25 Questions with Mike Smith (ex-Suffocation, Grimm Real)

Besides your main instrument, what is the one piece of gear you cannot live without?

I play every instrument equally; drums, my guitars, bass, keys, everything. With that said, and with the current state of technology, I can’t live without my iMac. These days, everything is going through the computer. I try to write songs as a full composition and can’t live without a high speed computer. The computer is most important.

What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

If I remember correctly, Don Henley “Dirty Laundry”. That was rock to me back then. 

Do you prefer to write/record at noon or midnight?

The truth, when I usually write, I’m thinking about it all day. Do I always do it? No. When I really get to it is later at night, usually after 9pm. I have to think about the people sleeping around me, but I’m a late hour creator. But, it’s an all day thing, definitely. When I get into creating, I’m always thinking to myself “oh shit”, and try to get it all going on. 

What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?

Hmm, thats a good question. I’m not a TV watcher at all. You know what? That’s a tough one. It was a movie that was more about the feeling of anticipation, not because it was scary. It was probably The Blair Witch Project, because I didn’t know what was really happening, or what was around the corner. I thought, “Oh shit, what’s popping up?” It was that feeling of anticipation, not like being scared about a  Freddy-type figure or anything. They fooled us on that whole Blair Witch thing (laughs). In all fairness, I’m not a TV watcher at all.

If you could record an album with any artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

Probably James Brown. He just had that funk and soul about him. I grew up in the 70s, and that rhythm and soul translated into how I play drums, even in death metal. James Brown for sure. I always said that if I was older in the 70s, I would have wanted to be in a band like the Eagles. I liked their approach and how everyone switched around to take the lead. It looked like a gang to me, a bunch of rockers; like a rocker gang for the time. As for metal, I’ve played with a lot of people. For instance, Steve DiGiorgio bass-wise. Back in the beginning days of Sadus, I thought he was crazy and wanted to work with him because he’s so sick. Band wise, it’s still the Eagles. They were more of a hardcore band with the attitude. Nowadays, I don’t get that as much with new bands. Take Cannibal Corpse, they got their heads together and didn’t break and splinter. If I could be in a band with a leader of all aspects, it would be James Brown. 

Would you prefer a vacation on the beach, or in the mountains?

Mountains. Beaches are nice, but I’m not one to sit in the sun with my shirt off flaunting myself. I’m more of a natural, mountain-woods-prepper type guy with my guns, bow and arrows, 4-wheelers, and peace and quiet.

What is the last book you read?

It was a trading book over the stock market. Trading In The Zone. It’s about trading, stock, forex, and how to get your mind right. To get into that game is such a mental thing and most don’t know it’s like that. I want to study like the pros. 

What was your first concert?

(Laughs) I think it was New Edition and maybe the Force MDs, something crazy like that. It definitely wasn’t metal (laughs). This was around the time dance groups were big. Having an older sister, she was into that nonsense and I tagged along. After that it was all metal from there on. I think my first metal show was probably Queensrÿche The Warning era.

Do you have a favorite superhero?

I do not (laughs). Totally not my style at all. Maybe whichever one can teleport would be my favorite. I wish I could pick myself up from a spot and move around the globe. I could be in my bed chilling, snap my fingers, and be on stage. The Hulk is good, as that’s how I feel about society these days. Maybe Teleport Man (laughs).

Who inspired you to pursue music?

Probably, my father. I come from a very musical family. My uncles were famous musicians in the Virgin Islands and are still active. My father was an avid record collector. He always had music playing in the house, and he would always be singing along. He really got me into understanding different genres. No matter the genre, there is always the cream of the crop. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like a genre like country, there’s still the cream of the crop. 

What is your favorite junk food?

At this point, I’m 49 now. When I was younger, I would eat all kinds of stupidness. Now, I’m on a big health kick. I drink more water and eat more practically. I’m not a sugar guy these days, mainly from the ailments that come with it. But, I won’t turn down a sweet slice of cheesecake or anything (laughs). I’m not one to go out and buy it. I stay on the healthy side. 

Outside of music, what activity helps you decompress?

I’m an avid motocross rider. I’ve been into motocross and supercross my whole life. I’m into shooting, bullets, reloading practice, all that. I definitely did my time in the martial arts, too. Now that I’ve sold my house and moved into a condo, a lot of my activities got put into storage. 

Do you have a favorite 80s pop band/song?

I’ll say Mike Jackson, who you’d have to follow at that time. “I want to love you” (sings PYT, laughs). The acoustics at my job ring out and let me rock it. I know MJ at that time had more hits than most. His talent was unbelievable. 

Let’s say it’s been a busy week. How would you describe your ideal Friday night?

Quiet. Don’t go anywhere. You won’t find me in any bars. You won’t find me anywhere. I’m not a big drinker, but may have a drink or two at home. I’m a steel worker by trade. When Friday rolls around, I’m in. If I get invited to a party, I’ll go out but won’t go overboard. I’ll stay close to home, stay quiet in my seat, and save money.

What projects are you working on right now?

I just recently finished the Voracious Scourge album that came out a few weeks ago. I’m always working on myself as Grimm Real. That’s always been my moniker, and it encompasses everything since I play everything. I can rap and play death metal over it. Or, I can straight rap. Grimm is always creating something. With the state of the music industry now, you don’t have to create with the intent of getting signed. You just write for yourself. With Suffocation, we wrote for ourselves and people happened to like it. I just use music as an outlet for myself. Other projects are on deck, but I’m waiting on the material. I’m definitely still active. The industry is not a “gotta get out and tour” thing anymore. We gotta regroup and learn to market ourselves differently. Nowadays, it’s just to write with intent to get it online and let everyone hear all aspects of me. I’m not locked in with any genre. I take it one song at a time.

