Interview With John Soroka

I was recently fortunate enough to be contacted by John Soroka, who played keyboards on the later parts of the 1984 tour. He's a great guy, and was cool with fielding a few questions about his days with the band.

Q: Let’s start with your background before getting involved with the group. Had you done anything musically before Ministry?

Soroka: Yes, I had been playing in several bands all throughout high school. One was a cover band from central Illinois called 87 Men. That was like 1981. I was really getting into synth bands and they wanted to do a lot of covers by Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, Blancmange etc so I was in for sure. We toured the Midwest a lot, playing mostly college bars. It was a fun band for the bar scene. Then I met up with some guys who wanted to do all original synth stuff and moved to Madison WI, where they lived but I think we partied more than anything else.

Q: How did you come to get involved with the band?

Soroka: After playing in some of these bands I moved back home, which was Rockford ,IL at the time, and a friend and I opened a club which was almost 15,000 square feet, with the main purpose being to have these great, still somewhat unknown, underground type alternative acts play there. We had Thompson twins, tears for fears and then I booked Ministry. Well being a keyboard player after the show I was talking to Al and I said “Ya know, I should be in this band” and he said "you think so, why don’t you come out to Chicago and show me". So I did and he said you’re in.

Q: How long were you with Ministry? What did you play?

Soroka: I was only with the band for maybe 1 year or so. I joined while they were recording Halloween, then Nature of Love and we toured up until the time we started writing material for the Twitch Album and I quit the day before they were leaving for Germany to record the Twitch record. I was a keyboard player live and also played some percussion.

Q: Who was in the band while you were a member? Were there frequent changes in the lineup?

Soroka: Al’s wife Patty was on keyboards, Stevo was on drums, Brad was on Bass and I was on keyboards we also had a backup singer with us I believe her name was Yvonne. There weren’t any lineup changes while I was playing with them but I had come to find out that prior to my joining there were a few and have been several since.

Q: Information of the 84 tour is pretty sparse. Did the band stick around the Chicago area or was there some travelling? How long did the tour last and what parts of the country did you play?

Soroka: Well, after rehearsing for weeks we wanted to do some local shows first to iron out any kinks so we played a few local clubs in Chicago. I do remember doing a high school show too in like New Trier IL. It had some type of toga party theme and I don’t remember if it was a homecoming or what. After these shows we worked our way out east. We played Conn, NJ, NY, NH, mostly east coast then came back here for like Detroit and Minneapolis. That all stretched over a 6-8 month span.

Q: What kind of venues were you guys playing? I know there were a couple shows at high schools, was this due to declining audience size?

Soroka: We played to pretty good sized crowds. I’d say 1000-1500 seat venues. I also remember playing New Years Eve at the Ritz in New York with Front 242. As I said the high school show, and I only recall 1, was just a warm up for the tour.

Q: I know that Front 242 opened for Ministry for the first part of the 1984 tour. Were there any opening bands for the shows after that? Anyone come to mind as noteworthy?

Soroka: Front 242 was mainly the opening band although we had an opening spot at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago for the Psycadelic Furs. Probably one of the best shows that I was a part of because now your talking maybe 5000 people.

Q: In the years since, one of the live trademarks of the band has become the live guest appearances of members of other bands. Were there any while you were with the group?

Soroka: Well, Richard 23 from Front 242 came on stage a think a couple of times but not really anyone else that I can remember. I think Al would do some songs with them as well.

Q: I’ve heard tale that the Chicago show at the Exit was the send-off show for the With Sympathy material. True? If not, when did the touring stop?

Soroka: Hmmm, well I do remember the Exit show but as far as it being a send-off, that’s not something I remember being discussed. I know Al was tired of the music being so pop and wanted to harden it up some and that probably did basically start after that exit show.

Q: Did you guys ever tape the live performances? I guess any that were would be in Al’s hands now, but it would be nice to know if they existed.

Soroka: Oh I’m sure some recordings as well as videos were made but your guess would be as good as mine as to where they would be. Knowing Al and his feeling about that era if their were any recording and he knew about it he have it all burned.

Q: I always ask for interesting tour stories. Got any?

Soroka: I have several. You have to remember I was pretty young, like maybe 22, but unfortunately the stories I have mostly revolve around sex and drugs so we probably shouldn’t go there. I don’t want to incriminate anyone who may have been a part of it. Maybe this will do though: We traveled out to play Boston and had 2 conversion vans or Love Vans as I like to call them and I think we were staying at a Holiday Inn or something like that all I know is that they had a parking lot with a guard. We wake up in the morning and head out to the vans for sound check and there are NO VANS. Both were stolen in the night, then I come to find that Boston has the highest peer capita auto theft in the country. I don’t know exactly what was left in these vans but I know we all had something and we never did recover the vans.

