Interview with guitarist Dean Pleasants
by Brandon Ringo
There are few bands in the metal and hardcore world whose name hold the same weight as Suicidal Tendencies. They are legendary for their revolutionary styles of punk, hardcore and especially thrash metal. Due to their legendary status, it’s only fitting that 2013 sees them celebrating over 30 years as a band. 2013 also sees them celebrating their first studio album in 13 years, 13. I recently caught up with Suicidal/Infectious Grooves guitarist Dean Pleasants and we discussed their new album and the mindset behind it, the Infectious Grooves reunion and his time playing in Jessica Simpson’s band.
How did the idea come about to do a tour with bands like D.R.I., Sick Of It All and Mike Clark’s new band Waking The Dead?
Mike was the mastermind behind all that; he wanted to have a really cool tour. We haven’t put out a new record in 13 years, so we were thinking, let’s take it to the road and bring all the hardest band and funnest guys we could think of. What better way to kick it off?
Are you doing a lot of material from the new record on tour?
Yeah, we are. We’re trying to play like 5 new songs a night, we’re mixing it in with the old stuff and bringing the new stuff to the people and letting ‘em hear it live.
Now that you guys have finally been able to release the new album, does it feel like there is a big weight off your shoulders?
Yes it does. For years we’ve toured off of compilations or playing the old stuff, so finally we get to show what we’ve been doing all this time and people get to hear this lineup and hear what they sound like on cd. It’s real important for everybody to see what the band’s been doing and see that we still have a lot to say, and hear the different writing styles that everyone has. I think it’s very important for us and it means a lot.
There have been rumors of a new Suicidal record since 2002. How long have the songs for 13 been around and were they recorded sporadically or all around the same time?
Some were done a while ago and some were done recently. Mike [Muir] is always very prolific in the studio and he likes to record a lot, and we’ve always had a lot of cool things. Really, some of the process with the songs that were done already was weeding out the ones that were really fit for Suicidal, really brought back the same vibe and energy as Suicidal. The new ones kind of came with writing with the new lineup, so that’s how that process went.
I saw in an interview a few years ago where Mike said that you guys have actually completed three albums worth of material. Was 13 a compilation of those tracks, or will there be more albums coming out in the future?
13 was some of the stuff that Mike mentioned in that. But yeah, I think if there’s something else that comes out in the future it will definitely be us writing again. But some of the songs, as time changes you change with how you feel and how you write, and sometimes Mike will take a song and totally change the lyrics of it and maybe the way the chorus or something is and it became what it is now. We’ve never had a problem with material; we’ve never had a shortage of material. Our biggest problem is what to put out, so it’s like the opposite for us. I know some bands spend a lot of time working on four songs and we’ll go in and crank out a bunch of tunes. Everybody always has so many ideas that, for us, it’s a matter of finding the ones we think fit really good together.
With you and Mike both being members of Infectious Grooves, when you’re working with those songs and trying to decide what to put on an album, is it difficult to separate those two styles, or do you just embrace what comes out in the process?
It’s a little bit of both, the way everything comes out and what fits with where. With Suicidal, we definitely wanted to have a separation from Infectious. When we recorded, we did things the old school way and it really sounds like Suicidal, letting the rhythm guy do his thing and letting the lead solo and the drummer doing his thing. That really brings it out the way they used to record a long time ago, and it really separates the sound of “this is this band” and “this is that band,” and we try to keep the funkier stuff with Infectious Grooves.
As far as your music goes, Suicidal is a band that’s never stuck to the limitations of one particular genre. When writing the songs for 13, was there an effort to make the songs sound thrashy?
Yeah, definitely Mike had that point in mind. He wanted to give people the hard stuff and the fast stuff and the elements of all the heaviness definitely for Suicidal, and not have too much funkiness in there. Even if there are some things that are slow and moody, we still wanted to keep it Suicidal sounding. So yeah, there was a definite conscious album to make it sound that way.
Do you have a favorite song on the album or one that you like playing live a lot?
I like ‘em all. I really love playing “Slam City” right now and “Smash It.” I like playing ‘em all, because I have a big investment in all of ‘em and I feel very personally attached to all of ‘em. So I love all 13 of ‘em. But yeah, I definitely enjoy playing “Slam City.”
It was announced earlier this year that Infectious Grooves is playing shows again including Orion Fest this summer. Does that mean that a new record will be coming out soon?
You know, Infectious really never had a big vehicle until last year. We played with Robert at Orion Fest and he really has the itch to bring back the old lineup. So I think it really helps Infectious Grooves, it gives us another leg to do stuff with, so we’ll see what happens after that. It should give us a big push; I think it’s gonna be a big deal playing with Stephen Perkins and Robert and Jim Martin. It’s gonna be a really cool thing bringing that full set to the stage, and especially getting to play with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s a really cool deal.
After a quick check of your Wikipedia page, I have to ask you about something, man. Is it true that you played in a band with Jessica Simpson?
Yeah (laughs), I played with Jessica.
How do you go from playing with people like Jessica Simpson and Tone Loc to doing the punk and metal thing with Suicidal?
I try to pick up the music wherever I’m at, but my true love is hard rock, but playing with Jessica was fun. Obviously it was cool to be standing right behind her every night watching her sing, and the music was challenging and fun. Even though it was pop music, you have to know how to play and the band was really good. Doing sessions with other guys was fun; I’ve always embraced doing different types of music. Being able to do that also helps me in this band, because it helps me to shine and to bring all different types of elements to Suicidal.
Suicidal is a band that’s already reached legendary status in the punk/hardcore/thrash world, but what are some goals that you still like to see this band achieve before you hang it up?
I think my goal is having people hear what we can do and being able to play shows and reach all different audiences. Reaching the people who were into Suicidal for years [as well as], reaching people who are just now discovering Suicidal. If anything else happens and we get nominated for some award or whatever, so be it, but I think for us, our live performance is our bread and butter. When people come to our show they leave there going “wow, what did I just see?” I think that’s very fortunate.
Purchase 13 here: http://www.suicidaltendencies.nl/store/