After Bassist's Death, Suicidal Tendencies Singer Talks Life

There are three bands about to come through Phoenix that have, collectively, been writing, recording, playing and influencing heavy metal for around 100 years. One. Hundred. Years.

You might think, yeah, okay; that's impressive. What if I also said that, collectively, these bands have released more than 30 studio albums, sold more than 10 million copies, have five Grammys nominations, helped pioneer thrash metal as one of the Big 4 Acts, and have been dubbed the "fathers of crossover thrash."

Well, any true metalhead has probably correctly guessed; I'm talking about Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, and Exodus.

See also: 10 Underrated Punk Bands that Should Be Considered Classics

When this trio of thrash legends played a handful of dates this past May, critics and fans alike had some massive praise, including the bold statement "the best show in years I've been blessed to witness." And this Saturday, Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus are coming through Phoenix to play Comerica Theatre, one of the 17 stops on the national tour. None of these bands really need an introduction, but all three are working through new music and big challenges.

Slayer's follow-up to 2011's Grammy-winning World Painted Blood is due out in 2015, and the band is in full work mode. It's causing some anticipation. First off, it's the first record the band is releasing on their own record label, the first after founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman's death, and the first with drummer Paul Bostaph, who hasn't recorded with the band since 2001.

Vocalist Steve Souza is back in Exodus, one of the Bay Area thrash pioneers, after Rob Dukes left this summer after a decade. The band's new album, Blood In, Blood Out, released in October. Plus, Gary Holt is working as the main shredder for both Slayer and Exodus on this tour.

Thrash-punk outfit Suicidal Tendencies rounds out the bill, still reeling from losing their bassist of almost four years Tim "Rawbiz" Williams, who passed away in late August. However, the band is still running on the adrenaline from their success of 13, which came out a year-and-a-half ago. It was the act's first album in 13 years, full of fresh new material -- however, fans can rest assured that there the band will play lots of favorites such as "Institutionalized" and "Possessed to Skate."

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Up On the Sun talked with Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, one of the band's first interviews since Williams' passing, about seeing multiple generations of fans at his shows, and how a band member passing will affect Suicidal Tendencies going forward.

What can fans expect from the show?

Mike Muir: I think it's a great bill. Each band is a little bit different but they go well together. Probably ST is the most different. When people go there I think they are surprised a lot. We've got our typical crowd, but when we did these shows before with Slayer, a few hours before the show you just see this huge crowd. And you know, not many people wearing Suicidal Tendency shirts. We're used to seeing a ton of our stuff in the crowd! But it's cool, you're talking to people and hanging out, and these fans are like, "I haven't seen you in 20 years!" And afterwards they say, "I'm gonna kick my own ass; I haven't seen you for 20 years!" It was fun so this tour should be great.

Last time we talked, you mentioned how odd it was to go to your shows and see your older fans with their own children at the shows.


You like reminding those older fans what they were capable of when they were younger.

You know, it comes full circle. People will say the first concert they ever went to in their life was a Suicidal show, so they want their kid's first show to be a Suicidal show. It goes from them sneaking out or lying to go to the show, to them bringing their own kids. Kinda cool!

You had said that Pro Tools was a game-changer for you guys while recording 13 because you could record while touring. Have you guys been working on any new material as of late on the road?

Well some people record anytime, anywhere; our studio allows us to record any time we want, you know? Or not to record, when you didn't want. Back in the old days, you go in and lock down in the studio and you only have an allotted amount of time to get something done. I think that's good for us sometimes.

I just wanted to give my condolences about Tim's passing. Is there anything you can address about that for the fans?

Um, I mean we come from a place where when I was young I'd always get calls because people pass away. That's a part of life. Even so, it's obviously the first time we've experienced that within the band and unfortunately that's very difficult. We were lucky that ... we had some time off. So, um, we look forward to doing the shows. It's sad. And unfortunate. And it's really no one's business.

How old was Tim?

He was 31.

Who has been filling in on bass?

We've actually had a cat on board who played with us in Japan, before Tim passed away. So we have a bass player that's filled in.

In our last interview you said that when the first record came out 25 years ago you thought it might be the first and last...but with 13, that looks more realistic. Do you think Tim's passing would make you want to slow down with the band, or have the opposite effect?

Well it's been 31 years since the first record came out. When you look at it, that time, when I was young I didn't think I'd live to be 30. Not to sound so dramatic, but you also looked at people who were 30 as being old. Obviously lasting this long in music, from a teenager to middle-aged so to speak, right before people's eyes, it's a hard thing. I think it's difficult for me because there was no music I really liked when I was young that anyone had been doing for 30 years. It's crazy. It's a different perspective. I think it's a good one because you realize you have to do it for the reason and the entirety and not just for the moment.

When you're younger you want time to go faster, and then when you get older you realize there's sustenance there and that time going slowly is a good thing you know? So I say we don't do things for the moment, we do them for how they will be perceived 20 years from now. You know, you look at fashions and we don't want to do something like bell-bottoms, where people wear them later and are getting laughed at. We want what we do to stand out for all time.

It's amazing how those emotions can really come into play when creating art; I was just listening to Slipknot's new album a few weeks ago and it's influenced so much by their healing process from the passing of their bassist Paul Gray.

Life is obviously the big picture and music is a big part of that. Having kids is probably the best thing you have to do. It signifies life. I look at my parents, and when I have the kids around they call and ask for the kids. When they see the kids they race over and you see how it kind of rejuvenates them. And um, you see that in other people but you don't realize it within yourself. You know, there's a lot of good things out there and a lot of bad things, you know? There's only so much you can control. But the situations in your hand you should try to control in the best way possible by being prepared, not by being a fascist or dictator. Life is a physical fight, but the mental fights are more important.

If you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any album, what would it be?

To be honest I wouldn't want to be. There are some albums I truly loved when I was younger, but I feel like if I saw the creation of it, the mystique would be gone, or I'd be disappointed in the people who made it. When you listen to something and it connects with you -- which sometimes doesn't even happen the first time you hear it--it's important to keep that original connection. Plus, I'm not that social. There's bug spray and fly swatters? I'd probably get swatted.

Slayer, Exodus, and Suicidal Tendencies are scheduled to play Comerica Theatre on Saturday, November 15.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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