Background and production
Shortly after touring in support of Ministry's 1983 debut album, With Sympathy, Al Jourgensen and bandmates moved to Evanston, Illinois, and proceeded to record what was to be Ministry's second album with Arista Records. Amid differences on the upcoming recording's style, the band left Arista in Spring 1984, following a legal dispute, and returned to Wax Trax! Records, their original label. In that year's Autumn, Ministry embarked on the tour of the East Coast with Belgian industrial dance band Front 242 as a supporting act;:645 according to various accounts, Jourgensen began working on new music either during that tour or the same time With Sympathy was recorded. In his 2013 autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels..., Jourgensen said that, during an aforementioned tour, Seymour Stein had attended several gigs trying to offer the band a new deal with his record label Sire Records, a Warner Bros. Records subsidiary. As various accounts state, Jourgensen declined an offer, recalling his experience with Arista, but eventually volunteered, setting conditions that Sire would give Jourgensen complete creative control over his work, and would give resources to buy a Fairlight CMI synthesizer, and also to support the Wax Trax! imprint; as Jourgensen put it in 2013, "it was kind of a personal sacrifice to keep that company rolling and allow them to keep signing bands." By Summer 1985, Ministry released several non-album singles on Wax Trax!: “All Day”, “(Every Day Is) Halloween”, and “The Nature of Love”, before getting signed to Sire. By this point, Jourgensen remained the only official member of Ministry.
Stein subsequently employed On-U Sound Records owner Adrian Sherwood as the record's principal producer, regarding his work with Depeche Mode on their 1984 singles "People Are People" and "Master and Servant". Jourgensen, Sherwood, and Keith LeBlanc began work in Chicago in Spring 1985, before relocating in London-based Southern Studios; the later sessions were held in West Berlin at Hansa Tonstudio.:20 Recalling sessions in The Lost Gospels..., Jourgensen mostly regarded Sherwood for production advice, though he expressed dislike about his experience in London, citing cultural differences and conflicts with Sherwood's friends; also he admitted that can't "feel like this one's really mine because it's so Adrian Sherwood-influenced."