"We want to hit people the right way, and hopefully make something that will move people.”
Forever busy as frontman for one of punk's most notorious groups, Suicidal Tendencies' Mike Muir has just stepped out of the studio in his home in California. The 49-year-old and his family have been back in The Golden State for a year now after a three-year stretch enjoying the quiet life on the Sunshine Coast, and although he considers our great brown land his second home, it's apparent as a band, Suicidal Tendencies are far more productive while he's on the other side of the Pacific.
“I love being in Australia but it's a hard place to commute from,” he admits. “There's no real red eye [flight] for most situations. So after a while [my family] said, 'Let's just go back for a bit and see what happens,' and everything has gone really well – it's much easier to be here. We have a studio here, this and that, so we're able to [record]. But my wife and my eight-year-old – they'll always be Australian, so it's an important place. It was the first place that I ever went touring and I said, 'Wow, I could live here.' That was a long time ago when I first went there, in '93, but I've always felt comfortable, and the one similarity is that everybody skated or surfed – that's what you did. So to me, it's not like living in a different country.”
Muir and his blue bandana-wearing brigade are putting down more tracks for an as-yet untitled record that will mark their first original LP since 2000's Free Your Soul And Save My Mind. Whether the sounds are angled towards their bruising early-'80s hardcore, the thrash metal found later that decade or the heavy-ended funk that has peppered Suicidal's music as a whole is anyone's guess. The formidable main man seems equally as ambivalent, refusing to nominate a certain path to follow, much like he's done through the life of Suicidal Tendencies.
“We did our first record [1983's Suicidal Tendencies] and the punk fanzines said it sucked, it was metal, and then four years later they said, 'Oh, they did a punk-rock classic but now they've gone metal.' And it was like, 'Wait a second, you said it sucked before this!'” he laughs. “Everyone is always telling you that you can't do this or that. We did thrash, but there wasn't that term before we did Join The Army – that came out afterwards. We're one of the few bands that can do all these different things and we throw ourselves into a lot of situation, which is important so that music doesn't become not important.
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“When you do the same thing over and over and over – it's monotonous. You can have a favourite food and a favourite restaurant, but if you eat there three times a day for a couple of months you're not going to enjoy it anymore. I think music should be a challenge – it shouldn't be the stop-off at the candy store y'know.”
If you're at all familiar with the Suicidal family, it's no surprise to find that if you give Muir a conversational inch he'll run with it a mile. And so he continues matter-of-factly… “I love a lot of music but I hate even more. And I'm a little bit more different than a lot of people in the sense that most people make music that they want others to like and that they hope they like, but I'm not really concerned if people like it or not. Next year will be the thirtieth anniversary of our first record, and the punk fanzines back then said it sucked, and the metal ones said it sucked – but I didn't really care. That stuff doesn't really matter, like if someone writes something it doesn't really matter.
“I think that's one of the things that I learned from my dad; he goes, 'Y'know what? Don't worry about other people, just worry about yourself.' If someone says you're an arsehole, it doesn't make you an arsehole. If someone says you're God, it doesn't make you a god. But what you do, how you live your life, your actions, that's what you should be worried about; not what someone else says and that type of thing.
“A sure-fire way to hell is trying to make everybody else happy; and it's not about not caring about people, it's about caring about the right people, and learning how to say no. And that's the thing with us, we didn't sit there and go, 'There's an audience, let's sit there and try and make music they'd like.' And I think to me, going back to the beginning, we've got a record that's almost thirty years old now. I'd rather have a record that thirty years later people are listening to but they talked shit about when it came out, than have a record that when it comes out everybody is singing along, then in four bars it's a new slice of toast, y'know?”
With Suicidal's current incarnation including incredible players such as Dean Pleasants (bass) and larger than life Eric Moore (drums), there's no doubt the band is able to take their music into some incredibly exciting territory, and listening to Muir it's obvious that they're willing too. It's for this reason that after 30 years, the Californian hardcore kings are still relevant, with a fanatical following that covers all corners of the globe. The band's 2012 Northern Hemisphere touring calendar alone saw them perform at a myriad different festivals: punk, metal, hardcore, skateboarding. Muir informs that one of the events even found them as the only band that actually had amps. But whether the album is actually going to kick the arse that is now all but expected, is something Muir won't delve into.
“I'm not a car salesman and I never would be, but to sit here and go, 'Our new record is going to be great'; well, you know what? I know a lot of people won't like it. And even people I know, friends and stuff, we'll finish a record and they'll say to me, 'I don't like it.' And then years later they'll say, 'Dude, that's my favourite record.' And I think that's the biggest compliment you can have.”
Suicidal Tendencies will be playing the following dates:
Wednesday 12 December - Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast QLD
Thursday 13 December - The Hi-Fi, Brisbane QLD
Friday 14 December - UNSW Roundhouse. Sydney NSW
Saturday 15 December - SRH FEST, Melbourne VIC
Sunday 16 December - HQ, Adelaide, SA
Wednesday 19 December - Metropolis, Fremantle WA
However, after more than a decade of waiting, what a new Suicidal record will sound like is almost irrelevant. Currently, the biggest question on most fans' lips would have to be, “What's the hold-up Mike?” Either way, you can be assured the vocalist won't be rushed. “People always want something and expect something – I call it instant gratification. It's like going to the candy store, they want that gratification. But that's not what Suicidal is [about]. We want to hit people the right way, and hopefully make something that will move people.”