Suicidal Tendencies’ Mike Muir Discusses Band’s New Album, Converse Line, And What Punk Rock Means To Him

mike muri, suicidal tendencies
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Mike Muir formed the punk-thrash group, Suicidal Tendencies, in 1980 when he was just 17. Muir has released solo albums under the moniker Cyco Mike, founded the thrash band Los Cycos, and is the frontman of the funk-metal supergroup, Infectious Grooves. Though he found great success in a variety of bands and projects, Suicidal Tendencies continues to be Muir’s greatest musical achievement.

On September 7, Suicidal Tendencies’ 13th album, Still Cyco Punk After All These Years, was released. Suicidal Tendencies has had a number of lineups over the years, and Mike Muir is the only remaining original member of the band — with bassist Robert Trujillo joining Metallica after being a part of ST, Infectious Grooves and Cyco Miko. While the group may have gone through some changes, the fandom for the Venice, California band is as strong as ever, and the current lineup may be the most impressive yet. Joining Mike Muir on the new album is Dean Pleasants (lead guitar), Ra Diaz (bass), and legendary drummer Dave Lombardo.

While fans have been anxious for the new album, another big project for Suicidal Tendencies came to fruition on September 7; Converse released a new line of shoes as a tribute to the band. This reporter recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mike Muir, and he revealed how the Converse deal came about, what punk rock means to him, and the backstory to the new album.

Mike Muir: Hey Carter, how are you?

Carter Lee: Doing well, sir. How are you?

MM: Good!

CL: This is a true pleasure, man. I really appreciate your time.

MM: Oh, thank you man.

CL: Though I now claim D.C. and Houston as my home, for the first eight years of my life, I grew up on the Mojave desert.

MM: Oh, wow!

CL: The punk and thrash scene were smaller then, but thanks to growing up in California, and thanks to my older brother, I was introduced to Bad Religion, Social Distortion, and Suicidal Tendencies at a young age. So, you were a major reason why I have incorporated the DIY attitude throughout my life. So, thank you for that.

MM: Oh, no worries, no worries. So, what you’re saying is, I’m old as fuck [Laughs]!

CL: [Laughing] I’m glad that was your takeaway from that.

MM: People usually go, ‘But you’re not like those other old-as-fuck ones.’ [Laughing] Yeah alright, thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment.

CL: That’s a trip! Well, I want to be respectful of your time, so let’s get into it.

MM: Let’s do it.

CL: It looks like I’m buying two ST products on September 7. That’s a huge day for you guys.

MM: Yup.

CL: You have your 13th album dropping, ‘Still Cyco Punk After All These Years.’ I love that throwback title. And you also have some Chucks dropping.

MM: Oh yeah!

CL: If you can, tell me about how this deal with Converse came about and how you feel about it. I couldn’t think of a more perfect brand of shoes to represent ST.

MM: There’s a lot of ways that I look at things. My dad always had the mindset of try not to do the simple way. A lot of times, people like to see what they like to see, good or bad. He told me to take off those blinders. But one of the best things happened today—they just announced it. Of course, I told a couple of close friends, and I’ve been excited about it. This has been a longtime coming. —getting ready to take my kids to school.

My oldest is 14, and he just had his first day of high school yesterday. Taking my kids to school and my phone was just, ‘beep-beep-beep.’ They always joke because I get so many emails. They’re always, ‘My dad has so many emails! My dad has over 1000 emails!’ But they were like, ‘Dad, what’s wrong with your phone? Your alarm keeps going off.’ It was people texting because I guess they announced it at six in the morning. They’re like, ‘Dude! The Converse! No Way!’

People were calling me telling me it was a natural fit, and others were telling me they always wondered why [ST] hadn’t had a Converse yet. So, it’s good that people have that same appreciation and understanding that we do. I talked about my son being 14. I remember when I was a little bit younger than that, and I got my first pair of Chucks. I still remember putting it on just like it was yesterday, and I wore them to my first day of high school.

