Hailing from San Francisco’s Bay Area, and featuring luminaries from the Harrington Saints, Ultra Sect and Subway Thugs; Bootboy heroes Suede Razors have taken the catchiness of 70s glam and pub rock & added an injection of 80s Oi to create a modern sounding Rock n Roll juggernaut.
With the band’s first UK dates booked for August 2018, Mass Movement got down and got with it with SR Bass master Mike.
Interview by Ian Pickens
MM: Introduce yourselves….
SR: This is Mike here who will be answering these questions, and I play bass. Darrel is the singer, Bryan plays guitar and Eric plays drums.
MM: What’s the bands background? What other bands have you played in, or currently play in?
SR: We have all been playing in bands for many, many years… because we are old! Or in Bryan’s case because he has been in bands since he was about 12!! Starting with Bryan then, he was most recently in Hounds & Harlots before Suede Razors started, and now he and Eric are doing Ultra Sect in addition to Suede Razors. Eric has also played in a lot of bands, most notable to the skinhead scene he was in an old band called The Bootboys who were featured on the ‘The US of Oi!’ comp. Darrel is still in Harrington Saints and of his past bands, The Burdens was probably the most well known. And I have moved around a lot over the years, so in my travels I have been in Subway Thugs and Emergency while in Vancouver, then Sydney Ducks before Suede Razors and now that I am back in Canada, I have been playing with a few different people here including as a second guitar player for No Heart.
MM: From listening to Suede Razors I’d say that there are certain bands that come through as influences – I’m hearing Slade, Rose Tattoo, Cocksparrer and AC/DC; would you agree with that? What other bands have influenced the SR sound and look?
SR: I would have to say you pretty much nailed it! Maybe it doesn’t come across in the music so much, but there are definitely some influences going back even further like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and Small Faces and for me personally Thin Lizzy and Coloured Balls.
MM: Vive Le Rock made comparisons with Giuda…
SR: I think that comparison is not wrong, but maybe a little on the obvious/easy side being that we are both current bands playing more of a glam/rock’n’roll style of music rather than straight-forward punk or Oi!. It is obviously a compliment to be compared to them though as we are fans!
MM: So far you’ve mainly concentrated on releasing singles with the 6 track ‘Razor Stomp’ being the closest thing to a full release; are you working on any new material?
SR: Unfortunately, a full-length is definitely not on the horizon. We have been asked about a full-length many times, and all along we have focused on doing things like singles and EPs. When Suede Razors first started, it was a “side project” for 3 of the 4 of us, so we all went into it with the intention of it being more for fun and therefore we never made big plans to do anything like a full-length. Now that is even more of a remote possibility due to circumstances that we will cover further on in this interview. But we do have plans to try to record 2-4 songs by the end of 2018 hopefully…
MM: I’ve seen a lot of comments from people who have had trouble getting hold of your releases; has this been an issue for you, or does it add a bit of mystery to the band? Do you have anyone distributing your merch in the UK/Europe?
SR: Really? That is interesting as we have always had a European label involved with a US based label to co-release each of our releases other than the first one. Most of our 5 singles have sold out and been repressed but I do know that those are all close to being sold out now, so maybe it is the supply that is the problem. Either way, if anyone reading this is looking for anything specific from us, please get in touch!
MM: You’ve released stuff on Pirates Press and Rebellion records – do you see yourselves continuing working with these labels on future releases?
SR: We have actually used a lot of different labels, including Contra Records, Randale Records, Rebel Sound Records, Under Watchful Eyes and Longshot Music in addition to Rebellion and Pirates Press. We will definitely continue to work with Pirates Press Records for the USA as long as they will have us! And for Europe, we have strong relationships with all 3 of those labels there, so I’m sure we will work with them as well…
MM: The band are aligned with the Skinhead/Oi/Bootboy scene – do you consider yourselves Traditional Skinheads?
SR: I think that it is fair to say that we all come from and align ourselves with the skinhead subculture, specifically in the “traditional” sense of all being fans of not only Oi!, but also soul, reggae, R&B as well as football, scooters, etc.
MM: A lot of Trad Skins feel the scene should remain apolitical; what are your thoughts on that?
SR: I will not speak for each individual, but we all definitely have our personal beliefs that are independent of the skinhead scene. Obviously when a person is involved with a subculture, part of your beliefs are shaped by that subculture, but also it is your beliefs that usually lead you into being part of that subculture. So I think that some “politics” is unavoidable in many subcultures, including the skinhead scene unfortunately. In regards to Suede Razors though, we generally leave politics out of the mix and just try to write some good rock’n’roll songs that relate to our lives.
MM: Have you always been into the Skinhead/Oi scene or did you discover it by delving deeper into the roots of the Hardcore scene?
SR: Personally, I was never really into Hardcore myself. I think we all probably found out about skinheads and Oi! music through punk or Hardcore music though. Probably before I even really knew much about skinheads and their history, the most obvious example of a skinhead that I saw was in the movie ‘Suburbia’! Then a couple years later I met my first real skinhead in person who introduced me to all the amazing music and bands and opened my eyes to the real history and not all the media bullshit that was and still is out there. Nearly 30 years later and he and I are still pals and get together once in awhile even though we live across the country from each other now!
