By: Robert Cavuoto
Scum of the Earth was formed in late 2003 by former Rob Zombie guitarist (Mike) Riggs, an in-your-face singer, guitarist, songwriter, and producer.
When Zombie set aside his music career, focusing on writing and directing movies, Riggs formed Scum of the Earth with a focus on a horror/heavy rock theme.
In 2004 the band released their debut album, Blah… Blah… Blah…: Love Songs for the New Millennium, that was built around high-propulsion riffs, mechanized beats, growling vocals and horror film sound-bytes.
The follow up, 2007′s Sleaze Freak, was also very well received and landed album cuts in many movie soundtracks and video games.
In March, 2012 Riggs began recording their next offering, The Devil Made Me Do It. Though Riggs told us that he only knows how to play three notes on the guitar, he has managed to turn that into a hard rock driven CD, filled infectious grooves and beats.
I had the chance to catch up with Riggs to talk about the new CD, his sinister inspirations, and the coming of the Zombie Apocalypse.
Robert Cavuoto: How does this new CD compare to your other two CDs?
Riggs: It’s a lot different. It’s got a lot better programming which I’ve been looking for ever since I started this band. I live in Branson, Missouri in the middle of the Bible belt and lucked out and found this kid who’s an awesome programmer and only lives about 30 minutes from here. It’s so hard to find people who are good at it.
The very first riff I sent him ended up being “The Devil Made Me Do It”. I was digging what he did with it and just went from there. I think it turned out better than the other two other CDs just from the programming. Programming is so crucial to that music.
Robert: The production value was really good too.
Riggs: Yeah, we just did it at home. The technology is just getting so good. I had a little studio at home and the guy who does the programming just did it on his laptop and it sounds freaking great.
Robert: I understand that you spend just as much time on the computer writing songs as you do on the guitar?
Riggs: Correct. Unfortunately, I’ve never have had a band around I could jam with to come up with new music. If I did, I probably never would have been in a band that uses samples and loops. I just kind of got into the groove of doing that and seeing what I could do with it. I grew up in some little town in Arkansas with my grandparents, so that was the only way I had to make music. For some reason, I was driven to make music. I have no idea why.
Robert: You moved out to Missouri to hang out with more people to jam with? (Both laughing)
Riggs: Oh, yeah. Me and Mel Tillis and Andy Williams started up a band. No. I opened up a tattoo shop here in Branson. There’s tons of crap to do in Branson. That town I lived at in Arkansas, there was a Walmart and a gas station pretty much. At least here in Branson there’s tons of junk to keep you occupied.
Robert: Is that the tattoo parlor where you can get a free tattoo in specially marked CDs?
Riggs: Yes. It’s actually in all the CDs. There’s millions of people that come to Branson every year. If they all buy a CD and bring it, I’m freaking toast. That $50 per tattoo for the artist’s.
Robert: You took the whole Kiss Alive II rub-on tattoos to a whole other level.
Riggs: Yeah. I was trying to think of a way to get people to buy this CD instead of downloading it. I don’t know why I’m trying to save CDs. I don’t even use them anymore, really.
At the time we were trying to find Metallica’s Death Magnetic on CD. We couldn’t find it anywhere around here. It wasn’t at Best Buy, Walmart or Target. Everywhere we went they didn’t have it. But, they had Master of Puppets and the Black album.
We said, “What the hell’s going on, man? They only carry CDs that have a sales history, or what?” I don’t ever know what’s going on.
Here at my Best Buy there’s one aisle with CDs then an entire section for iTune cards. The CDs are pretty slim pickins.
Robert: Tell me where you get your sinister inspirations from for writing all your songs?
Riggs: That’s a good question. I have no idea. It’s just what I think of. I don’t really think about what I’m gonna write a song about. It could happen to be something I see on TV, some crazy psycho people. You hear about them all the time doing the weirdest, craziest stuff you ever heard of. I guess I remember it all. I compile it all, like the song “Via Dela Rosa”. That’s a lot of crazy stuff that people do crammed into one song.
There are usually better stories on the news that you’d never think of. If you recall there were these stories about people who took that synthetic marijuana and the one in particular was the lady in San Antonio who ate the toes off her three-day old baby, then ate his heart and brain.
