RIGOR MORTIS first hit the national scene in 1987 and their 1988 debut record, RIGOR MORTIS (Capitol), has since become legendary in the thrash/speed metal community. Things weren’t quite the same from then on, and the group eventually disbanded with guitarist Mike Scaccia joining MINISTRY, and bassist Casey Orr joining GWAR for a number of years. Drummer Harden Harrison currently plays in HINT OF DEATH. Vocalist Bruce Corbitt would form TEXAS METAL ALLIANCE, now known as WARBEAST, featuring Casey on bass. After reuniting several years before, RIGOR MORTIS recorded an album, Slaves to the Grave, and were just about finished when on December 22nd, 2012, tragedy struck. While playing a show in Ft Worth, in celebration of Bruceʼs 50th birthday, Mike Scaccia suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed on stage. He was pronounced dead later that night. I had the chance to sit with Casey to talk about the new album Slaves to the Grave, the listening party/farewell show here in Dallas on September 27, and Mike’s legacy. So here it is:
Tell me about the record. I know you got everything funded through Indiegogo, now tell me about it.
Casey: Well we got back together several years ago to do some shows, and we all had so much going on with different bands and things, so it was kind of sporadic. Then everything kind of fell into place and we all had time to really start working on a new album. We really started writing in 2011 and we had already had “The Infected” and “Blood Bath” that we played for a while. The rest of the stuff we wrote around October of 2011, we’d get together and hash stuff out. Then we had the opportunity to get into the studio for about six weeks at the last minute. But it wasn’t a struggle, it all flowed really well. I work best under pressure, anyway. There was no stress. We had the record pretty much done and then we were doing some little fixes, started mixing. Mike went out on a MINISTRY tour, came back and he was able to finish all his guitar stuff on the record three days before he died. It was a blessing for us to finish the record; we didn’t have to second-guess anything.
We got it finished and it was really bittersweet. We financed through Indiegogo because we couldn’t get any labels to take it on. With no tour, no follow-up record…the music business is so shitty right now that nobody wants to spend any money. I was shocked that somebody wouldn’t at least make an offer, but hey. One positive thing though is that we get to release it ourselves. And our fans stepped up, we reached our goal and we’re able to put the record out the way it should be, with all the bells and whistles, and not owe anybody doing it. The flip side of that is having to learn basically how to be a record label for this one. Dealing with all the art, tech, typos and a lot of other shit. Then we had a bonus DVD thing to do, and deadlines, etc. It was important to us that the record sound good, look good, and be presented well. Being it’s our last thing we wanted it to be done right, I want to feel like Mike’s looking down and saying, “Hey man, fuckin-A! Kickass, great job, looks good, I’m happy!”
Yeah, and I was sorry to hear about Mike. It’s bittersweet like you said, but what a fitting way to go out and end things with this fucking amazing tribute to him.
Casey: I had a couple people ask me if we were not gonna put it out, and if Mike hadn’t finished all his parts we wouldn’t have. But it was finished so there was absolutely no question. Not only is it some of the most beautiful guitar stuff Mike’s ever done but it’s also like the bookends to his recording career, you know? His first record to his last. This is his band, my band, Bruce’s band, it’s Harden’s band, it’s OUR band, this is it. It’s not like me in GWAR or Mike in MINISTRY where they weren’t ours. This is it, you know. This is him playing exactly what he wanted to do and exactly how he wanted to do it. It’s a fitting end to his recorded musical career. The whole thing is almost like a poetic, epic story. You can’t write it any better. We’ve all said, “Oh, I wanna go out while onstage” and he did! He died with his boots on, his favorite Les Paul around his neck. Last thing he did in his life was play his guitar which was the thing he loved most, surrounded by local brothers, friends, and family. People who were there from the beginning and it happened to be Christmas, our singer’s birthday, too. You couldn’t ask for a better way to go if you gotta go, you know? Everything is perfect, except Mike’s gone…so that’s tough.
I have to tell you when our friends at MetalSucks debuted the single “Flesh for Flies” I must’ve played that fifteen fucking times in a row! I was ready to smash windows!
Casey: (laughing) Cool, that’s what we were goin’ for! Careful listening to this record!
Yeah man, when I got the promo a week ago I jumped about six feet in the air.
Casey: It’s funny man, I have a friend who also tattoos me and he was telling me that how the first time he tattooed me he was freaking out and trying not to fanboy and now we’re friends it’s just crazy, you know? I told him, “I’ve got a copy of the CD if you wanna hear it.” And he goes, “No…I can’t. I can’t do it. I have to have the experience of taking the plastic off and opening the case up, pulling the booklet out, and putting the disc in my player.” And I thought that was so cool! A half hour later his friend comes over and I told him I had it if he wants to hear it. He goes, “Man, I can’t.” Same thing! And I totally get that ’cause I’m the same way a lot of the time. Your memories of all the great records are opening ’em up and taking everything in. When I was a kid, reading the liner notes and looking at the artwork, that was heaven, you know?
It’s so true. I’ve talked to a lot of guys who feel the same way. And that’s why we don’t listen to an album on friggin’ shuffle. Because it’s a journey of hills and valleys, you know?
Casey: Yeah, and that’s why nowadays you have to make an album that’s worthy of, and people WANT to listen to from front to back and not skip four songs. And a lot of bands don’t do that. They have a couple great songs and the rest are crap. So you really have to step up your game. You don’t sell records anymore, you sell tickets and t-shirts. That’s why it’s great that vinyl came back and people want to buy albums that way.
What’s going on with WARBEAST album-wise?
Casey: We’re working on a new record right now, which means Scott (Shelby, guitarist) is working on the new record (laughs). I’m sure I’ll be able to put my stamp on it as soon as this record’s out and things get back to normal. I’m excited for that; I think it’ll be a kickass record.
What do you want to say to all the fans of RIGOR MORTIS, WARBEAST, and all your other endeavors?
Casey: I definitely want to say I appreciate you being there all these years, not just for my bands, but supporting the scene and the music in general. There are people out there who stepped up and donated money to the Indiegogo thing and I feel that. To know that 30 years later people respect what you do and can’t wait for this new thing and they’re so supportive. It’s fucking great, you know? And there’s new fans, a whole new wave of thrashers coming up and it’s great because they sincerely love the music we play. Without them, all of them there’s no point in doing it. People who tell you there’s any other reason are full of shit. To have people love your music and tell you that you influenced them is awesome. If you die and people talk about you with respect and admiration for anything you did in your life that’s all you can ask for.
Casey, thanks so much for taking time out to speak with me. I know how important this record, and the musical legacy of RIGOR MORTIS is.
Casey: Cool, man. Make sure you come up and introduce yourself at the gig, brother!
I really enjoyed talking with Casey Orr. He’s a great guy and he’s part of a great scene here in Dallas. The record release show for Slaves to the Grave is tomorrow night, September 27 at The Curtain Club in Deep Ellum. You can get tickets HERE…So get your asses down there and let’s celebrate the enduring legacy of one of the great thrash bands and also pay fitting tribute to Mike Scaccia, may he Rest In Peace.