Suicidal Tendencies' Mike Muir

BY Keith CarmanPublished Feb 5, 2010

For almost three decades, Venice, California's Suicidal Tendencies (S.T.) have been one of extreme music's most influential bands. Since the release of their eponymous debut in 1983 ― an effort that redefined the parameters of hardcore and expediency ― they have continually pushed boundaries, becoming forefathers of the crossover movement, defined as the meeting ground between punk rock and heavy metal. Eventually reaching into bona fide metal territory and garnering a few gold albums (1990's Lights...Camera...Revolution! and 1992's The Art of Rebellion) before settling back into their punk roots circa the mid-'90s, S.T. has never skirted controversy. Battles with the likes of the Parent's Music Resource Center (PMRC), other acts such as Megadeth, their former label Epic Records and even fans have given S.T. a reputation as combative and unpredictable yet intellectual and musically profound.
Currently featuring sole original member in vocalist Mike Muir, long-time guitarist Mike Clark, fellow six-stringer Dean Pleasants, bassist Steve Brunner and drummer Eric Moore, the release of S.T.'s debut DVD Live At The Olympic Auditorium (Suicidal Records) is a testament to their legacy, documenting not only some great music but also a major moment in time for the band: when their future was uncertain due to Muir's medical concerns. However, he confirms that after a prolonged wait for new material (their last full-length was 2000's Free Your Soul And Save My Mind followed only by 2008's Year Of The Cycos, a compilation of bands featuring Muir), Live At The Olympic Auditorium assures S.T. is in the process of completing that long-awaited new album, giving fans yet another way to pledge their allegiance.

Congrats on your first DVD. It only took 29 years.
Mike Muir: Thanks. It's strange that it's coming out four years after the show but that says a lot about why we did it. It wasn't for no reason. Back in the day, that was the major venue to play in but over the years it was taken over by boxing or roller derby. In the early '80s, it was the only place where major punk shows happened. Some major shows went on there. Suicidal first played there in '84 or '85. We got a call saying that the venue, which hadn't done shows in a long time, was going down so it would be our last chance to play there and would we headline. We said, "Let's do it and let's film it," so we weren't wondering why we didn't after the fact. It's about the legacy of that show and that arena. The only problem was that I'd had back surgery before that... two days before that show, I couldn't walk and two days after, I had back surgery again... We went for it [anyway] and it ended up being great. It was a release.

The band hasn't had it easy for the past decade. There seem to be a number of mini-hiatuses for whatever reason. Was this particular show a proving ground of sorts?
Yeah. We really wanted to show what we had. We wanted to let people see we've still got it, 'cause I'm a major sceptic myself. After hearing what I'd been though, I'd be like, "What the fuck is he still doing out there?" People saw the shows though and they know we're not going through the motions like the bands you see at the county fair that can't give it up and keep touring. We're all there, better than ever. It's time to put out the old stuff and some new stuff for people to hear.

Speaking of new material, there are always rumours about a record but nothing has surfaced for a decade. Why is that?
We were gonna put out the record and then I had the back surgery. We did two shows and I had the second surgery. When we started doing shows two years ago, people said, "Get out a record and tour while you can." If I thought there was gonna be a problem, I shouldn't be touring and I don't wanna just put out a record. It has to have a statement. Moreover, I don't want people to come to see Suicidal for nostalgic reasons or 'cause it might be the last time. I want them to get on the phone to their friends and say, "Fuck man, next time they come, you're not missing it."

You do have a solid legacy that shouldn't be sullied. Even some commercially panned albums are still fan favourites.
We also had the knowledge that the first record came out 27 years ago and people still listen to it. It's not about how many people listen to an album the week it comes out. It's about how many listen to it 10, 15, 20 years later. For us, it's more important to do a timeless piece rather than something that fits in with what people are listening to now.

The band does have some new songs though?
Some of the songs are a couple of years old but when it comes out, it's not gonna sound old or dated. It won't be compared to what people are doing today. It's gonna be Suicidal. We've always been about differences and not re-treading. You can't tell exactly what year it is when you hear our albums like Duran Duran or Culture Club in the early '80s where everyone was trying to dress and be the same.

Suicidal is known for ensuring every album is a statement. Just to put one out for the sake of would be detrimental. It's great to hear you won't do that.
There's always some stuff I have that I can't wait for people to hear and other songs no one will ever hear. Some friends hear stuff we've done in the past and think we should put it out but that's not the barometer for us to put stuff out. There's also some stuff we'll put out that people won't necessarily like the first time they hear it. I think that's important music for people to hear. I don't want an album to come out and be like sugar where people are going, "Wow, this is great! I want more!" Then they eat 12 doughnuts in a sitting without realizing it (and) wake up the next morning with a sore stomach, a headache and a big belly. We should be more than that, beyond something on an elevator or iPod to kill time. Our new stuff might piss off some people or disappoint those who want to hear the same songs over again but that's the way it's always been. We're not gonna worry about it.

So you don't necessarily worry about living up to your own legacy?
No. I've been told a lot how people walk away from one of our albums for a while and when they come back to it, they go, "Whoa! I forgot how great it is!" That's what we want with our music, not to have people go back to a certain timeframe like Al Bundy going back to the high school days. We want our music to have meaning.

To come full circle, there are many reasons as to why this show/DVD had to happen, culminating in the fact that there will be a new Suicidal record at some point.
Certainly, especially if you think that two days before the gig, I couldn't walk. I was thinking, "Oh no, not this again." People said it would be fine in a couple of days but I knew it wasn't. Cancelling wasn't even an option but at some points it looked like it might be the last Suicidal show ever. But after doing it, I got the surgery again and it's cool. There are points when I watch that show and remember going, "Fuck, this is killing me!" People say they can't tell but I can see it in my face. I remember exactly what I was thinking. Sometimes I don't necessarily want people to know it, but it's a big moment in my life.

It really could have been the end of the band?
Yes. At the time, after the second surgery, I thought it was finished but the irony is that it actually brought about the beginning again. Sometimes things you think will be terrible actually end up being great.

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