Mike Muir: I am in Australia. We toured here in December and will be back later in the year but I am just here with my family. We are going to Europe in March for both Suicidal [Tendencies] and Infectious Grooves and then getting back in the studio so things have been busy.
The Gauntlet: You have the new DVD that just came out last week, "Live at the Olympic Auditorium". Was there a nostalgic feeling for the venue to be the band that was closing it down?
Mike: I think doing the show was definitely a big part to it. We got called to do the show as it was the last show before they closed it down as it was bought by a Korean Church so it was a now or never thing. I recently had back surgery and we were offered to do a festival in Colombia. We figured we'd do the festival show and see how I felt. The day before the Olympic show I woke up and couldn't walk. I told everyone and they all thought it was psychological. As for the nostalgia of it, there were a lot of big punk rock shows in the early 80's. There hadn't been any in a long time. We decided to film it for this reason. The place is run down, smells, sounds terrible, but it can't be defeated. We talked over what songs we thought we should play and thought about playing our setlist from '84 when we were there but that sounded cheesy. So basically we played songs that we have played there already, songs that have a history there. We played some stuff off the first record, we also played there in the past with Anthrax when I sang "War Inside My Head" with Johnny B [John Bush]. There was a bit of a situation with that and John wrote about it and mentioned that he was never as scared in his life than when all the Suicidal fans rushed onto the stage. It was in the moment, an event that can't be repeated. We didn't have all the flashy lights, just wanted to keep it all true to what it was.
The Gauntlet: I was shocked to learn about your back going out just before the show. You were running around like normal on stage.
Mike: Yeah, people were talking about that right after the show saying I was faking it but I was in pain. There are parts in the DVD when I was watching it back where I know just what I was thinking. I know I can tell. I think everyone was surprised when I went back to the doctor and was told I needed to have surgery. They couldn't believe I was up there. It was a stupid thing to do but there was no other option. It is all better now though.
The Gauntlet: Isn't it worrisome being on stage with all those fans and people? Everyone who gets on stage loves to grab the mic and hang onto the singer for whatever reason.
Mike: I don't know what it is with this 'hug the singer' kind of thing and then they give you this straight from hockey elbow. In Italy they want to come and jump on your back. I don't know. I never did that. People get excited about metal and I guess if they didn't, something would be wrong with the band.
The Gauntlet: Did you realize going into this show that it would be released for a DVD or was that an after thought?
Mike: We never have done a live DVD, but could have from any show we've played. We always said 'another time, another place' but when this show came up, there isn't going to be another time for it. We filmed it and I was glad when we did as I came out of back surgery thinking this might be our last show ever. Fortunately it wasn't. We have done other shows since. We thought it would be cool to film so we got the camera people and invited some friends to it. I think the beauty of this was we didn't try to make it look huge with all the lights and rock & roll editing. We didn't want to change what it actually was.
The Gauntlet: The band has always been on the forefront of music, but lagging on getting a live DVD out there.
Mike: It comes from the fact that we aren't afraid to say 'no.' It is easy to say a lot of times. You can say 'no' and 99% of the time you will be right but if you say 'yes' all the time, 99% of the time you'll be wrong. We do have a lot of stuff we never put out though that we are now going to. I guess if you do something at the time, people think you are selling out but now people aren't really buying this kind of stuff so it is easier to put it out. We won't have to worry about how many it sells, marketing or anything. It will just be for the fans.
The Gauntlet: You also have the re-recordings of some out of print albums coming up soon too.
Mike: Yeah, we re-recorded "Join the Army" and some of the No Mercy record. Mike [Clark] got in the band after we did the "Join the Army" record so his playing wasn't on there. I always thought that it was too bad he wasn't on it. Now it has almost been 25 years since the record came out so the challenge is how do you update it and make it sound better and like it could have come out now. I think that he pulled it off and it came out killer. We are excited about it. You will hear it and know it is different. I think there is a point where there is a catch-22 about getting something that is honest and out of control and still having that passion. Reproducing is easy but reinventing and bringing something back to life in a brand new shape and form is a difficult thing. I think we accomplished it though.
The Gauntlet: Being in a band where your fans span so many genres of music is impossible to please them all.
