By Stepan Soroka
CALGARY – Bringing the sound and style of Venice Beach, California to the masses, Suicidal Tendencies are not only one of the original bands to blend hardcore punk and thrash metal into the uniquely ‘80s subgenre of crossover, but they are responsible for an entire aesthetic that blew the day-glo, family-friendly California skateboard look into obsolescence. The band’s vato-inspired look, with low shorts, high socks and eye-crowding bandanas, is arguably as influential as the music itself.
“I was the first person on the cover of Thrasher that wasn’t a quote unquote ‘pro skater,’” singer Mike Muir casually mentions. Although Muir’s recollection is not flawless (Glenn Danzig and Chris Doherty of Gang Green both preceded him by one year and three months, respectively,) it’s impossible to deny Suicidal’s influence on the subcultural landscape of the 1980s, one that still resonates loudly today. Especially in a day and age when Thrasher was once the Bible for outcasts and rejects, it is now the clothing brand of choice for mall-going tweens who have never stepped foot on a skateboard.
“I hate 99 per cent of music,” Muir says, firmly distancing himself from the mall culture that Thrasher has somehow become a part of. “But I love, love about one percent of it. And that one percent that I love is an extremely powerful thing. So we try, with Suicidal, to be that one percent, to appeal to people that are not happy with the 99.”
After 38 years into their career as a band, Suicidal has managed to grasp a firm enough hold on that one percent to stay relevant. With the addition of Slayer’s ex-drummer Dave Lombardo in 2016, the band is as exciting, energetic and angry now as it ever has been.
“In this day and age, when people find a lot of reasons to be divided, it’s very important to bring people together” says Muir. That’s been Suicidal Tendencies’ mission since day one, never sticking to one genre, and now bringing together punks and metalheads across generations. Suicidal’s raw honesty and undeniably infectious riffs are a potent antidote to the piles of bullshit that get shovelled down our throats daily by the conveyor belt of popular culture.
“We believe in what we’re doing,” Muir states. “That’s why a lot of people love us and a lot of people hate us.”
Having just played Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas, a festival organized by Shawn and Mark Stern of Youth Brigade and BYO Records, Suicidal are fully embracing their hardcore punk roots, despite some negative reactions from the scene’s elitist elements.
“A lot of people were upset we were on there,” Muir recalls. “But after the show… I call it ‘confessionals.’ People come up and say ‘I had an opinion and it was totally different. You guys killed it.’”
Suicidal is no nostalgia act. With a new record dropping in September, a new drummer pushing the band to the limits of speed and tightness, and a clear conviction in the power of their music, Suicidal Tendencies is still poised to push boundaries and piss off a few parents, even if it’s just their bandmates.
Suicidal Tendencies perform on July 19 at Union Hall [Edmonton], July 20 at the Palace Theatre [Calgary], and July 22 at the Garrick Centre [Winnipeg]Garrick Centre, Palace Theatre, Suicidal Tendencies, Union Hall