It must have hurt when Mike Clark left…
Well not at all actually. The thing with Mike is that he's opening up the US tour for us with his band (No Mercy), so it's still like a family. You know, my dad never told me and my brother (Jim Muir, pro skater) to become doctors of lawyers or this or that, he just wanted us to be educated, be smart and to follow our true dreams. So Mike now has this opportunity to be singing, which he always wanted to do, and not only play guitar but playing lead guitar in the band where he originally started in. He was just here yesterday and I've never seen him smile so much man. He's excited, it's a major challenge and opportunity and he tells me he's been practising and playing guitar more than he has done in years. I think it's actually a very good thing, a regeneration, a challenge obviously. He knows it's not gonna be easy. He's afraid he'll get a sore throat and shit, haha. The first show of this tour we all will be watching from the side, fingers crossed, hands a little sweaty, hoping the best for him.
It was never an option to combine No Mercy with Suicidal?
I'm also in Infectious Grooves and I've learned that you can't really be in two places at once. We've tried it, we did a tour with Infectious and Suicidal in '93 and people asked me if we could do that again but it was so hard. It's one thing to get sick and play an hour and a half, it's another thing to be sick and play three hours each night. Someone sneezes and you're running away because you don't want to get sick. The whole time you're trying to survive the tour and don't have a chance to enjoy it until it's over. So for one; you really have to be able to enjoy what you're doing. On top of that, if you want people to take you serious you really have to be committed to it, you don't want what you're doing to look like a project you do to kill time, so Mike is really diving in to this thing headfirst. The same goes for us. Having Nico (Santora) in the band has enabled us to dive head first into our thing too.
Have Nico and Mike both been involved in writing any of the new material on '13'?
When we thought we were gonna cut a record, basically around May last year, only four or five songs from that time actually ended up on '13'. The writing has been a process of thirteen years of constantly changing and switching things up until the point, last December, that we went back in the studio. There Nico co-wrote some songs with me and Dean (Pleasants).
Please introduce Nico Santora to us.
He was like twelve years old when he started playing guitar, and he started playing it to Suicidal and stuff. So he has this understanding of what we call Suicidal punk, from 'How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...' to 'Freedumb' to the very first record. He understand how we do things seamlessly, I think. He has this excitement, and it's hard not to let that get carried over to you. When someone is so excited it's contagious. Like with my kids, whenever they are super excited it's hard not to get excited too you know?
Bassist Steve Bruner has been replaced by Tim 'Rawbiz' Williams. How come?
With Steve it's the same situation. He's doing his second solo record (Thundercat), but we were just in Australia with Steve playing, we're going to Japan with Steve still doing it. The next tour in the States will be with Tim, who also did the last European tour, but Steve will always be in the family. He's an amazing musician and an amazing talent, so he really needs to do his thing and we are big supporters of that.
I remember when I first saw you guys live with Steve on bass and Eric Moore on drums I was blown away. Those guys are truly a blessing to watch but they seem to be coming from a totally different musical area, more r'b/jazz/funk kinda players.
Well Steve came with us through Ron, his brother, who was playing drums with us about ten or eleven years ago, maybe even twelve...when Ron was nineteen at the time, and now he currently is playing with Prince, so that shows! We met Eric Moore through Ron and Steve. He used to come to our shows whenever we played in California and used to beg us to give him a shot at playing with us, so we got him in Infectious Grooves and did a festival in Australia and a tour through France. Everybody was like “woah that new drummer...he's amazing! Are you gonna get him for Suicidal?”, and I could only sit and say yeah I understand what you're saying. Eric is huge in a lot of different ways, but he's an amazing drummer and everywhere we go people are afraid we're going to play hiphop, haha.
The first time I heard him play Suicidal I had to get used to his style though, not exactly straight forward old Suicidal stuff...
Well yeah, when we first got Ron and then Eric some of the older fans said he sucked and couldn't play because it's not just boom-cha-boom-cha. But it's ridiculous to ask him to play exactly like on the record because, take Brooks (Wackerman, former ST, current Bad Religion & Tenacious D) for example. He was way better than that when he was eight years old. It's like skateboarding. When my brother started it was just an empty-pool thing, whereas now you have the craziest skateboarding stunts in a cereal commercial. Somebody has to do it first in order to take it to the next level. I think some people don't like that, don't like progress, don't like things going forward and want it to stay in that situation. But whenever we play at festivals there are so many musicians, I won't mention any names, that say “shit I have to go back and take extra lessons” whenever they have seen Eric play, and I guess that's the biggest compliment you can get as a musician.
As I'm getting older I notice my musical preference has shifted from purely metal to other styles as well. Are you still that much into punk/metal as you were back in the day?
At the start of my career I told interviewers that I wasn't planning on becoming the new king of punk you know? I'm not here to be the 27th band written on the back of a leather jacket, I want people to take their leather jackets off and put on a Suicidal shirt! That pissed some people off, haha. If you would ask me to name three metal bands I love, I could. But if you would ask me to name a hundred bands I hate, I could even go way past that. The thing is that in any style there is good and there is bad. In punkrock people tend to say “support your scene” but when a band sucks, does that mean I'm supposed to like it? That's fucking ridiculous. Play the fucking music and I will judge it for what it is. I've always tried to have high standards as to what I like and I've always liked a lot of different things. Taste changes when you get older. When you are, say, in high school, you listen to what you and your friends like, and you like it together. It's like a pattern. When you get away from that you start listening and appreciating different things. I never really went through those patterns, I was never really concerned with what people thought.
Music is timeless.
Yeah. It's like writing book. If you write a book, there's different chapters, and if all these chapters are roughly the same, it's not a very good book. Or, in case of a lot of bands, it's just a job. If you do something that isn't really genre-specific, like us, you realize a lot of people won't like it because it's not what they are looking for. A great song is not great because you decide it after five seconds, it's great when over the years you listen to it and every time you go wait a second...there's something different. I think many times people listen for what they want, what they expect or what they hope for. That's mostly genre-specific or fine-lined. Diversity is not what most people are looking for in music. However, later on they listen to it and they might like it. When we released 'How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...' some of my friends were like....I don't like it, and years later they tell me they fucking love that song.
What's your definition of success?
When someone hears your record and, when you talk to him, describes the record to you in a way that you would describe it to others. You know, records you really love, that really mean something to you. If I hear people use the same terminology about my records that I would use to describe my own favourite records, that's my definition of success.