Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mike Scaccia, 1965-2012

Like Randy Rhoads before him, lead guitarist Mike Scaccia was an expert musician who seemed destined to outlast his infamous, hard-living co-conspirator. But in an affirmation of life's unfairness and unpredictability, Ministry's lead guitarist died onstage this week of a heart attack.

Scaccia first found success Rigor Mortis, a pioneering thrash metal act that almost single-handedly represented the genre in Texas in the early '80s. Their song "Foaming at the Mouth" appeared on the Decline of the Western Civilization Part II soundtrack, where Rigor Mortis' speed and ferocity distanced them from songs like Faster Pussycat's "Bathroom Wall" or the Lizzy Borden version of "Born to Be Wild."

When Scaccia joined Ministry in 1989, he accelerated the band's jump into metal, a move move that divides Ministry fans to this day. Whatever your take is, Scaccia's riffage helped kick off Ministry's most popular and influential era, including their only gold album Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. College-radio hits like "Just One Fix" and "N.W.O." turned synth-poppers, new wavers, and shoegazers onto metal, and humanized industrial music with guitars that sounded live instead of programmed. That influence can be heard in White Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, Fear Factory, Marilyn Manson and Chinese Democracy.

"Jesus Built My Hotrod," featuring Scaccia's primal riffage and guest star Gibby Haynes' "Surfin' Bird"-on-a-spit scatting, is one of rock music's greatest achievements. How many industrial guitar solos can you think of? How many of them are good?

A moment of cacophony for Mike Scaccia.

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