RIP Mike Scaccia


Ministry’s Mike Scaccia has died tonight after collapsing onstage in Fort Worth during a Rigor Mortis concert. Mike was 47.

The gig was in celebration of Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt’s 50th birthday. Bruce has posted on Facebook: “My brother is gone! The only reason I am who I am is because of this man. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t even be in a band. RIP Mike Scaccia! The greatest guitar player I ever knew!”

Sincere condolences to Mike’s family, friends and bandmates.

Mike Scaccia was a huge influence on my playing for a very particular reason: the guitar part on TV II from Ministry’s Psalm 69. Eventually someone told me the recording was sped up – not sure if that’s true or not because Mike could pick fast! So I busted my ass trying to learn to pick that inhumanly fast, whether he was really playing at that speed or not. I guess I never really succeeded, but thanks to his influence I was certainly helped on my way as a player. And I’ve played my fair share of Ministry riffs over the years.

Here’s a great live solo which shows off his inhuman speed:

And of course:

INTERVIEW: Cavalera Conspiracy

After a decade apart, Sepultura founding brothers Max and Igor Cavalera have reunited in The Cavalera Conspiracy, reviving the intricate thrash and crushing rhythms of Arise-era Sepultura with a modern brutality and ten years of growth on their debut album, Inflikted (Roadrunner).  

Peter: This band seemed to come out of nowhere. When did it start? 

Cavalera: I’ve been on this project now for the last two years, since I started talking to Igor again. I’ve been submerged with this thing from morning to night, 24 hours. I’m just very happy with it, man, I’m very proud of it. I like the attitude, the music, the visuals – It doesn’t look like all the shit that’s out there, y’know? I’m excited as hell to go on tour, and we’re really thrilled about the record. 

Peter: Did you get back into contact with the idea of playing together again, or was it about reestablishing the brotherhood first?  

Cavalera: My first approach with him was just to get back together as brothers, family, y’know, but once that was done my thing was, ‘Now that we’re brothers again, now that we’re family again, guess what: We need to play again.’ So that was the next move, and it was cool. We have a really cool chemistry together. It was perfect, really. It’s wild. It’s kind of surreal sometimes. Because it was so long ago and so much has happened in these 10 years, I’m glad we’ve restored our brother relationship. We grew up together in music. The first 20 years of my life playing music was with Igor, then there was a 10 year space where I continued making music but it was not the same. 
Peter: How have you changed musically in the time apart?  
Cavalera: Not a lot. I still play just 4 strings. I still don’t know the name of all the strings, and I still don’t tune my guitars. Igor noticed that right away: ‘Your shit’s still out of tune man! I can’t believe 10 years have gone by and your guitars are dirty still, you don’t clean them, they’re out of tune.’ And I say, ‘Well …(Woody Allen-style cough) I’m the same.’ And Igor’s pretty much the same. I noticed how much he’s matured as a drummer though. I always knew the double bass Igor, the crazy fills, but this was something else, kind of a Bill Ward, Bonham feel to it, where he can keep the shit as simple as possible but with a lot of power. It’s completely relentless, you can feel that drum beating you, punishing you.

Peter: The drums are mixed very in-your-face. Was that to say ‘Here’s Igor back’ or was it just the way it turned out?  

Cavalera: I was more in charge of the direction of songs, sonic ideas, themes and this and that. But Logan (Mader) as an engineer really knew the drums would be a huge thing on this project, and I think in his own way Logan made sure to record the drums the right way and mix it the right way, so when you listen to it the drums really jump out at you. It’s also a lot to do with the way Igor plays. He has this presence. I’ve toured with a lot of people, and the only other person with that kind of presence was Bill Ward when I did the Sabbath tour. One thing about Igor that a lot of people don’t know is that most of the time, the right stick is upside down, so he’s using the end of the stick, and that started in the Sepultura days. He said he wasn’t punishing the drums enough. It’s a very metal thing to do. The first day in the studio I was like, ‘Yeah, the upside down stick, crank it!’ 
Peter: So I guess that’s the secret to getting your sound is a guitar with 4 strings that’s out of tune, and an upside down drum stick. 
Cavalera: I was waiting for him to draw people he didn’t like on the toms, because he used to do that too. Bands that be ****ing with us on tour. Ministry was an example, they had a real asshole tour manager, he hated everybody, a miserable guy, and always talking shit about everyone. So Igor drew him on every drum skin, in many different ways – had him naked in one, had him dressed like a girl, and eventually he saw the drum kit and wanted to kill all of us. We didn’t give a shit, that’s the way we roll.  

