“We made people upset. We scared them”
hen Mike Muir, principal songwriter and the only remaining original member of Suicidal Tendencies, wore a younger man’s clothes, he was asked by the influential Californian punk rock magazine Flipside which act would he would most like to share a stage with. His answer was Madonna. Mike was told he was being ridiculous, and that the Material Girl’s vast audience would be genetically predisposed to hate his own then-frankly terrifying band. Immaterial, was the frontman’s reply, because how would people know what they thought of Suicidal Tendencies if they’d yet to hear them?
“If someone hasn’t heard something,” says the 52-year-old today,“then it doesn’t exist.”
It is this kind of irreverence, this kind of declination to be placed in any kind of pigeonhole, this mischievous humour and this derring-do that has made Suicidal Tendencies one of the most influential muscular rock bands of the latter 20th century. Evidence that the Venice Beach quintet have touched the lives of musicians who rose to conquer can be found in the fact that ‘Suicidal’, as they are often known, are presently on tour in Europe as special guests to Slipknot – with whom the band share an offstage friendship – appearing in arenas from Leipzig to London.
“When someone has a favourite band, often they rush to the front at the start of the show,” says Mike. “When they’re watching the band who play before, they kind of look like they’re cheating on their girlfriend, or something. When we come out, it’s a culture shock. But it’s hard to hate someone who looks like they could beat the hell out of you. We’re not the prettiest guys.”
Over the course of their 34-year career, Suicidal Tendencies have housed in their ranks players such as Metallica’s Rob Trujillo and new Avenged Sevenfold drummer Brooks Wackerman, as well as literally dozens of other musicians. But, while stability may not have been the group’s calling-card, influence certainly has; what’s more, it happened right from the start.
It must be remembered that at the beginning of the ’80s, everyone knew their place: metal was metal, played by people with long hair; punk was punk,
Wplayed by people with short hair; and hip-hop was a nascent musical form barely considered outside of America’s inner-cities.the wearing of U.S. sports apparel was vanishingly rare, and cross-pollination with sporting sub-cultures – in Suicidal’s case, the world of skateboarding; Mike was the first non-skater to appear on the cover of cultural-bible Thrasher Magazine – was unheard of. Creatively speaking, it was a very ordered and stuffy world indeed.
Suicidal Tendencies helped change all that.the band had a look (bandanas and hand-painted white shirts) and they had ‘attitude’ – a word that in 1983 was never used as a compliment – a stylish and often humorous way of telling you that they didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of them.and this was just as well, because, at first, people hated Suicidal Tendencies.
Not simply content writingwithwithwriting the very songs that made heavy metal a mainstream form of music, James Hetfield is also responsible for the logo that first appeared on the band’s business cards in the ’80s, as well as their ninja
his star and Scary Guy motifs. It was stamp on a name that drummer Lars Ulrich had stolen from friend Ron Quintana while brainstorming names for his new fanzine, with the Dane pulling the wool over his pal’s eyes and recommending he use Metal Mania instead, leaving ’Tallica free for the sticksman’s fledgling band. “Lars had the name, I had the logo,” said Papa Het in a recent interview. “He was more the business guy, the thinker. I’m much less of a thinker.”
2. GUNS N’ ROSES
Before Slash fell in love with the guitar, the BMX was the apple of his eye. And before that, as a kid, the young Saul Hudson was a budding artist. At school he would draw big jungle scenes filled with animals, while during visits with his dad following his parents’ split, the pair would go to local museums and sketch together. His arty upbringing would serve the future guitarist well come Guns N’ Roses’ formation in 1985: the band’s earliest handmade flyers would be adorned with Slash’s sketches, and it was he that created the band’s now-iconic classic logo. It was his penmanship that would catch the eye of Geffen Records A&R man Tom Zutaut, who was stopped in his tracks by “the coolest band poster I ever saw” in LA one day. Slash, it is said, still owns the logo’s copyright, hence its hibernation until his rejoining of the band earlier this year.