people dig it, man.
Here’s hoping. There are always people who say, ‘The band needs to go back to the older sound,’ or with regards to MINISTRY, ‘I don’t like how they went metal,’ and etc. From Beer to Eternity does seem to have a very classic MINISTRY sound and vibe, from the glitchy electronics to the metal.
Quirin: I really appreciate you saying that; that means a lot. You pretty much nailed it and touched on everything that I hope listeners will get out of this record. With everything that I brought to the table, that’s exactly what I wanted to convey.
The first single was ‘PermaWar,’ which is arguably a song that seems the most like the recent MINISTRY, so it might throw some listeners off out of the context of the whole album.
Quirin: There’s so much more to this record than that song, and I’m with you on that. About ‘PermaWar,’ I like the song; I think it’s a very good song and it sort of has a really special meaning with me because I think that’s the first song that Mikey (Scaccia) and I actually wrote together in the studio. I brought the riffs to ‘PermaWar’ into the live room, and I showed Mikey the riffs, and he contributed the bridge or something like that. That song has a really big sentimental feeling and value. I don’t think it’s the strongest song on the record per se, so I kind of got that feeling like you describe when I knew that it was going to be the single. But I hope that it will entice people into wanting to listen to the rest of the album.
Because both you and Mike Scaccia have been integral parts of MINISTRY’s history, and both of you being guitarists, how did you find your styles to be complementary to each other?
Quirin: I toured with Mikey in 2006 when I was in the Revolting Cocks, and then I toured with MINISTRY, so I’ve been on the road with him, but obviously not in the same band. But Mikey was a guy that I obviously always looked up to because I’ve been a MINISTRY fan since high school. I always looked up to him and his playing, and when I got to know him in 2006, he was just the nicest guy in the world. We got word of us doing this tour last year; it was going to be Mikey and I on guitar, and I couldn’t wait to do this. I remember him and me talking on the phone before the tour started, and he was so excited and he was so welcoming to me. He would constantly just tell me how happy he was that I was going to be doing this with the band, how excited he was to have me on board. He was so nice about it and that had never happened to me before in any other band. He just really went out of his way to make me feel welcome. In rehearsals, he’d come over and compliment me. He just made me feel really comfortable. With Mikey being the veteran in the band, I always wanted to sort of play off of him and kind of follow in his footsteps, if that makes any sense, as far as playing goes. We both have a different style, but I think we complemented each other really well live and on the record as well. So, I would always talk to him and say, ‘What do you think I should do here? What do you want me to do here?’ He was always very positive and supportive of me bringing my own style to it. He loved us playing together and that was one thing he was looking forward to on this tour, and when he realized we were going to do another record, he was so excited to write some stuff together. After the tour and before we started recording, he and I would talk on the phone about song ideas and stuff like that. He was really looking forward to getting into the studio and going into the live room and really riffing stuff out, like we used to back in the day. Now, what tends to happen is that someone shows up with an idea, you track it, and if you had an idea, you had to do it yourself. He was really looking forward to us getting in there and just playing and seeing what we could create. That’s how ‘PermaWar’ happened; that’s how ‘Lesson Unlearned’ happened. There’s footage out there from one of our friends out in El Paso of him and I coming together for the very first time. I’ve had that ‘PermaWar’ riff stuck in my mind actually during the tour. Him and I going into the live room and just bouncing ideas off of each other; that was what he was really excited about, and I’m glad that we got to do this together, and he was just so happy about the record. As far as our styles go, you can hear on the record that Mikey’s got such a signature sound, so I would always try to take the backseat and let him do his thing and try to complement what he was doing, and he would do the same with me, which was very cool of him. He didn’t bring any ego around at all. He was just the sweetest guy in the world.
Listening to the song ‘Side F/X Include Mikey’s Middle Finger,’ besides its connections to ‘TV Song’ from the Psalm 69 days (one might expect Al to scream ‘Connect the goddamn dots!’ at any given moment), it sounds like signature Mike Scaccia on those solos.
