Casey Orr (Rigor Mortis) interviewed

** Texas-based thrashers Rigor Mortis have returned. Sadly, minus guitarist Mike Scaccia, who died with his boots on while performing on stage in 2012. The Mortis aren't letting their legacy (their self-titled debut is in the Hall of Fame) die lightly. They're about to issue new album, Slaves to the Grave, through crowd-funded IndieGoGo and are on a blitz to make sure the metal community knows about it. So much so they honored Decibel with a song premiere of the killer track "Poltergeist". Now, we've cornered bassist Casey Orr for a quick Q&A about Slaves to the Grave and remembering Scaccia. First of all, it must be surreal to have Slaves to the Grave coming out after Mike’s passing. What’s that like for you and the other guys? Casey Orr: It is incredibly surreal. It feels like a cruel joke. The guy who should be finally getting his due is not here to enjoy it. Our brother is not here to celebrate with us. We’re happy that the record is getting a lot of attention and being so well received, but at the same time, it’s so final. This should have been a new beginning for Rigor Mortis, not our swan song.

How did you guys cope with Mike’s untimely death? Casey Orr: It was not easy. There were a lot of tears. But, there was lot of support from our friends and family. The DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth] metal scene is a pretty tight family, and I guess we all kinda hold each other up when we have to. When someone was that close and important in your life, you tend to still feel their presence with you. Sometimes I feel like he’s prodding me on to do as much as I can before my time is up, and sometimes I feel like he’s fucking with me and laughing his head off! For instance, we offered a Scaccia tribute shirt for the fundraiser and record release show, and when I got them in the day before the show, I found that the print was off on half of them. And they were all off in different ways, like an inch over to the right on one, 2 inches to the left on another, crooked on another. I looked up at a picture I have of Mike on the wall and said “you fucker!” Laughs] I could just picture him jostling the screen print somehow and laughing. A “Mike Scaccia” shirt is something he would have never allowed in life. He was far too humble for that. We love him and we miss him and we try to honor Mike’s legacy in any way we can in everything we do.

What’s it like to have Rigor Mortis’ final product, a physical product, in your hands? Casey Orr: It’s bittersweet, of course, but it also feels fantastic to have seen it through and be able to give it to the fans. For me it’s a relief. I actually took on responsibility for putting the record out; everything detail that the record label would do, I had to figure out and get done. It was a ridiculous amount of work, and I’m still not done. But, of course it feels so good to finally hold it in your hand and know that all of our hard work was not in vain.

Rewinding a little bit, at what point did the band decided to permanently re-band? Casey Orr: I think that after we did the reunion shows in '05-'06, and had so much fun playing together again, we knew we were going to continue. But Ministry and GWAR pulled Mike and I away here and there, so it took a while to carve out the time to devote to doing Rigor Mortis. Hell, between the recording of Slaves and Mike’s, he and I even managed to do a huge tour with Ministry. I think that with the release of this record, Rigor would have become our main focus and we would be talking tour and next record right now.

Was the reformation at all like the early days of the band? Different times, ages, and perspectives taken into account, of course. Casey Orr: Absolutely! We were joking and goofing around like always, and were having a great time playing together again. There was a good balance of “just like the old days” and the experience of being older and (slightly) wiser.

Describe what it was like on Capitol Records. Dave Mustaine didn’t have high remarks for the label, historically speaking. Casey Orr: It was bizarre to say the least. We were practically bumpkins in the big city, under the clever disguise of Heavy Metal Berserkers from Texas. We didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, we just wanted to play. Rachel Matthews signed us to Capitol and remains a dear friend to this day, but the label clearly had no idea what to do with us. They actually put out a split 8x10 promo photo of Rigor Mortis and Poison! It was no wonder that after Rachel left, our relationship with Capitol basically dried up and blew away. They focused all of their attention on The Beastie Boys that year as well, and we certainly didn’t fit that mold. But we spent a shit load of their money on equipment and got a classic record out of the deal, so we never held a grudge, we just moved on like we always do. I doubt there’s a single person at Capitol who even knows we were ever on the label.

