Sick Drummer Magazine

Mike Smith Talks About Leaving Suffocation
Monday, 12 March 2012 21:04

As many of you have most likely heard, Mike Smith has left Suffocation and Dave Culross has again joined the band full time. We asked Mike to talk about the situation and below is what he had to say. We will be interviewing Dave Culross, and hope to have some new video, as soon as he returns from the current tour. Dave will be on the next release from the band, that is apparently ready for pre-production. We will keep you informed as new details become available.

By Noel Smart
SDM: Why did you decide to step down from the drum throne of Suffocation?
Mike: The decision was pretty much inevitable. 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.

SDM: Is this the same reasoning that led you to leave the first time, so many years ago?
Mike: No. The first time there was no money ever made to be missed, it was just a moment in time that happened. Soon after I left the entire group called it quits anyway. The relationship between members was always suspect and brittle.
SDM: Are you happy with your replacement in Suffocation being Dave Culross?
Mike: 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.
SDM: Do you think the new drummer of Suffocation is going to have a difficult time getting down the material from Souls to Deny, Blood Oath, and the Suffocation self-titled release?
Mike: 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.
SDM: Is there any bad blood between you and any of the members of Suffocation? 
Mike: There are only 2 members that I need to consider grudges with concerning Suffocation. I only direct my concerns with founding stake holding members. The respect that the brand gained and deserves was always a sour issue. In my opinion, it was always a simple concept to respect and protect the brand/band you created. No exceptions. Anyone who knows the dynamics of the band and the individual members already have a realistic understanding of why things could turn for the worst at any moment.
SDM: Will the Suffocation DVD still be coming out with you on it?
Mike: Absolutely. When it does eventually come to fruition there could be none other than the ones who were involved with getting the band to this point. Unless you were secretly involved with the trials, tribulations, travels, shows and experiences conquered to this point. There will be no unearned guest appearances.
SDM: What music will you be focusing on now that you’re no longer in Suffocation and what other things will you focus your time on?
Mike: The latest projects I've been involved with are Synesis Absorption and the band Iniquitous. I've already completed about an albums' worth of songs with Iniquitous. Synesis Absorption is currently working on making a full album a reality. Other than that, I will always be interested in working in solid collaborations with carefully selected musicians to keep the essence of the genre focused and in a relevant direction.
SDM: Will you be recording and releasing anything new with Grimm Real anytime soon?
Mike: Chances are good that Grimm Real will have plenty going on musically. I never put to rest any projects Im involved in. Its just a matter of putting the time aside to focus fully on it. I intend to continue writing songs similar to what ive always done for Suffocation as well . Once a complete musician, always a complete musician.
SDM: Will you continue playing Death Metal in another band?
Mike: I've been a freelance/hired drummer for many bands over the years. I am always working on something whether it's death metal or not. At this point we no longer have to be in bands to collaborate and make amazing music with amazing like-minded musicians. I'm open for future projects, whether I create them or contribute to them.
SDM: Are you still available to give drum lessons?
Mike: I am currently teaching drum lessons and will most likely continue to give lessons as long as I am in demand. I get great joy in teaching, especially the young kids. The lessons I give are physical as much as they are mental. I teach them all aspects of being a musician, as well as how to play to the best of their ability.
SDM: How do you make your drum students ambidextrous? Any certain exercises that you do to increase your strength?
Mike: It's actually a simple concept, similar to martial arts. What you do with your right side, you should be just as capable with your left, making a complete drummer. The ability to control and relax your body and muscles so they obey what you ask of, is the first step to realizing that the ambidextrous approach makes perfect sense in the long run. I don't do any special strength training exercises. I naturally always hit hard, I ride motocross, work with raw steel @ my day job and hold a productive anger that allows me to use any extra strength I may need productively. I've always been physical, it has served me well. I definitely teach the students to hit the drums with intent while learning to relax fully at the same time. 
SDM: How do people contact you who are interested in taking lessons from you?
Mike:, Skype-Smithblast, Facebook - Blastfamus
SDM: How do you feel about the fans out there that say that Suffocation is no longer Suffocation without you being in the band?
Mike: They must have a true understanding of the behind the scene dynamics. I can't blame them in their opinions.
SDM: Tell us about the new songs “Father Opiate” and “My Enemy” by Iniquitous? Is this going to appear on a new Iniquitous release coming soon?
Mike: Right now I expect all the songs recently recorded to be on a complete Iniquitous release. There is no rush in regards to the industry involvement. Thankfully this project is created by musicians who truly care about the art of making music first and foremost. 
SDM: How do you feel about the Mike Smith documentary that was featured on YouTube not too long ago by Anthony Lopardo and Ray Marte with Mike at Killingsworth Recording Company NY? How long was that documentary in the works?
Mike: I thought it came out well. It was done in a days time and was a good way to promote the Killingsworth studio and myself further. Anthony and Ray have a very solid studio on Long Island that deserved the extra attention. I was glad to help out the project in anyway I could . It was one of those "good people, good purpose" projects.
SDM: Will you still be using the same endorsements with your new musical ventures such as Meinl Cymbals, Axis Pedals, DDrum, VicFirth, DB Shoes, and Evans Drumheads?
Mike: Definitely. I love the equipment I use, as well as the relationships I've built within the companies. "If it aint broke dont fix it". They've supported me through years of success and they are the instruments my students know first and foremost.
SDM: What does the Mike Smith blast beat consist of? What is your take on the blast beat and how do you feel about all these different versions of the blast beat/gravity blasts that are present today in extreme metal drumming?
Mike: Power, Speed and Precision. When used properly it totally compliments a guitar riff like no other. That is part of what made the Suffo sound and style so defined. As for the different versions of the beat, I think it is completely necessary. Everything evolves, especially in death metal. As long as the techniques are used tastefully within the music and not over burdening, they have my respect and attention.
SDM: Because you are such a hard hitter, how many drum heads do you go through in your average tour situation?
Mike: Truthfully, I never break skins or sticks. I could use the same skins through an entire tour if need be. But I usually change the skins at the mid-point of a 3-4 week tour. If they feel dead I'll re-tune them or hit them harder. I'm totally comfortable with my skin selection for long durations. Evans drumheads.
SDM: How important is it for you to stay healthy when drumming for an extreme death metal like Suffocation or any of your other bands? 
Mike: It's important to me to just be healthy all around, all the time. The art of Death metal is hard enough without adding extra opportunity for illness into the situation. 
SDM: What keeps your stamina up as far as practicing is concerned?
Mike: The fans and adrenaline during showtime. During practice it is the art of relaxing that allows you to go longer and be more focused, only using the energy needed to complete the task.
A recent interview with Terrance Hobbs in Poland:



