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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

Rigor Mortis

Interviewed by Mike Korn

Interview with Casey Orr of Rigor Mortis from 2014

MSJ: Concerning the Slaves to the Grave album, that has to be one of the most bittersweet experiences you could have as a musician.
Of course.
MSJ: Will this album be the last word for Rigor Mortis? And if it is, are you happy with it?
Well, it's definitely the last thing we will ever record as Rigor Mortis. That name is retired. With Mike not here, it should be. Rigor was the four of, Mike, Harden and Bruce. And it really always has been. We knew that before Mike died. There was no real thought to it. It was just...that's the end of that.  However, we have a very close friend of ours and a very close friend of Mike Scaccia as well, who knew him for 30 plus years and played guitar with him, who is the only guy who could step in and play like Mike. So we've been doing a few shows under the name "Wizards of Gore.” We're not doing that to keep going as a new band. We're only doing it for a couple of occasions...a record release party and the Housecore Horrorfest. We've done that before under that name to raise money for the Heart Foundation in Mike Scaccia's name, as well. We're not sure what the future of that is going to be. It's our band still. Those songs shouldn't be just shelved and put in the closet. We want to tread lightly. We don't want to come across as a cover band of our own band, we don't come off as exploiting Mike Scaccia, which, of course, we're not. Because we were, you know, a band for 30 years.  The music runs deep with us. However, with that being said, this record....the irony of Mike being able to finish his parts for it three days before he passed away. It's just a miracle it got finished. It's become a labor of love. I'm literally running on fumes. This is the most work I've done in my life. This is the most "do it yourself" record there's ever been.  I am the merch guy and everything related to that while Bruce was doing all the logistics for the release show. We've been working our asses off putting this together with no label support or anything. Yeah, we're very happy with the record and Mike was very happy with the record. It was very close to being done when he passed away. He signed off on it and knew what it was. We knew that and we have that to hold on to.
MSJ: You put this out on your own label. Was that the plan from the get-go?
Oh no, absolutely not! We thought some kick-ass metal label would go, “yeah, Rigor Mortis!” Or after Mike died, a label would go, “oh God, please let us release Mike Scaccia's last album!” But they didn't! Now we've never been the most business minded band so it's not like we had a manager going around shopping this to labels. We made a few calls and got great advice and got great feedback but it just seemed like, without a follow-up record and no tour to support this record, they were reluctant to invest for financial reasons. And I can understand that. It's cost us every bit of twenty thousand bucks to put this out ourselves. Literally, I learned how to be my own record label in about two months! (laughs)
MSJ: Considering how many bands that are more obscure than Rigor Mortis and quite frankly of lesser quality and which still get support from labels, I'm rather stunned by that situation myself.
Well, to us, it wasn't really a big letdown or a big shock. It's been the story of our lives. We got signed by Capitol Records right out of the gate and it was all downhill after that! (chuckles) Literally, we went from "woo-hoo!" to "they don't know what to do with us.” They were putting out 8 x 10 glossies that combine us with Poison! That's how they're trying to sell us? Honestly, at this point, I doubt if anybody at Capitol even remembers that we existed. It's always been like that for us. We roll with everything because it all keeps coming at us all the time anyway.
MSJ: The memories of the fans in the metal world are very long, though
That's true. That's the only reason there is a record. That's the only reason we even thought about recording...because we knew there were people out there that absolutely connected with that first record.  A lot of them followed the other bands we've all been in. We might have played some music together, but we wouldn't have gone gung-ho, let's do a new record and some mini-tours if the fans weren't there and they weren't awesome. Our fans are great. We had the record release party, and it was just tremendous.
MSJ: I’ve still got the vinyl for that first record, I remember all the circumstances of getting it..
Right on. Did you get that sh***y pink sticker that Capitol stuck in there?
MSJ: I did! (laughter) I think that's gone to the landfill.
Yeah, I don't have it anymore. I remember when we got that, and I was like, “it's f****n' pink! What the f*** is this? (laughter)
MSJ: That was back in the day when I picked up a record just by song titles and appearance of the record alone...
Oh man, that's how I was introduced to most of my record collection. "Cool! What the f*** is this?" Raven!  They look like crazy b*****ds! Venom!
MSJ: When I picked up that debut, I thought, “unless my eyes deceive me, this is probably gonna kick ass!” (laughter)
Well, imagery is so important, you know! The logo...I drew up that really primitive one we used for a long time. When we did the record, Capitol got Court Johnson who did all the "Birdhouse" stuff for Tony Hawk, and he did this killer iconic image. The label wanted other stuff, but I told 'em, “no, it's got to be boom!, our logo, our Jolly Roger, our Motorhead symbol, our Misfits Crimson Ghost.” And we stuck with it. That's really important. Bands make more money off a hit T-shirt than they do off a song.
