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Interviews Rigor Mortis

Interview with bassist Casey Orr

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: November 15, 2014

Photos by Beth "Warbeast" Shelby and Juan carlos Mutilador

Rigor Mortis from Texas is no more. The band broke up for the first time in 1991, after releasing two highly popular albums (the self-titled debut album in 1988 and Rigor Mortis Vs. the Earth in 1991) and one EP (Freaks, in 1989) before collecting their troops back together again in 2005.

On December 23rd, 2012, Rigor Mortis' true heart and soul, Mike Scaccia, was felled by a severe heart attack. Rigor Mortis died along with him but the band's legacy continues on among the Metal community.

Rigor Mortis' third (and sadly last) album, Slaves to the Grave, was supposed to mark a new start for Rigor Mortis but instead became their swansong. Even if there's no more Rigor Mortis, Wizards of Gore, a tribute band featuring all the remaining Rigor Mortis members, makes sure Rigor Mortis' name won't vanish into oblivion too soon.

The Metal Crypt contacted bassist Casey Orr to ask how life has been going after Rigor Mortis and how it was to make the band's last album Slaves to the Grave, which Mike Scaccia fortunately managed to record his guitar parts for. Read on...

Luxi: How are you doing, Casey? Still breathing and shitting Metal, even if there's no Rigor Mortis any longer?

Casey: I'm doing well! Busy as hell! I am dealing with the CD release and distribution and all that fun stuff, as well as playing in three bands, etc. No rest for the wicked, they say!

Luxi: Let's talk about Wizards of Gore, which is actually Rigor Mortis only with another Mike (Taylor) on guitar, who was a great friend of Mike Scaccia's (R.I.P. brother). How are things coming together in Wizards of Gore? Have you already started putting some stuff together or are you still figuring out if Wizards of Gore is worth a shot?

Casey: We've played a few shows already and it's going very well. We're gearing up for the Housecore Horror Film Festival Oct 23rd-26th and also have a Halloween show. We're not sure how far we're going to go with that, but Mike Taylor is doing a great job playing Scaccia's stuff, and we're having a good time playing together. I don't think anyone but Taylor could pull it off, and if he wasn't in the picture, we probably wouldn't be doing Wizards at all.

Luxi: Do you try to keep Wizards of Gore's musical approach a bit different or are you sticking to the musical formula that you had in Rigor Mortis? Why fix something that isn't broken.. ;o)

Casey: For the time being, we've just been playing Rigor songs. If we continue with Wizards of Gore we will definitely write new material, more than likely in the same vein as Rigor Mortis, but we didn't set out to stick to any specific formula. We'll see where it takes us.

Luxi: Where did you get the name Wizards of Gore? There was this one splatter film from the 70's titled Wizard of Gore, written by Allen Kahn...

Casey: Yes, the title for the song "Wizards of Gore" was taken from the Herschel l Gordon Lewis film! Rigor Mortis actually got to accompany Mr. Lewis singing the theme to his movie 2000 Maniacs at the very first Texas Frightmare Weekend several years ago. It was a major highlight for us! I think there's footage of that on YouTube somewhere. When we decided to play some shows with Mike Taylor that was pretty much the first name that popped up. It fit perfectly, so we went with it.

Luxi: Slaves to the Grave is, unfortunately, Rigor Mortis' final album. First off, congrats on making such a killer album. I am sure every Rigor Mortis fan happily owns a copy of it by now. How easy or difficult was it to get all the songs together for Slaves to the Grave?

Casey: The hardest part was finding the time to do it in the first place! We had talked about doing a new record as far back as '05, but had other commitments and obstacles that had to be dealt with. So it took a while before we were able to devote the time to actually doing it. But as far as the songwriting, etc., it came together fairly quickly once the ball got rolling. We had recorded all the tracks back in February 2012, and then Mike and I went on the Ministry tour, so we didn't get back to mixing, etc. until Sept.-Oct., '12. Then, of course, our brother Mike passed away before it was completed. Fortunately, Mike was able to finish all of his edits and tweaks three days before he died, so we were able to complete the record. The hard part became actually calling it done and letting go of it.

Luxi: Do you have any bittersweet feelings regarding this last Rigor Mortis album? I mean, it has all the trademarks of the Rigor Mortis sound and people are digging the hell out of it. If things had been different the future would have been wide open...

Casey: Yeah, it's almost like the ultimate cruel joke. We should be talking about tours and the next record right now. This should have been a new beginning for Rigor Mortis, not its swan song. And now Mike's finally getting recognized as the incredible guitar player we always knew him to be, but he's not here to enjoy it. I just hope, wherever he is, he feels it.

Luxi: There are 10 songs on Slaves to the Grave so, just out of curiosity, is that all you had when you started recording the album at 13th Planet Studios in El Paso or were there leftovers?

Casey: We only wrote the 10 songs. We were a bit rushed once we got the window of opportunity to get in the studio, so a lot of stuff was written in just a few short months and even rewritten in the studio. No leftover tracks, unfortunately.

Luxi: By the way, did you ever record that one Cirith Ungol song while at the studio, which Mike talked about on the DVD?

Casey: We had planned on recording a cover of the Cirith Ungol song "Nadsokor" but didn't have time in the studio to do it. I am still bummed about that. Mike really wanted to do that song.

Luxi: What can you tell us about the last song, "Ludus Magnus," on Slaves to the Grave? That's one epic piece of work with a dark, soundtrack feel to it? Did it take a lot of time to write?

