Ministry isn’t dead, yet. From Beer to Eternity may be the last studio album from the industrial-metal greats, but there are a few more Ministry gigs on the books. Rumors around social media suggest a full-blown UK tour in 2016 could be in the works; however, we continue to wait for confirmation. Doubtless, there are many among us who would love to see another Ministry show. You have read our review of the Dallas gig last May, right?!?
the void report was lucky enough to sit down with guitarist Cesar Soto ahead of a clinic he was doing for Blackstar Amps at Sam Ash in Dallas, TX. We got to learn a little more about his background, how he joined the band, and his own Ministry fandom. At the end of the interview we’ve added a couple of nuggets from the guitar clinic you may also enjoy.
the void report: Before you joined Ministry, what were you doing?
Cesar Soto: I was playing in a couple of local bands. I had, I’d say about a 10 to 15 year gap of not touring, at least national tours, it was more on a regional scale. That was just what worked or what fit for the time. And that time gave me time to kind of get my shit straight, so to speak, and so within that time I’ve been able to raise a 14 year old and get married. I have a family. So, that’s what I did, played in a couple of local bands in El Paso and just stayed busy recording and doing regional gigs. Where I’m from, we try to hit Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Phoenix, Albuquerque, all the way up to LA, but that was the extent of what I was doing, but it worked for that time. So, that’s what I’ve done the last 10 years. I’ve been off the radar, so to speak, but in the region I’ve been staying busy; always writing music, always recording music and I always have my hand in some kind of writing or recording.
the void report: I think I read somewhere you’re also a restaurant and bar owner in El Paso?
Cesar Soto: Well actually (laughs), that was a misinterpretation. Someone ended up writing that, someone who works at a radio station; but in reality, the way it works is that my best friend, who plays guitar in a band called Pissing Razors – which I actually used to play in – but he’s the original guitar player; he’s actually the GM of the bar I work at. But, we’ve collaborated as business partners in some local bands and projects. But, he did an interview and mentioned we were “business partners” and they figured I was a co-owner, also…
the void report: I think I read you as described as a local entrepreneur.
Cesar Soto: (Laughs) Exactly! I was like, “Cool!” My buddy called me after he read that and was like, “Hey, business partner!” (laughs). But, it’s just something that someone assumed when doing an interview. But, that’s what I do, I bartend. Honestly, it’s a musicians job. I can leave whenever I want. Luckily enough, I work at a really busy establishment and friendly establishment; and I can take care of my family when I’m on and off the road. So, that’s more of a plus. It’s a happy place for me.
the void report: As a born and bred Texan, I thought it was really lame that Al moved from El Paso to LA. (Laughs)
Cesar Soto: (Laughs)
the void report: But, he gained his credibility back by hiring a Texan (laughs).
Cesar Soto: (Laughs) Thanks, man.
the void report: And I’m just being facetious, I love Al.
Cesar Soto: You know what’s funny? The entire time Al lived in El Paso, and you know what, he is pretty hardcore El Paso, he even has El Paso tattooed on his neck. But, anyhow, the entire time he lived there, about 12 years or so I believe, I think I met him two times. I never knew him or never met him really till this February. I’ve known Sin (Quirin) about 15 years.
the void report: Okay, I read somewhere, he was the one who initially reached out to you.
Cesar Soto: Yes, he is the one who reached out to me.
the void report: But, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking it makes sense because Al lived in El Paso. I kind of assumed y’all were friends.
Cesar Soto: Well, he knows lots of my close friends who became friends with him. We have several mutual friends.
the void report: With Al or Sin?
Cesar Soto: With Al and Sin. Because, Sin spent a lot of time there. I think it’s safe to say it’s like a second home to him. He’ll actually be back next Saturday for a DJ gig.
the void report: So how did you first meet Sin?
Cesar Soto: I was playing in Pissing Razors and we were on tour with them. And he was playing in a band called Society 1 and they were actually the opening band on the tour. It was ourselves, them and another band. I saw them rough it out, dude. I saw him roughing it out in vans. And even before that, he’s been heavily involved in the music scene. But, he’s a true veteran in terms of touring and the LA scene. It’s great to see him now, you know, he has his own signature guitar. Just to see him, as big as he’s gotten, that says a lot. And shows all of his hard work. When I saw he joined Ministry, back in the myspace days, I reached out to him to say congrats. I remember messaging him and he was coming to El Paso for tour rehearsals or recording. He would come in to just say what’s up. We were working and he would come visit and say what’s up and we just kept in touch.
the void report: Before Ministry kicked off this last tour, there was a lot of talk among fans about Madonna’s guitar player being in Ministry. And I’ve scene on Ministry group pages and message boards on Facebook, where people say, “I went up to Cesar and said, ‘Man, you play for Madonna?!?!” (Laughs)
Cesar Soto: (Laughs)
the void report: And then they always put, “He was really cool about it, he didn’t make me feel like a dick for saying that.”
ed – Monte Pittman was originally tabbed to play guitar on Ministry’s last tour. As well as playing guitar for Madonna, he’s got a slew of cool solo stuff out there. We recommend 2014’s The Power of Three.
