Members: Rev. James A. Rota II, John G. Oreshnick, Emily J. Burton, Johny Chow
It's been said that Fireball Ministry carries the torch for the future of rock 'n' roll, and as Their Rock Is Not Our Rock proves, the L.A. purists continue to unrepentantly fan its flame with every thunderous power chord. The quartet's third full-length (and Liquor and Poker debut), Their Rock... is a defiant mission statement that shoots the bird at whichever way the winds of trends blow, an unadulterated modernization of a timeless sound, and most importantly, a refreshing reminder of what rock should mean.
Cincinnati might not seem like the rock 'n' roll capital of the Midwest, but that's exactly where vocalist/guitarist James A. Rota II and guitarist Emily J. Burton broke ground on their ministry in the late '90s. The duo's ambitions soon outgrew the "Queen City," though, and they soon relocated to New York City before ultimately settling in Los Angeles, where they met drummer John Oreshnick.
Following a split 7-inch release and a pair of tribute compilation contributions (Misfits, Blue Cheer), the band recorded their debut album, Ou Est La Rock? French for "Where is the rock?" for Bong Load Custom Records in 1999. The recording, which saw former Megadeth drummer Nick Menza guest on two tracks, was supported with gigs alongside Danzig, Unida and Nebula, among others.
Two years later, the group was joined by Fu Manchu bassist Brad Davis to record F.M.E.P. (Small Stone Records). Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Velvet Revolver, the Foo Fighters' Grammy-winning One By One), it featured three new songs alongside five covers. They subsequently toured with Fu Manchu and Spirit Caravan, earning a reputation as formidable live performers. Ensuing buzz, as well as "You Hear It First" airtime on MTV, caught the attention of the American branch of German metal label Nuclear Blast, who signed the band in 2003. Finally, Fireball Ministry was granted a worldwide pulpit.
The group's second full-length, The Second Great Awakening, saw the band re-team with producer Raskulinecz. The album bass tracks for which were handled by Janis Tanaka (ex-L7) and Fu Manchu's Davis soon became one of the most acclaimed rock releases of the year. Their video for "Flatline" soon became a Headbanger's Ball staple, while another powerhouse track, "King," was hand-chosen by Jackass/Viva La Bam skateboarder Bam Margera to appear on his Viva La Bands compilation.
Fireball Ministry subsequently toured the States with Dio, Anthrax, Motorhead and Andrew W.K. (in addition to hometown gigs with Danzig, Slayer, Mastodon, Killswitch Engage, The Datsuns, Lamb of God and others), while their European touring alongside Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep and CKY converted many overseas believers. But the band was something of an anomaly on a roster composed largely of European power- and black metal acts, so when it came time to record their third testament, a new benefactor was needed. Enter Liquor and Poker Music, an upstart rock label based in the band's own backyard that shared many of their same ideals. That is, part Cold Gin, part Ace of Spades and 100rock.
In 2005, the group now featuring bassist Johny Chow (ex-Systematic) entered Dave Grohl's Studio 606 West, again with Raskulinecz producing. Additional recordings took place at the late Elliott Smith's New Monkey Studios. The resulting Their Rock... engineered by Mike Terry (Ash, Halford), and with a cover designed by Keith Scharwath (who also handled the F.M.E.P.) showcases the definitive Fireball Ministry sound: sneering riffs, driving rhythms, hooky harmonies, catchy choruses and a classic-rock sensibility many believed lost as a nu generation temporarily held court. A nationwide Adio Footwear-sponsored tour in support of CKY featuring Margera's brother, Jess helped to spread the gospel.
Fireball Ministry is everything a rock 'n' roll band should be: loud, proud, dirty, visceral and even a little bit dangerous. As Their Rock Is Not Our Rock capably proves, whenever the "first church of rock 'n' roll" delivers a sermon, its message reverberates as loudly as the amplifiers they play. Indeed, any who prematurely wrote rock's epitaph will have their faith restored as they're baptized by fire.