Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies & A Ten Step Guide on Not Giving A Fuck What You Think

"I had a novel approach to music and that was do what I like".

Suicidal Tendencies have always been in a league of their own and after thirty five years - considered untouchable and sacrosanct by a community they begrudgingly brought together. Metal and Punk saw its crossover. 

How was the set in Detroit? “Yeah really good, thanks – though there was some confusion, we were told the interviews would start at midnight and we’re like is that the 10th or 11th [Laughs] anyway yeah the show was really great”. It’s actually a string of shows you guys are playing with Megadeth and Amon Amarth so how has the tour been going overall? “It’s really good, only five more shows left then we start a run of our own headlining shows over the west coast which we’re really looking forward to and then November we head to Mexico for a festival and a bunch of shows. December we have off as I’m heading back to Australia to see family – then January we’re back of tour, headlining the Persistence tour in Europe”. Right, so a fairly booked schedule then, at least there is some time off to relax “Yeah, trying to keep some level of sanity. After the Persistence tour we head back to tour the states then a week off as our guitar players brother is getting married, then France for three weeks; Europe for a tour then the States for festivals... Yeah it’s pretty full on”.

The latest album World Gone Mad was released a mere month ago, and the band have been touring with the new material - how have fans been responding so far? “Well we’re on support at the moment so it’s only 40 minutes sets; once we head out on the headlining tour we’ll obviously get a chance to play more. Though with the new material we have been able to play so far, yeah the reaction has been great and the crowds have been eating it up. The last few years have been surprisingly good for the band – in the past we were just use to haters trying to hate, so when our first record came out right – the punk’s said it sucked, the metal heads said it sucked [Laughs] so you know, then our second came out and our first album was then called a classic [Laughs] so people have had a long time always understanding what we’re doing at the time and I think fortunately now people are understanding what we’re trying to do, they are seeing the differences and that the differences aren’t threatening but now people are appreciating the differences with Suicidal and other bands”. Talking about the blending of these two styles; the Thrash Metal and the hardcore Punk, what was it that ultimately lead to combining these two styles? Which at the time were very detached from one another “Basically I had a novel approach to music and that was do what I like. I think most people when they start something, they do something that they hope other people will like and that is the definition of generic, its repetitive and regurgitated so music in the early days was very divided; when you looked at punk magazines the people all looked a certain way. When you looked at metal magazines all the people looked a certain way; and Suicidal looked very, very different. Our thinking was ‘hey you know what, we’ll do our own thing, we’ll do it our way and if you don’t like it because of how we look then screw you’. We found over the years that people have come a lot closer to us then we have gone to them and I think the point of Suicidal is, we do what we do and I think we do it very well. Bands that come from a certain side, be it metal or punk was not thought of back in the day, a metal band playing punk or a punk band playing metal - Suicidal went straight up the middle; we do it because it actually fits and so I think that’s what separates Suicidal from other bands”.

Not only the Thrash and Punk elements; although these are the pillars the band are based on but a combination of styles has been poured into it, what spoke and still speaks to you the most as a member and vocalist? “I think ultimately that you have to understand where you’re coming from, where you’ve been and where you want to go – the things I would say if I could go back; back to that time where I was sixteen, when I first started the band and really into discovering music and going to shows, I would say, what would that person say about that record. Because that person likes diversity. So I will write a record that, that guy would appreciate. Being in a band for thirty five years now you realise that time keeps going. At a certain time I didn’t even think I would live to see the age of thirty let alone be playing music for thirty years. Time still goes on; people I think get caught up in the moment and are concerned about the reaction in the moment and how it will be perceived in the future. A lot of music to me is bell-bottoms and shag carpet – a lot of people got into it at the time but won’t admit it now, we never tried to be bell-bottoms or shag carpet and to me that is timeless”.

