The Staying Power of Mike Muir

Mike Muir is a stand up guy. He's an original whose music has a fearless energy that is infectious. Mike Muir defies genres. You can't put him in a neat little box or package. That's the way he likes it.


"I would say basically I try to do things the way I think is the right way based on a lot of experiences and knowledge and investigation." Mr. Muir's candor and forthrightness would rub a lot of lesser people the wrong way. In the past, it has. "I try to mind my own business and that offends people for some reason. It upsets people and I don't know why. I think it upsets them and offends them the most because I don't care." 


Despite the appeal of  Suicidal Tendencies, and by extension Infectious Grooves, it wasn't an easy start for Mr. Muir and his band mates. "When we first came out the punk band scene said we suck coz we're metal and the metal ones said we suck coz we're punk. And we didn't care. And that bothered people that said we sucked and we're like, "Ok, what ever."  In 1982 Flipside magazine voted them "Worst Band/Biggest Assholes".  Did that deter Suicidal? Not a bit. The band took out an ad that said: "Thanks to all the readers who voted us Worst Band/Biggest Assholes, you'll be sorry." Mr. Muir goes on to say that people thought it would make them crawl some where but they got  a copy of it and put it on their wall and chuckled.  "There are people that are offended by something and actually there is nothing wrong with it. I can't do anything about it you know. My dad said the one sure way to be miserable, the one guaranteed way to find hell, is to try to make everybody happy. Because if you do, your head, neck is spinning around and you are doing all this crap and later on they're going to be mad at you for doing all the things they asked you to do because you did what they asked and not what they needed. I don't really worry about that." 


After almost thirty years in the business, I wanted to know how Suicidal Tendencies/Infectious Grooves retain fans and get new ones when they have such a niche sound. You won't find Suicidal on the radio or in the popular metal magazines, yet they have a loyal fan following. "It's always been somebody that's liked it so much that they play it for their friends or they blast it so loud that their friends have to hear it when they're driving by. I appreciate that. That's the way the music I got into that I really like, it's like, "Dude, have you heard this? Dude, dude, you gotta check this out coz it's totally better than anything." He goes on to say that a lot of different types of people come to the show, not because they are supporting the scene or feel it's something they have to do, but because they want to see the band. Mr. Muir relates to me that on a recent show in New York: " There were a couple people afterwards talking and there was this guy that brought his son to the show and said, 'Hey, you're the first show I went to with my dad.' His dad was there, so grandfather and young son. Well, if his dad took him to a Suicidal show, then it must be all right. Then there was this other guy that had nothing but problems with his father and he had his son there and he said, 'You know what? My dad was never there for me and stuff, a lot of problems and rather than feel sorry for myself I just don't want to make the same mistakes my dad did. Because you 're always talking about your dad and stuff. And I want my son to talk about me that way. I want you to meet my son.' You know things like that I think are cool."


The music industry has changed a lot in thirty years. I asked Mr. Muir if it was harder now being a musician than it was when he started. " I would say no because when we started out there were punk bands bragging about selling 5000 copies. Now a days people will have their logo and their Facebook page. They'll have this and that. The only thing they won't have is music. What we were doing is more like someone who is 40 years old playing basketball in the park on Saturday's. You know, 5'6" he's not going to be in the NBA, but he's just having fun. It was fun for us. We used to have rent parties. End of every month, we charge people to pay the rent. Let's play the party and we'll scare everybody out and then we'll charge more people to come in. You know, coz we got a small ass yard! And then it went from that coz it got so big we started renting out halls and stuff. We never set out with an agenda or a five year plan or anything like that. I think that's one of the reasons we're still here. The first interview I did with Flipside, where do you see yourself in five years? I still want to be doing music. If we are you know I'll be proud of everything. They said when are you going to stop? When it becomes a job. And that was the time I did stop." 


"So we work really hard to keep it from being a job. I think for too many people it is a job. That's why they have to make decisions and the wrong decisions. I don't need to make those. Especially now that I have kids, when they are older; like my dad said something to me, he goes, 'You know when I'm making decisions i want you to understand. Not because I'm bigger than you, I'm older than you, coz I pay the bills: he goes one day you're gonna be bigger than me and if I'm not making the wrong decisions.  You may not understand now, but I"m planting the seeds coz you'll come back and say dad, what was that crap?' And I totally understand what he means. My dad was always there for me." 


