If you’re following the underground for quite a while already, you should be familiar with Texas based Thrashers RIGOR MORTIS (not to be mixed up with the pre – IMMOLATION outfit of the same name of course!). They released three records in the late 80’s / early 90’s ("Rigor Mortis", "Freaks" and "Vs. The Earth") and then disappeared from the face of the earth again. Bassplayer Casey Orr recently informed us about the return of RIGOR MORTIS with three original members: Casey on bass, as well as Mike Scaccia on guitars and Harden Harrison on drums. According to him, they already started rehearsing and plan on recording and touring next year at some point. So, reasons enough for us to finally come up with a bigger feature on the guys. The following interview is already a bit older and was originally published in the classic debut issue of Snakepit Magazine, but as nothing’s really changed ever since, you can still enjoy it in the same way… Read on to find out what Casey used to tell us when we hooked up with him in my hometown Bremen, where he was having a show with GWAR at the time…
As I never got to read anything about RIGOR MORTIS overhere, I was wondering if you could help us with the most important facts about the origin of the band?!
"Ok, basically RIGOR MORTIS started around ’81/ ’82. Myself and Harden Harrison, the drummer, were in school together and decided to start playing together. And we had a friend that played guitar, but we didn’t wanna play with him, he wasn’t very good. He called us one day and said "I found this guitar player and he’s so good! I won’t even play, you guys just come over and meet this guy and play with him." And we went and met him and it was Mike Scaccia. And RIGOR MORTIS actually became RIGOR MORTIS, I guess in 1983… we really formed as RIGOR MORTIS and got Bruce Corbitt to sing for us, he was our first singer. We put out a demotape in ’86, only put out 500 copies of it, but a friend of ours got in contact with people from Capitol Records… Rachel Matthews, who was at Capitol Records at the time, and she liked it a lot and came down and saw us and they signed us. We thought it was a really great deal and that it was the biggest deal in the world."
Which songs had been on that demotape?
"A lot of them were on the first album. There was one called ‘The Troll’, that never appeared on any record. ‘Six Feet Under’, from our second record, was on that demotape as well. It was okay. I wouldn’t now say that it was all great, but apparently the girl at Capitol liked it a lot. Unfortunately when she left Capitol Records, the people that took over our project weren’t interested in it at all, so…"
What have you all musically done previously? Did you play in any other bands already or was RIGOR MORTIS your first band?
"Well, we’d all been in smaller bands as kids, but RIGOR MORTIS was really our first band that ever made any tapes or did anything."
Did you promote your demo in the underground or was it mainly for record companies?
"Yeah, we sold it at our shows and sent it to people and tried to promote it as much as we could. But actually, we didn’t have that much time. We got signed fairly soon after we put out the tape, so once we got signed, we decided to start working on the songs for the record and everything and we didn’t put out another, second demotape or anyhing."
Could you tell us what Capitol exactly did for you during the time you’ve been with them? I mean, have you gotten lots of advertisements and Interviews or were you able to go on tour at the time?!
"Well, they did some at first… We did one tour in the States with DEATH ANGEL and they gave us a lot of money! Basically for a band that comes out of nowhere, that did one demotape, 500 copies… we had no idea what the music business was all about as far as the reality of it, you know. We just played. They gave us a deal for $100.000 for our first record and we thought we were unstoppable now! But unfortunately we really didn’t know much about the business and we didn’t have a manager at the time and so they kinda helped us spending it. It was ok. They hired Dave Ogilvie, who now works with Trent Reznor (NINE INCH NAILS). They got him to produce our record and we did the record in a really expensive studio and spent a lot of money there. I wished we would’ve known more and we would’ve spent less… They bought us all new equipment and took pretty good care of us as long as Rachel was there. But Rachel left about a year after we got the deal. Right around the time we were almost ready to do a second record, but they basically just dropped our project. To do the second record, we literally had to get our lawyer to call Capitol and say "Either we record the record or you release the band; so they can go on and record." And they were like, "Well… okay… I’ll tell you what we’ll do, you’ll record it, but we’ll release it on Metal Blade Records…" So, that’s what happened. We recorded the second record in California with Bill Metoyer and it came out pretty good, but they really didn’t promote that at all and that’s actually the hardest one to find, because they really didn’t do much promotion."
How did you get together with Metal Blade Records?
"It was through Capitol. They gave us the money to record and at the time they were doing a sort of project with Metal Blade, Capitol was financing some Metal Blade releases at the time, so they hooked that up. When the time came for the third record, we didn’t even call anybody, we just asked some guys at Triple X Records to give us some money to record."
When It comes to your second release, why did you go for a mini album instead of a full length then?
"Well, we got a different singer."
So, it’s really a different singer on "Freaks"?