When the cops showed up, she was sitting on the couch stabbing herself in the chest saying, “The devil made me do it.”
Robert: That’s where the name of the song came from?
Riggs: Kind of, just for shits and giggles. I thought it would be funny to have a song called “The Devil Made Me Do It” on every record. So, if I put out 20 records, it will be “The Devil Made Me Do It 20”. It’s fun, but it seems to piss people off, which makes it even more fun. “Could you think of a new song title?” “No, actually I can’t.” (Both laughing)
Robert: Great video for “The Devil Made Me Do It”. I wonder what the after party must have been like?
Riggs: That was pretty much the after party.
Robert: What guitar did you use to track the album with?
Riggs: I used that Blood guitar and my Fernandez that’s got the sustainer in it. Those two seem to match up pretty good. The Blood Guitar is made out of plexiglass and it’s hollow. It’s got a cork in the top of it. When you’re playing it you can look down and see the cork, pull it out and just lift it upside down and pour it out all over yourself, in your mouth, spit it on people.
Robert: I noticed there was a lot of wah pedal on the new CD. The wah wah pedal seems to be making a resurgence. Have you always been a fan of it?
Riggs: Yeah, I think I used those all the time. Back when I first started playing guitar with Zombie, I was talking to Dunlop and they made a wah pedal that swung up so it would turn itself off as soon as you lift your foot off it. I had a problem with not knowing if it’s on or off, and running across the stage and it was still on. So they made one that had a quick snippet and I started using it in everything. It’s fun.
Robert: How has your playing technique changed from back with Rob Zombie to the Scum of the Earth?
Riggs: My playing technique hasn’t changed since I was about ten-years old I think. It’s like once I figured out how to play the guitar, I went from there. It was never my dream to be the best guitar player or I’m gonna learn every skill.
To this day, I know three notes, what there called I just don’t know, but I can play them. I don’t know anything about the actual writing music or reading music. I play until I do something I think I like and go from there.
Robert: Are you and Rob Zombie still friends and on speaking terms?
Riggs: I haven’t talked to him in years, so I guess not (Both laughing). There’s no ill will or anything. Nobody’s mad at anybody. Everybody’s busy with their own shit.
Robert: Tell me about the Zombie Apocalypse tour?
Riggs: It’s all the goofy crap I’ve been seeing on TV since I was a little kid, about the end of the world, and now it’s actually here. I’m pretty excited about this fun time. Everybody’s gonna be so disappointed when nothing happens. And even if it does, nobody will know because we’ll all be dead. We might as well have fun with it either way.
Robert: If that happens, you’re not gonna be able to tell anybody, “I told you so.” That’s the best part.
Riggs: I know. That’s why I put it in the CD booklet, the remix record that comes out on 12/21/12. It says “Zombie Post-Apocalypse Remix”. It’s more about people getting remixed into zombies than an actual record.
When you open it, it says “Coming 12/21/12 Post-Apocalypse Remixes” and there’s a picture of a zombie’s face screaming. It’s not really about music, it’s that you’re going to turn into a zombie.
Robert: What songs do you look forward to performing live onstage from the new CD?
Riggs: The new stuff like the “Chopin’s Funeral March”. That one I think turned out really well for a song that’s a few hundred years old. It seemed to hold up pretty good. Also “Via Del Rosa”. All of them are pretty good to play. They have so much programming in them, but that’s what I like. I like the big, heady, dancey stuff.
Robert: What can we expect in theatrics from this new show?
Riggs: I’ve got a few new things. We’re gonna have an end of the world, zombie apocalypse kind of setup going on. We’re still a small band playing in clubs, so we can’t get too much cool stuff going on. Get one big prop and there’s already no room to have a show in most places. It’s mostly on scrims and backdrops and stuff. We still have the devil head that blows out the smoke, blood, rock and roll stuff.
Robert: Since you left Zombie, what’s been the highlight of launching your new band, Scum of the Earth?
Riggs: Nothing yet. This record finally felt like what I was trying to do on the first record, but I couldn’t find any programmers who could do that kind of work. Now I’ve got a good starting point; too bad it’s the third record instead of the first.
Robert: Third time’s the charm, right?
Riggs: That is correct, so I guess I’m right on schedule (Both laughing).