Suicidal Tendencies Have Too Much Fire to Be a Nostalgia Punk Act
Maybe you heard that one about the people who've been killed while attending Suicidal Tendencies concerts. Singer Mike Muir has, too, except he knows it's nothing more than gossip.
"You know what? There's the Internet," Muir says. "Google it. People want to have a story."
Sure, Muir wears bandannas in press photos, has a goatee and looks as though he could kick some serious ass, even at age 50, but he's not the thug the rumor mill has made him out to be. He's articulate, fiercely independent and "more concerned with his three kids than selling records." And, perhaps most surprising, Muir often quotes his father, which seems odd coming from the guy who wrote "Institutionalized," an anthem for pissed-off teens in which a mother assumes her son is on drugs only to discover all he wants is a Pepsi. Muir, who describes his band--Muir, drummer Eric Moore, bassist Tim Williams, and guitarists Dean Pleasants and Nico Santora--as "family-oriented," says his idea of familial ties comes from his father.
"My dad said he didn't want to tell his kids what to do," Muir says. "He wanted us to be exposed to a lot of good things, find something we love and do it the best we can. It's important to have your own path, and that's one of the things we try to get across with Suicidal: We're not here to lead people. We're here to make sure they're not lead astray."
Muir's path has put him in the unusual position of being a musician who isn't concerned with record sales; 13 years passed between Suicidal Tendencies' Free Your Soul . . . And Save My Mind and their latest album, 13, released in March on Suicidal Records. Though the public may have thought the group were dormant during that time, Muir estimates they wrote approximately 200 songs, most of which will not be released.
"I love [a song], and that's good enough," Muir says. "I'll play something for someone, and they'll go, 'Whoa, what is that? When's that coming out?' 'It's not.' 'Then why'd you do it?' 'Because I like it.' I'm not doing things to be liked; I'm doing what I like."
Besides the huge, unreleased song catalog, Muir also had three back surgeries during his break between albums. One came the day after Suicidal Tendencies played at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. The show was filmed for a DVD release (2010's Live At the Olympic Auditorium), and Muir says he can see he was in pain. The band's return to the venue could have been the perfect way to retire, as Suicidal Tendencies hadn't played there in years, but a piece of advice from older brother Jim (founder of Dogtown Skateboards) was one reason why the singer decided to keep the band going.
"I looked up to him when I was younger," Muir says. "He was a pro skater, and that was the coolest thing. In my head, it all looked good, but when I got on the board, I'd fall. I'd ask him what the secret was and he said, 'Falling's not the problem--it's getting back up.'"
With the release of 13, Suicidal Tendencies are more than a nostalgia act. Though the group could have rested on their laurels in 1983 after the release of their self-titled debut--a bona fide punk/hardcore classic--or any of their eight other full-length albums, two EPs and numerous compilation tracks, Muir chooses to write new music to stay relevant.
"I'm not trying to re-live high school," Muir says. "It's viable. Young people compare us to younger bands, and I think we come out really good. That's why we're still able to do it. My clothes are drenched after every show. People know I'm not going through the motions."
Suicidal Tendencies perform wth Terror, Trash Talk, Sprung Monkey and the Inspector Cluzo at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Fri., 8 p.m. $25. All ages.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.