In regards to the latest album; the band of course not knowing there was even going to be a follow up to ‘13’ – what were the brainstorming days of this album like? “Basically I just gave our guitar player a call saying that if we want to make a new record we need to get on it, it’s going to be a lot of work and we need to make a lot of changes – we figured we’d head in, take it day by day, if something comes out of it then something comes out of it, so we started writing. We liked what happened in day one, came back, liked it again. We took it step by step and it came to a point where we were looking for a reason not to put it out and we couldn’t find one. We all absolutely love the record; it’s a very important record and not just for now but for Suicidal as a whole. This may be the last record we make and if it is, I wanted it to be a record that I am extremely proud of, and something that closes the book really well – yeah we’re very happy with the record”. You mentioned changes needed to be made for this album – what changes did you have to incorporate? “Well, there was one very obvious change [Laughs] Dave Lombardo on drums was a huge thing. You can’t underplay that, Dave is definitely one of the gnarliest drummers I know in any style and playing with him every night is just amazing. Even getting together during rehearsals, that guy is an incredibly diverse drummer – a lot of people only know him from Slayer. There are certain people who can only do one thing but not Dave, he says ‘I’m Cuban, I’m Cuban man; I’ve got rhythm’ [Laughs] so he plays accordingly to the songs and he does that really well and I think that comes across on Suicidal and every night after a show we’ll go out and meet people and so many Dave Lombardo fans - so this has given him a chance to show a little more of what he can do. Before his career began, when he was in Chile; for years he would say ‘one day I’ll play in Suicidal’ and practiced for years and years. He loves the band; he knows the history and the legacy and wants to carry that on. Even our new guitar player Jeff [Pogan] he was our roadie beforehand, our first record was out before they were even born but they know what Suicidal means to our people and they take it very seriously every night”. 

Dave’s drumming in particular has complimented the sound of the band to quite a large extent and I understand he had input on the album also? “Actually this was the first record for Dave that everything was already done. He just had to come in and do his thing so he was able to hear where all the vocals were, how everything worked and I think he was really able to accentuate the feel of the material”.

Having quite an extensive list of former members over the years – each member individually would have been bringing their own technique and flair, so from this how would you say the music of the band has evolved over this time? “A good example of this is my brother. He was an original Z-Boy and is now in the Skateboard Hall Of Fame and when they started out these were the guys who first started skating in pools and a lot of the tricks people do now never happened before this and it’s easy to mimic something rather than create something new and so a lot of people, like Robert Trujillo [Metallica] for example, when he came in and started slapping the bass - no one had ever done that before in heavy music, so they were able to take that approach and run with it and that was a great head start. You have to understand, you have to be seamless on any style of music; it’s a feeling, it’s an attitude more than just a style and I think that has helped out with all the members of Suicidal. Josh Freese when he started to play he was Seventeen and began with Suicidal a few years later, then went onto A Perfect Circle and played with everyone from Sting to Nine Inch Nails and Guns N Roses. Even Robert Trujillo and Metallica - this up and coming band I hear about - everyone that has been with Suicidal has made a massive impact and have taken their attitude with them onto further projects. Everyone in the band right now is very in tune. It’s a great feeling and great atmosphere".

I understand you also assisted in producing the latest album with Paul Northfield - so is this a new hat for you or have you always been involved in this aspect? "I had a lot of input on this album specifically. I wanted Paul there as he has worked with us previously; he understands what we want to get across. We're excited to get it out there on this upcoming headlining tour, just playing the one song on these support shows has some people saying that in just that one new song it showcases the differences between us and the other bands. I think that's a great thing - too many people try to fit in, in this world. The best way to be different is to be better and to standout. You do your own thing you'll have nothing to feel bad about - you do someone else’s thing and you'll never be happy".

The band has a strong reputation with metal fans and punk fans; have for decades. So how would you summarise the Suicidal Tendencies legacy? "I think its always been a lot of hard work. In the beginning no one accepted us, we were different and we didn't care. Fortunately the skaters were the first to embrace us - we were the first 'non-pro' to be featured on Thrasher Magazine which was pretty cool. The top skaters that I looked up to became massive Suicidal fans and that was really cool for me. We were inducted into the Skateboard Hall of Fame ourselves this year so that was a huge honour. So we've always been surrounded with the extreme sports and the fans of extreme sports; surfers, skaters - we made a lot of good friends that way, so I think like the extreme sports Suicidal is a very high-energy, aggressive kick in the ass - one that people often needed. People though don't like being kicked in the ass, they would rather sit on their ass and get splinters and then whinge about it - put it this way, we don't let people sit on their ass comfortably".