deadboy & the Elephantman
As a child growing up in Evansville, Indiana, Dax Riggs looked forward to the weekends. His parents were divorced, and Dax lived with his mother, a Jehovah’s Witness. Every Saturday Dax headed out with his mother and the rest of the congregation to neighborhoods further and further away to spread the good Word. Dax had the routine down.
‘Hello, we’re visiting your neighborhood and we’d like to share some info with you about Armageddon. May I come in for a moment?’
Dax’s crusading days were cut short at the age of ten, when he stayed up and watched ‘The Elephant Man’ on HBO.
‘Oh, it was really crazy. Up until that moment I believed God was good. My world was turned upside upside-down. I was like, okay, I now know God is bad. I started having all these nightmares that continued for years and years of being chased, and haunted by the Elephant Man.’
No longer comfortable in the home of a Jehovah’s Witness, Dax went to live with his more liberal father. Dax was twelve when his father, lured by the oil boom of the early 1980’s, moved to Houma, Louisiana. Shortly after arriving in Houma, Dax’s father secured work as a cook on an oil platform in the Gulf and boarded a small boat for the forty-mile journey. Dax did his best to adjust.
‘I couldn’t understand what the fuck anybody was saying. I couldn’t even go into Popeye’s and order without pointing. I’m still not that good at it.’
Dax found Oak Lawn Terrebonne Parish High School even more difficult than ordering at Popeye’s and flunked the seventh grade. He was allowed to enter the eighth on the condition that he passed all courses with a C or better. But halfway through he quit school for good and moved to Florida with a girl.
‘Yeah, we just took off to Florida. I was thirteen, she was older. Dropped a lot of acid. Do we have to go into this?’ With school out of the way, Dax focused his attention on songwriting. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last and Dax returned home.
Back in Houma, Dax and three other likeminded friends started the Heavy Metal group Acid Bath. They played anywhere they could around Thibodaux, New Orleans and Houma. They spent the winter of ‘98 headquartered in an old theater in Morgan City that had even tried screening porn before closing down. It still had electricity and a stage to practice on. When they couldn’t find the warm bed of schoolgirls whose parents were out of town, Dax and Mike Sanchez, the lead guitarist, retired to their half of the balcony. Acid Bath signed to the indie label Rotten Records. Of the four tours booked, Acid Bath only completed one.
Plagued by poor communication, drug addiction, and ultimately the death of Audie Pitre, the bass player, Acid Bath called it quits. During their brief existence, Acid Bath sold over 100,000 copies and remains a seminal influence today. You might even remember the deceiving, harmless-happy-clown artwork created by none other than John Wayne Gacy., the Boy Scout scourge. Hey Teacher leaves those kids alone.
By 2000, Dax had outgrown heavy metal and began teaching himself guitar and piano, and started playing out under the name deadboy & the Elephantmen. We all know where he got the ‘The Elephant Men.’ ”Dead Boy,’ that’s just me being negative.’ He went on to spend the next four years auditioning musicians before hooking up with Tessie Brunet.
At twenty-three, she’s just five years younger than Dax , and with a two-tone star tattooed on her left ear she looks a hell of a lot better. And no, they aren’t siblings, they never been married, haven’t even messed around. Unlike Dax, she comes with no baggage, just really good taste. Tessie is a wandering spirit in her own right, both literally – she hails from the New Orleans Adoption Agency — and figuratively. She began singing in 2003 and has only been drumming for a year. Tessie was home visiting her adopted parents in 2004 when, on lark, she played a gig with Dax. It went well, and after hard negotiating and a lot of soul searching Tessie decided to turn her back on the life she was leading in NYC to move back home, which meant having to mow the yard, among other indignities, and giving deadboy & the Elephantmen all she had. Tessie’s official responsibilities are drums and backing vocals in addition to handling a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, if you know what I mean. “And unlike some people in the band, I don’t go to the gas station and put two fucking lousy dollars’ worth in the van.” Around the office, we like to think of Dax as the heart and Tessie as the brains of Dead Boy and Elephant Men.
Though primarily a duo, Dax and Tessie don’t hesitate to call in others when needed. The songs featured on We Are Night Sky were written and recorded by Dax in Houma, with the exception of tracks 1,4, 6 and 12, which were recorded at our studio in Water Valley and tracks 3 & 7 at other studios in Houma.