Music generally acts as a reflection of its time and surroundings. Suicidal Tendencies took this to heart and became the chameleons of aggressive rock ‘n’ roll. Starting with their debut album in 1983, the band progressed from the punk rock genre into heavy metal and then alternative rock. Throughout this development, singer, founder, and leader Mike Muir broadcast his own message with wit and wisdom to anyone who would listen.
In 1982 Suicidal Tendencies emerged from Venice, California, with a dedicated audience among area skaters and surfers. As they established themselves on the Los Angeles punk scene, the group released their self-titled debut on Frontier Records with songs like “Institutionalized,” “Fascist Pig,” and “Suicide’s an Alternative.” Suicidal Tendencies became the bestselling American punk album of all time and launched the band into their long-lasting career.
After the video for “Institutionalized” broke through the MTV airwaves as the first hardcore video for the channel, the song gained further notoriety on the soundtrack for the cult film Repo Man in 1984. Three years later, Suicidal Tendencies released Join the Army on Caroline Records. It became the first independent hardcore rock release to break Billboard’s Hot 100 sales chart. The album’s success led to a contract with Epic Records, and the band began to gradually change their musical shade.
In 1988 Mike Muir started over with a whole new band lineup that included lead guitarist Rocky George and rhythm guitarist Mike Clark. Their first release on Epic, How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…When I Can’t Even Smile Today, set Suicidal Tendencies on the road into the heavy metal genre. The album sold more than the band’s self-titled debut and featured the popular single “Trip at the Brain.” Suicidal Tendencies toured throughout the United States and Europe. The success of the tour and the obvious number of imitators cemented the band’s influence in rock ‘n’ roll.
“Forerunners of the skate/metal punk hybrid sound and style that’s so prevalent,” one reviewer wrote in Seconds, as quoted in an Epic press kit, “Mike Muir and his numerous musical cohorts are simply one of the most imitated and/or interpreted acts around.”
Suicidal Tendencies released Controlled by Hatred/Feel Like Shit…Deja Vu— nine songs packaged by Epic as an EP—in 1989. However, the Recording Industry Association of America never classified it as an EP. The
For the Record …
Members include Mike Clark , rhythm guitar; Rocky George , lead guitar; R. J. Herrera (left band; replaced by Josh Freese ), drums; Mike Muir , vocals; Robert Trujillo , bass.
Muir formed band in 1982; released self-titled debut on Frontier Records, 1983; released Join the Army on Caroline Records, 1987; new band lineup formed, 1988; signed to Epic Records and released How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…When I Can’t Even Smile Today, 1988; released three more albums, 1989–93; released new recordings of first two albums on Still Cyco After All These Years, 1993.
Addresses: Record company —Epic Records, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
title of the release grabbed the attention of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), who attempted to force Epic and the band to pull the record from retail chains. The record company supported Suicidal Tendencies in their resistance.
In the band’s record company biography, Muir commented on PMRC founder Tipper Gore’s attempt to “save” young music fans from the influence of “unacceptable” music. “Let’s be honest,” Muir said. “If you took 20 people off the streets of D.C., put them in a room, and took 20 people who listen to music that she deems unacceptable, put them in another room, and asked Tipper who she’d rather stay with for two weeks, she’d stay with the people listening to ‘wrong’ music. Not because she’s trying to save them…because she’d be scared out of her ass to stay with those other people!”
Their next and highly acclaimed album, Lights…Camera…Revolution, was released on Epic in 1990. Joe Gore described the album in Guitar Player as “a breath of fresh fire from a classic hardcore band that sounds more metallic with each record. Relentlessly intense fret-flaying courtesy of Rocky George, a blues-metal screamer. Warning, pacemaker wearers: some tempos exceed 300 beats per minute.”
Muir called the album’s single, “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” Suicidal Tendencies’ “signature.” “It’s about believing in yourself,” he said in the band’s biography, “knowing what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and then doing it.” After the release of Lights…Camera…Revolution, Suicidal Tendencies toured the world with fellow metal bands Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament. In 1991 the band received a Grammy nomination for best metal performance.
Despite their worldwide expansion and success, Suicidal Tendencies was banned from playing their hometown for nearly six years. Los Angeles city authorities had restricted the band from performing within the city limits. Because of the ban, Suicidal Tendencies was unable to schedule a show within a 400-mile radius of L.A., since the restriction frightened most area concert promoters. Finally, in April of 1991, Queensryche invited Suicidal Tendencies to open for them on their national arena tour, and the ban in L.A. was lifted.
Along with their work in Suicidal Tendencies, Muir and bassist Robert Trujillo formed a side project called Infectious Grooves before the release of The Art of Rebellion in 1992. When ST’s previous drummer, R. J. Herrera, left the band to start a family, Infectious Grooves drummer Josh Freese stepped in to record the album.
The Art of Rebellion signified yet another progression for Suicidal Tendencies. The single “Asleep at the Wheel” transported the band’s music onto the alternative rock radio stations and into yet another genre of music. Muir insisted the continuous expansion of the group’s style and audience was never planned. “Instead of playing it safe, we always kind of turned our backs on [our last record] and just made a great new-sounding record,” Muir told Bruce Buckley in Billboard. This time, Suicidal Tendencies toured the world with Ozzy Osboume.
Ten years after the release of their debut, Suicidal Tendencies revisited their early years with Still Cyco After All These Years. The album featured new recordings of selected songs from their first two albums, including “Institutionalized” and “I Saw Your Mommy.” The band followed the release with a U.S. tour that included Muir and Trujillo’s side project Infectious Grooves.
In 1994 Suicidal Tendencies put out yet another dose of new material with Suicidal for Life. “If you want ST’s usual aggro, it’s here, but the album’s more poignant songs are the ones that will leave you drained emotionally,” Kira L. Billik wrote in RIP. “’What Else Could I Do?’ and particularly ‘Love vs. Loneliness’ will no doubt move anyone who ever felt worthless or ostracized.”
Musically and lyrically Suicidal Tendencies continued to reflect the world around them in spite of the many misinformed judgments thrown their way. According to a Los Angeles Times clip included in the Epic press kit, “Suicidal is everything a great rock ‘n’ roll band is supposed to be: loud, exciting, awesome on stage, and deeply threatening to authority.” Suicidal Tendencies’ “Cyco” Mike Muir, like a chameleon, doesn’t strategize where the band will go next. He simply recounts the world as he sees it.
Suicidal Tendencies, Frontier Records, 1983.
(Contributors) Repo Man (soundtrack), 1984.
Join the Army, Caroline Records, 1987.
How Will I Laugh Tomorrow… When I Can’t Even Smile Today, Epic, 1988.
Controlled by Hatred/Feel Like Shit…Deja Vu, Epic, 1989.
Lights… Camera… Revolution, Epic, 1990.
The Art of Rebellion, Epic, 1992.
Still Cyco After All These Years, Epic, 1993.
Suicidal for Life, Epic, 1994.
The Trouser Press Record Guide, edited by Ira A. Robbins, Collier, 1991.
Billboard, October 6, 1990; August 8, 1992; April 24, 1993.
Entertainment Weekly, May 28, 1993.
Guitar Player, September 1990; December 1990; September 1992.
Metro Times (Detroit), June 29, 1994.
New York Times, November 13, 1992.
RIP, October 1994.
Rolling Stone, August 11, 1994.
Stereo Review, October 1984.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from the on-line All-Music Guide, 1994, and Epic Records publicity materials, 1992 and 1993.
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