It wasn’t always easy - or fun for that matter - to be part of the band Suicidal Tendencies.
In the ‘80s, their brand of heavy punk mixed with thrash and acrimonious lyrics got them unofficially banned from playing in Los Angeles. Police made regular heavy-handed appearances at their shows. The Secret Service even dropped in on one band member’s house.
Tipper Gore, that guardian of righteousness, launched a crusade against Suicidal Tendencies as parent groups tried to have the band’s 1989 Epic debut record pulled from stores.
“We were always having to go against people’s ignorance,” says Mike Muir, singer and founding member of the band. “I’m a person that’s never done any drugs in my life and I don’t drink and I believe in God and all this. So, you get tired of hearing how you’re a drug-addict-Satan-worshiper. And that’s the nicest thing they have to say.”
Fortunately, things have changed a good bit since those days.
First, people seem to have realized that Suicidal Tendencies is not a group of devil-worshiping fiends. (The music morality monitors are too busy worrying about Marilyn Manson.) Second, the band broke up. Then it re-formed with new members. And now, most importantly, the members of Suicidal Tendencies are actually enjoying themselves.
With two new releases on the horizon and a West Coast tour under way, “It’s been a lot of fun,” Muir says. “And that’s a big difference. You can’t really put a price on that one.”
Suicidal Tendencies formed in the early 1980s in Venice, Calif., as a band just trying to make enough money to pay their rent.
But over the years songs like “Send Me Your Money,” “Institutionalized” and “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow” drew them a hard core following of fans who understood what Suicidal Tendencies was trying to say.
“Our whole philosophy is, we’re not trying to tell people what to think. We just prefer that they do think,” Muir says.
In 1994, the band broke up due to various conflicts both inside and outside the band, Muir says
“People talk about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw the darkness. I did not feel we could continue on doing something I would be proud of and in the sense of our definition of success - not other people’s.”
For a time Muir directed his energy into side projects - Infectious Grooves and Cyco Miko.
Then, “We started playing a lot of the old Suicidal stuff and we were having a lot of fun,” Muir says. “We were sitting there going, ‘these are some of the things that were wrong and they’re very easily remedied.’ So, we basically stopped what we were doing and said, ‘let’s give this a shot.”’
In the re-formed Suicidal Tendencies, Muir is the only original member left, although he is joined by guitarist Mike Clark who was with the band for much of its history. Guitarist Dean Pleasants and drummer Brooks Wackerman from Infectious Grooves along with new bassist Josh Paul round out the group.
Earlier this year Epic released “Prime Cuts,” a mix of Suicidal Tendencies’ greatest hits with a few new songs thrown in.
It was not an album Suicidal wanted to release and now the band and the label have parted ways.
“We found that too much of the time we were arguing with people about why something they felt was very important we thought was not important, and stuff we felt was important they felt didn’t matter.”
Now, the band is back to working the way they began: on their own.
Suicidal’s own label - Suicidal Records - will release a compilation this week with new songs from the band as well as tunes from Creeper, Infectious Grooves and Cyco Miko. Suicidal’s next full-length release is due out in March.
“It’s a lot more work but we know what’s going on and ultimately we’re in control of our own destiny and that’s a place I think that anybody would want to be.”
Suicidal Tendencies performs at Outback Jack’s Tuesday night. (Hed) P.E. opens the show. Show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are sold out.
A couple years back, High Lonesome seemed on the verge of breaking into the big time.
Major labels were showing interest in the home-grown Spokane band. Their song “Welcome” was getting heavy play on radio stations (extremely rare for a local band).
But things didn’t pan out. Drummers rotated in and out. The band fell apart as the members went separate ways.
To come so close might have been disheartening for some. But for lead singer Gina Lancashire, it has been anything but.
“I’m not discouraged about it,” she insists. “To have gotten that was great and it only encourages me to know that it could happen again. We have a lot of confidence and we have a lot of faith that it is going to happen again.”
Now, a year after High Lonesome disbanded, Gina and Lonesome guitarist John Beauvais are ready to give it another go. The two have since married and have now joined up with drummer Steve Ellis (formerly of Limbo Lads), bassist Brett Steinhauer (formerly of Buddha Leadbelly) and Josh Owen, who plays second guitar.
The new band, Shrinking Violet, will play its first show at Ichabod’s North Saturday.
People are likely to compare it with High Lonesome, and that’s something Gina says she’s just fine with.
After all, the music is similar: pretty songs that know how to rock.
“There’s a lot of melody in our music - that’s kind of where I come in. But it’s with an edge and I think that’s where Steve comes in with the drums. He’s a total rock drummer.”
Mixed in with their new stuff, Shrinking Violet will play a few of the old High Lonesome tunes - ones that came after their self-titled debut album.
But there are some changes. Beauvais will back his wife on vocals. And, “I think our songs are stronger for sure,” Gina says. “I think we’re writing better music now. We’re getting more experience at it for sure.”
Shrinking Violet plays the middle slot Saturday night at Ichabod’s North. Flourish headlines with Smash Velvet opening the show at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $4.
Drag yourself here
Catch a face full of furious musical squalor when New Mexico’s Drags bring their rock with a retro edge to Ichabod’s North tonight.
Packed with raw garage ferocity and guileful guitar distortion, this trio’s latest release, “Stop Rock and Roll” (Estrus), checks in at under 20 smokin’ minutes. Songs like “Leopard Skin” and “Cannible” are all psycho craziness but with that loony-fun charm.
The Fumes, Dwarf Bitch (from Las Vegas), and Lopez join the Drags tonight. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $4.
How about a little reggae
If you’re needing a dose of the reggae dance beat you have a couple of options this week. Check out Moko Jumbie at the Fort Spokane Brewery tonight or Raggs Gustaffe and Bush Doktor for the next two Tuesdays at the Bayou Brewery.
He was part of one of Spokane’s most influential punk bands.
He was a superb drummer who had recently turned his life around and was preparing to record and perform again.
Lee Berryman, former drummer for both TFL and The Fumes, was only 30 when he died at his home in Cheyenne, Wyo., last week from pneumonia.
“No matter who he was with, Lee was the guy who was getting things going or stirring things up,” says Jon Swanstrom, former guitar player for TFL.
“He lived really fast and died very young, just very poetically.”
Friends who wish to memorialize him are asked to make contributions to the Shriners Hospital for Children.
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