It’s weird, cause they sound totally alike to me…
"Do they? Well, we got this guy Doyle Bright, who played rhythm guitar when we played live, but not on the record. And the people at Capitol weren’t really sure about doing the record at all, cause they didn’t care about Metal that much at the time. They kinda stalled for a while and like I said, we finally got a lawyer and he called and they said, "Well, you have this new singer and we’re not sure what your future is gonna be, so let’s do an EP and put it out on Metal Blade… " It was basically Capitol’s idea to do it that way. We had tons of songs, we were ready to record a full record."
What happened to your original singer?
"He’s kind of a flakey guy, pretty weird. And we just didn’t get along with him very well at all through the whole time and finally just couldn’t work with him anymore, just didn’t like him, you know, personally me."
So, he got fired?
"Yeah, basically none of us wanted to play with him anymore."
Where did you draw your main musical inspiration from back then?
"Back then it was a lot of BLACK SABBATH, MOTÖRHEAD, IRON MAIDEN, PRIEST and at a time I got into any British or European Heavy Metal I could get my hands on. I bought it in import stores and stuff. Everything from RAVEN to VENOM and everything… I listened to all that kind of stuff at the time."
Has anyone of you maybe also been into WHIPLASH from New York?
Cause to me the instrumental opener on your debut album, ‘Welcome To Your Funeral’, sounds pretty WHIPLASH inspired, especially the guitarvvork…
"Yeah, we used to listen to WHIPLASH…"
Taking a look at your songtitles, I guess you’ve lyrically mostly been inspired by horror and gore movies, haven’t you? Why didn’t you print the lyrics in the first two releases?
"Well, we printed them in the first record and the second record they didn’t wanna spend the money."
But they’re not included in the CD version…
"It was all up to the label. The label didn’t put them in there because it was too expensive, which is bullshit! But like I said, we didn’t know much about the music business. It took us basically until RIGOR MORTIS broke up and we all went on to do other things, that we learned how it all really works, you know. We were kids at the time and we didn’t have a manager or really power to say "Bullshit!" Looking back at it now, we should’ve just said "Fuck you, print the fuckin’ lyrics!" But ever since I had to make copies for people and mail ’em to them all the time, cause people still contact me and want copies of the lyrics and I have to find them, cause man, it’s been a long time… It’s been several years since we played with RIGOR MORTIS, so…"
Which movies have your lyrics been inspired by at the time?
"Tons of stuff. All the old Italian Zombie movies, like the Argento stuff or "Dawn Of The Dead", the really cheesy low budget splatter stuff, like "Wizard Of Gore"… Basically we were sitting around, watch horror movies and smoke pot all night and then write songs."
Have you written your lyrics exclusively about those movies or have you also written about any other topics as well?
"Uhm as RIGOR MORTIS it wasn’t just movies and stuff, but the theme behind every song was pretty much blood and guts, horror, killing, freaks, perversion and stuff, you know (laughs). At the time we were just so into horror movies and stuff. It just was the easiest thing to write about. All the time we could constantly come up with lyrics, cause at the time we would sit down and watch five horror movies in a row! Just sit there all night and watch horror movies, so it was easy for us to write about that stuff."
Did you also get the chance to appear on any of those movie soundtracks because of that maybe?
"Actually the first thing that Capitol released us on was the soundtrack to "The Decline Of The Westem Civilisation Part II", the "Metal Years" movie, which we weren’t in, but they put a song on the soundtrack record, ‘Foaming At the Mouth’. It’s not on any of our albums, so it’s exclusively on there. It was actually on the demotape as well, but it’s a new recorded version. We weren’t with Capitol all that long, about a year, a year and a half and then they kinda dropped us, so a friend of mine, that I went to school with, now works in Hollywood, doing horror movies and stuff and he worked on "Lord Of lIIusions", he was the second unit director and he worked on "Bride Of Re-Animator" and a lot of movies like that. And at the time he had been working in Hollywood for a year or two and proposed a video for the song ‘Re-Animator’ and proposed it to the people at Capitol and they seemed really interested. He had guys that played in "Re-Animator" and "Chainsaw Massacre" and he had them all lined up to be in this video and get paid nothing as a favour to him. And the people at Capitol were like "Oh yeah, we’re really interested." And they flew a girl down to Texas and she took us out. They were really good about coming to Texas and taking us out to dinner and buying us booze and then they wouldn’t do anything. But she took us out and he proposed the video idea to her. I mean it would’ve been great, it would’ve been the coolest video up to that time, it would’ve been insane, but…"
It never happend…
"It never happened. She went back and called and was like "Ehh, I don’t know, it’s too much money." And it was something like pretty low, like $25.000, which at the time for Capitol Records was nothing, especially with four or five recognizable people from horror movies in it, you know. And guts and blood, you know (laughs)! Creature effects and stuff."
