Words: Jeff Jetton
Photos: Kaitlin Follmer and Matt Bishop
Pioneering the ever-amorphous genre of American Hardcore and “crossover thrash” (arguably) since ’81, Suicidal Tendencies struck a chord with a generation unwilling to take shit lying down. The group’s founder, Mike Muir, harnessed rage and unrest in both his recordings and live performances, both marked by inclinations toward violence and outrage throughout the band’s on-again-off-again career. But here in 2012, Muir is once again donning the cowl blue bandana for ST, a band that’s back together and talking about releasing a new album–their first in over a decade.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Muir at Metallica’s Orion Music Festival about the hologram trend, why he never votes, if he could kick Ian MacKaye’s ass, and his own dad running for president.
What’s the over/under on a holographic Dave Mustaine or Cliff Burton making an appearance today at the Metallica finale?
Mike Muir: [Laughs] I don’t gamble so I don’t know how that works, but I’m pretty sure it’s a safe bet neither of them will be here. I’m pretty happy about that.
[Laughs] Who would you prefer and would Dave Mustaine cry? Does the technology make it possible to computer generate a crying Dave Mustaine into a Metallica concert?
MM: The spectre of Mustaine is long gone, so, you know, I don’t really get into that thing. I think it’s questionable, but a couple of my friends played at Coachella with the Tupac thing and I just say “yeah now they’re gonna do Elvis in Vegas and this and that.”
What the fuck is next, what comes after that? Jesus probably, holographic Jesus.
MM: I don’t get that, I’m not a believer. To misquote the Monkees, I’m not a daydream believer.
[Laughs] So you don’t want to do a holographic [former ST and current Metallica bassist Robert] Trujillo in a Suicidal Tendencies feature?
MM: [Laughs] We’ll pass.
Alright, alright. Was there much of an east coast/ west coast feud between hardcore punk a la gangster rap?
MM: Oh I think there definitely was; we were fortunate we had a lot of friends in New York and stuff, and still do you know. But there was definitely a rivalry with a lot of other bands and stuff we got to like a lot of guys through most of that.
So who do you think would win in a boxing match between you and [Fugazi and Minor Threat frontman] Ian MacKaye?
MM: Well I don’t know if Ian has ever boxed, and I’m probably a little bit bigger than him, but I don’t really think he’d really want to have a boxing match. And it’s like my dad said, “It’s not that I can’t fight, I can, it’s just that I have better things to do.” And I mean, he is a good guy and he’s definitely got better things to do than fight me.
So you’re bigger, but what if Ian taped razor blades to his hands, hypothetically speaking, who would win?
MM: Hypothetically speaking? He wouldn’t have a chance even if he put razor blades on his hands. [Laughs]
So are you a cuddly teddy bear at home?
MM: My wife says that I am a pushover with the kids and that she has to be the disciplinarian because I’m a lightweight so…
…So you don’t wear the pants in the Suicidal Tendencies household?
MM: I wear the cut-offs [Laughs]. But, yeah, when she asks me to talk to the kids I’m like “hey can you guys stop that?” and she’s like, “That’s not what I meant!”
What are you reading right now?
MM: Sad to say, but I read my iPhone [Laughs]. My text messages. My wife sends about every three to four hours a picture of the kids, so technically that’s my reading.
How do you see the future of the human race, do you think that the way that we are treating the environment and that we’re treating the earth, do you think we’ll be around for the next hundred, two hundred, three hundred years?
MM: You know what? I won’t be around to know, so you can’t come back and tell me “Mike you were wrong” [laughs]. I think the thing is that a lot of times we are victims of our limited ability to see things, and a lot of times people have the philosophy of “Oh, we’ll worry about it later.” My dad was the one that said, “You don’t sweep dirt under the rug. Sure you don’t see it, but it’s there and the other types of things that are with it. You do something to clean it up, you do it right..” My dad was a Boy Scout leader and when we went somewhere the first thing we did was to clean it up, and after we left we’d clean up. I’d say, “We cleaned up before!” My dad said, “Everywhere you go, leave it cleaner than it was when you got there” and it’s a philosophy that I think is very simple but very true. I think people should have that mentality, not just with with litter on the ground, so to speak, but you should have that in all aspects of life–with people, relationships, the way you do things; leave it cleaner than it was before.
