Mike Muir: If Suicidal Tendencies Got Bigger, We’d Be Unhappy
Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir, known as "Cyco Miko," was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The band recently released Still Cyco Punk After All These Years, which is mostly a re-recording of Muir's solo debut under the Cyco Mike moniker. He's as unrepentantly punk as they come and shared his thoughts on the band's amalgam of punk rock and metal, how it still surprises him how big the band got and some advice handed down from his dad. Check out the chat below.
Why was your solo debut album in need of an update?
I think it's a lot of reasons. It's a combination of where I was at various times and where I am right now. It's interesting because a lot of people — my dad always said, what definitions matter are your definitions and you can't get caught up on other people's definitions.
When I got into music — my brother was five years older than me so he's 17 years old, I'm 12 and he's giving me Black Sabbath because he wanted the record for Christmas. So you're exposed to music maybe that you wouldn't see, but when you get older and you start going to shows — I moved out when I was 16 and you feel like you're a man, and you got all your issues and stuff like that. I judged music really hard and music was a very, very important part of my life and stuff. So I always go back to that person and kind of use them as a barometer of what I think is important and what really matters because that person had different definitions of what success, and happiness and all those different things.
I didn't care what other people liked, it had no bearing on me whatsoever. Someone told me, "Oh this was great." I'm like, "Oh cool it's great." I didn't care what other people thought, it was totally irrelevant to me and I think that that's actually something that's very important.
My dad always told me, "You try to make other people happy, you're going to be miserable." It's not a matter of not caring about other people, but you can't make anybody else happy if you're not happy and if you are happy you're not going to do the things that make you unhappy so it's a chicken and the egg type of thing.
So, when I did the record in '95 and it kind of was like Suicidal Tendencies and it was a point where Suicidal was doing a lot of stuff that I never would have dreamed and nobody would have dreamed was possible you know. We were opening up for Metallica and Guns N' Roses you know, and trading off between them, and Europe, and the United States, and got gold records, and Grammy nominees and all that stuff and, but that's not why I started and it wasn't where necessarily I wanted to be and I wanted to do something that reminded me of why I love music.
There's integrity to what you like when you're a kid. How often do you consider what your younger self would think when you're deciding to do something now?
That is the biggest barometer for me. If I look back at, it's like appreciating things and stuff. If someone would have said when I was that young, that like, "Hey the guitar player of the Sex Pistols is going to play on a solo record for you," I'd be like, "What are you talking about?" When Infectious Grooves had Ozzy sing on "Therapy," someone said, "Hey, one day you're going to do a song and sing with Ozzy and stuff," I'd be like, "What are you talking about?" If someone said, "Hey one day you're going to be in the Skateboard Hall Of Fame..." — "What are you talking about?" I wouldn't have believed it, so you definitely have to appreciate those kinds of things.
The Converse thing — I remember when I got my first pair of Converse, so doing a Suicidal Converse shoe... that's something that 16-year-old would go, "No way, but damn I would love to but I don't believe you." So, I think that's a big part because I a big skeptic. I was a pretty good critic and stuff like that so, I think that that is a good barometer.
A lot of times people don't like to go back where they were because they probably weren't at a place where they really wanted to be so they probably change it a little bit. I grew up quick and I think a lot of those opinions are good and stuff, so there's a difference between growing old and growing up. My dad always said, "You grow up, don't grow old." There's a huge difference. When you use your intelligence to lie to yourself about something you wanted to do then something is wrong.
Suicidal Tendencies started as a punk band and then began incorporating other styles of music into the mix. What makes the band such a good conduit for such different musical styles?
I think there are certain elements we took for everything. So many times the original punk rock fan zines said that we sucked because we weren't punk and all the metal ones said we sucked because we weren't metal. That really didn't matter to us. It wasn't trying to be punk, trying to be metal, but what I got out of punk rock and kind of like with the title of the record is one of those ones that I had to stop using the word because my definition is completely different than others.
But to me punk rock was about believing in yourself at that time when you really liked yourself the least. It's never quitting ‚ it's always going no matter how bad things are. It's an attitude of being like where you're gonna end up. At the moment you may not be where you want to be, but it's about being victorious and refusing to be a victim. Punk rock, to me, is I hate being told what to do and I don't want to tell people what to do. But sometimes you need to remind people if they're lying to themselves. Tell them what they don't want to hear because that's kind of semi-responsibility and stuff. I've always appreciated different opinions. That's how you learn, and I think the world's gone in a full circle where people can't communicate. They just want confirmation. They just want to hear what they want to hear. And if they don't hear it, they shut it down. Or they call you a fascist.
It's crazy. My son is 14 and at his school, the kids are reporting kids. It's crazy. When I went to high school, for the year I went, if somebody was running around the school and reporting kids, they would be out of that school immediately. It used to be the teachers were into Suicidal stuff. They would send you to the office and I hear all these people getting sent to the office. It's funny cause they'll go to the principal, and the principal will talk about, "Personally, I love Suicidal [Tendencies]." The kids are reporting people for Suicidal stuff for whatever. There are things that it's insane.