And what about ordinary compilation albums? Have you ever appeared on any of those maybe?
"Yeah, Capitol put out a couple of stupid ones like "Metal Madness", just cheesy shit… Literally I was in a store one time, flipping through CDs and I found this one called "Metal Madness" that had a RIGOR MORTIS song on…"
But I guess the material on there was just taken from your album, wasn’t it?
"Yeah. So, they dropped us and didn’t do anything with us and then later on they put our songs on stupid compilation records, hoping that somebody would buy it"
I noticed that you also have been responsible for the RIGOR MORTIS logo design on the debut album… So, have you been doing artwork of any kind yourself maybe?
"Not really. Not a lot, I just kinda sketch, just draw a little bit, but I was never a professional artist or anything…"
So, you have never done anything for RIGOR MORTIS or any other bands?!
"Actually, I’ve done a couple of things. I drew a T-shirt design for X-COPS and I drew a T-shirt design for GWAR, but that’s about it. I don’t draw a lot, but every now and then I draw something that somebody likes and we use it for something. But actually the logo itself, the head I drew, but the name RIGOR MORTIS was drawn by my older brother, Grady. On the demotape is my version of it and on the album cover they got a guy called Cort Johnson, who did a lot of skateboard artwork, to do that."
There’s been quite a few bands around calling themselves RIGOR MORTIS at the time, but you’ve been the only one to survive with that moniker… So, did you copyright that or something?
"Yeah, actually what happened was, we had the name for years and years and then I found a record in a record store of a LA Punk band called RIGOR MORTIS and so we told the people at Capitol and they tracked the guys down and they had broken up years before, but they actually had the copyright to the name. So, Capitol was like "You probably gotta change your name." And this was after the album was recorded and about to be released. So, we were like "God, we gotta think of a new name!" and when you’ve had a bandname for years it’s hard to just pull another one outta your ass. Luckily the guys of Triple X Records, who we were friends with at the time, went to the guys in the band who own the copyright and offered them to buy the rights to the name. Capitol said that they would pay up to $10.000 if we could buy the copyright and I think we ended up paying them like $1.000 and they were like "Great sure here, take it!"
Who came up with the cover for the "Freaks" release and did it cause you any problems maybe?
"No, actually it was weird. Triple X Records knew this artist Mark Ryden and he had a sketch of that and we were gonna call the record "Freaks" before we hooked up with him. And they told him, "Well, we have this band and we wanna know if you’re interested in doing the artwork on the cover. The album’s called "Freaks"." And he was like "Oh wow, I already have this thing begun…" So, he brought it to us and we were like, "Wow great!", so he took it back, changed it a little bit and added a few more characters into the drawing. And it’s funny because he did a MICHAEL JACKSON album cover, he did a STEPHEN KING cover for a hardback book and he did the WARRANT cover, with the fat guy’s face. He’s done a lot of stuff. But he was really cool, he did it for very little money."
Was it a problem for you that your management Triple X was located In California, while RIGOR MORTIS was from Texas?
"It wasn’t that much of a problem. The only problem was that they didn’t really do much for us. We wanted to tour all the time or get our songs into a movie or whatever. And we gave them all these ideas and they were just like waiting and waiting and waiting! They wouldn’t really do anything happening. We just sat around at home, writing songs and songs, saying "When are we gonna go on the road?!" It was really difficult, because we wanted to do all these things and didn’t have enough music business sense to make it all happen ourselves. So, we were relying on people, who told us they would do all these things for us and very rarely came through. But at the same time, some of the people from Triple X we still see every now and then. We never had like huge differences with these people. Like I said, we thought, we would do really well with Capitol Records and then they dropped us and moved us over to Metal Blade. And then Metal Blade didn’t do any promotion for it at all and then finally, we did the third record, just out of frustration. We just called another label and said "Look, fuck them, they did nothing for us, we just wanno do a record. We don’t give a shit about any politics involved, we just wanna make music!" So, we did that and right after that record was released, Mike got an offer from MINISTRY to join fulltime. And at the time we really weren’t doing a whole lot, you know, we didn’t have any tour lined up or anything like that. It was just like "Go for it!" We are all in the business forced to succeed and if you get a good offer… And actually it was good, because Mike went on to do MINISTRY for a while and I got to tour with MINISTRY on Lollapalooza. The bassplayer’s wife had a baby on that tour, so he left and I got to play seven shows as the bassplayer for MINISTRY. That was pretty cool. And our drummer went on to do another bandproject called PERVERSE and they did a couple of CDs in Texas. And me and Mike Scaccia and Mike, the drummer for X COPS… After the third RIGOR MORTIS album in ’91 or ’92, we did a project called BLOWHORE, some more of a Punkrock kinda thing, it was just us three and I sing everything. And we started a second BLOWHORE record, we did all the basic tracks and then the guy, at the studio we were working at, totally fucked us over and we couldn’t get ahold of him for months and months and then Mike had to go back to MINISTRY, so we still have the rough mix of an album full of songs. But because of him being in MINISTRY and me later on being in GWAR we just haven’t had time to do anything. But when we played Dallas, I hung out with Mike and Harden and all we did was just look at each other and go "Man, we gotta do something again!" It’s like RIGOR MORTIS never got a proper burial, you know. It’s like it never ended right. I’m sure one day we will do another RIGOR MORTIS record, because we talk about that all the time!"
