SRH Fest will hold a special block party in Melbourne this summer with Suicidal Tendencies, Unwritten Law and Finnish pranksters the Dudesons.
Suicidal Tendencies were at the forefont of the early '80s skatepunk movement, fusing hip-hop, punk and thrash. With 25 band members been and gone, they've acted as a training corp for talent, with members going on to join Metallica, Fishbone, Cro-Mags, Alice Cooper, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails and Social Distortion.
Frontman Mike Muir’s look of LA jailyard gang thug hasn’t softened over the years, but despite this he proves to be an affable, enthusiastic interviewee. He recently moved back to the States after a long stint living on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
Mike, in every interview you’ve done over the past 12 years you’ve been asked where the next album is. Do you think that with the age of ProTools and GarageBand it’s easy to become such a perfectionist you could keep tweaking forever, whereas when you started, time was money in the studio?
Our aim is not to put music out, it’s to create. The creative process is a beautiful process but if you put something out you almost have to be a salesman – and we’ve never been people that want to sell music. We have hundreds of songs that we would never put out but that we think are amazing. It’s like if you are a chef, if you have a restaurant you have to make food that people will buy to make a profit, but if you love what you’re doing you want to experiment.
Next year will be our 30th anniversary. The first record we put out got slaughtered by metal and punk fanzines. It doesn’t matter to us to do a record that sounds like 2013. We want to do a record that in 20 years people are listening to. It’s important for us to go around on tour and let people see us before the record is out, to differentiate ourselves between some of the older bands, and then put out a record that isn’t what people expect.
Guitarist Mike Clark started with you in 1987 and left earlier this year – the longest serving member other than yourself. What’s it like now working without him?
It’s a good situation for us because we’ve had a lot of people in the band over the years and we move forward and get people who are better. Now we’ve got Nico Santora. He’s 23 years old and he’s able to seamlessly go from pop to metal to thrash. Nico gets out there and it’s like the situation where we got Robert Trujillo [now in Metallica] on bass: “Wow. This is different.”
It’s interesting that you’re playing with the Dudesons because you’re opposite ends of the MTV spectrum: what it was in its earliest days and what it’s become.
I’m glad you asked me this now rather than a couple of weeks ago, because I didn’t know who The Dudesons were. I just assumed they were a band. When I lived in Australia and people asked me about things, I’d say, “I live on the Sunshine Coast – I don’t know what’s going on.” But I just got a lesson from my 12-year-old nephew in Australia that they are like the Finnish Jackass. That’s what I know of them.
You know what? MTV discovered what was wrong with music. And what was wrong with people was that people won’t stay home and watch videos for half an hour but they’ll watch a stupid-ass reality show for an hour. They got better ratings for these stupid reality shows that don’t cost anything than for playing music. And so you can say, “MTV sucks,” or you can say, “Fuck, there’s something wrong with society,” you know? That’s just a fact and that’s kind of sad.
I never discovered the beauty of reality TV so far as the lights going off in my head. I think that says something about what’s wrong with music. It’s sad that music doesn’t really have any meaning to people anymore. When I was young, most music didn’t… but the music that did was a really important thing.
There used to be a saying that music is the soundtrack to each person’s life and that just doesn’t exist anymore.
You were almost the poster boys of MTV at one point with ‘Institutionalized’ proving to be such a hit back in 1984.
Yes and no. ‘Institutionalized’ got played on MTV a little bit, but when we did our second video [for it] it got added to rotation and about three weeks in the person who was running MTV in the States at the time was watching MTV and saw it and said, “Pull that effing video!” (Laughs) And that was the last time they played it.
They would do little test groups and we always scored the highest rating but they never played us after that.
Was the problem limited to MTV?
No. I’m not quite sure if it was the name or what it was. When we first got signed to CBS, we were talking to the head of sales about how certain stores wouldn’t carry our record. He said, “That’s because you were on an independent. We’ll go in there.” He went to see the head of the biggest chain store in America, which is out of business now, and said, “We signed Suicidal…” “Don’t ever say that name around me again.” So we were like, oh, we got problems!
We had the same problem in Australia with the person that was running the label at that time. We were getting letters from people in Australia saying, “Yeah man, I bought your record and it cost all this money because it’s an import.” We’re talking to our manager, saying, “All these people are saying they’re buying imports because it’s not released over there.”
It’s ridiculous that a record would cost twice as much because somebody who’s the head of a label arbitrarily says, “I’m not going to put it out.” So it’s unfortunate to have to deal with things like that, but when you know what you’re dealing with you try and deal with it the best way possible.