So, I think the world, the problem is it needs a little bit of maybe not punk rock music but punk rock attitude instead of where everybody feels so much like a victim and they embrace it. They compete about how many messed up things they have. It's like, "Oh, the world's messed up. I can't do anything." I think that's sad.
Converse has a new line of Suicidal Tendencies apparel. Mike, what was the most important thing that needed to happen for you to agree to the idea?
Like I said, when I was 12 years old, I remember my first pair of Chucks I got, you know. And to me, what they represent is a very cool thing. It's what I wore. And besides that, fortunately, a lot of people that actually work there now, I didn't even realize it, but I knew from other places that ended up being there. It's a really good atmosphere and they get what the band is about. It was one of those ones where, you know, they talk about it's a business and they have to do their business things, but they go, "This is something that we think is really important," and when you get a call from the GM or something, and they're like, "We really want to do this," this is something that everybody says they don't like to do things they don't like to do.
It's something I’m very proud of and it's cool because even when I got the samples I didn't tell anybody because it's one of those ones you don't even need to tell anybody. But we got the sample on the one side, it has the Suicidal Circle logo and people look at it like, "Oh that's cool." They're like, "It's kind of like a Converse rip off" and then we turn around to the other side and they see the Converse logo on it and they're like, "What, what was that?" And, like I said I didn't tell anybody but the day that they announced it was coming out I got so many calls, and texts and emails from people and from people I haven't talked to in a long time. They were like, "Dude I just saw that that is so cool, so happy, proud, proud for Suicidal, proud you know, for everything," and they're like, "Dude you nailed it, you know, just wanted to say that." So, that was amazing and something that I never even expected.
When you're revisiting the music from a different time in your life, like this album, what kind of memories go through your mind?
I remember recording it and remember carrying Steve Jones' Marshall Amp into the studio and when he pulled up. I was like, "Let me help you out, let me carry this." And, I kind of looked at it and he looked at me and he goes, "Yeah that's the one, mate." It was the Marshall that he's always had that he records with Sex Pistols. The guy was hilarious, he's just a really, really cool person and spending time in the studio and his recording was great, going on tour and playing the songs... Robert [Trujillo] was playing Cyco Miko, and we were doing that and it was Cyco Miko and Infectious Grooves touring together in Europe and it was Brooks Wackerman was playing drums when he was 14 or 15 and now he's the Avenged Sevenfold drummer and it was just a great time, a really good time and a lot of fun. The irony is we started playing some of the old Suicidal songs and kind of let us back and then went and said, "Well, we can do do a little more punk rock and then we recorded Freedumb and started touring back up again.
Suicidal Tendencies is such a touchtone for kids getting into heavy and aggressive music. What do you think catches people's attention the first time they hear you?
Well, there's two parts. One is, the music and obviously the lyrics. I think people can relate to it because, I think it's very honest music. I'm not a singer, I didn't want to be a singer. I wasn't trying to cater to anybody. There really wasn't a punk rock audience so I just did what I felt. I think people are people and said some stuff maybe other people wouldn't say in a different way and so, they related to it.
In the festival environment, there's people, I don't think there's any people who haven't seen somebody wearing a Suicidal hat or shirt or something but they don't really know what the music is or been exposed to it or they see a picture and they go, "Oh that's not the kind of music I'm into" and when you do the festivals there's a lot of people — "Oh I'll check them out." You see them and they have the opportunity to compare us to their favorite bands that they wanted to see.
Sometimes, we have the fortunate opportunities to let them know never to come back and see us [laughs] and other people, it makes them a little uncomfortable because they sit there and they go, "I love this, this is my favorite band but when I compare them there's something different." In Europe and other places that's really helped doing the festivals. Even we just did earlier in the year, Punk Rock Bowling in Vegas you know, it's like 20,000 people — a big festival. While we were announced, there's a lot of people going, "Oh Suicidal are not punk rock," this and that, and the people were there and we got there the day before and it's like - this does not look like anybody is here to see us.
Then at the end the band that went on, but it was a lot of people that were there that actually got to see us and you saw the difference in what happened and the reaction and so I feel very comfortable. We're not for everybody, we never were supposed to be, we're not supposed to be a big band. We got bigger than we should have been, but, fortunately not big as other bands are - we'd probably be very unhappy.
But I think what we do has meant a lot to other people and to be able to have an opportunity to go out there and people discover you, and still discover you, and appreciate what you're doing. You can tell that - I believe we're doing it for the right reasons. My dad always said, "Sweat don't lie." And any show we do, we know it may be our last one. We want it to be the best show we ever did and put in all the energy and stuff. There's usually going to be a lot of energy and a lot of effort and I think people see that.
Thanks to Mike Muir for the interview. Grab your copy of 'Still Cyco Punk After All These Years' at iTunes or Amazon and follow Suicidal Tendencies on Facebook to stay up to date with everything the band is doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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