Mike: I don't worry about it. The first record we did a punk mag said it sucked because it was too metal and the metal mags said the same except it was too punk driven. With every record, we didn't repeat close enough to what our previous record was and a lot of times people wanted us to recycle from our last album. We don't sit there thinking about what we should sound like. I think what is more important is how many people are listening to our music 15 and 20 years later. To me that is a much better barometer. Our motivation is not to put out a record that someone will listen to in three seconds and say it is metal or punk. We want them to listen to the whole thing and challenge themselves to some degree.
The Gauntlet: When the song "I shot Reagan" came out it was titled "I shot the Devil" on the CD, but on the DVD it is "I Shot Reagan".
Mike: I think originally it was written both ways. To us it was "I Shot Reagan" I am not really sure why it was written as "I Shot the Devil". It was probably politics.
The Gauntlet: Did outside sources force the change? Did the men in black pay you a visit?
Mike: You say men in black and I think of Tommy Lee Jones visiting me. But yeah, the Secret Service came and paid us a little visit and asked some questions and there were a few things I had to do.
The Gauntlet: You weren't even 20 yet. Was it scary having the Secret Service pay you a visit?
Mike: Right, I wasn't even 20 yet. I had gotten a little heads up as some friends said they got a visit from the Secret Service and they were asking questions and wanted letters about what our lyrics were about. They also got in touch with our label at the time, Epic. I told my mom that the Secret Service was after me and she was like 'yeah right, that doesn't really happen in this country.' I was living at my mom's house. They came to the house and my mom opened the door. She made them wait there and went to wake me up. She came in my room and said 'The Secret Service are here!' I was like 'Oh crap!' I tried to put on the nicest shirt I could find and put my hair down. It was a little scary, I didn't know what they were going to do. It was the classic good cop bad cop scenario. I had to do a handwriting analysis thing and sign some stuff so they could get my mental health records. I didn't have any. It was interesting.
The Gauntlet: Did they listen to other songs like "Institutionalized" and think man this kid is a real threat.
Mike: I don't know. I basically told them that it was a song and I said 'I shot' a lot of other people too and I obviously didn't. I explained the song to them and that it wasn't a threat to Reagan but a take on society so take it as you will. When it happened, we didn't really want to talk about it. I am sure it would have been pretty big and gotten us all over the news but I didn't think it was the right thing to do. The political game isn't my game but it was eye-opening at the time. It was a statement on the times. I think bands have so much more freedom now. People used to get so upset over such little things. I was at the mall recently and saw a shirt that read 'Go Fuck Yourself.'
The Gauntlet: At this point, does your blue bandanna hide hair loss or its just part of your image?
Mike: It is more of a statement on who we are and wear we came from. If you look and punk rock and how people dressed in the early 80's, there was nothing like Suicidal. There were a lot of people telling us we couldn't dress like that, it wasn't Halloween. They were dressing up for shows and didn't dress like that in real life. I always had the philosophy that people have music to escape from life and music should show you life is important. We got put down for the way we dressed but we didn't change for anyone. If you look at any magazine, a picture of Suicidal sticks out and a lot of people don't like that. We are not trying to be metal or punk rock. There is a lot of metal I hate and a lot of punk rock that I hate. Suicidal does what we like. We don't try to find what other people like.
The Gauntlet: I ended up in a fight for being a Suicidal Tendencies fan in the 3rd grade. Apparently I wasn't a fan of Michael Jackson, Wham or Culture Club so I was the weird one that must have been punished. Now that I think about it I also had to see the school counselor for bringing a Suicidal Tendencies record to school and playing "I Saw Your Mommy" for show-n-tell.
Mike: The irony is you look at all these bands that are popular and it is a joke. Like I said earlier, it isn't how many fans buy your record but how many are still into you after 15 years or whatever it is. Trying to fit into a trend is not what we want to do.
The Gauntlet: Yeah, I can't remember the last time I turned on the news and heard Mike Muir was arrested for tying a guy up and keeping him against his will as a sex slave like Boy George...and yet you are the one that people think has issues.
Mike: [laughs] You'll never hear that as it will never happen. I think that is the thing with "Institutionalized", it is often easier to make things someone else's problem and not look at what they are doing to raise them as the problem. You don't put your kids through the washer and have them dry cleaned. You treat a kid like a puppy and he'll grow up to be a dog. Parenting starts when the kid is born. They won't give you respect unless you deserve it. With the song "I Saw Your Mommy," a lot of people thought it was funny or sick but the song was taken out of the LA Times and put into a story form. When it is on the news it is cool but in a song it is sick. The song is about the double standards and how people judge and a lot of times when they are doing that they are making a statement about themselves and not the person they are judging.