Quirin: Oh, absolutely! It was the best recording experience that we’ve ever had; Al will say the same thing, and I think Mikey would too. The whole time, it was just us having a blast! When we did The Last Sucker and I brought all the songs that I did, I kind of did them all myself. Aside from, I think, ‘End of Days,’ which might have been the only song when we were all in the studio at the same time. But for this one, for the most part, we were all there. I was there about two weeks before Mikey, so I had a bit of a head start. But once Mikey got there, we were always in there – Mikey, myself, Sammy (D’Ambruoso), who was our co-producer, engineer, and who also played a lot of electronics and programming and played a big part in this as well. It was just such a cool vibe this time around, and those kinds of things don’t happen very often. I feel lucky that I was able to do that with them.
You’ve now been a part of MINISTRY’s ‘final’ albums, and Al has gone on record about why The Last Sucker was the last album at the time due to his health problems, while this with Mikey’s passing is perhaps more final. Aside from working with Mikey and the emotional side of things, you are a significant part of MINISTRY’s two exits; how did this experience compare?
Quirin: For me, man… it’s such a gratifying feeling. I feel like I really nailed it. To step away from the emotional part of this, as a musician and a songwriter, I think I really brought everything that I do to the table on this one. I think I wrote songs that I had in me for awhile, and I’ve really got to give it to Al for really being open to doing these songs and for letting me bring these songs to the table. To give a little background here, when we were working on The Last Sucker and he first told me it was going to be the last record, I asked him, ‘Well, what direction do you want to go with here?’ He would tell me, ‘I want it to be the heaviest thing you can write.’ I’d think, ‘He’s the boss and that’s what I’ve got to do,’ so that’s kind of what I was bringing to the table. For this album, when I asked him what he wanted to do, he’d say, ‘Well, I’ve got this dub idea.’ I’d say, ‘Okay. Well, are you open to other stuff? Because I have some slow kind of ideas,’ and he’d say, ‘Perfect.’ So I knew that he was going to be more flexible and more open to these older types of song ideas. I’m a MINISTRY fan, period. Take the song ‘Hail to His Majesty;’ that song started out as sort of a ‘Scarecrow’ idea that I had that was really slow and really dark, and that’s what we recorded. One day, Al came in and he was having one of his ‘Al days’ and he was just pissed off at everybody, which is a hilarious thing to see really. So, he’s yelling at everybody, ‘I don’t like this! We’ve got to fuck this up!’ We basically poured down the song and Sammy added the whole intro thing with the electronics and Al; the keyboard thing, I’d already recorded, but we played it backwards. We kind of really went outside of this comfort zone that we were in; at least, for me. All of a sudden, we’re listening to this song, and we thought, ‘Holy shit! We really have something cool and different here.’ And I thought, and I still think that some of the older fans are going to dig that kind of stuff that we brought. I feel really accomplished with this record, and I couldn’t be happier, and not to sound like I’m patting myself on the back here, but I am really happy with the end result. I know that people were expecting another speedy thousand-riffs-an-hour kind of thing, but after doing ‘Double Tap,’ I thought, ‘How much faster can I fucking write a song?’ That song’s already breakneck speed, so I went the opposite direction. That song was very much a conscious effort to go for that more classic MINISTRY sound, and I think we nailed it on this one. There are a couple of songs that are still fast, but I just think that every tune has its own kind of signature from a different MINISTRY era.
‘Lesson Unlearned’ is an interesting track; you never hear female vocals in MINISTRY.
Quirin: I know, right? How cool! How awesome was her voice? You know who she is? Patty Fox – she’s not really known at all – sings in the church choir that Angelina Jourgensen goes to. Angie was like, ‘Hey, my husband is Al Jourgensen from MINISTRY,’ and she didn’t know who the band was or anything like that. She’s this little, nice black lady, and we brought her into the studio, so everybody had to behave; we didn’t cuss, everybody had to put out their joints and not drink so much beer while she was there. She came in and nailed it! She’s like the sweetest person, and now she’s a big MINISTRY fan.