Yeah, so that would imply that you’re an environmentalist in the truest sense of the word, taking care of whatever environment you’re in.
MM: I think a lot of environmentalists, to me are hypocrites because it all starts with someone else. It’s the reason I will say I’m not a liberal, because the liberals are the most hypocritical people, they expect everybody else to do something, and everybody else is wrong and they’re so stupid that they can’t see it, yet they don’t do anything about it, you know its always someone else’s job. My dad used to say that the problem with the world is that there are too many people sitting on the couch saying “this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong” and they’re drinking a beer saying “yeah all those people are fucking it up.”
So would you consider yourself a libertarian then?
MM: I wouldn’t consider myself a libertarian because rights are something that are not easily defined by each individual person, They’re defined by each and every person, where someone says, “That’s my right, you’re infringing upon my right.” I think common sense, if it were an ideology, would be the ideology that I subscribe to. And I believe peoples’ ideologies overpower their common sense to such a degree that it’s a travesty. You’ll have people, democrat or republican or whatever, they’ll fight for something based on the ideology, when common sense just says, “You guys should just shut the fuck up and this is what should be done.”
Common sense! So, how do you feel about Ron Paul then?
MM: I think he’s very old.
[Laughs} Diplomatic answer…
MM: I think if Ron Paul was young, that people would not take him seriously, I think he would be questioned a lot more by those same folks who are following him now.
MM: Nader? I think he’s the proverbial whiny kid that says, “You gotta do this, you gotta do this, you gotta do that” whereas my dad says the best way to tell people how to do things is to actually do them yourself. Now there are certain things that he did or was behind other people who got behind that made things possible, but in the same sense you have to be able to play the game to a certain degree. And he’s obnoxious, annoying, and he is not a person who can sit there and tell someone something. When you’re right you should be able to easily verbalize that and get that point across. You know what I mean? Common sense is a powerful thing, but people want to politicize it and that loses it, it’s like going into the outhouse, whether you shit it or not you’re going to smell that smell. And that’s the problem with politics they try to go and throw it in the outhouse rather than sticking with the issue and going, “Look, this is simple, this is what we need to do” and people go, “You know what, you’re right, why aren’t we doing that?” And then show people how to do it and how it’s possible.
So then, how are you going to get your dad to run for president in the next election?
MM: My dad’s not gonna run, and I think if he did run, he would be un-electable.
MM: My dad was a teacher, and my dad is a straight no-nonsense guy. A very intelligent person, but he doesn’t use his intelligence in such a way to go on these tangents talking where you go “Wow that’s brilliant!” No, he says things, he looks you in the eye, he explains it, he communicates it, he understands what you can’t understand, he tries to find a way that you can understand it–not to manipulate you, not to get you to think his way, but he listens to think what your way is too. My dad said the way you learn is by talking to people who have different opinions, a lot of times that’s going to reinforce yours, but you have to go with an open mind, and a lot of times you will learn something that will take you in a different direction.
But isn’t that exactly what you want in a president?
MM: Yes, but the thing is that my dad would sit there and tell people what they don’t want to hear. And a lot of times people don’t want to hear what they don’t want to hear even if it’s true. And he can’t say it any other way. And that’s where I think Obama went totally wrong.
Did you like Obama to begin with?
MM: I kinda made the prediction that Obama could be a very, very, very powerful person if he stayed out of the political realms. He can speak really well, and he’d be able to get people to do things on the small scale to be able to move that boulder to get the big things done. As a president he sold out, as far as I’m concerned. And he played the game and he put his agenda, (which I don’t think is necessarily HIS agenda), rather than doing a lot of things. … You can’t just sit there and throw billions of dollars, trillions of dollars and play the same old fucking game that doesn’t work. Should have went there and gone, “Look, let’s try this in this small town, let’s try this in LA, let’s try this here and there.”
