Piggy D. is more than just a backing bassist. In addition to playing a heavy role in Rob Zombie’s stage show and new music, as well as his own solo material , Piggy has worked as both a musician and artwork designer with artists like Alice Cooper, Lita Ford and many more. During the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival’s stop in Camden, NJ, the bassist/guitarist sat down with Metal Insider to discuss the new version of Hellbilly Deluxe 2 (which includes three new songs, re-edits and new artwork), his experience with working with Zombie, Cooper and Joey Jordison and how the art of the album is dying in a struggling industry.
Mayhem Fest has been going on for the past few weeks now. How’s it been so far?
Unbelievable! It’s been really good. We get an hour every night to do what we do. We sort of try to cram everything into one hour. It’s an hour of power, so don’t blink or you’ll miss something.
Well with all the crazy visuals I don’t think it’ll be easy to blink.
(laughing) Yeah, right! I don’t blink.
You’ve been in the band for a while now, but Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is your first record with Zombie.
The first studio record, yeah, as well as the live record [2007’s Zombie Live]. It was really cool. We just did it as a band and now we’ve redone it. So now it’s coming back out. The version that’s on the market now is going away. You’re not going to be able to buy it anymore. So there’s a new version of the record coming out with three new songs that are in the record. So it’s a new record.
Wait, so it’s a deluxe version or a new album altogether?
It’s a deluxe version, but it’s actually the original or ‘what it was supposed’ to be version. It’s very confusing. This is the way the record was supposed to be the first time. There’s new artwork, there’s a DVD, and there’s music that’s not on the version that’s out now. This is Hellbilly Deluxe 2 “redo”/the way it should be.
So you re-recorded each song?
No, we didn’t re-record it, but there’s edits and there’s new music on it in the context of the record that really makes it.
I see. Well what makes the “re-edits” different? Besides the artwork and new songs.
It’s got a different vibe. The artwork plays a huge part of it because it’s all new and it’s really dark. The new songs are really dark and really heavy. Probably some of the heaviest stuff he’s recorded ever. It’s really cool. We’re all really jacked up about it.
Why couldn’t you have this original version come out the first time around? Did it have to do with you guys switching from Geffen to Loud & Proud/Roadrunner Records?
Yeah it was just kind of a mess. We did the record, we had it ready to go, then we were going to Japan and we were starting to tour. And whatever happened with the label happened. We had to do it fast and get it out because we had people waiting for it and we didn’t want to dangle the carrot we had but couldn’t give it to them. So now this is kind of a new jump start for us.
What made you guys feel that this had to be done for this record, and not just save it for the next one?
We felt that because of the time constraints, the artwork and the way the record was laid out, we were really psyched about it, but there’s more to the story. It’s kind of an unofficial sequel without it being a sequel. It’s like a director’s cut. You get a director’s cut of your favorite movie and you’re like “Oh my God! I never knew they shot that scene!” Well there it is! So it’s all there now.
What I noticed about the album was that it’s a sequel (to the first Hellbilly Deluxe), but it really stands out on its own. Was that a main focus for you even though you were going for somewhat of a continuation?
Totally! I mean it was recorded completely different from the first Hellbilly to. All of us were in the studio every day. Working on it every day. Tracked everything live. Everything was done while everyone was there, which is completely different from the first record. The first record he had different people playing on different songs. And that’s why I think it sounds different too.
Once the record got released, Tommy [Clufetos, former drummer] left the band to join Ozzy Osbourne. Granted you got Joey Jordison (of Slipknot and Murderdolls fame), who is arguably one of the best metal drummers in the world, to replace him, but was it difficult to reshape everything?
No, not at all. In fact, as soon as we played the first song with Joey we went “This is exactly where we need to be!” because he makes us play harder and I know we’re a better band because of him. Obviously, he’s got other bands and other obligations he’s going to have to fulfill one of these days. He’s definitely raised the bar for us in a lot of ways. So it was all a very happy accident, and Joey plays on the new songs.
How was it working in the studio with him then?
Amazing! He’s the man! He IS the best drummer! I mean, he is THAT guy! We have that guy in the band, so we’re pretty psyched.
That’s really cool! Speaking of the studio, you not too long ago got to record some material with Alice Cooper. How was that experience, getting to be in the studio with a legend like him?
For me it was really weird. I mean Alice is a friend. We’ve done a lot of art and video stuff together, but writing music with him was really fun. We did a Halloween song last year [“Keeping Halloween Alive”] and spent five months this year writing on and off together. Now that whole project has shifted hands and it’s become something else, but we have so much bad ass Alice Cooper material locked away in a vault that I’m hope that one of these days will get to see the light of day. It’s heavy, it’s poppy, it’s classic Alice stuff. It rules! I’m really psyched about it.
