Suicidal Tendencies, Fear, the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, T.S.O.L. and the Adolescents created the parent-hating Satan music that defined the L.A. punk rock scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. For most of those bands, only the tattoos remain. But Suicidal Tendencies, still angry after all these years, will play the Ventura Theatre on Friday night.
Beginning in Venice in 1983, the band used to host pay-to-enter parties, then graduated to larger venues, enabling them to irritate larger numbers of neighbors. These days front man Mike Muir, a.k.a. Cyco Miko, has opted for the quiet life in Camarillo, where he recently discussed what’s really going on.
“I grew up in Venice, but I had some cousins in Ventura, so I spent a lot of time up here. We were on the road about 11 months of the year, and when we got home to Venice, everyone was always there hanging out. It was crazy. . . . Camarillo is cool for me because we practice in North Hollywood and it’s only 40 minutes away. Camarillo is close to L.A., but it’s worlds away.”
The band had problems right away. First there was that name, rumors of violence at shows, all that loud and fast music and all those ugly, ugly fans. As it turned out, the band was banned from Los Angeles’ larger venues for several years in the ‘80s. So what happened?
“Basically nothing. When we first started, we weren’t welcome because we stood out. We used to open for all these bands and bring a couple of hundred people and they’d tell us we weren’t punk rock because all these Mexicans would come to our shows. Also, there were these rumors that people got killed at our shows.”
Then there was their name, which--along with some of their song titles--got them in trouble several years ago with Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center.
“For awhile a lot of chain stores wouldn’t carry our stuff. We put out an EP called ‘Feel Like S--t’ in 1988 and the PMRC got all over that one. But once they tell 12-year-olds don’t buy it, everyone wants it. The record went gold and they backed off. Every one of our records has sold more than the one before.”
Some of the other punkers--particularly those concerned with the punk dress code--were only slightly more understanding than the PMRC.
“This guy told us, ‘You guys are real good but you’ll never make it looking like that.’ I said, ‘Looking like what?’ If I have to look a certain way, what’s the point? A lot of those punks used to all look alike and talk crap about the same people. Who needs it?”
While the mosh pit will be going off Friday night with enough macho machinations to scare even Raiders fans, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Muir. The band has been playing in Los Angeles again, too. At the last gig, the dead-body count was zero.
“We always have to talk to security before the show because they have a lot of testosterone. So we try to educate people beforehand. There’s a big valley between having fun and hurting someone with ruthless disregard. We just played in Pomona on March 14 and everyone thought there was going to be a riot.
“There was no trouble at all, and the cops themselves ended up buying eight shirts. A little understanding goes a long way.”
When punk first started as an alternative to arena rock, progressive rock, disco and all those pretty-boy British bands, the do-it-yourself ethic was the thing. Neatness didn’t count and talent was, well, good if your band had any. These days, punk survives, but in a watered-down form, somehow made safe for mainstream America.
“It’s totally different than it was six years ago. People asked me if punk would come back and I said, ‘No way.’ These people say I was wrong, but I wasn’t. It’s a completely different thing now. This stuff now, I call bubble-gum punk.”
Suicidal’s music, by contrast, tells people to wake up, wise up or--as the situation dictates--shut up. Muir wants people to do the right thing, not the easy thing.
“We’re not trying to tell people what to think, but rather to think. When you’re 65, I want people to be able to look back and be proud of themselves. You need the power to believe in yourself and the power to stand up for yourself. I want people to go to our show and have a good time. . . . We’re not stubborn, but smart because we’re doing things the right way. We’re doing stuff the way we used to but with the knowledge we have now. Suicidal is more than a band, it’s my life.”
Suicidal Tendencies and opening-act Ruin at the Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St. Fri., 8 p.m. $17. (805) 648-5100.