Cesar Soto: (Laughs) Right on. Well, you know it’s funny because there is a similarity in how we look. He came out to the show in LA and we took a picture together and we were laughing, “Dude, we’re the same person!” But, yeah, he’s super cool, fucking killer guitar player. He’s such a killer guitar player. And you know, he’s from out here, he’s from Longview.
the void report: Yeah, I saw that. I didn’t know that at the time.
Cesar Soto: Initially, he was chosen as the new guitar player. But, obviously he has a big priority gig. And you can’t blame the dude, that’s a really big gig. And in the professional world, that’s like “Wow, that’s a killer gig.”
the void report: Well, following in the style of Al Jourgensen Ministry mythology, I saw an interview he did with Metal Sanaz.
Cesar Soto: Really cool girl, by the way.
the void report: Yeah? Cool. Whether he was half joking or not, he said something like “Madonna hates me, so she wouldn’t let Monte do the tour.”
Cesar Soto: Well, I haven’t read that interview. I don’t know about that.
the void report: Right, sure. I’m just saying, if that’s what Al says, that kind of makes you the Madonna approved guitarist for Ministry. That’s kinda cool and weird.
Cesar Soto: (Laughs). Well, yeah, that’s pretty cool. The way it worked out, it really couldn’t have worked out better. And everyone is cool with each other. It was a business thing and he got called and had to go out and do it. And luckily, I knew all the tunes to begin with, I knew all the songs. Around this time last year was when Sin messaged me and asked me if I was interested in trying out. At the time he was posting about different projects he was involved in, a lot of projects. And so I was thinking, well maybe it’s one of those projects. But, in the back of my mind I was thinking, dude, please let it be Ministry, come on!
the void report: Yeah, and they were rehearsing with Monte for a while, so you weren’t there for the ideal rehearsal time. You had a shorter stint.
Cesar Soto: It was kind of cut in half, before the world tour started, it was a whole month of rehearsal. And he did two weeks before he realized he wasn’t able to do it and that’s when I came in. Originally, I was only supposed to do maybe a weeks worth of shows he couldn’t do because he had Madonna shows lined up. But, I was happy, I was like, “Dude, I’m going to do a fucking week!” Then they said, “well you might just do a couple of shows.” And I was like, “Dude! I’m going to do a couple of a shows!” And when Sin reached out to me, I was going to come out for a week just to watch them rehearse. Even though I knew all the songs by practicing on my own; but the songs off the new album haven’t been played live before. So, he called me, I think he called me on a Friday and said, “Can you be here tomorrow?” (laughs), and I said “Sure!” And I tried to change my flight, but I couldn’t get a flight for two days later. But, I took off on Sunday and my family was already prepared for it. My family and my wife are super supportive and we take care of each other. My wife, she already knew I was going to take off for some amount of time. And before I left, I told her: “You know what would be awesome? If I could do this whole thing, it would be amazing if I could do the whole thing.” I told her I’m not picky and I’m incredibly grateful to be considered to do even a couple of shows. Or a week or two worth of shows. But, I flew out.
Sin picked me up from an airport in Burbank and drove me out to Al’s house. Al was waiting outside with Sammy, who is his engineer, his right hand man. They were waiting outside and I got there with my stuff and my gear. A couple of days before I second-day aired my guitars out there. So, I got my gear and went to Al’s house. He welcomed me into his house and I stayed there for about a week and a half to two weeks before we started the tour. I literally jumped into the rehearsal room, I already knew the songs, but you don’t really know the songs until you play them live. There’s so much going on on the Ministry stage, there are so many pieces of the puzzle.
the void report: Well, that was another one of my questions. So, you had a week and a half to rehearse, and one of my questions was, what did you do to prep? But, you said you knew all the songs. Have you always been a Ministry fan?
