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EX-SUFFOCATION DRUMMER MIKE SMITH ON FORMER BANDMATES: “THE HIRED GUITARISTS CAN’T PLAY THE SONGS”

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When drummer Mike Smith announced that he was parting ways with Suffocation last month, he was vague about the reasons for his decision, only making it clear that he wasn’t leaving the band on good terms: he claimed that his bandmates felt “lack of pride,” and that “Within any foundation the weakest link will always cause all structure to crumble.” When the band confirmed the split a few days later, they confirmed that it had not been amicable, stating that there were “serious differences of opinions” between themselves and Smith.

Now Sick Drummer has scored what is, to the best of my knowledge, Smith’s first interview since quitting the band — and, shock of shocks, even though he claims that a lack of income was the motivating factor behind his decision to leave, he still doesn’t seem to have anything nice to say about the remaining members of the group.

When asked outright why he quit Suffo, Smith initially steers clear of discussing the other members of the group altogether, claiming his departure was based on monetary reasons:

“When we first reunited the economy was in a much different place and I was able to make Suffocation my full-time job. Over the last few years the ability to tour and support a house, family and all it entails, became a strain on myself and my family. Once you reach a certain point financially, decisions have to be made before falling to a point of no return.”

But that’s pretty much the only Suffocation-related question in which he doesn’t slam his now-former bandmates. When asked about the first time he left the band, in 1994, he claims that “The relationship between members [of the band] was always suspect and brittle.” And when asked about his replacement, Dave Culross, he asserts:

“My position in Suffocation isn’t as simple as mounting a drum throne. The position I held within the band as President, founder, manager, songwriter, spokesperson, and all else pertaining to the working business of the band can never be replaced. Anyone drumming for the group now is just enjoying a moment in time, on me.”

And it just gets worse from there. Smith is then asked if he believes that Suffocation will be able to play the material on which he originally appeared without him, and this is his response:

“The new drummer won’t have a hard time, because the hired guitarists can’t play the songs, so he will have nothing to worry about. Whatever songs are played will be the same ones we’ve been playing for the last 1000 shows or so. Forcing the crew to learn and practice all the Suffo songs was a battle that later became not worth fighting for. You’re only as strong as the weak links in a band.”

Ouch. I don’t know what’s more insulting — that he just claimed the other members of Suffocation can’t play their own songs, or the crack about “hired guitarists.” It’s not clear who, exactly, he’s referring to, although it seems unlikely that the statement is meant as a dig at Terrance Hobbs, who has been in the band as long as Smith has. More likely, he’s referring to co-guitarist Guy Marchais, who was in the group back before Effigy of the Forgotten was released in ’91 but didn’t actually record or tour with them until 2004’s reunion album, Souls to Deny, and bassist (or, given Smith’s phrasing, bass guitarist) Derek Boyer, who joined during the Deny touring cycle and made his recording debut with the band on 2006’s self-titled release. Saying those dudes a) can’t play and b) are employees are both real slaps in the face, and it’s hard not think now that Smith wasn’t referring them when he made his original “lack of pride” comment.

I don’t think I agree with Smith’s assessment of the rest of the band’s abilities — the last time I saw Suffo a couple of years ago, they sounded just fine to me. But I don’t know what was happening behind-the-scenes, sooo… yeah. I’ll be curious to see if anyone from the band responds to the allegations.

While we wait to see how this little melodrama unfolds, read the rest of the interview here — Smith also discusses his post-Suffocation plans, how you can take drum lessons with him, what kinds of things he might teach you should you become his student, and all that good stuff.

-AR

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