MSJ: And that character made a good return on the cover of Slaves to The Grave!
Yeah! You know, it's really funny. We were gonna do things ourselves anyway, even if a label was going to put the record out. I had found this little picture on the internet which I couldn't even blow up because it was so pixilated, but it's a black and white picture of some guy throwing a shovelful of dirt into an open grave. And it was from the perspective of being in the grave! So I started drawing it and I painted it a couple of different times, it kept changing and evolving. Then I thought, “why am I painting just a creepy dude with the shovel? It needs to be the Rigor Mortis guy, duh!” I started doing that and everybody else liked the concept, and what I had come with at that point. I finally realized, there's just no way I can do this justice, I'm not good enough to get it where I want to see it. So we found this awesome dude Michael Broom who had done some stuff for us in the past. I told him what I wanted and how I envisioned it and boom! He did it, he caught the atmosphere and I couldn't be happier with it!
MSJ: Would you say this album is really the true sequel to the debut? Is that how you envisioned this? I know you also did the albums Freaks and Rigor Mortis Vs. The Earth with Doyle Bright as lead singer. Do you still stand behind those?
Rigor Mortis was always self-indulgent because we didn't have a label telling us what to do. When we were with Capitol, we didn't let them tell us what to do, either...which is probably why...y'know! (laughs) They seemed like they liked us at the time and then all of a sudden it was "Beastie Boys"  was big on Capitol and then, boom, it was, “f*** you guys.” As far as those two records go, I still like 'em, because I know how we were thinking at the time. I think that Freaks is pretty much a straight continuation of the debut. We really didn't change much beyond the singer. But by the time we did Vs. The Earth, we literally didn't have a label and we got our friends at Triple X Records to put it out. We never saw a dime but we didn't care. We just wanted to make some metal music.  So we did. We were pretty punk-influenced by that time and we were just f***in' around with stuff. I still listen to that record, and I still like it. But this new record is a different story. Especially since we've had so much time in between! We've got Bruce back, “let's make a new record.” But we never thought "let's make it exactly like the first record" .It was just like, “hey, I don't know what it's going to sound like, let's jam!” That's all we did. We'd just jam around in the rehearsal room for hours and sometimes a good song would come out.
MSJ: On the new album, you start thing off with "Poltergeist" and the second half of that was quite different. There were a few curveballs during this one. It must have been very important for you to not do a clone of your first record.
You know, it never crossed our mind! I'm serious. If you had been hanging around with us during all those years since the last Rigor Mortis record, if you had ever been hanging around in the studio with Ministry and Mike Scaccia, if you'd ever hung around GWAR when I was with, we played all kinds of stuff!  Especially Mike. Mike was as fluent in blues and country and bluegrass as he was with metal. I'd put him against anybody. We're all from the Dallas/Fort Worth area and beyond a doubt, Dimebag was a master shredder guitarist. But Mike and Dime could probably battle it out all night playing each other's riffs. If Mike had picked up a mandolin, Darrell would have bowed down to him. Mike was just very fluid and nothing phased him musically. He could capture the real tune. If he played a Rolling Stones tune, you could tell he was channeling Keith or channeling Mick Taylor. He wasn't like "I'm gonna play it my way!" He was more like, “I'm gonna play this perfect piece of music that I love and stay true to it.”

So when we did Slaves to the Grave, we didn't really notice when something was different. We'd just think, “wow, that's really cool! It's beautiful!” You know, we're 23 years older than our last record! We've been through a lot in between those stints, with GWAR and The Burden Brothers and Ministry and Speedealer and The Hellions. We've been doing a lot of other stuff that maybe the Rigor Mortis fans aren't aware of. Especially when it came to Mike's playing, because he's played some really beautiful stuff that's not been released very widely.

MSJ: He was one of those guys that when you heard him, you knew it was him. You didn't have to hear vocals. I could detect him no matter what band he was in.
He was unique, he had a unique sound. And it wasn't the guitar and the pedals and the was his hands, you know what I mean?
MSJ: Speaking of different sounds for Rigor Mortis, the big ringer on the new album came at the end, with the huge epic about the gladiators, "Ludus Magnus.”  Was that an idea that you'd been thinking about for a long time?