I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan, so I’d be thrilled to just be in the same room with him let alone work with him. So that’s amazing.
It was cool because for a while we were collaborating just through sending CDs back and forth, but the last several times and months that we got together and wrote we would just go out to his house and set up a studio in his house. We’d watch TV, eat candy, eat dinner, watch movies, track some vocals, write a song, try some guitar and whatever. It was totally chill. It was like hanging out with your old buddy.
How is it different then working with Alice compared to Rob Zombie?
Rob knows what he wants. Alice knows what he wants too, but he takes a different journey to get there. It’s hard to explain because they’re really very similar in the way work, but their approach to music is very different. They have different influences to. Alice’s point of reference would be “Oh play it like Jeff Beck!” and Rob will be like “Play it like Ron Wood!” So there’re similarities there but the outcome is completely different. So the sound is completely different. They kind of pull from the same stuff, but it’s for different reasons. It’s really interesting.
You mentioned briefly about your work as an artist. You’ve done a lot of album covers and videos as well. How do you approach artwork compared to creating a bass or guitar riff?
The art stuff is cool because sometimes it can be less about you. For example, we worked on Lita Ford’s [Wicked Wonderland] record last year, and I mean I know who she is. I’ve had a couple of records from her as a kid, but I haven’t followed her career like I have Alice. I can guess what Alice had for lunch today, but Lita I don’t know. So to get with her and create something that gave her a new look and vibe that was really fun, fantasy oriented and really playful, it’s harder to put ‘you’ into that kind of art. It’s more about “Ok, what’s going to represent them now? What’s going to show the world what Lita Ford looks like in 2010 or whatever?” So you have to think about that first. Then you can find your way, but it’s getting that little jump start. With music to, like when I write for Alice Cooper or whoever … Alice is a good example because I’ll try the most insane shit that he’s never done ever and 50% of the time it’ll work, while the other 50% of the time he’ll go “Alice wouldn’t do that! We can’t do that!” So you can kind of put yourself in there a little more. With bass lines you can play it the way you want to play it. I play stuff completely different than the last guy did. Some of it’s very similar, but I put my own little vibe on it.
So even though you’re working with “solo” artists, you still feel that you’re able to add your own flavor to the music?
Within reason. It’s whatever serves the song. You don’t want to go up there and just play a bunch of notes just because it makes you feel cool or that you like the way you look when you do it. It’s not about ego. It’s about serving the song and playing it the right way. But every human is going to have their own stamp, their own way of doing something. Not everybody chews gum the same way. Everybody’s got their own DNA that they’re going to bring to the way they play a song.
You’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of great artists, both with music and art, over the past years. Is there a dream list of people that you’d like to work with next?
I’d love to work with Bob Mould from Husker Du and Sugar. He’s probably, as far as guitar playing goes right now, my biggest influence. I’d love to just make music with him. I’d love to just be in a room and watch him pick chords out, tune his guitar and figure it out. Paul Westerberg from The Replacements is one of those people. I’m a huge Replacements fan. I love pop music. There are a lot of pop artists I’d like to work with, in art to. God, it’s a long weird list. It’s not the obvious people. Ryan Adams is one of those people I’d love to work with.
It’s interesting that you mention so many different kinds of artists. Do you feel that even though you’re a metal artist, it’s important for you to have diverse interests in music?
I think so. I mean I’m 35. I grew up with rock n’ roll, punk rock and metal, and country actually. My family all were performers and they played that. So I grew up with a lot of country in the house. But the older I get, if I am going to listen to metal, which to be totally honest aside from Slipknot and…I don’t really even buy Megadeth records anymore, there are very few metal bands that I still follow because I feel like I already got those records. I’ve got Reign In Blood. I mean God Hates Us All was a great record too, but I don’t even have the new Slayer record because I don’t know what I am missing. I’ve heard it, but I didn’t buy it. I don’t know what else is out there. I’ve heard heavy, I’ve heard A tuned down and played really slow. How much heavier can you get?! I love black metal too, but you get into black metal for a few years and you buy those records and go see those bands, maybe even meet those guys and understand it. Then you go “Eh, ok. I’m good. What’s next? Let’s figure something else out.” With music, like any other art, if you just limit yourself to ‘I just like Van Gogh, that’s it! Van Gogh is my artist! I’m going to paint with the same colors he paints with in the same style. That’s what I want to do,’ then you’re missing history and a world’s worth of art that you could take or learn something from. So that’s why I listen to everything. I will give anything a chance and I’ll take what I like out of it. I mean I still listen to Reign In Blood. I bought that record the day it came out and I still listen to it, and it still kicks my ass! But I’m always looking for something new.