Coffee, tea, or soda?

I never drink soda unless I mix vodka in it. I don’t mess with any of it. I have started drinking one cup of coffee a day. When I’m at work, it gets me where I need to be. The Keurig makes it easy. I can go weeks and months without it, but go for it each day. I like wines, but no reds as they give me a headache. The Jamaican in me will drink anything (laughs). Crown and ginger, that’s the one.

If you were offered a one-way ticket to colonize Mars, would you take it?

Yes I would; in a heartbeat. You would have to be some kind of dunce to say “No thanks, I’ll just hang out on Earth and watch Netflix”. Watch Elon Musk, he’ll be the first. Society is so pitiful I could just pick up and go. 

If you didn’t have a career in music, what type of work would you be doing?

Right now, I’m a hands on guy with welding. I do it every day and love it. If I’m going to be doing something physical, it’s welding. Otherwise, if I were behind a computer, I’d like to be a pro trader. You can take that anywhere, and just be. 

Do you have any pets?

At this moment, I do not. I’m a rottweiler and doberman guy. I’m not into cats. That’s soft (laughs). I like big dogs I can train. Really, any breed other than yappy dogs I can deal with. Now that I’ve moved, no more pets. As soon as I can get some, I will. 

What was the last song/album you listened to today?

On the way home I was jamming Hate Eternal I, Monarch. I mostly jam on Pandora over albums. I put on Suffocation radio and give everyone love. I love Origin, too. I think they have the hyper speed locked down. Hate Eternal is the same. I think the secret with Origin is the guitars. Those guys write riffs you can hum and go along with, while John (Longstreth) does the craziness. It’s a great blend. 

What is your practice regimen?

I don’t have one. At this point, I don’t practice everyday, but I mentally practice all the time. I’ll practice the most when I’m giving lessons. I have diligently trained enough at this point, and once you get the form locked in, you don’t lose it. But, I also stay physically active. These days, death metal has gone to such a level with hyper speeds, and that’s not something I’m going to sit home and do because it doesn’t earn me one extra cent. 

At home, I can pick up any instrument at any time. I’ve been doing this a long time, so there’s no need to foam at the mouth about the next new thing. If you can think the song, you can play it. When I’m welding, under the lid, I’m writing the sickest shit of all time. When I get home, I’m tired (laughs). I record ideas into my phone, and it’s just sitting there. Even with being in a signed band, keep a day job. There’s always an opportunity to hear something devastating. I’m always listening to what’s out there, and always keeping myself sharp to compare my own stuff to what’s out there now. 

Right now, I don’t need any help from the outside. Never a day in my life have I approached something like that; it just shuts music off. I can go as dark, light, or grand as I want to in the right space and time. I’m always looking for my own way to attack and come out with something. I have enough in my mind I don’t need anything from anywhere. True story. 

What is your favorite way to listen to music: while driving, home stereo, or headphones?

I’m more of an airpods guy when rocking Pandora. It’s the easiest way to listen to things. When driving, I’m mostly listening to silence to watch out for the crazies that can kill you at any moment. For me, it’s meditation time. I recently sold my house, so I’m working to find my zen since I’m in transition. For now, its airpods, keep to myself, watch everything around me, and make a soundtrack to my life.

What song gets you energized every time you hear it?

No (laughs). I do not have a “go to” song. I’ll hear something from a certain era, like Death “Pull The Plug”, and I’ll go back to a different time where everyone is drinking beers and getting crazy. There are certain things that bring me back to why I love music. I can’t pinpoint it, that wouldn’t be fair. It could be Marvin Gaye, or even Deicide. Marvin Gaye has a special spot in my heart.

Are there any metal newcomers that have recently caught your attention?

If I speak truthfully, I like Jinjer. They caught me because they have something that will last. I’m not a connoisseur of female fronted metal, but Tatiana (Shmaylyuk) has it locked in with style and range. Move her aside, and the band itself is one of the tightest bands I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t have time to chase and find it like that anymore. I don’t need to know what the new 16 year old’s band is doing now. I just hope people hold the throne and make sure death metal doesn’t become a disposable genre or idea. Jinjer has something solid that will stick around if they have the support of good people around them. 

Jinjer

As a musician, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t write for the crowd. Don’t write for the audience. Write to impress yourself. Music should be a diary; your personal journey. Then, if the audience and your friends love it as well, it’s a win-win. When I was writing in the early days, I didn’t listen to a lot of music, as I didn’t want to be a duplicate of someone else. Just write for yourself and make it the soundtrack of your life first. The industry will always be there. With death metal, people thought it was disposable, and now it’s been over 30 years and death metal is still here. Most people can’t play what we play. If you slow it down, it is more reminiscent of classical music. Make no mistake, this genre is here to stay. Unfortunately for us, we’ve been too much for society. Though we won’t die off, we’ve painted ourselves into a corner. They didn’t understand us in the 80’s, and they won’t understand us now as things get faster and more technical. We’ve grinded ourselves into a black hole. In the early days of death metal, the business aspect was never properly handled. We had a right to dictate how it was run, but it was handed over to people who don’t understand the genre. There are new bands out there that are great, but they still need day jobs.

Published by Iron Veins

A fan of metal.

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