I was originally going to use this week’s column to list my favorite shows of 2012. Then I decided to go with a holiday theme and focus on Old Man Gloom’s Christmas. If I had went with the former theme, I would’ve mentioned seeing Ministry for their final US show in Chicago over the summer. That would be the incarnation of Ministry featuring Mike Scaccia who passed away over the weekend after collapsing on stage at the age of 47. I didn’t know the man but I sure did love Ministry. He was a phenomenal guitarist who followed Uncle Al into his other projects like Revolting Cocks and Buck Satan & The 666 Shooters as well as being a member of Rigor Mortis. Although I may not have met him in person, I did have the honor of talking with him on the eve of the release of Ministry’s final studio album, Relapse, earlier this year. I thought for today’s column it would be fitting to reprint that interview.
Have a happy holiday season, metal heads. Don’t forget to hug your loved ones tight today because you never know what might happen tomorrow.
1. Beginning with Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters, what initially drew you to this project?
(Laughs) Probably wanting to do it for 25 years. We kinda fell into it on accident. I was working on a solo record on the song “What’s Wrong With Me?” and I couldn’t get anything out of it. He (Al Jourgensen) wasn’t happy so for the hell of it I pulled everything off the song except for the main guitar. I switched the drums to a shuffle beat and I left it for him. I went to L.A. for like a week and when I came back he had the vocals done and that’s kinda how it all started. He wrote “Medication Nation” right after that and everything started falling in place.
2. How was this different than making a Ministry record? Was it a different vibe in the studio because of the material or relatively the same due to the people involved?
Completely different vibe. I’ve worked with Al for quite a number of years. This session was basically a lot of drinking, a lot of laughing…we didn’t know what we were going to do when we walked in that day but we would leave that night with a song so it was completely different from any other project I’ve ever done with him. It was nothing but a good time and a good mood. We had a lot of fun and I’m very proud of that record, man.
3. Whose decision was it to bring Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” to Buck Satan?
That was Al’s. We covered that song for the Bridge School Benefit back in ’95 or so and Al kinda wanted to bring it back.
4. Are you typically a country fan? If not, how do you get in the mindset to do a country album?
I am a country music fan. I grew up on that stuff and of course, coming up from the South it’s everywhere. When I was growing up there wasn’t really cable so we were kind of stuck watching “Hee-Haw” every night. I’m a fan of the old country music. I don’t really care for much of the other stuff unless the Outlaw stuff. And Bluegrass. I love Bluegrass music. Those are real, true players to me. So yeah, I am a huge fan of the old school stuff.
5. Your playing on the Buck Satan album definitely stands out (Thanks to Al’s shout-outs), especially the soloing, and shows a different side of you as a player. Are there plans to bring Buck Satan on the road?
Man, I hope so. When we finished this record, we were ready to do another one. I think we wanna do another one and then talk about doing some shows. Basically if we just went and did a show now, it would either all be covers or we’d have to play the whole record and I don’t know, it just seems like we want more stuff. But you know, we cut our teeth on that so now we know what to do to make a better one next time.
6. I recently read that you are to thank for a new Ministry record. How did you convince Al to resurrect the band?
We’re brothers and we were listening to music and I can’t even remember exactly what happened except we were playing each other stuff and he was playing me some stuff and I was like: We need to do this. We’re too young to talk about retirement. Let’s go play. And we were flowing with songs so it was a no-brainer.
7. You’ll be heading out for the Defibrillatour this summer for select US dates and European festivals, which of the new songs are looking forward to playing the most? Do you have a favorite Ministry song to play live?
“Ghouldiggers” is what I’m looking forward to the most which is the opening track. My favorite song to play live with Ministry was a song that we haven’t played in a really long time and that would be “Scarecrow”. That song just really sets a cool vibe and a cool mood. Al plays harmonica on it. It’s just a good drivin’ song.
8. Speaking of the Ministry live sets, there was a slight uproar from fans during the “Farewell” tour due to the lack of “classics” in the set. As a fan, I’d rather go to a show and hear the newer songs but I can definitely see the other side since it was the “last” tour. Going forward, how much input do you have in the set lists?
Al will drill you on it: “What do you wanna do? What do you think about this? What do you wanna do?” He has the final say but he definitely asks for input and appreciates it. That’s always good, too. I wasn’t on the last tour, obviously, but a lot of people did complain about that to me. I was on some good terms with Al during that time and I just knew that there was gonna be another one (Album, tour). That kinda says it going out there and not playing all the old ones people wanna hear. This tour is split up kinda nice because he put it in three sections. The first section is the newer stuff. The long encore (The second section) is all old stuff so people are definitely going to get some older stuff on this one.
9. How do you continually play as fast as you do and how do you prepare for an hour and a half to two hour show while on tour?
Well, a lot goes into preparing actually because it’s about precision and if your sound is right, you have to rely on your precision and playing. If I’m doing a show that day, I’ll do a series of warm ups anywhere from 2-3 hours before I hit the stage. But you know what? I play guitar all day long. I try to anyway. And I’ll play after the show. I’ll sit on the bus and play all night long. Look at that as work or look at it as the way of my life. Playing with Ministry, especially with my band Rigor Mortis, it takes a really intense way of warming up because if I don’t, I cramp. That’s the worst thing in the world, man, if you’re a guitar player and you cramp up during something. It’s horrible. It’s like sports in a way. Those guys have to warm up for hours to get out there and do what they do. Let’s face it man I ain’t younger so it takes a little more time, you know? I’ve had a few broken bones here and there. There is a process in it for me, yes.
10. You’ve gone from Buck Satan to the new Ministry to the new Rigor Mortis which you’re recording now, seeing the amount of time you’ve spent in the studio lately, do you prefer playing in the studio or playing live?
I actually prefer live. I love the studio to death and it’s great when you’re in the right environment and you start creating. There’s really nothing better than that feeling of playback when you hear it. But also there’s not a better feeling when you’re playing in front of a great audience and everything’s going right. I really tend to like the live shows more. Al will disagree with me on that one.
11. Speaking of Rigor Mortis, it’s been over 20 years since your debut on Capitol, why was now the right time to resurrect the band in full and make a new album?
We’ve been talking about it for the last 6-7 years. I actually went in and did some demos with the band almost a year ago and the timing was just right. Al had stepped in and said “Hey man, I’d love for you guys to do this. You guys should do it. Why don’t you do it?” There was no excuse why not. The other thing that really pushed me on wanting to do it was we started doing shows again. We started playing a lot. I kinda made a deal with the band: I’ll play shows with you guys as long as we do a new record. It’s all falling into place and it’s starting out really good. Better than I though, too. It’s gonna be a classic metal record. It’s not just a speed metal record with our maturity and stuff now. It’s got a lot of thrash stuff on there and it’s even got a couple of slower songs on there.
12. When is the album due?
I would love to have it out after summer. August/September. Sometime around there. If I could make that happen, I’d be a very happy man. If we get out a little before then, that’d be cool too. But if I could get it out by then (August/September), I’d be very happy. There’s not a specific release date right now. We’re still in the early stages. I just started tracking guitars so we’re still pretty early in the mix here.
13. I know Rigor Mortis has done a few shows over the past few years but are there plans for a full fledged tour after the new record comes out?
Yeah, man. The one thing about this band is there’s nothing to it. We get along really well and it means nothin’ to us to get on the road and go so yes, we’re gonna plan on touring our asses off for awhile. As long as there’s demand there, we’ll be there to play.
R.I.P. Mike Scaccia, June 14, 1965-December 22, 2012