They literally just delivered them. I haven’t even seen them. I’ve only seen a sample. They just brought the boxes here, so I’m like a kid at Christmastime just looking at them. The boxes are just screaming at me, ‘Open me!’ It’s a great feeling, an amazing feeling.

CL: That’s so cool. I can only imagine. That’s so rad.

MM: Yeah.

CL: What a great and special experience to share with your kids and family.

MM: Totally. My youngest son is 7, and while I was recently on tour, I got a call that he was in the hospital. He got Bell’s palsy. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.

CL: I am.

MM: He was the youngest patient that they’ve ever had with it at the hospital. It’s usually starts with people who are at least 15, and he’s 7. They didn’t know how long it would last. Fortunately, it’s summertime and not when people are in school because kids can be cruel. Fortunately, it cleared up before he went back to school. The side of his face was paralyzed, so he would try to talk, and he was hard to understand. People would stare at him in public like, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ It was really tough and frustrating.

I mention it because I told one of the guys at Converse that my son was in the hospital. He said, ‘What size is he?’ They FedExed a bunch of stuff, and he got the package and was just beaming. It was so cool. The reason why I bring that up, it’s funny because a lot of the people that work at Converse I met before they worked there, and they’re people that I actually like. I actually like them. You know what I mean?

CL: Right!

MM: They’re good people. My dad always said, ‘Association is important. If you hang out in an outhouse, you’re gonna smell like shit whether you did or not.’ I tell that story because I love the brand and all, but the people there are such good people. It’s been an absolute pleasure, and so non-corporate or whatever. A lot of these people saw the band before they worked for any clothing company. It’s nice to see that. For my kids, I tell them that you can do what you want to do, if you’re willing to torture yourself [Laughs].

CL: [Laughing] Right! That’s so true. Well said.

MM: People tell me, ‘I want to work for myself.’ I tell them, ‘Well, if there’s 26 hours in a day, you can do it.’ My dad would always say that when people would tell him that they want to work for themselves he would say, ‘If you want to work for yourself you may end up finding out that you’re not worth that much.’ I knew a guy, and his wife inherited a bunch of money. They said that they wanted to do a business because they were tired of working for the man. I told them my dad’s expression, but I said it lightheartedly, and he just dropped. Well, four months later he said, ‘You know what, when you said that, it kind of offended me. You know what, I wish I would have listened.’ They lost all the money. That’s the problem a lot of times. People want to do something, but they don’t know how to do the whole thing.

So I tell my kids, ‘Whatever you do, you have to have a passion for it. You have to love it because it’s not gonna be easy.’ I think that’s, not to be a spokesperson for Converse, but that’s what Suicidal is. It’s a roller coaster. It’s not always pretty. Converse has been through their share of stuff too over the years. But they have that foundation where you put their shoes on and you feel better. I’m not sure if it’s psychological or what, but they feel good.

CL: For sure! I couldn’t agree more. I love Chucks! It’s cool that you’ve known some of the people at Converse for so long because it keeps it in the family, so to speak.

MM: Yeah!

CL: I’m glad to hear that your son is doing better. I’m well-versed with Ball’s palsy, and that can be devastating for sure.

MM: Yeah, yeah. Thank you. Especially with young kids because other kids can be so cruel.

CL: And you’re so right about going into business for yourself. I had a friend tell me he wanted to do what I do, and he said, ‘Man, I want to write articles, and books, and do speaking, and make a bunch of money.’ And my response way, ‘Yeah, I do too [Laughs].’

MM: [Laughing] Yeah, exactly. Yes.

CL: So, with your 13th album. I like that it’s the 13th because the number 13 has been so ubiquitous with ST, and with you with your jersey’s having 13 on them. Not to get corny, but did this album feel a little extra special because of that?

