Mike Muir - vocalist, Suicidal Tendencies
Van's Warped Tour - Oakland Arena parking lot - Oakland, CA - July 3, 1999
For the old school punk rockers and thrash metal fans, Suicidal Tendencies is back in action with a new CD entitled, "Freedumb". Mike Muir has assembled a new all-star class of musicians to help present his brand of 'cyco' rock to the masses. Included in the line up is drummer Brooks Wackerman, son of famed session drummer Chad Wackerman, and formerly of the early teen band Bad 4 Good. Suicidal Tendencies played on the most recent Van's Warped Tour '99 with the intensity that they have always been known for. Mike took a few minutes out to give some insight to the history of the band and where they are right now along with discussing what is wrong with some parts of society today.
K2K: How did ST get hooked up with the Warped Tour?
MM: Basically what happened is they did a tour in Australia because the seasons are different in January. Two bands backed out at the last moment, so they needed a new band to fill in. Reluctantly they put us in and it went good, so we got to come back and do it again. It was a great opportunity for us and been great so far. There was resistance. So people had concerns about us being on the bill and they were concerned about what kind of people we are. We showed them what kind of upstanding citizens we are and that was eliminated.
K2K: I never saw your crowd as being that aggressive.
MM: Well, we've been playing in L.A. for a while and the reputation kind of carried over. A lot of people figured that it was a lot simpler to go with an easy way. This is where we started off. My brother is a pro skater. It's basically where we started. Skaters were the first people who got into the band, so this is a good place for us to restart.
K2K: Did you break up for a while?
MM: Yeah for a while. Basically we got back together, doing our own label and managing ourselves. We made a few changes in the band. We got a couple of new guys who were in Infectious [Grooves]. We're in a position now with the record that we've made that we can say what we want to do is make a great Suicidal record. That's the thing.
K2K: How's the old stuff doing with the live crowds?
MM: In Australia it was all 12 and 15 year old crowds who didn't even know who we were. They didn't know if it was new or old or whatever. We were playing with bands with old records. Like we say though, it's not who they came to see, it's who they go home talking about. I think that's important. We have an opportunity to turn new people onto our music like a few bands did for us. I think that's great for us to be here because there are people who know us and haven't seen us for a while and get them rejuvinated with the Suicidal spirit. Then there's the people who say, "I've never even heard of you guys." Other people saying, "How can you not know who Suicidal is?!" It's been great.
K2K: Do you ever get sick of playing, like, "Institutionalized"?
MM: I don't get sick of playing anything. On this tour we get 30 minutes so we play a different set every day. A lot of people say that it must be hard for us, but it's actually easy because we go up and don't have a set list or anything. We just play different stuff.
K2K: What was the reason for the breakup?
MM: Basically I didn't think we could make a great Suicidal record with the band that we had. For us it's a great opportunity to be away for five years. It lets you eliminate expectations. For us it's great not being on Sony. We get the chance to start all over but with the knowledge and experience that we've learned from it. I think it's good to be the underdog. There are a lot of people who understand what we're doing and like what we're doing. They think there's a purpose for it. Put us against any other band and we'll come up on top.
K2K: More importantly you have made it to radio as opposed to many bands.
MM: Yeah, but 10 records and one song. What we look at is we don't make music that will fit in, we make records that, if it gets played it will stand out. That's our situation.
K2K: At least you're not a "one-hit wonder".
MM: When "Institutionalized" came out, it only got played on six stations. It gets played more now than it did then. We had one song that got played on a lot of stations but it wasn't that song. We just got added to a station about 100 miles away from where we're at and it's already the most requested song on there. I think all that it is is that people have to hear it and then they have to like it.
K2K: Has the music changed much?
MM: It's always the same situation. We'll always be misunderstood and that's the way it should be. The people who need to get the message are the ones who should be getting it. I think the situation is that a lot of people oversimplify things and when you say Suicidal Tendencies, they've already categorized you and judged you and it's all bad and they won't listen to you. What happens to a lot of people is that they hear the music, the like the music, they then get the lyrics and get something from that.
K2K: It's funny that you mention the negative response. I don't hear that much.
MM: A majority of the stores won't carry our records because of the name.
K2K: What about being labeled early on as a "vato" band?
MM: Well, as a kid I was labeled as an a**hole. Basically, people didn't like the way we dressed. Then later on, five or six years later, the movie "Colors" came out and everybody put us in a category. Most people don't understand that it's not somebody that we're talking about. We're talking about physics and stuff. It's almost like kindergarten. You just don't talk about it.
K2K: Did you set out to be any type of band?