You mentioned earlier that you haven’t been working on music lately, and yet, you’d done a stint with American Head Charge, and you had The Great Americon and Supermanic. What’s it like to not be working on music currently?
Quirin: It’s weird! The last year was all about the tour and then the album, which sort of trickled over into early 2013, and in the process, we dropped Supermanic. We’ve got the Supermanic video, which comes out on September 17, and we’re going to be releasing a Supermanic EP. So, those songs are pretty much done, so when I said that I’m not working on music, it’s because those tunes are pretty much already there. There’s still some tweaking to do, some mixing and mastering, and then we should have an EP out by the last quarter of this year. I’m already talking to some labels about that actually, so that will definitely see the light of day before the year is over. American Head Charge is out right now; I wasn’t able to go on this run because of the radio show, but that’s it. I’ve kind of mellowed out with it. I kind of felt like I needed a break after working on the MINISTRY album and Supermanic, and now that that’s sort of ready to go, I’ve really been concentrating on this radio show. And I’ve been busier than when I’m in three bands! I never realized what an undertaking it is to have a weekly show; it’s a lot of work!
Both you and Sanaz have a lot of history in the metal scene. Bringing that to the table and doing this show, which seems to be a free-for-all of ideas, what does a show like that entail?
Quirin: It’s ridiculous, man! I’ll tell you how this started – I did an interview at this station called TRadioV! (www.tradiov.com), and these friends of mine have this show. I was their guest and after I did their show, the program director came up to me and asked me if I wanted to have my own show. We talked briefly about it, and I was interested, so literally two weeks later, I started. I hit up Sanaz to ask her if she was interested in co-hosting with me since I thought it’d be interesting to have a co-host. That was it, man! For me, being inexperienced with that – I don’t have any radio experience at all – I thought, ‘Ah, this should be fun and a piece of cake!’ And it is fun; I just did not realize how much work it entailed. Our show is on every Tuesday night. We usually have the guests booked at least a week or two in advance, if not more, but it’s literally working every single day to work on the programming of the show. Our show varies between being two hours and one hour, but every day, I’m working on content, working on what it is the guests want to talk about and what they want to cover, and me working on becoming better at it and getting a little more comfortable with it – simple things that you don’t think about like going in and out of commercial, how to fit in the call letters, the phone number of the station. While you’re doing the interview, you’ve got to be conscious of all of these things that you’re never really used to. I’m trying to get a little bit more comfortable with that, but I’m having a blast with that so I’m hoping it’s something that I can continue to do.
What else do you have going on that you would like to tell us about?
Quirin: From Beer to Eternity has been released, and the Supermanic music video is out September 17, and after that will be the Supermanic EP, which if I had to guess right now, I would say will probably be released around November; possibly October, but most likely in November. I’m probably just going to finish up the year, hopefully, by continuing to do the radio show. Next year, we’ll see what happens. Al’s going back and forth about whether or not he wants to go out on the road with MINISTRY. We’ll have to see next year.
While most of what you’ve done has been under the industrial/metal sound, you’ve demonstrated your abilities in other styles, and you’re just as proficient with keyboards and programming as well as guitars. Is there any musical idea that you’ve not yet tried that you’d really like to, either in Supermanic or Americon or another outlet?
Quirin: Yes! And it’s something that I don’t know if I’ll ever be good enough to do, and it’s something that’s not even new – it’s really old. I would really like to be able to write an amazing disco/funk song. Really! That’s the honest truth.
‘I’m Not Gay’ from Sex-O Olympic-O sort of touched on that territory.
Quirin: Yeah, I got close; I mean, not really close, but I was in that direction during the Revolting Cocks records because I was more in that very ’70s disco frame of mind when I was writing some of those songs. But if I could write like an Ohio Players type of tune, or Hot Chocolate, or some shit like that, that would be the shit, man! I think maybe that will be my last musical endeavor to try to conquer, because I love the ’70s beat.
Well, the ’80s revivalism does seem to be dying down, so maybe it’s time to go back to that ’70s sound.
Quirin: Exactly! Everybody wants those ’70s! Well, at least I do… or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
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