Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
While his contributions to Ministry, the Revolting Cocks, and Pigface have earned him a reputation as a ferocious industrial rocker, singer/songwriter Chris Connelly's solo career has explored softer music that's more in line with Nick Cave, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and the later work of Scott Walker. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, Connelly listened to the glam sounds of David Bowie, Roxy Music, and T. Rex up to the point punk exploded on the scene. When he was only 14 he joined Rigor Mortis, a punky outfit that would morph into the experimental industrial band Fini Tribe. As Fini Tribe evolved, their use of spoken word samples and raw-sounding synthesizers brought them in line with the output of the Chicago-based Wax Trax! Records, original home to Front 242, Meat Beat Manifesto, and Ministry. Hoping they would be interested in releasing a single, Connelly brought Fini Tribe's music to Wax Trax!'s London office. It was there he ran into Al Jourgensen, Paul Barker, and Bill Rieflin -- all Ministry members or friends who were now working on the over the top side project the Revolting Cocks. By the end of the day he'd recorded a demo with the three, and it wasn't long before he was leaving Fini Tribe to join the Revolting Cocks and make contributions to Ministry along with other Wax Trax! projects like the Cabaret Voltaire/Jourgensen project Acid Horse.
In 1991, the label released his solo debut, Whiplash Boychild. The ambitious effort was unlike anything Connelly or Wax Trax! had issued before, recalling Bowie and Bolan at times and experimenting with avant-garde song structures here and there. Also that year he hooked up with another Chicago-based industrial label, Invisible, and became involved in their Pigface, Murder Inc., and Damage Manual projects, which meant he was now rubbing shoulders with Geordie Walker of Killing Joke and former Public Image Ltd. drummer Martin Atkins. Atkins would then become involved in 1992's Phenobarb Bambalam, Connelly's dark and introspective sophomore solo effort. Shipwreck from 1994 was much more uplifting and referenced the singer's early love of glam rock with sharp guitars and Bowie-esque vocals. As the Wax Trax! label began to implode, Connelly spent 1996 working with industrial giants KMFDM for their XTORT album and recorded an a cappella version of the Wire song "A Mutual Friend" for Whore: Tribute to Wire. With Wax Trax! out of the picture, 1997's The Ultimate Seaside Companion (Revisited) appeared on Invisible. The album was more acoustic, more folk, and featured multi-instrumentalists Chris Bruce and Jim O'Rourke as members of the loosely knit backing band the Bells. Bruce would return for a second effort with the Bells, Blonde Exodus, which landed in 2001 with a much more muscular sound. Also appearing in 2001 was Largo, an album with Bill Rieflin that the two first imagined in 1990.
In 2002, Connelly was back on his own with Private Education, an album released by the Invisible-related label Underground, Inc. That same year the label also released the two-CD Initials C.C., which collected "outtakes, rarities and personal favourites" from all the various projects Connelly had been involved with, save Ministry. He was back on Invisible proper for the 2004 release Night of Your Life, which received rave reviews across the board. In 2006 the six-CD set simply titled Box Set appeared on Invisible. The box collected all of Connelly's work for Invisible and Underground, Inc. along with the new live disc Lounge Ax, Bottle, and Elsewhere. Members of Joan of Arc, U.S. Maple, and Town and Country appeared on his improv-minded 2007 effort The Episodes. The album was released by Durtro Jnana -- home to eccentrics like Current 93, Nurse with Wound, and Antony and the Johnsons -- and was recorded partially outdoors. Connelly returned to somewhat more conventional song structures for 2009's Pentland Firth Howl, a collection of songs about his native Scotland, whose titles were all latitudinal and longitudinal geographic points. The gloriously lonely album was pretty much performed on acoustic guitar and harmonica. Connelly is among the most restless -- if soft-spoken -- musicians when it comes promoting his own work. In 2010 he released the wonderfully ambitious How This Ends on Lens Records. It is a two-part suite comprised of two long parts of the title track. Connelly produced it at a number of Chicago studios and enlisted a group of friends -- including James "Marlon" Magas, Tania Bowers, Zak Boerger, Sanford Parker, David Levine, Gordon Sharp, Izi Coonagh, and Brent Gutzeit -- in the recording process. The more straight-ahead rock album Artificial Madness followed in 2011.