You mentioned how you feel that you’ve heard it all before, and that you’ve “heard it, but didn’t buy it.” Do you feel that this might be the same mentality many music fans hold and a reason why they don’t buy records anymore?
Honestly, that’s a whole different conversation. I buy music every week. We have a record store in Los Angeles called Amoeba, which is an independent record store. I am there every Sunday.
Wait a second, there are still record stores that exist? (laughing)
Oh yeah. It’s huge! The place is packed. It has everything you’d ever want on vinyl, CD or whatever. I am literally there every Sunday and I spend way too much money that fucking store (laughing), but I’ll buy stuff just if I like the album cover. Then I’ll take it home and listen to it and be like “Wow, the album cover was really all I got out of this!” or whatever (laughing). But I think people don’t buy music anymore because we’ve now conditioned ourselves to think that music is free. It’s air, it’s water and should be free. The internet changed that for everybody. You can get anything you want on the internet, and music, and movies now, are the most accessible thing you can get, aside from porn or all three at the same time.
Whatever fits your fancy!
Yeah, whatever you’re into! But it’s a constantly evolving thing, and music has really become a marketing tool for artists who are smart to sell concert tickets and merch, and to get their music in film or on TV. Music is your billboard and the sooner artists embrace that the happier they’re going to be. If you spend a $100,000 on making a record then you’re a fucking idiot because you’re not going to make your money back, unless you’re Lady Gaga or somebody like that. You’re probably going to make your money back pretty quick then because that’s what sells, country and pop right now. I think artists just need to focus more on writing good songs.
Rob has said it before in interviews that this is probably going to be the last CD he makes. You know what, I kind of hope it is because as much as I love the ‘album,’ I love to get an ‘A’ side and a ‘B’ side and look at the artwork and read the lyrics, I think artists today are in such a hurry just to feed the market with something that they’ll just shit out twelve songs. Maybe one of them is good, maybe one goes to radio and one moves people, but the rest is just crap. They wasted their time and money, and they’re wasting my time and money. Give me a couple of songs a few months. Just write a badass song and run that up the flag pole. Don’t worry about all this music and “Oh people are downloading our album!” Well, is it good? I mean I know they’re proud of it, but…I could go on about this for days. You have to edit this! (laughing)
Hey! I’m happy to be doing this anyway! (laughing)
(laughing) It’s one of the main reasons I haven’t made another solo record. As soon as I put it out [2007’s The Evacuation Plan] I kicked myself in the ass and went ‘Why did I do this?!’ If I had released a song a month that record would’ve been relevant for a year, maybe even a little more. It may have given it a few more legs. Instead, the record came out, everyone who was waiting or looking for it bought it, and two weeks later they were over it. They were onto something else. It’s all fast food. It’s free and it’s fast food. It’s Taco Bell, it’s with you for about 45 minutes and then it’s history.
Well it depends on some of the Taco Bell food!
(laughing) Yeah, it depends! Maybe it’s 15 minutes, I don’t know. But I think you can stay relative for a much longer time if you’ve paced yourself.
What’s coming up for you and Zombie then? You’re doing Mayhem Fest for the rest of the tour and then the new version of the album is coming out. What’s up next?
The new Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is coming out in the Fall, hopefully. We’ve got a lot more touring to do. We’re really just getting started. There’s a Fall tour coming up and more stuff after that which I think actually caries us through maybe the Summer of next year.
Speaking of the Fall tour, I heard rumors about that Fall tour that I’m not exactly sure I am allowed to inquire about [Joey Jordison revealed in an interview recently that Rob Zombie was touring with Alice Cooper and The Murderdolls this coming Fall].
Whatever rumors you’ve heard are probably true (laughing).
I will accept that very happily then. (laughing)
(laughing) Well I don’t know what you’ve heard but it’s probably true.
Well that there is an addition of two big acts to this Fall tour, or maybe I should say it’s a continuation of sorts from this past Summer?
Oh yeah! We talked about doing a Gruesome Twosome thing again, but Joey is kicking up the Murderdolls again and it seemed like a good fit. So as far as I know that’s probably what will happen. I don’t think it has been announced yet, but I saw something on the news about it the other day.
If you don’t want me to include this in the interview I won’t.
Eh, by press time it might already be out. So if it is, go ahead. After that, it’s kind of up in the air. There’s lots of talk, there’s lots of planning, but nothing’s confirmed yet.