Q: What sort of gear did the band use back then?

Soroka: Well I was playing a Roland Jupiter 8 and I had a Roland Juno 60. Patty I think was playing a Jupiter 8 as well, of course brad had his bass rig, al has his guitar rig, Steve had an acoustic kit with some synth pads intermingled and he and I both played some Roto Toms.

Q: This was during the period Al was recording for Wax Trax again, even though there were only a few 12”s released. Was there any local fanfare to this or did the old With Sympathy material seem to be a bigger draw?

Soroka: People really started to get into Halloween which Wax Trax released as well as Nature of Love but they all wanted to hear Revenge and Work for Love. But by the end of that year Halloween had become a pretty big club hit.

Q: Were you with the band during the time Al started to work with Richard 23? Was there any discussion of the Revolting Cocks or other sideprojects?

Soroka: No, none that I remember

Q: Did the band do anything promotional to get attention? I think this was after Al’s Donahue appearance.

Soroka: Nothing out of the ordinary, of course we did a lot or backstage interviews but nothing to get attention per se

Q: Did you work with the band on any studio stuff during your tenure? Anything you can think of that may not have seen the light of day?

Soroka: I did some studio work on both Halloween and Nature of Love and like I said earlier, we were writing the material for Twitch. Now there were some tracks that did not make it to Twitch but I’m not sure if they were ever recorded in any format.

Q: There’s a song done live during the late 84 dates that sounds like it may be called “Do You Even Like It”. Any clue as to the real title or other info you can give?

Soroka: I think that’s exactly the title. That’s a song that was written during rehearsals for the tour. Al would always be at the space messing around and coming up with stuff then we’d all jump in and I believe that’s about how that song came about.

Q: What about the infamous cover of Roxy Music’s Same Old Scene? It’s been alluded to by numerous sources, but I have yet to find anyone who was in the band that knows anything about it. Any clue?

Soroka: Now that’s something I can’t help with either. I never had a part in that. We did do a Fad Gadget song live as a cover

Q: Did the band shoot any video material while you were around?

Soroka: There may have been some live things shot but nothing to promote any release.

Q: The infamous I See Red EP was supposedly scrapped before Twitch came out. Were you around the band long enough to have any knowledge of it?

Soroka: Yes, I remember the song but had never heard anything about it being released as an EP.

Q: Were you around for the signing to Sire?

Soroka: Yes I was. I remember Al telling me about the deal and part of the deal was that he was getting a Fairlight, which at the time was the state of the art midi recording system. It had a screen with a pencil attched and had floppy disc drive that took these floppy discs that were like 10” x 12”.

Q: How about Al’s working with Adrian Sherwood?

Soroka: I remember Al telling me that Adrian was going to be producing the Album and I was psyched for that. Oh I just remembered a story you might like. All this Sire and Adrian Sherwood talk reminded me. Now remember, Al was tired of the pop stuff and was changing things over at this time. Anyway, in Germany recording Twitch Al hooks up with Souxie Souix from Souxie and the Banshees and I think they are doing a lot of drugs for days together. Anyways, the owner of Sire comes out to Germany to see how his newly signed artist is coming along. Well, being up for days and a bit out of it when Mr Stein arrives at the studio to hear what's been recorded, he ends up hearing a half awake Al thumping his finger against the microphone while guitar feedback blasts in the background. You see, he thought he was getting this pop act and I heard he came back to the states and into rehab..kidding

Q: Were the Blackouts around during your tenure with the group? Most of them ended up joining the band later on. Was there any interaction between the bands at that point?

Soroka: I do remember them but there was no interaction at that time.

Q: What have you been doing in the days since you left the group?

Soroka: I mostly have been doing production work with bands and writing with various people for other artists.

Q: Any other stories or things I may not have gotten to that might be interesting?

Soroka: Not really. I know this would NEVER EVER HAPPEN, but I think now that Al’s getting older we should do a band reunited although with the name carrying on there still is a Ministry, but it would be fun. I hope this fills in some gaps that you might have had in piecing together some of Ministries early years. Cheers


Page Last Edited on 2005-08-04 20:56:52 UTC CST (7367)