-49 # 2012-03-13 03:16
Mike Smith, what an egotistical maniac! Just made a fool of yourself.
+39 # 2012-03-13 13:50
Whatever dude. When you form - out of nothing - something as great and majestic as Suffocation, you absolutely have the right to tell it how it is! If your looking for more censorship, I suggest looking elsewhere; especially outside the realm of Death Metal.
Have you formed a band as great as Suffocation? Or anything that compares for that matter? Hmm.. who's the fool?
0 # 2012-03-13 14:22
I don't know, he seems kinda butthurt about something. Not really sure what that would be but, from what I've seen, some bad-asses definitely have a hard time when things don't go their way. i.e. Danzig.
-4 # 2012-03-13 15:08
Come join to my band honey x:
+21 # 2012-03-13 17:06
Mike was truly an integral piece of the Suffocation musical puzzle and has a right to express his concerns about the brand he helped foster and how it gets treated in the future. One cannot fault him for that. It's a shame he felt the need to move on because he is not easily or simply replaced. Yes others can play the drums and likely fill the role, but its not the same. Bands are not making fortunes anyway, especially for this kind of music so its understandable that a change had to come. I wish Mike the best of luck in his future adventures and hope to hear some of this stuff soon.
+9 # 2012-03-14 01:17
None of us have a right to pretend that we know what is going on with this band. Mike has the right to express himself about his own business.

So Myrk!!!! You seem to pretend you know whats going on. What if you started to lose control of your business. Are you a musician? You better explain your commetn
0 # 2012-03-14 08:01
Besides all the business bullshit - Dave Culross is perfect for SUFFOCATION - anyone can see it, attending their show now. The band played for years without Mike and made the great music - 'Pierced From Within' and 'Despise The Sun' never can be placed lower than the newer stuff.
Guitarists can't play the songs? Complete bullshit. SUFFO guitarists are one of the most precise in the scene.
I saw them live about a week ago and the band played like a fucking machine. And there was no Mike, of course.
Mike comments are understandable, since he was an important member and of course great drummer, but this band is still the same great band without him.
-2 # 2012-03-15 02:53
No Mike Smith or Frank Mullen = No Suffocation!
Everyone else seems replaceable.
-2 # 2012-03-15 10:51
Saw them two nights ago and they were absolutely crushing. Fourth time I've seen them now and i have to see it was easily one of the best. I will always hail MS for what he did for Suffo and DM in general, and Culross whilst classy and brilliant didn't provide some of the feel in the earlier effigy and Breeding tracks, but he more than made up for it on the stuff Mike didn't co-write. Felt that Guy's leads were not as precise as I've heard before. but he was as tight as ever otherwise.