As for Darrel, Eric and Bryan, they all grew up in California where I’m sure they were exposed to a lot of bands in the 80’s (or 90’s in Bryan’s case!) that I was not necessarily listening to. I was more influenced by UK punk and Canadian bands since I grew up in Canada.
MM: What does being a Skinhead mean to you?
SR: I know this might sound awful, but I don’t really think about “being a skinhead” all that much. I just go about my life and do the things I want to do without any care about following any rules or code. I have always naturally been interested in the same things that I am now. I always loved music, reggae in particular because my dad listened to it. I always loved sports, including soccer (football) and ironically I pretty much always had short/cropped hair as I was a swimmer as a kid. I got into wearing combat boots (sadly not docs as those were unheard of in my small farm town in the 80’s) and army jackets when I discovered punk as a teenager. So when I did learn about skinhead, it was really not a big change in my lifestyle, but more about just meeting a ton of other people who were into the same things as me! So really, I just found my tribe so to speak, and to this day I’m still happiest going to a good Oi! show or hanging out at a good reggae DJ night. I think that for the other guys, they probably have a similar opinion as we are all pretty much just doing what we have all done for years and years so that it is just the natural way that we are.
MM: Have the band toured much nationally? Are the UK three dates the first you’ve played here?
SR: We have never actually “toured” the USA as it is a very large and difficult place to do a proper tour like you can do in Europe unfortunately. So we tend to pick a couple of cities for a ‘weekender’ and fly in and do 2 or 3 shows. We did Philly and Brooklyn in April of 2016 which was amazing as it was with Duffy’s Cut, 45 Adapters and Legion 76! Then we also did a Pacific Northwest weekend of Portland, Seattle and Victoria (Canada) in November of 2016 and again back to Canada in October of 2017. The 3 shows in August in the UK will be our first shows there, and we wish that we could be doing more of the UK! But we are just dropping in for a few days before we hit the Beach Beer Chaos festival in Spain this summer! Hopefully we can get back to the UK soon… It was way back in March of 2015 that we did a 10-date tour of Europe, the first 5 shows being with Lion’s Law and Topnovil, so that was a pretty fun party! So we are hoping to try to get back to Europe in early 2019…
MM: The band have been directly affected by events surrounding immigration in the US with Mike being ‘removed’ from the US for working illegally as a musician. How has this affected the band? Have you been able to carry playing live in the meantime? Are the UK dates the first ones back playing with Mike?
SR: Yeah… This question will be a little difficult to answer in detail as that could take an entire article of it’s own to tell my story! Long story short is that I am a Canadian citizen who had been living and working in the USA legally with a work visa for my job for nearly 15 years. In this new era of protecting the borders of America from the dangers that lie beyond, they are looking for any little reason they can though, and my reason was that I play punk rock without a specific permit to be a “performer” in the USA. Obviously I have been doing this for nearly 30 years of my life now, and to me it is a hobby and a passion, and not a profession in any way. Basically, like most of us that play music, we PAY TO PLAY as we are usually out of pocket overall when all the costs that go into being in a band are accounted for… This is a very dumbed down summary of the 8 hours I spent with US Customs and Immigration on that fateful day, but the end result was that I am not allowed back into the USA for 5 years. This has obviously affected what Suede Razors can be doing right now, as I am not able to even enter the USA for any reason at all. So yes, the shows in the UK will be our first shows together in 10 months! So it would be great to get a lot of support and see a lot of people out there!! We plan to also play in Canada again in November and hopefully something in Europe again in 2019. I do have immigration lawyers that I am working with and it is going to take a couple of years most likely and definitely a LOT of money, but I will get back to the USA eventually because that is where my wife and my home are now. Otherwise I would say peace out America!!
MM: SR are only playing 3 dates in the UK; Why so few? Do you find it expensive to play the UK? Wouldn’t it have been more economically viable to play more dates? Are you heading over to the European mainland after the UK dates?
SR: As I had mentioned in a previous answer, this all started with us being invited to the Beach Beer Chaos festival in Spain, which is an amazing event that everyone should try to go to at least once! I was actually already going to be in Ireland already for a family event, so it was just a matter of getting the other 3 guys over, and we just decided that it was a long trip to make for only 1 show, and we all agreed that we wanted to play in the UK some day. So this seemed like a logical thing to do! Unfortunately the timing only allowed us to have 3 or 4 days available for shows in the UK and with the massive help of Andy and Knock Off, they booked 3 gigs for us and will play all 3 shows with us and lend support, so that is incredibly appreciated. I’m not sure quite how expensive we’ll find playing in the UK will be yet, and yes, it would have been smarter to play more shows I’m sure, but we are squeezing in as much as we can and hopefully we will get a chance to return for more shows in the UK some day again!
MM: How can people get in touch?
SR: Best way to get in touch would be either on our Facebook page or to email us -suederazors (at)gmail.com
MM: Last Thoughts/Parting Shots?
SR: Other than saying thank you very much for taking the time to ask us these questions and to take an interest in this band, I think I have said enough. I tend to ramble and I fully expect that my answers will have to be extensively edited!