Bruce had that idea! He was watching the "Spartacus" series on TV a lot and got inspired by tales of gladiators. He came up with that whole concept and we just thought, “yeah, it's a cool idea. It's a no-brainer.” Everything developed so organically and smoothly and in a short period of time. We had written "Bloodbath" and "The Infected" about a year before and had been playing those live, but the rest of the stuff was hashed out by Mike and me in October of 2011. Six weeks before the beginning of February, we told the other guys, “we're ready so here we go.” From there, everything really started developing. It was real smooth. There was no stumbling. We just had a really good time working together.
MSJ: I wasn't sure whether these songs were oldies from the vault or all brand new. It sounds like they were all relatively recent.
Yeah, I think "Bloodbath" evolved from a song from a long, long time ago, probably the Freaks demo era, which I had forgotten completely about anyway. But it's not the same song. Other than that, that's the only thing that had any tie to the past. Everything else we wrote fresh for this record. There were a couple of riffs that me and Mike worked on for Ministry's Relapse album but Al wasn't interested in them because they were just too fast for him to get his head around. A couple of those wound up on the record.
MSJ: Let me go back into the past now. Could you describe the Texas metal scene in the late 80s and early 90s? I heard that was a red hot era.
Oh man, it was great, dude! It was so fertile. There were so many bands. Everybody who came to a show tried to start their own band! It was kind of the new thing here for bands to play together. Instead of one band playing three sets, we started getting three bands that would play one show. That was something new then. That's how Pantera got so good when they were young. They were playing all of these clubs where you had to play 80% cover tunes, and you'd play three sets a night. So they would do that, and they would play everything that was a hit on radio at that time. That's how they got great, because they were playing three or four sets a night and they'd play four or five nights a week! And then when we came out, we wanted to play on multi-band bills. There weren't many clubs then that would do shows like that. We started at a place called “Joe's Garage” in Fort Worth and it took off right away. It just instantly became a scene! Once there was a "home base" club, there was a scene, everybody knew where to go. That's the key to a scene. There's got to be a main hub, a place where people hang out. It was hardcore back then. It was fun, violent, with a lot of underage drinking! It was great, we were 18 to 21 and we'd go nuts. We were fearless and invincible and stupid - too stupid to know otherwise! We had a blast, man! We had an absolute blast!
MSJ: You think there's any chance that such a scene may arise again or has that time passed for good?
I don't know, man! It's hard to ever go back to anything exactly the same as it was. But what I'm seeing right now around here is a lot of young bands that are more influenced by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Rigor Mortis than they are by modern stuff. They're influenced by stuff up to Slayer and Metallica and that's where they kind of stop. They're really into it! These guys are so young. There's a band from around here  called “Exploder” that we've played with several times and their drummer just turned 18 and got his driver's license. He's been playing clubs for two years! And he's a monster! If these guys are the future, then maybe the  future's gonna be OK! I think there's definite resurgence of "real" heavy metal, not just the hybrid newer bull heavy metal. Just going back to the basics and thrashing, straight-up rock and roll metal. That's really what thrash is,'s just rock n roll metal! Thrash seems to come more directly from the UFO's and Thin Lizzy's only f*** all the love song parts and going balls-out fast and heavy...
MSJ: Like Lizzy's "Emerald"...
MSJ: It's good to hear that this is happening in other places, too. There's a pretty strong metal scene in my area....just saw Overkill and Prong the other night and it was packed.
Yeah, I saw 'em here and it was great! The place was packed here, too!
MSJ: Fans were  from all across the spectrum...from guys in their 50s to high school kids.
That's not lost on us, either. Here we are with this great record, getting great reviews, everything's perfect. Except our best friend and guitar player is no longer here with us. Typical Rigor Mortis luck! We always call it “the Curse of Rigor Mortis!” Always! Rugs have been pulled out from under us. But this is the big one, you know. F*** the record and all that,...just not having our friend around to laugh at stuff and watch movies and messing with each other. That's a far greater loss to me than Mike Scaccia the musician. That's the hard part of this.
MSJ: You almost took the words out of my mouth. There's been so much written about Mike the guitarist, but maybe not so much about him as a man.