Are there any unreleased RIGOR MORTIS songs?
"There’s like five or six songs that we didn’t record and there’s tons of other stuff that we’ve written since then, which could easily be RIGOR MORTIS stuff."
To get back to your management one more time… was Charley Brown really your manager’s name or was it just a nickname or something?
"No, it was his real name."
And was Triple X Records your management’s label?
"At the time we were doing the Capitol record, it was combined, it was Triple X Records and management and then they split off later on. Triple X Records is still around, but Triple X management is no more."
Weren’t you satisfied with Bill Metoyer’s production work on "Freaks" or why did you retum to Kerry Crafton, who already did your debut album?
"Well no, I thought it sounded really good, that was something the label set up for us to do. But when we did the third record, we did it in Texas and Kerry, the engineer on the first record, he recorded our demotape as well, so we’d known him. And he had a studio that he worked at all the time, so we could get a good deal and we knew him and we knew he was familiar with us. So, it was just an easy and inexpensive way for us to record, cause Triple X didn’t have a lot of money to give us. Basically we went down from Capitol to Metal Blade to Triple X, but I think at least the records got better in a lot of ways."
You also started to take over some of the lead vocals then, what was the reason for that?
"Well, it was really by accident. We were writing songs that we didn’t want Bruce to sing, because we thought they were too cool (laughs). So, it was between me and Mike and the first one I ever sang was ‘Die In Pain’. I sang that one because we were practicing one time and he wasn’t there and for some reason I came up with ‘Die In Pain’ as the chorus part and we more or less finished that song that night. I then ended up singing more and more. Because I wrote things and I wanted to sing them or I wrote something and Bruce just couldn’t get it right, you know. Same thing with Doyle. Doyle was a better musician, the problem with Bruce really was, he was not a musician at all, he couldn’t play a guitar, he didn’t even wanna learn and I think, even if you don’t play guitar in a band, if you’re gonna be a singer, you should have some musical knowledge. Because it’s really hard to explain to someone how to interprete these lyrics and sing ’em along with the music when they had no concept of music. All he listens to is AEROSMITH, he’s like almost gay for AEROSMITH, he’s such a big AEROSMITH fan. And we tried to explain shit to him, what we were doing and what we want him to do, and he couldn’t comprehend it, you know. So, sometimes when I wrote something, I didn’t even want him to try, I just sang it myself."
Have you been singing before that already?
"No, never! The first song ever sang in my life was ‘Die In Pain’!"
Who are David Haake and Dave Fargason vvho contributed backing vocals and string bass to the "Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth" album?
"They were friends of ours from a Texas band called DER GESTANK. A really cool band Dave Forgason played the string bass in College and he came in and played on the first song and Dave just sang back-ups."
Did you split up after that album straight avvay?
"Pretty much after. As soon as it was released, Mike got the offer to be in MINISTRY fulltime and he had played with MINISTRY a little bit before. He had toured with them, when we weren’t doing anything. When he got the offer to join them fulltime, it was hard for him to call me and tell me this. If I would’ve raised hell about it and got really mad, I think he might have stayed and would not have done it. But I couldn’t. I was like "Man, that’s awesome! Fuckin’ go for it!" If something that good comes along you can’t stand in someone’s way! And it ended up being good for all of us. We’re still really good friends. We talk all the time on the phone. I’m sure we’ll do something again, I’m positive, I just don’t know when."
When did you get together vvith GWAR then?
"They contacted MINISTRY to see if they knew anybody to play guitar and Mike turned them on to Pete. Pete was in a band that used to play with us all the time in Dallas, called SEDITION and they had broken up and so they got Pete to join GWAR (he transformed into "Balsac The Jaws Of Death", in case you are a GWAR maniac – Frank). And then when their bassplayer quit, Pete called me. And that’s basically how I got the GWAR gig. So, indirectly, through Mike Scaccia from RIGOR MORTIS, I became a member of GWAR." (better known as "Beefcake The Mighty" then… – Frank)
Pics: Stu Taylor, Mike Insuaste, James Bland, Steve Scott, Frank Stöver (last 2)