Casey: Mike had already been working on the instrumental that became "Sacramentum Gladiatorum," and Bruce had the idea for "Ludus Magnus." Mike and I had some riffs that fit the vibe of the song so it sort of developed from there. But with pretty much all the songs on the record, everything came together relatively smoothly. We enjoyed ourselves working on this record. I especially am thankful for the time I got to spend with Mike, working on stuff at my house. Those were good and productive days.

Luxi: You tried to shop this album to some labels but all of them seemed to be scared to take a risk with it, so it was crowd-funded by the fans. What does that say about the state of the music business nowadays, in your opinion?

Casey: I understand, from a financial viewpoint, that it would have been a bit of a gamble. There would be no tour in support of the record with Mike, and no follow up record, but still, I was really disappointed that no one wanted the record. We weren't asking for much money. In fact, we never got to the point where money was even discussed! But, damn! A new Rigor record, and Mike Scaccia's final masterpiece? I hope they feel stupid for passing on it now! Ha ha! But, to be fair, we did get positive feedback from most of the labels we approached, and most of them suggested we release it ourselves. It wasn't so easy to do that even 10 years ago, but these days it's a viable option. It's a lot of work, but if you can nail down distribution and scrape up financing, it's possible to do. When the label option didn't look like it was going to pan out, we said "fuck it" let's do it ourselves. I have a bit of experience working with manufacturing and distribution, so I figured how hard can it be? Ha ha! Harder than I thought, but we did it, and that feels great!

Luxi: Did it surprise you a bit that this fundraising option worked out so well for you guys? Your target was to reach $2,000, which you did eventually and even more. I guess that says something about the strong fan base that you have behind Rigor Mortis, doesn't it? Do you believe that, if not for all of your fans, it might be possible that this last Rigor Mortis album might never have seen the light of day?

Casey: Honestly, I was very optimistic and had great faith in our fans, and they did not let us down! Our fans have always been diehard and we couldn't have done this without their support. They enabled us to keep control of our record and release it virtually without being in debt to anyone. That's huge! That's why I felt it was important to list the name of everyone who contributed on the cover. They made it happen!

Luxi: The first edition of Slaves to the Grave, limited to 5,000 copies, also features a making of the album, plus one live clip taken from when you played live at House of Rock in El Paso on February 12th, 2014. Did you film the making of the album on purpose, having this clear plan to get it out along with the actual album or did you decide afterwards to use this studio footage due to what happened on that sad night of December 22nd, 2013?

Casey: We didn't film the show to be included on the DVD and, in fact, it wasn't something we knew we were going to do at that time. The DVD was admittedly rushed, due to some set backs, and isn't exactly what we had hoped it would be. There is a lot more footage and we're thinking about putting out a full-length DVD of the making of the record later. The guy that shot the footage ended up being a real cunt and held the footage hostage, demanding immediate payment, threatening to erase it all if we didn't pay up. He wouldn't have dared pulling that shit if Mike had still been alive. So we bought the footage outright and I hope the bastard gets Ebola. Ha ha!

Luxi: How empty or hollow did you feel inside right after you had finished your work at the studio, knowing that Slaves to the Grave would be the last Rigor Mortis album ever?

Casey: It's such a fucked up thing. This should have been a new beginning not the end. The worst part is that Mike's not here to enjoy the success of the record and the outpouring of respect for his playing that he so deserved. It is a very hollow victory for the rest of us, but we know that we did the best we could do without Mike being there at the end, and I know he would be happy with it. I hope we can keep the spirit of Rigor Mortis alive in some small way with Wizards of Gore. It would be a damn shame to not carry on Mike's legacy. We'll see what happens with that.

Luxi: There was also a limited run of 250 splatter-pattern vinyl available for Slaves to the Grave and I assume they are all gone but regular black vinyl is still in the works, correct? How limited is that one going to be?

Casey: We are actually still waiting for the vinyl. Production takes forever now that vinyl is popular again. Apparently a lot of the U.S. pressing plants went under when the vinyl market slowed down, so most production is done outside the States. We should have them soon, though. We ordered 250 bloody vinyl and 750 regular black vinyl. We didn't sell all of the bloody copies, so I think there will be some available.

Luxi: What did you miss most about the times of Rigor Mortis?

Casey: I miss my friend, Mike Scaccia, more than anything. I'd give up the success of Slaves to the Grave in a heartbeat to have him back.

Luxi: How would you like people to remember Rigor Mortis and especially Mike Scaccia?

Casey: I'd like for people to remember Rigor Mortis as the underdogs who kept fighting. I think we created something unique that has stood the test of time. For a bunch of crazy fuckers from Texas, I think we did alright, at least as far as the legacy goes. As for Mike, I hope people remember him for his incredible talent that goes far beyond the Metal stuff he's known for. He was equally amazing on acoustic guitar, and could play blues, country, even bluegrass with the same skill as he did shredding lightening fast Speed Metal. On top of that, he was humble and generous, funny as hell, and a great friend.

Luxi: Thanks a lot you for your time Casey, and best of luck with all your future endeavors in life. Long live the legacy of Rigor Mortis. Mike Scaccia will never be forgotten! To sum this conversation up properly enough, it's time for your last words...

Casey: Thanks! I really must say thank you to all of our fans for sticking with us after all these years and supporting this record. It really means a lot to all of us, and I know Mike would have been very grateful. We couldn't have done it without you guys. Hopefully we'll see you sometime with Warbeast, Wizards of Gore, or Hint of Death. Keep the horns high and support what you love and Heavy Metal will never die! Cheers!

Other information about Rigor Mortis on this site
Review: Slaves to the Grave

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