MM: We're actually in a strange situation because we didn't start off trying to be a band. We were just looking for a guitar player and a drummer. We were just playing like someone playing basketball. The analogy is like when someone is 4 years old and 5 foot tall playing basketball. Someone might say, "You'll never be in the NBA." "Well, I don't care. I'm having fun." Our situation, we never set out to be in a band. When we first started, there wasn't a lot of opportunities to be in a band. Everybody started going to punk rock shows. We didn't dress to go to the shows, we dressed how we dressed every day of the week. That's where we grew up. I got a solo record coming out called "Cyco Mico". I got a picture of me at 4 years old with my button up shirt, black pants, and stuffed my hands in my pockets. My dad grew up in Oakland. That's the way everybody dressed.
K2K: "Institutionalized" was based on a real thing?
MM: Yeah, all stuff that happened to me and my friends. Basically there was a money-making scam. People don't take care of their kids and then all of the sudden they're 14 and they can't brag about them. They show their baby pictures. They had these commercials that said, "Does your kid get upset when things don't go his way?" and blah, blah, blah. "If they answer YES to 7 or more of these questions, then they have a drug or alcohol problem." I used to answer yes to every one of those questions and I never did any drugs or alcohol. It's called Being Normal. It's like people don't want to be parents. Parents responsibilities start when they're young, so that when they don't like who the person is when they're older, it's more of a reflection of the parents being bad as far as I'm concerned. Then they send them away to these camps. One by one I see my friends get taken away to these camps, almost like because their parents couldn't brag about them.
K2K: Don't you find it ironic that, because of your name and such, with all the new violence, that people put the blame on you, when actually you are making statements against all that violence? Limp Biskit just made a statement about parental involvement with their kids.
MM: In the same sense, it's a cop-out, "it's not my fault, it's your fault". We look at it this way, I have a dog who had puppies. Kids are like puppies. They're cute like that. Treat a kid like a puppy and he's going to grow up to be a dog, you know. That's the bottom line. Ironically, no one wants to take responsibility, but everybody wants to build a prison.
K2K: Do you think that things are getting worse then?
MM: I wouldn't want to go back to school where I came from. I think it's way worse. People used to say that when I was a kid too. I think that's the way it will always be. It's wherever you want to put it, whether it's technology or it's oversimplifying or the availability of stuff. Even the internet. Everything's out there, so everybody wants everything. I don't think people where taught what "this" is. So they're all trying to grab at everything to fill in the fact that people just aren't happy. People just don't want to appreciate things and they don't know what true value is.
K2K: The lyrics to "I Saw Your Mommy"...
MM: It's all things that happened. At the time there was a lot of patricide where kids where killing their parents. We took all the things that we saw in the news. One day my dad was walking by a house and saw something in the sewer and it was a lady dead there. Everything in the stories we actually put into a different form and so, a lot of times people say, "Oh that's so funny. You should be a comedian." Others, "That's sick. You should be locked up." But, that's not me. That's society. They're quick to judge but they don't know what they are actually judging. If you're judging me, then why don't you judge the L.A. Times?
K2K: Do you think your music will go in a more positive vein?
MM: I think our music is very positive. I think it's the most positive thing in the world. I think that the truth is positive but it always offends people. Positive is what people need to hear. People pat you on the back and tell you things will be OK. That's not the real thing. People get termites in their house and paint it and it looks better and covers it up, but that's not where the problem is. It's the way you grow up out there. My dad always told me, "Pain is a good thing." Yeah it is, because it's telling you that something is wrong. When you go to the doctor with a pain and you get a shot and it doesn't hurt. Well, it should hurt because you're doing things now that are making it worse. People are scared of dealing with things that aren't easy or pretty.
K2K: Do you see happiness in the lyrics?
MM: I think that happiness is when you stand up for yourself after you get knocked down. That's happiness. You got a black eye, "Yeah, but I'm still smiling." That's happiness. Mentally, when nobody can fuck with me. Happiness is when someone will hit me again and I get back up, physically or mentally. That's happiness. That's the problem is that everyone's got a different definition. I think that mine's a lot more valid. I know that when it's all said and done, I'll look back and think, "You know what? I'm proud of everything that I did and I know that there was a positive reason for it." All the other people that take it their way, they're smiling but it's a fake smile.
K2K: Who are the original members?
MM: I'm the only original member. Mike Clark's been in the band for 13 years now. Dean, the other guitar player, I started playing with in Infectious Grooves for about 9 years. Brooks, the drummer, I've been playing with for about 5 or 6 years.
Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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