But it’s not that simple, there are people without jobs, and there are people without healthcare. What do you do at the end of the day with them?
MM: There are people without jobs and people still without health care four years later. If you would have went there and sat them down, and gone, “Here let’s try some programs in a small town and see what works try some of these, give people a chance to do something, you know what I mean? George Bush talked about a thousand point of light, well you know what? It sounds great but you gotta give people the opportunity, make it simple and get involved.
MM: Yeah, get communities to get things going.
The punk ethics of politics is what you’re saying?
MM: A lot of people are good, they want to be good; they just don’t know how to do it. They would if they had a chance; if someone said, “Hey I need a little help doing something for someone else.” People are basically unselfish, but if they don’t know, if there’s nothing there to do, if they can’t see the picture, then they can’t reproduce it, you know?
So would you ever run for mayor of your town?
MM: No, nah, I’m totally un-electable.
MM: Because I would say all the wrong things, which is the truth, you know what I mean?
Maybe that’s what people want though.
MM: Nah, people don’t want the truth, and that’s a sad thing. Because they’re not used to it and they’ll be shocked. They need to have the truth for a while before they accept it, but people have the question: ‘how are you gonna make my life better?’ Well, I’m not gonna make your life better, you’re gonna make your life better. You know what I mean? What we have to have are programs that the cost, reward, benefit of this and that… it’s like my whole belief is I know a lot of people who have fucked up lives, do you know what I mean? And their the ones that just have such bad luck it’s unbelievable. But you know what? All they need is that hand, and they’re gonna try and get up. And then there are the one that are like “Fucking help me!” And they’re gonna pull you down the whole way. They don’t fuckin’ want help you know what I mean? They want to be there, and then it gets to the point where people say that’s judgmental and I got it, but it’s not judgmental. The fact is we’re all people, we’re frail and there’s only so much we can do. So let’s not waste our energy on things that people aren’t going to appreciate, give it to someone that when they get up they’re going to look for someone else that needs help and give that help because they’re gonna remember where they were. That’s where the good comes from. So people say you’re fucking judgmental, you’re this or that, and I go, “No I see a lot of the same thing, of people keep repeating the same thing, they don’t want help.” They want to be miserable, they want to be down there, they want to be able to bitch, they want to be able to complain, whey want to say woe is me. You know, even if you force them up they’re going to find a way to get back down there.
So who are you going to vote for?
MM: I don’t vote.
MM: Why? Because I believe that voting is a very serious thing, and voting is saying you believe in something, and there’s nothing that I believe in.
You never vote, ever?
MM: I’ve never voted.
And you will never vote?
MM: No, no, no. When I find something that I believe in, then I will vote.
It’s like a tattoo, you really need to believe in whatever you get a tattoo of.
MM: Well it’s like this: I had a tattoo studio and I don’t have any tattoos, and people see that as a contradiction, and I say no. Reason why? We got a thing from Venice beach where you got all these tattoo things on the board and people go “Oh I’ll get a tattoo, I think maybe I’ll get a butterfly on my butt.” Where we grew up tattoos were something you’d get arrested for, you got shot for it, you know what I mean? It was something that marked you. They were a statement. Now it’s sort of a trend, it’s got no meaning. People say “You don’t have any tattoos?” I say no. Because, one, I promised my mom I wouldn’t, but, two, it should mean something. And we’ll tell people when they come in they’re like “I wanna get a tattoo”, “well what do you want?” “I dunno I just wanna get a tattoo”. We tell them, “go to the boardwalk.”
So is Mitt Romney a tramp stamp? Meaning something you might end up with and then regret the rest of your life?
MM: [Laughs] I just learned what that meant. I feel sorry for the guy because he’s a republican, and when I say that, that’s not a backhanded slap, but Mitt Romney as the governor of Massachusetts I actually would not have had that much of a problem with. It’s Mitt Romney that has to run against all the what I call crazy Christians, and I have a lot of friends that are Christian, and I have my beliefs, I don’t consider myself a Christian, but all those fucking crazy Christians ….
