It’s 2018, 38 years after Venice hardcore/thrash crossover titans Suicidal Tendencies formed, and frontman Mike Muir still doesn’t give a shit about what anybody thinks he should be doing. This is a band that has bounced around genre boundaries like a rottweiler puppy since the release of the groundbreaking ’83 self-titled debut album and the accompanying “Institutionalized” single. Band members have come and gone with alarming regularity, but with Muir at the helm, the band still exists and, against all odds, they're still metaphorically busting heads.
Sept. 7 sees the release of a new album, Still Cyco Punk After All These Years. It’s an interesting project — the title is a play on Still Cyco After All These Years, the ’93 album that was filled with re-recordings of early material. This new one sees the current ST lineup re-recording the tracks from Muir’s ’96 solo album, which was released under the name Cyco Miko and called Lost My Brain! (Once Again). It all comes back to Muir doing whatever he wants.
“Nowadays, when music really doesn’t sell, you don’t have any excuse to worry about what other people think,” he says. “When you do something, a re-recording, people go, ‘Why would you do that?’ For us, it started with Dave Lombardo [Slayer drummer, now with ST as well as The Misfits and Dead Cross]. The way he plays drums. It starts off with the fact that, when I actually first did the record, it was basically at a point in my life where I wanted to do something that was the reason I got into music. What I would like and what was important to me, and to get away from some of the pressure that we were having with Suicidal at the time. The way that the band was, that wasn’t a record that we could do. Which is kind of ironic in a way. Now it’s gone full circle, where it’s a record that we could do, and we had the opportunity to do it.”
Yeah, back in the mid-’90s, ST had gone from cult Venice hardcore band to opening for the likes of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses in arenas and stadiums. They picked up Grammy nominations in 1990 and ’93; the establishment was taking notice. That was a double-edged sword for Muir, who was happy to receive the sort of respect he felt his band deserved but at the same time didn’t want to be pushed into making polished music.
“I wanted to make the record I would make, or would like, going back to 16 when I was getting into music,” Muir says. “That’s the barometer. It’s not that it’s a record for a 16-year-old, but that’s when I thought I knew everything. People say, ‘Music is the soundtrack to your life,” and now that’s still relevant but people aren’t living. It’s background. Because you can listen to millions of songs at any particular time, it doesn’t have that meaning of maybe when we were younger. When you skated or whatever, you had the ghetto blaster and you were blasting music. That was part of whatever activity you did. Music became a very motivational thing. This record, to me, fits into that way of sometimes getting the anger out, sometimes trying to be inspiring, sometimes using that honesty that shit’s fucked up but I’m not going to accept that tomorrow. It has that kind of emotional spectrum that I like in music.”
When Cyco Miko initially released Lost My Brain! (Once Again), Sex Pistol Steve Jones and future Velvet Revolver rhythm guitarist Dave Kushner played guitar, and Greg Saenz played drums. Now, Lombardo is hitting the skins while Dean Pleasants and Jeff Pogan play guitar. Muir says those current ST members have added some fresh qualities to the old songs.
“Obviously, doing it with Steve Jones way back was a very surreal thing for me,” Muir says. “That goes back to that same thing — if I was 16 and someone said that one day I’d do a record with Steve Jones on a bunch of the tracks, I would have thought it sounded cool but no fuckin’ way. That’s always the barometer, same thing when Ozzy did a song with Infectious Grooves. It’s always those kind of things that I think are the coolest. On this side, Dave is just a beast on drums. A lot of people know him from Slayer, but being Cuban, he always says that he’s got rhythm. He’s so fast and gets those subtleties in there that give it extra rhythm when it’s strong and powerful, and it’s an amazing foundation to build upon.”
Muir says he saw Slayer perform live before they put out their debut, and Lombardo saw ST before their first album. They’ve admired each other’s work since then.
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“Before I called him up to ask him to join, I was like a 14-year-old kid calling up a girl to ask her to the movies,” Muir says. “I was nervous as shit, pacing. ‘I don’t want to offend you or anything,’ ‘If it’s not your thing, that’s cool,’ ‘I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.’ ‘We’ll go get coffee but it’s not a date.’ But he was like, ‘Fuck yeah, dude.’ Playing with him has been great, because not only is he a great drummer, he’s a really great person. I’m at the point in my life where I want to be around good people. Everybody has different opinions of what that is, but you get your definition and when you know what it is, you find people like that. It’s good to go.”
The band are going to be touring the album later in the year, and those will be shows worth catching. Meanwhile, ST have worked with Converse on some shoes worth catching.
“In conjunction with the record coming out, we’re doing a Converse collab,” Muir says. “So I’m really stoked with that — having Suicidal shoes and some clothing and stuff. Going back to the 14-year-old that wore Converse, that’s something that I’m very proud of.”
STill Cyco Punk After All These Years is released on Sept. 7, preceded by first single “F.U.B.A.R.”