An Interview with Emily J. Burton of FIREBALL MINISTRY

Interview by Mike SOS - December 2003

A rock'n'roll revival has begun, thanks to rock sensations Fireball Ministry, whose latest release, "The Second Great Awakening," has recently been let loose for mass consumption. Chock full of fuzzed-out guitars, stomping melodies, and '70s charm, Fireball Ministry single-handedly embody Sabbath, Priest, and every notable rock record circa 1976. 

When speaking to the band's guitarist, Emily J. Burton, via email, we touched upon FM's upcoming itinerary, as well as her feelings on the studio, the misused term "stoner rock" and the exact meaning of the new album's title. 

You may have seen Fireball Ministry profiled on MTV2 - now dig a little deeper into the mindset of a band that has rock coursing through its very veins. 

Rough Edge: What is "The Second Great Awakening"?

Emily J. Burton: "The Second Great Awakening" was a religious revitalization that took place in the U.S. between 1790 and 1840. Great numbers of people were converted en masse to the Protestant religions through wide-scale, emotionally charged revivals. This fire and brimstone, tent revival imagery is something that's always been with the band, just substitute the religion with Rock. Being that this is our second album, the name seemed to fit perfectly. And the great Dan Brereton gave life to the idea with his painting.

Rough Edge: How has the MTV exposure ("You Heard It Here First") changed the band?

Emily J. Burton: The "You Heard it First" segment definitely helped generate label interest. And it has helped open some doors at MTV as far as getting mentions in the news, etc. It actually took about two years to get through the channels at MTV from the time we were pitched for YHIF until it aired, but it seems once you're in, you're in. MTV has a lot of power; our web site blew up after the segment aired.

Rough Edge: What are the plans for the next six months for the Ministry?

Emily J. Burton: We're going to Germany to support Blue Öyster Cult and Uriah Heep for 3 weeks. That's about as far ahead as I can go right now.

Rough Edge: What would be your ideal touring package?

Emily J. Burton: Opening for Judas Priest on the Reunion tour.

Rough Edge: Which do you enjoy more? The road? The studio? Both? Neither? And why? 

Emily J. Burton: Both. The studio is rewarding in the sense that you have a tangible product in the end that you've created. In general though, the studio's kind of tedious and the pressure of it always seems to stress me out. The road can be hard work and you never know what you're gonna get, but variety is the spice of life.

Rough Edge: What made you decide to pursue music? 

Emily J. Burton: Black Sabbath's "Greatest Hits."

Rough Edge: How do you feel about the term "stoner rock"?

Emily J. Burton: To me, "stoner rock" probably implies a certain amount of "jamming" which usually turns out to be a bad thing. I think what's awesome about stoner rock is the emphasis on great tone, but I also think a lot of stoner rock bands forget to write songs. A 10-minute song should not have only one riff. I do think it's pretty lame that all the stoner rock bands get called "retro" in a negative sense, like it's your dad’s music, but bands like Jet or Kings of Leon are fucking hailed as the New Era of Rock. Cream did it 800 times better 35 years ago.

Rough Edge: Any cool cover songs floating around left over from "FMEP"? 

Emily J. Burton: No. We weren't able to record any extras, but we've been kicking around some ideas for the live show. 

Rough Edge: "When I'm not playing in Fireball Ministry, I'm ...?"

Emily J. Burton: Sleeping; hanging out; hot-tubbing; consuming; reading magazines; at my computer; sewing; watching my TIVO; petting my cats; planning and scheming.

Rough Edge: What does it take for a Fireball Ministry song to get written?

Emily J. Burton: Divine intervention ... a riff is born. Then we'll all get together and work out the song parts and arrangement. James always comes up with the vocal melodies and then the lyrics come last.

Rough Edge: Who's your greatest musical influence? 

Emily J. Burton: I would say Geezer Butler or Dave Mustaine.

Rough Edge: Where do you see Fireball Ministry in five years? 

Emily J. Burton: Hopefully not in the 99¢ bin.

Rough Edge: Any parting words? 

Emily J. Burton: Try before you trust. Your own tricks can kill you.

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Copyright © 2003 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
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