I noticed that Mr. Muir is always giving props to his dad. It was refreshing to hear such a good familial bond between father and son, especially in this Justin Hunt ABSENT era where fathers or the perception of fathers seems to be lacking. I asked Mr. Muir about his dad's influence on his life. 


"Definitely! Definitely! He eliminated a lot of excuses from me. My dad says 'You're young and you know right and wrong. But as you get older you try to use intelligence to justify why it doesn't apply.' When you talk about teenagers and stuff, you try to use your wit and quickness and this and that to justify the things and mistakes you've made or want to make. My dad eliminated all that to the point where it's like, Gah, Dude, I hate when you're right, but you're right. That's the thing. Once you start altering that line, using drugs or alcohol or whatever, once you start altering that line it all goes down hill it goes down hill is fast. My dad always taught me, if there is something I don't like and you think I'm wrong you remember it. You remember it, not to hate me but to make sure you don't do it because then you'll hate yourself. I'd rather have you hate me then to hate yourself. That to me is so true. There are too many people that hate themselves and they put the hate every where else.  When you get down to it, break down all the excuses you hate yourself and that's a terrible thing." 


Part of Suicidal's staying power may be Mr. Muir's philosophy on touring and being on the road. " A lot of people go on the road to get away from their families, get away from their lives because they don't like their life. They are trying to relive some drug induced days that didn't exist and stuff. We're out there because before we agree to do something we say, Wow, is this something that I think will be cool? So we turn down most of the things. We were in Europe for a month and we headlined punk rock festivals. We headlined metal festivals. We played skate parks. Different countries, France and Holland, we did festivals where we were the only band that wasn't from that country. We did a festival where we were the only band with amplified music. We did all kinds of things that people couldn't. And people say, 'How do you do that?' I say it's because we never try to kiss ass. We did what we wanted to do. There are certain people that appreciate that. It's a different road, but it's much more, less traveled and a lot more scenic. 


It would also surprise many that Mr. Muir doesn't see himself as a musician. He said he never said he wanted to be one and still doesn't consider himself to be one. He says he's just a simple person that loves doing certain things. He says that music is like food. "Peas are good for you but I just don't like them. But as a kid I spent hours staring at them you know. You can't leave until you eat them you know. Wish I'd like them, but I just don't. There are a lot of things I do like. And someone goes, Dude, that's terrible! How can you like that? What do you say? Oh, OK, I don't like it now because you told me it's terrible. I think that a lot of times what people say I don't like something, they just haven't heard anything like that. They are exposed to very specific genres and they are afraid to deviate from that because it'll shake the foundation of life and stuff. It's easy when you are young and you say I'm a this or I'm a that an you categorize yourself into a musical entity or style or genre. But to me that's completely crazy. My dad said music is something that a lot of people use as an escape from life, but it should be a  small part of life. But, if it can motivate you to live a better life, then that's when you have it right. It's like anything. You do it in excess and it's not good. That's the stuff we try to do, music that's important to us and we'll leave all the other stuff to other people coz there are plenty that will do it."


Success has always come to Mr. Muir on his own terms. He says there are no blackmail pictures, no "Daddy, what the hell are you wearing?! What was wrong with you back then?" He's not changed the way he looks or dresses despite that being the first thing the industry wanted him to change. "I always thought that was the craziest thing I had ever heard. Like, wow, you gotta dress up like it was Halloween for people to like the music. That made no sense to me. Absolutely none what so ever. I'm not gonna be eye candy. I'm not gonna try to be. I'm not gonna put on some stuff like that. Somebody said, hey you gotta wear spandex, eyeliner, that kind of stuff. When we started all these bands were doing that. 'I'll give you a million dollars.' You ain't got enough money in the bank. And that was before I had kids or anything like that but I had respect. And to me that would be the ultimate ultimate ultimate sell out. People say why do you look like that and I say for good reasons, 'cause I love myself."


I asked Mr. Muir if he had a "bucket list". Was there was anything he'd like to do before he dies. He says he looks at things completely different. "My dad uses an analogy; When you are old and you're in a rocking chair and you're not able to do all the things that you wished you would've, and you'll sit back and you'll curse yourself. The things you did you wished you didn't. But he goes as you're sitting there taking your last breath, you got a smile on your face. Yeh, Dad, I didn't know much better but with what i do I did the best I could. So that's all there is on my bucket list. That I have a smile on my face and the people that are around me have a smile on their face. Not because they are happy I'm gone, but because I'll live on in the same sense not with music but that I made an impression on them. That they'll be comfortable."


Wise words from Mike Muir.