Suffo HAVE to have at least two out of Terrance, Mike and Frank or it should not exist. It was one thing to lose Richards and Cerrito, and now Mike, that's hard - but not impossible.
+1 # 2012-03-21 01:55
i think that there 2 dicks responsible for the other 3 not wanting anything to do with Suffocation anymore and thats fucking sad.
-5 # 2012-03-29 08:25
I'm a huge fan of Suffo, but only because of Pierced From Within and Despise The Sun. I have never been able to get into the albums Mike's been playing on. Partly because the production for some strange reason always has been bad on his albums and also because the songs imo haven't been as good as on Pierced and Despise. Souls To The Deny was an ok comeback, but the last two albums were HUGE dissapointments .
He may have been important for the beginning, but he definitely overrates his importance for the band now. Also, I've never liked his attitude. Ever since he came back he has only talked about the business part of the band, revenue, bigger venues and so on. He only seemed to be in it for the potential money. When the band's career didn't pick up despite the success of younger "-core" bands, "His Royal Highness" seemed very dissapointment. Mike thinks way to much of himself. Glad his out and Dave is back.
-12 # 2012-05-19 21:25
ehhh whatever, id prefer culross over mike smith anyday! im glad mike left... i really enjoy the drumming mike did for souls to deny, but the drumming for despise the sun is fukin AWESOME!!

i thought blood oath and the self titled album sucked... i dont listen to the other material because the production sucks...

now that culross is in the picture, ill definately be on the look out for a new suffo album
-2 # 2012-08-15 16:27
It sucks man. It just sucks. I hate that Smith left and just isn't happy about the news. Business and personal issues suck.
+1 # 2012-10-02 22:25
I just seen suffocation on sept.29,2012 here in Los Angeles,ca at the dragonfly bar for an after party. I gotta say they fucken murdered it,it was fucken sick!!! No mike Smith there,just Culross hammering away. So there doing just fine without mike. No disrespect to Mike he has the rigth to his opinion,but suffocation is doing it whether he likes it or not.
-7 # 2013-01-19 11:09
Mike would be more credible if he blasted with one foot. Whats two feet? C'mon! All those years and I picture Effigy in my head as one-footed greatness. Then I find out years later with frown: two footed. Anyway, to me he is great for doing a few things, that are only on Effigy: double bass flams, and those quick flam-sounding snare hits that are one handed. If u don't know what imttalking about either I am not clear or you don't know sh*t.
DOUG BOHN did amazingly well on Pierced. He does those flam things too all over the lbum. AND he plays the track Pierced pretty much SICKER than mikes earlier Breeding effort. And im talking about technique, not recording sound quality.
-2 # 2013-02-24 03:34
Mike, of course, was a very important member of Suffo. But very few bands keep original lineup and he needs to understand that he isn't the only reason why Suffo is as lengendary as they are. He needs to get off that high death metal horse that doesnt fucking exist. Despise the Sun and Effigy are just as/if not better than anything Mike was on. Dave fucking proved it on this new record. Pinnacle of Bedlam rips the last 3 suffo releases to shit. I always wondered what despise the sun would sound like with that snare a little louder......
-1 # 2013-04-14 01:20
Mike Smith didn't "form - out of nothing - something as great and majestic as Suffocation".

He did not find the other 4 guys and create the band on his own. According to this interview, it seems maybe he took the lead when it came to "running things" behind the scenes, but he is NOT the heart of Suffocation. The heart is Hobbs, Mullen, Smith, and Guy together.

The new drummer, Dave, is REALLY fucking great though, he has done some AMAZING shit on the new CD.
+1 # 2013-07-13 02:03
Suffocation is nothing without Mike Smith. He was and always will be the backbone and heart of the band. Without Mike Smith (No hard feelings Dave Culross), its just another, run of the mill, Death Metal Band just like all the rest. BORING! I mean being referred to as the black Dave Lombardo, and thats not just me saying that, every metal magazine and record label that supports death metal would agree and has agreed, is a sacred achievement and truth. For all others it is simply a wet impossibility. Just remember, if you ever ask anyone if theve heard of Suffocation and they are not sure, just mention Mike Smith, THEN they will remember.... ROCK ON MIKE... YOU THE MAN!!!!!
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