Man, a lot of people  would see Mike at a club and be afraid to approach him because he just seemed really dark and sinister and angry. He wasn't...he just had those Italian eyebrows, you know! He was actually one of the most humble, generous guys. He made everybody feel like he was their best friend. If you ever helped him out and did anything for him, he didn't forget it. And he got you back. And he was as funny as s***. We laughed more than we even played. It was hysterical in rehearsal because all we'd do is make jokes and talk in weird voices and goofy dialogue. He was also a great father. He had two grown daughters and a young son and a daughter with his wife Jenny.  He worked for Gibson Guitars doing clinics. A lot of those are up on Youtube. If you ever get a chance, check them out. You'll get more of an idea of who he really was if you watch those. He did great at the clinics. I was so proud of him the first time I saw him do one. It's a lot harder to stand up solo in front off 30 or 40 people and talk about your career than it is to get in front of thousands of people and play  your guitar. Believe me, it's a lot harder. He was at a happy point in his life and....well, you know.
MSJ: It's a real tragedy for sure, but I guess there are worse ways to go.
Everybody who plays music says, “yeah, I want to go out rockin' on stage and blah blah blah, you know. Go out in a blaze of glory.” It doesn't happen very often but it did this time. It's just so weird, you know...I was there! It was so surreal. How can this really be true? Boy, it sucks! I did think at the time, he died with his boots on. So many little cliches, you know? There were so many loose ends that got tied up just before it happened, like doing the final takes for Slaves to the Grave. Even where it happened and who was there that night. I find it just a weird thing.
MSJ: It had to be doubly tough because I know you were an associate of Dave Brockie from GWAR...
Oh yeah! I consider Dave one of my all-time best friends in my life.
MSJ: I was fortunate enough to interview him a couple of years ago before Halloween. It was so odd because it was the first GWAR show I went to. I got an amazing picture of Corey Smoot that night...probably the best concert photo I've ever taken. Less than a week later, I found out he had passed away. That was unbelievable, but when I found out the same thing happened to Brockie, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
You know, dude, I went through getting a call for Corey and then watching my brother collapse and die on stage and then very early in the morning getting the call about Dave. It's numbing, you know? It's just so surreal. And there was another close call with another GWAR associate not long after that. He's fine now, but it was really scary for a few weeks. I was like, “what's next?” I'm just numb. I was hoping nobody else dies, because I don't think I have anything left in me to give them! I've always tried to be a realist. It's part of life, you can't stop it! You just have to make something positive from it and keep the memories alive. All you get out of this life is how you're remembered....that's it, that's all you get!
MSJ: The decision has been made to continue GWAR and I personally disagree with it. There are some people that are not replaceable in rock and roll. There is no Motorhead without Lemmy. There's no Queen without Freddie Mercury, and for me, there's no GWAR without Oderus Urungus.
I agree that Dave is completely irreplaceable. You cannot replace Dave Brockie, you can't get another Oderus Urungus. I also know that GWAR just can't stop dead in its tracks. It's a business, and it's been their career for 25 or more years. You just can't slam on the brakes, it's bigger than that. I'm not  privy to what's going on. I find things out on the internet just like everybody else. I'm still friends with GWAR, I love the guys, but we're not in communication anymore. I don't get a say in what they do. With that being said, I think the way they're going about it now is actually the smartest thing they can do. They haven't replaced Dave. They're running with this Vulvatron as lead singer. She's not lead singer, she's the new chick...the new Slytemnestra, the new Sexecutioner. And Mike Bishop, the original bass player, has stepped in and he's singing most of the stuff. The guitar player, the bass player, they're all singing songs as well. I don't know if they know what they're going to do in the future, but for now...and I think they have to do this. It's not an easy decision. They have to do a tour so the fans can come out and pay their respects to Dave just like they did with Corey. The fans appreciate that and they need that. But what's gonna happen after that? I don't know. A lot of kids think it's a brilliant idea It may be the best business decision they've made. But I know it will never be the GWAR that it was. And GWAR evolves and morphs. When I was in the band, it wasn't the same band it was when it started. And it changed a lot since I left.
MSJ: When I talked to Dave, he himself said "we are now an actual metal band.” When it started it was more like an outrageous art project than a real band...
I can tell you that has been an ongoing struggle. What is this, what are we? There was a time when I was in the band that I almost left because all these different characters were going to sing all these different songs on the album. “I don't want to do this. I want to go home.” "What do you mean?”, they asked me. Well, if every little side character is gonna have a song, we're going to have to bring them on tour. None of them are good singers. (laughs) It was hard for a band who trying hard to be a band to do a bunch of sub-par songs. No offense to anybody but they were show tunes. They were character songs.  The guys who were real musicians in the band at that time like me wanted GWAR to be a real band, a kick ass heavy metal band. That's what we thought the fans wanted as well. GWAR was getting real clowny at that time.  And they did push it in the more heavy metal direction. And they are still going in that direction.
