Interview: Mike Clark (Waking the Dead, No Mercy, Suicidal Tendencies)

In October of last year, No Mercy's long out of print 1987 classic, Widespread Bloodshed (Love Runs Red), was finally re-released by Suicidal Records on LP, picture disc, and—for the first time ever—CD (as well as being distributed through digital outlets such as iTunes, of course). Here's a quick chat with former No Mercy and Suicidal Tendencies guitarist, the legendary Mike Clark, on the old No Mercy days, as well as his decision to resurrect the band as Waking the Dead.

Clark with the picture disc reissue of No Mercy's Widespread Bloodshed (Love Runs Red).

The No Mercy album has long been considered a classic, and has been a sought-after collectible for decades, so it's awesome to finally see this thing getting the reissue treatment! I believe talk of this re-release first started to surface back in 2010, so I'll open with the obvious question here and ask how this all came together? What made 2014 the year it finally happened?

Well, we had been talking about this since 2010 when we were doing the No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family record, and as you know in the record business, things take longer than expected, but it was great it came out in 2014. I think we had waited long enough, and it came out on my birthday. What more could you ask for?

Going back to your earliest days, when did you first get interested in playing guitar as a kid, and what was it that spurred you on?

My uncle, Dennis, was a guitar player in a local surf band, and I always admired him. One Christmas he gave me a guitar, and my mom was always playing Chuck Berry records, and I was hooked. End of story.

What first got you interested in hardcore/punk and metal music?

When I was 9 years old my mom took me to a Black Sabbath concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and I was blown away. As we all know, everything came from those guys.

Widespread Bloodshed (Love Runs Red).

How did No Mercy originally come together in the early- to mid-'80s?

I had always been playing in garage bands and then my friend, Mike Muir, started Suicidal Tendencies and I was totally inspired to start my own punk rock band, but with a little metal flavor, and there you go.

What do you remember about the early days of the Venice scene? The Welcome to Venice compilation is such an iconic document of all these great bands that would go on to branch out into their own unique avenues of aggressive music. It must have been a wild and exciting time.

It definitely was. I was 21 years old at the time. The whole scene was totally insane. We were playing gigs every night, going to gigs every night, causing chaos, riots, and we didn't give a shit. Definitely some of the best times of my life, and I am proud to say I was a part of it.

Speaking of branching out, what drove No Mercy to eventually grow into more of a thrash metal influenced direction by the time of Widespread Bloodshed (Love Runs Red)—the sound for which the band is now most remembered?

We were always into punk bands like GBH, Discharge, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, etc. Then one day we were practicing at our spot on Broadway and 7th in Santa Monica and my good friend, Albert Roulliard, took us next to his car and started playing bands like Metallica, Anthrax, Exciter, etc. To me, it was like what Suicidal had been doing with lead guitars and fast heavy music, but in a more hard rock/metal fashion.

No Mercy, "Controlled by Hatred" (1987).

What had been going on with No Mercy at the time when the band kind of folded into Suicidal Tendencies?

We were actually writing the follow-up to No Mercy's first record when there were some personal problems arising with some of the band members, which I cannot comment on. Then I was asked to join Suicidal and that record basically turned into How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...

Did you adapt the material for Suicidal at all, or was it just a natural fit since you and Mike Muir had already been working together in No Mercy?

It was absolutely a natural process. Basically, what was being written for No Mercy turned into that Suicidal record.

More recently, what drove your decision to reform No Mercy, now operating under the name of Waking the Dead?

After talking about re-releasing the No Mercy record I thought it was a naturally good idea to resurrect No Mercy and play those songs again, which I am very happy I did. Going on tour and playing those songs after all those years was awesome. It was great to see the fans' reactions, and very satisfying to say the least.

How did you find out that the WWE had trademarked the phrase "No Mercy"? Did they actually try to shut you down with a cease and desist or anything like that?

When me and Mike Muir were talking about going on tour as No Mercy and doing a new record, we found out that the WWE had trademarked the phrase "No Mercy" for 25 years. As expected, we were very upset, but decided to say, "Fuck those greasy wrestlers, we'll call it Waking the Dead and slam them for 25 years," ha, ha.

Waking the Dead, live at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX (2013).

How has the transition to handling both guitar and lead vocals been?

It took some practice, but now it's like anything else that feels great. Happy to do both and feel that reaction from the crowd. I get to talk shit to the crowd and I'm stoked.

What should fans expect from Waking the Dead as a whole? Based on the live videos that are on YouTube, it seems like you're picking up right where No Mercy left off, which should be incredible. Have you started recording for the album yet?

The fans should expect the full-on No Mercy experience. Crazy as fuck, heavy as hell, and good times for everybody that will leave a smile on your face and make you want to come back for more.

And here's one random curveball question for you: what do you listen to when you need a break from metal or otherwise heavy and aggressive music? Any lighter fare or potentially unexpected selections in the mix?

I usually let my library go and play what it likes. It could be a Hendrix song, the next song could be Madball, and then go into Judas Priest, and then end up with the Gypsy Kings. It really doesn't matter, I love all kinds of music.

Thanks so much for your time, Mike. It's great to see the No Mercy album back in print, and I'm really looking forward to hearing some new material from Waking the Dead!

Thank you guys so much, and thanks to all my people out there. We'll see you soon.