Cesar Soto: Oh yeah, I was introduced to Ministry about 1990-1991 by my older brother. My brother has always been my key to playing music and learning to play guitar. And he introduced me to everything I grew up listening to, like early Megadeth, early Metallica, Anthrax, you know, the list goes on, Sabbath, Ozzy, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden. So, he joined the Navy and he came back with a different catalog of music and Ministry was in there. And I remember he had Land of Rape and Honey and that was the first thing I threw on. I remember thinking, “What the fuck is this? This is crazy!”
the void report: (Laughs) Yeah, I remember vividly the first time I heard “Stigmata,” and Al does that weird vocal thing with his voice, the “ahhhhhh” part that’s drawn out. I remember being the same, “What is this?“
Cesar Soto: Yeah, me too. And looking back its easy to see that it was super ahead of its time. And yet, it’s something that will last forever, it’s timeless. It will stand up to the test of time. So, that’s when I was introduced, and from then on over the years, other albums. For me to be playing with any of these guys is just an honor.
the void report: Well, you’ve been lucky to go to so many cool places: Australia, South Africa, South America. What is the Ministry crowd like in South Africa?
Cesar Soto: Oh, dude. Pretty amazing. My first show was the Soundwave Festival in Adelaide, Australia. And that was in front of 30,000 people, maybe even more than that. And honestly, somebody asked me last night, “What was it like? Your first show with Ministry.” And really, the only thing I can say was that it felt like home. It really did. Getting up on stage I wasn’t really nervous. I got to see one of my favorite bands playing before we took the stage, Fear Factory. I got to see them while I was mentally preparing and I was like, “I can do this!.”
And I remember the only thing that Al asked of me was, “Dude, just don’t freak out, please. Don’t freak out when you see all those people.” But, yeah, started in Australia, did a bunch of shows there. Did some shows with Godflesh and that was amazing. It was a lot of fun. Just to be a part of that and to have that as my first memory with such an awesome band was really cool. From there we did South Africa, Johannesburg, from South Africa to Brazil, which was Sao Paolo, then Argentina, Chile, and Guadalajarra, Mexico and Mexico City. Just the wave of people who get it, not to say that people here don’t get it. But, it’s timeless to them there. Versus now when you hear stuff, not all stuff, but over there its just a whole different view of bands and music. It was amazing.
the void report: Well, its one thing to play huge festival crowds, but when I saw the tour schedule and saw South Africa, I was just, “Are there Ministry fans in South Africa?” That’s amazing.
Cesar Soto: Yeah, there’s definitely Ministry fans in South Africa.
the void report: Is there going to be a UK tour in 2016?
Cesar Soto: What’s announced so far, and what I’ve seen online that’s been confirmed, is Wacken Festival in Germany. But, that’s the only thing that’s confirmed. But, it would be awesome if we could do stuff around that. Of course, I would love to. Hopefully, I don’t know yet. But, that would be cool.
the void report: Well, Rock In Rio is going to be cool and that’s just a few weeks away.
Cesar Soto: Yeah, we’re doing Rock in Rio on September 19th and that’s; honestly, I’ve always dreamed about just attending one. I remember they used to do Rock In Rio specials on Headbanger’s Ball back in the day. Me and my brother used to stay up late on Saturday nights and watch it and then record it and watch again all week until the next episode. Then we would record over that. That was our internet back then.
the void report: What are a few of your favorite songs to play live?
Cesar Soto: “Rio Grande Blood” is one that always gets me going. I do a solo there that kind of loosens me up. And all the classic stuff too, man. There’s so many, “Waiting,” “Rio Grande Blood,” the catalog is so big. But, when we get to the end of the set, which is all the classic tunes like “Thieves” and “NWO,” that’s pretty special to see. When you’re playing you can see what that did to people and how it brings their youths back and takes them back to a certain time. You just kind of forget everything and go back to that time and it’s cool to see people just getting fucking crazy to those songs. I’d like to play, me personally, I’d like to play “Psalm 69” with him, that would be awesome. I know they’ve done it on past tours. But, that’s all up to Al and I’m down with whatever.
the void report: Well, hey Cesar, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
Cesar Soto: My pleasure, man.
POSTSCRIPT: Cesar’s guitar clinic was pretty cool. He played a bunch of Ministry songs and shared stories about his background and touring with the band. Here are a couple of cool things he shared:
- While learning the lead guitar part for Ministry’s “Waiting” (from the Houses of the Mole), he said that Al told him to channel ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.
- When someone asked what kind of pick-ups he used in his guitar: “Stock. Stock pick-ups” he deadpanned. Then went on to cite an Eddie Van Halen quote about tone coming from the players hands, not just their pick-ups.