Sarah Palin Christians?
MM: Well I guess she is Christian. But I mean the Southern thing where you have to…
The ‘religious right’…
MM: Well the fanatics, you know what I mean? Anybody, I mean the liberals, they got the fanatics, too. Anyone who is just fanatical. But the right wing religious fanatics are such a powerful base, that it’s a shame that you’re unelectable [if you’re not one], so you have to cater a little bit to that type of thing, and it’s unfortunate, you know? The left caters to certain people too.
[laughs] So you’re a little bit in the middle.
MM: I like to think that.
Fair enough. So are you a dog or a cat guy?
Thoughts on dog fighting?
MM: Oh I’m not down with that. My brother has a dog, a pitbull, and it was when they were basically bred to fight, and he didn’t know that. It’s terrible.
MM: LA Kings winning the Stanley Cup is a beautiful thing. When I was eight years old I used to sneak into the LA Forum with one of my parents’ friends. And we’d run around and get the pucks and the later on when there was 4,000 people there we would “Ahhhh I got a puck!!” and try to sell them for a dollar or whatever. So the kings winning is an amazing thing, and it was a beautiful thing and I have to know that it’s not just beautiful that they won, but I was able to watch a lot of the games and they were the best team and told everybody I said, “You know what they barely squeaked into the playoffs ..” which they say, “Oh, they’re Cinderella team” and I go, “Well actually they weren’t a Cinderella team because they’re a team that they play as a team for 60 minutes unbelievably and the whole time we’re out there, they’re a team that even if you won, you feel like you were lucky and you weren’t going to beat them four times.” That’s a hard thing to play against a team where you go, “We might win this game, but I can’t see winning the four times.” It’s beautiful; in any sport that’s cool.
Pacquiao fight? Did you watch it?
MM: No I didn’t, I don’t watch too many fights anymore, it’s not that I’m anti-fighting, but he lost and I smiled a little bit. So whatever that means, I don’t know.
Best Mexican food in Southern California?
MM: Oh you know what? That’s impossible to say. That’s like saying who is your favorite kid? There are so many different styles, you know that, my wife’s Australian and she thought Mexican food was the worst thing and then we moved back to Australia for a while and now she’s like “I gotta get Mexican food.” There are so many places that have their own little thing. And what’s cool about a lot of little Mexican places we call holes in the wall, is people they love what they’re doing, the family they put their food like they wanna… you know it’s like Lorenzo’s Italian. They cook for you, you know what I mean? It’s a really cool vibe, you know? So you can go to the place like that and then you can go to the place where you just get the burrito to go or whatever, the fish taco whatever it is…
C’mon you’ve got to have a favorite kid, which I’m not going to ask you, but you’ve got to have a favorite Mexican restaurant.
MM: When I was younger it was Poncho’s and Poncho’s went out of business and it closed down for a blockbuster! It was painful, we were like, “Aaahhh dude, I don’t need a rental, I need Poncho’s” But, yeah Poncho’s was the place that was the big, “Dad can we get Poncho’s?” “No we went there a month ago.” “Dad, it’s been three months!” “Ok yeah…”
How much did Pepsi pay you to endorse their products?
MM: Didn’t pay me a penny.
You were supposed to laugh at that question.
Am I the first person to ask you that?
MM: No, no, no people have asked me if I have ever talked to them…..
Really? People really thought that?
MM: Well there’s a lot of people I actually know because of, well our marketing people they go, “You know, that’s a really good marketing campaign.”
Have they offered you money?
MM: No I never had any compensation with them at all, at that time, the irony is, it says a lot about how things change with time. At that time it was like a joke, now it’s like you look at the Wheaties commercials, everything it has..people are like, “Hey does Pepsi ever get in touch with you?” But it’s almost like people believe that it’s possible, that stuff, you know. But, nah, I don’t really see myself being the spokesperson for….
For a new generation?
MM: [laughs] Yeah.
Do you drink Coke or Pepsi?
MM: I drink diet Pepsi when I do drink it.