I remember the first time I heard Suicidal Tendencies, my big brother Barrie was playing their self-titled record under the house in his flat at our childhood home where we grew up in the ’80s. He and my cousin Tony were getting ready to go out for a skate. They always listened to thrash and punk records—Circle Jerks, T.S.O.L., Dead Kennedys, D.R.I.—to get amped up before they headed out to someone’s backyard pool drained to skate or some hidden secret skate spot/wall ride. Having mostly listened to hip hop, pop, RnB and the like, hearing something like Suicidal just blew my young mind. My initial reaction was, how did they play so fast?! I’d never heard anything like it. Picking up the album cover I was fascinated with all the homemade hand drawn shirts on the cover and of the four guys hanging upside down by only their bandanas! I’d never seen anything like it. At the time I was too young to really get what they were singing about (that came later) but it was the energy that really drew me in. Later on, my brother ended up giving me that very record, which still has pride of place in my vinyl collection over a decade and a half on.
About two weeks ago an invite turned up in my inbox to a very special event – for the first time ever anywhere in the world, Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir and his older brother professional skateboarder and skate entrepreneur (Dogtown Skates founder) Jim ‘Red Dog’ Muir were doing a spoken word together 15 minutes from my house at the Darkside Skateboard Museum/store. To say I was excited would be an understatement! I had been to Mike’s previous spoken word a few years back at the Indie Temple, Brisbane which was amazing! The thought of being able to do it all again had me smiling from ear-to-ear. I immediately thought of my brother, as he was the one responsible for getting me into S.T. I thought it’d be fitting to invite him. Unfortunately it had been a while since we’ve talked and hung out at any length (I think the last time we really went anywhere together might have even been Mike’s last spoken word!) so I called him up and asked him to save-the-date. He was as excited as I was. I also managed to score an invite for my 17-year old nephew Joe so it ended up that a couple of generations of my familia got to go which is pretty special and testament to the Suicidal/Dogtown Skates family’s longevity, lasting relevancy and appeal.
I’d never been to Darkside’s Museum (Australia’s only skateboard museum) before and let me tell you, I wish I’d checked it out sooner. If you’re a fan of skateboarding next time you’re on the Gold Coast, Australia it’s a must to check out (it’s free too). The decks on the walls and memorabilia in the display cabinets will bring back memories. The peeps that work there and the store owner Mark are good people… they were one of the few places that stocked my old punk zine a decade ago! And, are dedicated to the love of skateboarding, music and community… making them the perfect venue for tonight’s talk.
A dear friend Andy Mack introduced me to Jim Muir before he and Mike took the stage to share stories of their history, growing up, family life, success, lessons learned and general life insights. He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met straight up. He shook my hand warmly and firmly, looked me directly in the eyes and included me in the conversation – so many times I’ve been introduced to people that have pretty much ignored the fact I’m there – and for that he has my upmost respect irrespective of all that he has achieved in his career/working life. Jim told us that he didn’t even know he was going to be doing the spoken word when he came to Australia and wasn’t really prepared – he was actually here on a holiday with his family visiting Mike and his family. You wouldn’t have guessed it though if he hadn’t told you—the brothers spoke with confidence and ease, like they were taking to a group of old friends. Their free form style flowed seamlessly.
The rest of the night went by like something of a dream, it’s impossible to put into words the love and honesty that was in the room. Mike set the tone for the evening starting off by telling those fortunate to be in attendance that he believes in always telling the truth, even if that means someone isn’t going to like you for it. That, along with so many other pearls of wisdom had everyone captivated for the two+ hours they spoke.
Within the first five minutes both brothers were emotional when realising the specialness of tonight’s situation and when it dawned on them that some of the things that were coming to light that they were sharing were things they’d never even gotten the chance to speak to one another about over the years, were in tears. The whole room fell silent. It was a powerful moment. After a sincere, solid bear hug to one another, it was on with the show.
It was interesting hearing about Jim’s skateboarding career/a little history of Dogtown Skates, Mike’s music career and of the area that spawned both: Venice, California; how it all started and the similarities and challenges both have faced in their respective fields and of where their paths diverged but ran parallel most times. It was nice to see the way the brothers interacted. When one would get too emotional to speak the other would jump in with a story to keep things on a roll. They had each other’s backs! It reminded me of how close me and my brother really are despite not seeing each other all the time.
The parts of the evening that moved me most were the moments Jim and Mike talked about such basic things as being a decent person, being an individual, not caring about what others are doing or what’s popular, of being responsible for your life, of the importance of familia, of creating things of meaning & real value for yourself and contributing something positive to the world! I could relate to it all, in fact, my friend Andy and I were just talking about the exact same things before the night kicked off. I think sometimes you’re in a certain place at a certain time with certain company for a big reason…
To me, the night was a really worthwhile, deep and moving experience—a spiritual moment in time in fact. It’s a punk rock event I will never forget. We can learn a lot from hearing the experiences of others; we can feel not so alone when others share their challenges that can resonate with our situations and reflect pieces of us. I walked out of Darkside with a little skip in my step really happy! Happy to be alive; happy to do the work that I do and create what I do on my own terms; happy with the people I choose to have closest to me in life; happy of the choices I’ve made even if everyone else thought I was crazy! Happy to know I’m not crazy and that there are others out there with similar ideas and values to me, like Jim, like Mike, like Andy. Most of all it reminded me to continue on my path trying my best to concentrate and focus on the positives and to not give time to, and waste energy on, the negative. There’s so much negativity out there in the world already why add to it?
As one of my friends commented afterwards ‘A Suicidal event is like a self-help meeting without the fluff’… I think they could be right.
Thank you so much to Luke Sorenson for the hookup and being a driving force behind the event happening. Many thanks and much love to Mark & the Darkside crew, I look forward to attending more quality events like this in store. Kudos to WeAreBrokenTree.com for helping make it happen. Plus a huge thank you to Jim & Mike Muir for being so inspiring, down-to-earth and rad just by being you and following your truth. Also, thanks Andy for being one of the nicest dudes in the skateboard business and punk rock world that I’ve ever known – I look forward to your future endeavors. Thanks to Joe for coming out and missing the last episode in a marathon of his favourite TV show to spend time with his uncle and aunty! And, lastly, most of all—thanks to my big brother Barrie for getting me into Suicidal and inspiring me in my early years, you helped kick start me on an epic journey! Love you Baz.
Photos by: Insyght, Clinton Hedt & Kurt Nischel (thanks guys!)