The cover is killer. Was the cover specifically created for Rigor Mortis? Casey Orr: I actually designed the cover. I found a very small black and white picture online, of a man in silhouette throwing a shovelful of dirt into an open grave, from the perspective of someone down in the grave. From there I started messing around drawing it and eventually painting a couple of different versions. I showed them to the band and the other guys liked the concept, so I continued playing around with it. In the end I decided that I just wasn’t good enough to execute the vision I had in my head, and we got Michael Broom to do it. I told him exactly what I wanted and he nailed it! The photos in the booklet were all shots I took in a graveyard in New Zealand. Our drummer Harden’s brother, Troy Harrison, did the layout. I love Harden and Bruce for more or less trusting me enough to let me run with it. It really meant a lot to me to get to do it. It really was a lot of work, but it feels good to look at the end result and it’s just as I envisioned it.

You went around the usual label paradigm with IndieGoGo. Were you intimidated by the uncertainty of having to do most of the administrative work yourselves? Casey Orr: We didn’t have a choice. We weren’t getting any label interest and damned if we were going to just let it sit on a shelf. We investigated the crowdfunding thing and decided to take a chance with IndieGoGo. I had faith in our fans, and they did not disappoint! I used to work at a cd distribution place, and we already had connections for manufacturing and distribution, so I figured it can’t be that hard, right? All we need is financing right? Everything else takes care of itself, right? [Laughs] I used to wonder how a typo could get by without getting caught, or how a release could be delayed or whatever. Now I know!

Would you recommend the IndieGoGo/crowdfunding path to other bands? If so, why? Casey Orr: Yeah, I would. You really don’t have anything to lose. We couldn’t have done it without something like IndieGoGo.

Could you describe the pitfalls of IndieGoGo/crowdfunding specific to your experience with it? Casey Orr: The hardest part is keeping up with and fulfilling all the perk bundles. We offered some pretty sweet deals in exchange for contributions, and all of that merch and shipping is taking a big chunk out of the money we raised. I offered original paintings for the highest price bundles. I now have to create 10 original paintings. What was I thinking? [Laughs]

What do you make of the reception Slaves to the Grave has received? Surprised at all? Casey Orr: It’s been tremendous! I guess I am a little surprised that it’s all been so overwhelmingly positive. I know we thought it was good, but you never know what other people are going to think. We’ve never really worried about what the critics say; we don’t make music for them, we do it for ourselves and our fans, but it does feel good to know that people are digging it. It’s pretty awesome knowing something we started 30 years ago is still relevant and still has a following.

Is Wizards of Gore an active outfit? Any chance of original material or a full-blown tour? Casey Orr: We’re not sure. I’d like to think so. We’re playing a couple of events, Housecore Horror Film Fest, Oct 24th with VoiVod, and Halloween night here in Dallas, but as for the future, it’s kinda up in the air. If we did continue, there would absolutely have to be original material. We don’t want to feel like a cover band of our own band! And if there was enough interest and the situation made sense, I think we would be open to the possibility of playing in support of this record, at least.

What’s next for the members of Rigor Mortis? Casey Orr: We are all busy with various projects and day jobs, etc. Bruce and I are in Warbeast (also at HHFF Oct. 26th with Danzig/Samhain), and we’re hoping to record a new record early next year. My old punk band, The Hellions, is going to get back together and do some stuff. Harden’s band Hint Of Death has a record coming out soon, and Mike Taylor (Wizards of Gore) has a band called Rabid Flesh Eaters who are working on their debut record, which was being produced by Mike Scaccia before he died. And of course we’ll be doing what we can to promote Slaves to the Grave. We have vinyl coming soon, and there’s a limited edition blood-splattered version as well. Next year I’d like to officially re-issue Freaks and Vs The Earth on CD, and maybe offer some cool limited vinyl versions of the first three records. We’d like to keep Mike’s legacy and the name Rigor Mortis alive, in whatever way possible.

** Rigor Mortis' new album, Slaves to the Grave, is out soon, self-released through pledges on Indiegogo. You can order a copy HERE. Get your shovel now and help Rigor Mortis exhume to consume!

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