Friday, September 21

Suicidal Tendencies avoids the mainstream


By John Sabatini

With a new album released in June and an enviable opening spot
on Metallica’s U.S. arena tour, this has been a colossal summer for
Suicidal Tendencies, the veteran Venice surfer metal/punk band
which has been scaring parents and evangelists for years.

But don’t expect Suicidal to achieve "breakthrough" or pop
status any time soon. Lead singer Mike Muir insists that this is
one band which refuses to be driven by dollar signs and bottom
lines, especially where that means simply following current music
trends.

"I think the problem with most people in the music business is
that they’re in the music business because they don’t want to
work," says Muir. "They’re basically prostitutes, so they need to
do whatever (they can) to be successful."

In fact, Muir even seems to relish the fact that some people do
not like or even understand the band or its music.

"I think that’s great. We hammer the point back that we don’t
like them either," Muir asserts. "I think where most people get
into trouble is trying to be liked.

"We don’t want everyone to like Suicidal Tendencies," he
continues. "If everyone did, we’d be miserable. It would be a
tremendous responsibility that would force us to basically end the
band."

Consistent with this nonconformist attitude, the band has almost
completely foregone the possibility of reaching listeners through
MTV or radio play with their latest album. Of the 13 tracks on
"Suicidal for Life," only a handful feature no profanity.

"People say that makes it very difficult. But difficult for
what? To be like a lot of other bands?" Muir asks. "If we were
concerned with that, when we started off 12 years ago, we would
have been sounding like Madonna."

Muir suspects that it is precisely the strong, independent
identity of Suicidal Tendencies that has made the band public enemy
number one for so many people over the years.

"Even stuff people don’t like, they like to fit into a certain
category … and the music of Suicidal has never fit in," he says.
"(People) like it when someone has a certain look, they know what
it is, and they say ‘OK, that’s the way the person is.’"

Suicidal Tendencies has always threatened such a system. Muir
remembers the band’s earliest projects being rejected by the
established and strongly separatist metal and punk camps. Muir
suggests that only later did both scenes follow in Suicidal’s
direction.

Even now, with a loosened punk/metal dichotomy and the band’s
greater acceptance, Suicidal’s defiance of categorization and
stereotypes persists. Muir argues that Suicidal fans still aren’t
typical metalhead concertgoers, and this, coupled with the band’s
own conviction, frightens many people.

Thus, Muir feels the only real barrier to even greater
acceptance of the band and its music is unenlightened prejudice
with respect to the band members themselves or the fans.

"We always said the number one reason why people don’t like
Suicidal Tendencies is they haven’t heard the music," Muir asserts.
"They have a lot of reasons, but it’s not the music.

"If they don’t like the way we look, if they don’t like the
racial makeup of the band, that’s fine. I don’t really care," says
Muir. "But when people talk who are into the band, they talk about
the music, and that’s the important thing. So I think people like
us for the right reason, and I think they don’t like us for the
wrong reasons."

In fact, prejudice has been, and continues to be, a major
consideration for Suicidal Tendencies, especially where the police
and live shows are involved.

"There’s been shows where you get there and (the police) have
the paddy wagons," says Muir. "They predetermine that there’s gonna
be problems, so they have to go out there and fill it. You can
always tell how many people are going to be arrested by how many
cops will be there beforehand."

On a similar, but even more serious note, a run-in with an
officer as a youth growing up in Venice provided an experience of
disillusionment for Muir.

"Some people say, ‘Well, the guy’s wearing a badge, he’s a good
guy,’" Muir notes. "Well, that may be nice, but the first time I
got basically beat down by a cop – of many times – it was not
because he was a good guy. It was because he was a bad guy who had
a badge."

Muir feels that most people just don’t want to hear about such
injustices. He argues that a majority of people only hear exactly
what they want to hear, so that they can continue living in their
own self-constructed realities.

"Most people like to be in the dark," Muir laments. "And I think
a lot of times, it’s basically the situation that we’re trained not
to speak the truth."

But the members of Suicidal Tendencies have taken it upon
themselves to break this silence, regardless of the response from
the police or the rest of the establishment. So Suicidal can be
counted on to continue scaring those souls for some time to
come.

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