Peter: Are you still playing your ESP signatures? 
Cavalera: Yep, the 4 string, out of tune. On the Conspiracy I’ve been using the AX shape signature model. It reminds me of my old BC Rich I used back in the Sepultura days, and we’re in the process of maybe making a new model, a 4 string model. I don’t know why I never thought of that before, actually made a 4 string guitar. It’s a big riff guitar. I love ESP, I love the guitars.

FEATURE: Digital editing for guitarists

Once upon a time, if you wanted to record something at home, chances are that you had to do it with a clunky four or eight track portable studio set up. My first was a Yamaha unit from the mid 80s, which I bought second hand out of the local paper when I was 14. I logged hours and hours of time on that thing, bouncing down tracks, faking a bass by manipulating the tape speed, recording backwards solos, and generally making a whole lot of noise. One time I created a Ministry-esque rhythm track and recorded Simpsons quotes directly off the VCR, relying on my mad pause button skills to ensure the ‘samples’ were recorded at the right point in the song. Today even the simplest computer can be an entire recording studio, and the rules have changed. You no longer have to worry about losing a little bit of treble every time you play your track, like you would with a cassette. And if you flub a part, it’s really easy to fix a note or two. Try that on a tape deck.

For the last year or so, my recording system of choice has been Pro Tools LE. I’ve stumbled upon a few cool tricks which apply to pretty much any digital work station, so feel free to try these at home. Just don’t hurt yourselves.

TWINKLE PANS: Record a stereo track of a single chord with a panning effect moving from left to right, timed to sweep the sound from one side to the other over the length of each bar. Then chop each bar up into 8th notes, and juggle them around randomly, so you get the chord sort of ‘twinkling’ across the stereo spectrum. You might hear a slight clicking sound at the start or end of each 8th note. If that’s the case, just draw in the tiniest of fade-ins and fade-outs at the start and end of the note, and you’ll be fine. You can also try using a tremolo effect, which you can lock to the tempo of the track, and set to fade in and out of the note naturally.

RHYTHMIC TREMOLO: Similar to twinkle pans, chop a bar into 8th or 16th note segments, but this time, instead of moving them around, delete some of them, to create interesting rhythms. Be a little bit lateral and see if you can find interesting polyrhythms or syncopations you might not have come up with any other way. Even if you’re not sold on the tremolo sound, you can still use it as a songwriting tool to write new riffs, which you can then play ‘manually.’

INSTANT KEYBOARD, JUST ADD REVERB: For fake keyboard sounds, use a reverb effect with the mix turned to 100% effected sound and a second or so of reverb time, then tremolo-pick single notes or octaves as fast as you can. With the un-reverbed note and any sense of definite rhythm removed from the signal, you’re just left with the general harmonic information. If you bring down the bass and treble frequencies and notch up the upper mids a bit, you can create a very interesting texture underneath extreme metal riffing.

DELAYED EFFECT: For a unique delay sound, copy the guitar track to a second track, move it back by 1 or 2 beats compared to the original track, then apply effects only to the shifted track, so you can have, say, flanger or pitch shifter happening only on the delays. Imagine your original melody line being repeated as a diatonic harmony, or drenched in deep vibrato.

THE MULTI AMP VIRTUAL RIG OF DOOM: Many amp modelling programs feature the ability to use two virtual amp rigs at once, but if that’s just not enough, or if your modeler only offers one sound at a time, copy and paste the same guitar part onto multiple tracks, and process each one differently to achieve otherwise unattainable sounds. This is especially fun for getting vaguely Frank Zappa-ish sounds: Try separate tracks of a completely uneffected guitar, a distorted guitar with a very short delay, a distorted guitar with a stationary wah effect, and a distorted guitar with an envelope filter, all at once, panned to various points in the stereo spectrum.

LOOK MA, I’M A SYNTH: Lock a modulation effect’s tempo to the speed of the song and feed it into an envelope filter for crazy synth-like swells. Try it on two tracks, panned hard left and hard right, with the modulation tempo set to quarter notes on one side and whole or 8th notes on the other; set each envelope filter to emphasise a different frequency; and compress the hell out of each side. You should get a phat, rhythmic ‘wub’ sound with a million and one uses, from Tea Party-style post rock apocalyptica to rave freakout.

I hope you have fun with these, and are inspired to come up with new editing tricks of your own.