MM: Yes, but more so because we actually recorded this as a Cyco Mike record in ’95. When I did it in ’95, I thought there was no way that this could be a Suicidal record. There was a lot of things at the time going on with Suicidal. The way it was played and stuff. I did the record because it reminded me of what I loved about music before I started doing music. If I was 16 and I heard this, I would have loved it. To record a record that’s pretty obscure as a solo thing, and then to put it under the Suicide umbrella—how do you do that? It’s like setting yourself up for failure. But when you have someone like Dave Lombardo playing drums, it makes things a lot easier.

I think one of the things that’s very important too, is I started listening to it—and you know, I wrote all the songs and all the lyrics— as I listened to the songs and lyrics, in context of these are old and what are they going to sound like, lyrically, I think they’re very prevalent. They actually have a lot more meaning to me now than they did back then, because of where I’m at in life and also my life with my kids.

It was speaking to me before when I was younger, and now it speaks to my kids. So, I think that there’s something beautiful, this may sound like a contradiction, but something beautiful about punk rock when it’s done right. It’s not always pretty. It’s not always comfortable, but it is what it’s supposed to be. It’s a journey, and it’s a kick in the ass, and sometimes a kick in the ass is the best thing that can happen to you.

So, that’s what this record is. A lot of Suicidal records are more roller coasters, where you’re going all around. This one is a jump on the highway, and in 45 minutes you got a lot further and hope you didn’t get a speeding ticket.

CL: That’s awesome. I agree. I think there is something beautiful about punk rock, as much as that may seem like an oxymoron. A lot of people who aren’t familiar with the genres of thrash or punk, they tend to think of it as negative. I’ve always thought of it as a positive because it’s cheering you on to overcome adversity.

MM: Yeah. When it’s done right, and that’s all speculative. But there’s a lot of negative stuff, and lot of really bad stuff. My brother is five years older than me, and when he went to his first punk rock show he took me to it. I was like, ‘Whoa! This is the best thing ever!’ Next week I went again, I was like, ‘This is the worst thing ever.’ If I had gone just that second week and not the first, I might have been guilty of what a lot of people do with just stereotyping. ‘Man, this stuff sucks!’

What I learned is, it doesn’t matter the title, it’s what the band rocks. That’s the stuff my dad would always stress. Don’t label everything because of one situation. It’s like, we love Mexican food. You go to a bad Mexican restaurant, it’s not all bad. If you’re part Italian, you don’t have to like every kind of Italian food. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat lasagna if you don’t like pizza. People just get too tied up. It’s about making decisions, and not having the decisions made for you. That’s what punk rock is.

The irony of the individuality is that a lot of people say, ‘You can’t do this. You can’t dress that way. You can’t do that, and then you become an individual.’ That’s crazy! To me, punk rock is standing up for yourself when there’s 10 other people telling you you’re worthless and proving them wrong. That’s what punk rock was to me. It was stating that I’m not going to be a victim. I’m going to be victorious. There’s no button that you push where that magically happens. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but I’m gonna keep getting up.

CL: Yes!

MM: It’s like the big dude that keeps knocking the little dude down. After a while it’s like, ‘Please man, stop getting up. I can do this all day. I’m going to keep getting up.’ That’s how you win the fight sometimes. I think there’s more than one way to do things. A lot of times I think people try to do it the easy way.

My dad would always tell me to do it the smart way but do it the honest way. That’s what we try to do, and that’s the good part of what I got out of punk rock, and that’s what we try to do with Suicidal. You’re not always going to be where you want to be in life. There’s no good time for bad things to happen. It’s more so not the situation that happened, but how you deal with it.

CL: Right on man! You just gave me chills. You’re a true inspiration. I really appreciate this. I’ll let you go, as I know you are anxious to check out your new kicks.

MM: [Laughing] Yes! You’re in Houston right now?

CL: Yes sir.

MM: Yeah, if you hear a big scream don’t worry, that’s just me opening up the Converse stuff [Laughs.}

CL: [Laughing] Right on. Thank you so much.

MM: Cool, brother. I enjoyed it. Thank you so much. I’ll see you in Houston. Have a good one.

CL: Peace.