Suicidal Tendencies’ Mike Muir Is a Punk Rock Dad

See Suicidal Tendencies on Sept. 21.
See Suicidal Tendencies on Sept. 21. Lightbox Revelation

It’s 1 p.m. Tuesday and Suicidal Tendencies’ frontman, Mike Muir, is finishing a round of interviews before he has to pick up his kids from school.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that punks grow up and take on the role of a responsible adult, but for Muir, it’s more about taking up a tradition he inherited from his father.

“My dad always said, 'There’s where you were, where you are now, and where you want to end up,'” Muir says.

On that note, Suicidal Tendencies is back with a new album, new tour and a new line of clothes from Converse — all of which is painted with nostalgia and expectation.

Suicidal Tendencies will perform Friday, Sept. 21, at Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill with East Coast punks Madball opening the show.

“They’re a band we’ve known for a while,” Muir says. “They’ve got their East Coast thing, and we’ve got our West Coast thing. … It’s always cool, always fun.”

Muir is excited about the clothing line from Converse, which was released in conjunction with the new album.

“When I was young, I still remember getting my first pair of Chucks for my birthday and how stoked I was to wear them to school the next day,” Muir says. “It was almost like a rite of passage, the beautiful thing about them is whatever direction you were headed, you could go there with your Chucks.”

Though the line is nearly sold out, Muir hopes more shoes, shirts and shorts will be made in the future, but he can’t say when or if it will happen.

The new album, Still Cyco Punk After All These Years, is the 13th studio album from the crossover thrash band and is almost a complete re-recording of Muir’s 1996 solo album, Lost My Brain! (Once Again).

In 1994, when Muir began working on Lost My Brain, the music didn’t sound like a Suicidal Tendencies album.

“I wanted to do a more punk rock record,” he says, “like what I was into when I was 16.”

Muir says his first solo record was what he wanted, but at the time, the more hardcore style he was going for was just not the kind of music Suicidal Tendencies was making.

But times change, people change and band members change.

“Over the years people started bringing it up more and more, so I listened to it again," Muir says.

“I wondered what it would sound like if we recorded it as we are now … to try to do it in a modern way.”

In recording the album, Muir found that “the lyrics mean more to me now than they did back then, and now I get to listen to it with my kids who are the same age as I was when I got into punk rock music.”

But has punk rock changed in general?

Muir says you can communicate with people using the same language, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will take away the same meaning.

“If a certain group of people think gray is orange, then you can’t use gray or orange when you communicate with them," Muir says.

“If a certain group of people think gray is orange, then you can’t use gray or orange when you communicate with them." – Mike Muir

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“Most punk deals with destruction, but to me destruction is something we do mentally, not physically — it’s about doing what’s right, not accepting what other people say, and not dressing the way people say.”

This way of communication is something Muir picked up from his father and one he hopes to pass on to his family and fans alike.

The kind of relationship Muir shares with his father may come as a surprise to people familiar with what is arguably Suicidal Tendencies’ biggest single, “Institutionalized,” from their self-titled first album — a song laden with turmoil with the speaker’s parents.

Though Muir says that he had some problems with his parents, the song is not necessarily autobiographical — really, it’s about his friends and their relationship with their parents.

In one of the most memorable exchanges in the song, the speaker recalls an encounter with his mother: "She goes, 'No you're not thinking, you're on drugs / Normal people don't act that way' / I go, 'Mom just give me a Pepsi, please.'"

Instead of the Pepsi, the speaker tells us that they will "Drug you up because they're lazy / It's too much work to help a crazy."

“The whole thing with the Pepsi, that really happened to a friend of mine," Muir says. "That was a time when they had these camps where people would come in at 2 a.m. and take you away from your family” to be put on drugs and learn some discipline.

“That song was for parents that weren’t parents," he says.

As punk fans have grown older, parents in the community continue to listen to the song as a way of reconnecting with past traumas in an attempt to not pass them along to their children.

"I have friends today that listen to it when they’re having problems with their kids," Muir says. “Like my dad always told me, 'Don’t become the thing you hate.' Kids just want understanding, and they want to understand.”
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.
Contact: David Fletcher