MSJ: That gives me some pretty heavy insight into the GWAR situation...
I don't think they have a choice. They have to do something, at least in the meantime, before they determine what's going to happen long term.
MSJ: I don't want to see it become something like The Misfits.
I agree, I agree. But I'm pretty sure the fans themselves will tell them when it's time to stop.
MSJ: The Misfits are tapped out but I do think GWAR has a bit more they can mine.
That's what I mean. When GWAR fans aren't buying it anymore, they're gonna know it's time to stop. Or at least to pull way back and re-evaluate. But I don't know! It will never be what it was. Without Dave, it would have to be something totally different because it can't be that band anymore.  There's no danger, there's no darkness, there's no impish Dave Brockie who could f*** everything up in a heartbeat. You didn't know what was going to happen with him. There was this sense of being on the edge, you know. And the early GWAR, the time when even I wasn't there, that was being on the edge and living on the skin of your teeth all the time! It's so alive, the whole thing...being a part of it! It's so fraught with danger and tripping over crap and giant monsters falling on you and maybe getting electrocuted to death...
MSJ: That's part of the attraction! Let's move on now...what was the last CD or release you got because you wanted to check the band out?
Ooh! I can't even tell you the last CD I bought! I think the last thing I got was the new one from Iron Reagan. That's kick ass, man! I also love Killing Joke but I think their last record was, you know, two years old. I do like the new Motorhead, too!
MSJ: If you could ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?
Oh Jesus, that's tough! There's so many! How about Boris Karloff?
MSJ: There you go!
Boris Karloff...Vincent Price...and Bettie Page!
MSJ: I like where that's going! That's a very good selection there! Now this question can be from Rigor Mortis, GWAR or any other band you've played in. Have you ever been in any Spinal Tap moment you can share with the fans?
It's so constant, not one thing pops up. Being in GWAR was like Spinal Tap 24 hours a day. Every f***in' thing you ever saw in Spinal Tap happened to us. Every band I've ever been in, it's all such crazy do it yourself s**t. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. You never make a fraction of what foresee you're gonna get paid that night. You're never gonna make it to the next show...(laughter) When we were in GWAR, we had a production company approach us about doing the pilot for a reality show. And we were like, “perfect! It's about time!” All you'd have to do is follow GWAR around with cameras. You don't have to script anything or suggest anything. It can just be montages of Dave Brockie looking for his cell phone. Just stuff like that. Then they showed up and they had a million little ideas. It was still hysterical, but I really think it was just too vile for any network to pick up! (laughs) They had a child psychologist come talk to us and she literally had never met us. She was really cool, she was a hot MILFy chick...(laughter) She was a good sport, but you could tell she was like, “holy f***, these guys need help!”
MSJ: I'd take it as a compliment, maybe.
Oh yeah!  She asked everybody to mention something from our childhood...good, bad, whatever, it didn't matter. And about half of us would talk about some odd thing in our childhood. And a couple of us would say something dark and unsettling. And then there were some of us who just poured this weird crap out on everybody...this dark, s****y thing they had done to some other poor kid. And you'd just go like, “ewwww!” Wow! I'd love to see all that footage. Like Bob Gorman trying to explain why the Oderus Urungus mask wouldn't be scary for kids. "It looks like a burn victim!" "Oh, but if a kid meets some guy with real burns, he'd be OK with it because of Oderus so it won't scare him." (laughter) She'd point at the mask and say, "is that a vagina on his chin?"  I don't think Bob had an answer for that! All they had to do was just follow us for a week and film everything. Don't tell us to do anything, don't lead us to anything. Just film it and you'll have enough footage for a whole season, I guarantee it!  Debauchery...stupidity...bad women...angry boyfriends whose bad girlfriends are on the bus...
MSJ: All the stuff that makes life worth living...
We were pirates, man! The vast majority of the time I was in GWAR, I loved it because I was a fan of the band before and I couldn't believe I got in the band. We were bus pirates, man! Living life and drinking beer and fine wines in Europe...checking out topless chicks in Spain...hanging out with squat punks...
MSJ: Any last words for the fans out there?

Yeah, I want to say thank you to everybody who supported Rigor Mortis, whether it was from the beginning or whether they're just finding out about the band. You don't do this if there's nobody interested. You have people coming up and saying "I would have killed my Dad if I didn't have this record on my headphones!" or "this band changed my life!" That's great to hear! I'd take that over any false rock star BS. I want to hear that you liked our record. I don't want to hear what you think of me!


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at
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