Jason Navarro – vocals
Dan Lukacinsky – guitar
Royce Nunley – bass
Ryan Vandeberghe – drums
Flew through all the good times And dragged through all the bad
These are the best friends That I ever had
Living like paupers We were runnin’ with the kings
Fighting like brothers I wouldn’t change a thing
No I wouldn’t change a thing
— “Honor Among Thieves”
It’s been a decade since The Suicide Machines assembled in their hometown of Detroit, embracing the Motor City’s famed rock ‘n’ roll work ethic for energy, hell-raising, ass-kicking and an earnest desire to never do the same thing twice. Steal This Record, the group’s fourth release on Hollywood Records, offers all of that in yet another blast of uncompromising, speaker-blowing and mosh pit-rocking music.
“People ask how it sounds, and I say it sounds like The Suicide Machines,” says drummer Ryan Vandeberghe. “This is THE Suicide Machines record. It summarizes all the sounds the band has tried to do on previous records and put it all into one big recipe.”
Adds guitarist Dan Lukacinsky, “I think we made a record that’s about the closest thing this band is gonna get to a record that, from top to bottom, you can listen to and it never gets weak. It’s kind of like we refined the sound of the band. This actually encompasses a lot of what we’ve done over the last few years with the other records.”
That’s no small feat. Over the course of its three Hollywood albums — 1996’s Destruction By Definition, 1998’s Battle Hymns and 2000’s Suicide Machines – The Suicide Machines have wholeheartedly embraced the notion that change is good and have hungrily pursued new musical avenues. The result has been a broad musical scope that’s encompassed ska, hardcore, punk and even lush, melodic pop. “We always try to make something different than we did the last time,” explains bassist Royce Nunley.
Steal This Record is indeed like no other Suicide Machine album before it. There’s plenty of big, thumb-nosing old-school punk such as “The Killing Blow,” “Scars,” the autobiographical “Honor Among Thieves” and the title track, as well as thrash attacks in “Off the Cuff” and “All My People.” “Bleeding Heart” is a hard rocking, arena-sized anthem, while “The Air We Breathe” incorporates sound effects and loops to put an additional glint on the already edgy arrangement. “Stand Up” takes a reggae route, and the likes of “Stay” and “Middle Way” affirm The Suicide Machines’ melodic sensibilities.
Then there’s the high-octane version of the R.E.M. classic “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It,” which, in The Suicide Machines’ capable hands, certainly feels fine. “We thought it was a really good version of it,” says frontman Jason Navarro, who’s joined on the track by H20’s Toby Morse. “I learned the words the day we recorded it; I went to a web site that had the wrong words, though they phonetically sounded like the right ones. When we finally go the right (words), it was pretty amusing.”
Steal this Record was recorded during a five-week period during March and April with producer Julian Raymond, who helmed The Suicide Machines’ three previous albums, at A&M Studios in Hollywood. More than anything, the band feels that the 14-track collection is the best-yet representation of The Suicide Machines sound, taking its pummeling, guitar-driven fury to yet another level of accomplishment.
“I think the guitar sounds are excellent on this record, by far the best we’ve ever gotten,” Navarro notes. “I think this is THE record for us. Not only do I think it’s the best songs, but I think it’s the best-sounding record we’ve ever done. The bass tones are incredible, the guitar tones, the singing went well, the drums sound great. I’m never satisfied; I usually hate half the record. But on this one I’m 100 percent satisfied.”
Steal This Record — which takes its name from ’60s activist Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book (and, no, the band doesn’t want anyone to take them up on the title) — also represents one of The Suicide Machines’ most serious and thoughtful lyrical albums. While the track “Honor Among Thieves” muses on the group’s lengthy history, defiant social commentary is the order of the day for much of the album, with a number of statements that urge an end to hate and intolerance.
“That’s a theme we’re always gonna sing about,” says Lukacinsky. “As long as we’re making records, we’re gonna be talking about anti-hate, anti-violence, anti-racism and that kind of stuff. That’s definitely what we believe in. If we have anything to offer to a younger generation, it’s to tell them through our music that that stuff isn’t right.”
More than general subjects this time, however, The Suicide Machines found it hitting closer to home when Jason Buck, a skateboarder friend of the band’s, was murdered in Atlanta — an incident that inspired the song “Scars.” “A lot of people try to say we’re a political band,” Navarro says. “That isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t necessarily think we’re a political band. But we do sing about things we think.” Then again, this is also the band whose 2000 hit single, “Sometimes I don’t Mind,” was about Nunley’s dog Chewy. So Navarro points out that “there’s still a couple of playful songs” on Steal This Record. “It wouldn’t be like us to not have a couple of playful songs on our records,” he says. “We’re not completely sour guys. We’re not made at the world all the time. We want people to understand that we still can smile and laugh. It is possible.”
In fact, The Suicide Machines smile quite a bit — especially when the four band members offer their perspective on the past 10 years. It’s been a heady decade of critical acclaim and artistic credibility, not to mention some of the most consistently awe-inspiring live shows (they’ve toured with No Doubt, Rancid, Suicidal Tendencies and the Descendents, just to name a few) to visit clubs, theaters and Vans Warped Tour venues around the planet. When the group declares that “We can make a difference,” it’s not just empty rhetoric, and when Navarro assures us that “I wouldn’t change a thing,” he’s speaking on behalf of the entire band.
“It’s a labor of love, man,” says Lukacinsky. “We can make a living off of doing it — sometimes just barely, but it’s what we want to do, what we HAVE to do, in our lives. You can never rely on selling a lot of records, even in our position; the only thing we can do is make the best possible record we can for this band and for our fans. That’s all that matters in the end.”