this is part of a photo series i’ve been working on since 2011. it is a collection of photographs of badass women involved in metal, hardcore and the borderline metal/punk/avant-garde worlds. these are the people who make up the music scene. these are my friends.
Meet Michelle, a ray of sunshine handed to us from the gods of punk and fun. She plays in C.R.A.S.H. and used to play in Mika Miko.
What was your first metal or punk experience?
Michelle Suarez: I was 15 when I saw my first real show. My neighborhood friend’s parents drove us to this horrible venue in the Valley to see a grindcore band, Colostomy Bag. It was so wild! The music was insanely fast, and I remember it made me feel nervous and afraid and excited. So many feelings. I instantly zero’d in on the guitar player. He had Misfits skull inlays on his guitar, which I thought was the most amazing thing in the entire world. Around the same time, I watched the videos “Another State of Mind” and “The Decline of the Western Civilization” which totally blew my mind. Alice Bag changed my life, no doubt about it.
How did you get into playing guitar?
MS: I found an acoustic guitar in my parent’s garage when I was in high school. I think I was 16. It belonged to mi abuelo, who left it behind when he moved back to Argentina. My dad taught me a scale I still don’t know the name of. I then found a random tabs book at the library with “classic” songs (like brown-eyed girl). With that I was able to learn chords, and started figuring out my favorite songs. I played along to “Wild in the Streets” by Circle Jerks at least a million times (the main part is just 2 chords, haha). Not too long after that, I started playing music for fun with my best friends in high school in their parent’s basement, which I now call Mika Miko’s incubator.
Would you say the worst injury you’ve suffered playing a show was breaking the head of your guitar last year?
MS: Oh sure. That was the 3rd time my guitar head was cracked. Even more heartbreaking than the previous times. My guitar is still broken from that show because after each break, it gets and more more expensive to fix. To be honest, I don’t even remember what happened. It was all so fast and chaotic! And also a long time ago. But I’ve also suffered many other show injuries, not only limited to my guitar…like having PA speakers fall on me or most notably, getting electrocuted by a lamp at the Smell in front of a few people.
Do you have any tour secrets?
MS: This may be not be secret…but in touring with Mika Miko, I learned that panty liners save your underwear. I feel like the some other tour secrets I have are now super outdated or obsolete. But for real, I often wish I had heard the words “self-care” back in my touring days. Take care of yourself and take care of your band-mates. Support each other. Build that capacity. I know this is easier said than done…and it takes time to figure out but is worth the work. Hydration is key. Also, try to experience as many (free) things as possible if/when you have time. Get some tour landmarks going. For me, it looks like Powell’s in Portland. Being around a massive amount of books is soul-cleansing for me. And really, really great food places…like, Soul Vegetarian in Atlanta.
According to instagram, your life right now is kittens and biology. What’s the end goal of school for you?
MS: Good question! The short story is that I have a lot of (academic) interests, mostly science related, art/museum related and social justice related. The long story is well, long. Ideally, I’d like to get straight to work and put all these lab skills I’ve learned in practice. I’m thinking about studying for the Biology & Chemistry GREs while looking into grad schools. I’m still trying to find that one thing I’m willing to dedicate my entire existence to for 5+ years. So far it’s looking like it will be Immunology related–the immune system, and the pathogens that evade it. Also, plant biotech is really mind-blowing. Plants are almost too beautiful.
In addition to the science stuff, I want to continue being involved in youth empowerment…specifically, LGBTQ individual and community empowerment. I’m currently a coordinator for LEGS (leadership and engagement in gender and sexuality), working with high school P.R.I.D.E. clubs, and the curriculum is developed directly from the youth and what they want to have conversations about. I cannot imagine not continuing this work. I’m also looking forward to becoming a court appointed child advocate…the foster care system (especially in LA and San Bernardino) is devastating and totally, majorly screwed up.
What music is helping you through school?
MS: Since I have started school, music comes in two forms: radio (KDAY) in my car and listening to Spotify/YouTube/iTunes playlists on my computer via headphones. I am literally glued to my laptop and spend most of my life at the library, so I would not have survived school without music.
So, iTunes stuff…looks like I’ve been listening to Poison Idea (Pure Hate on repeat a lot), Flux of Pink Indians, Divine, The Damned, Reagan Youth, the Weirdos, Pentagram, Negative Approach, Chrome, Die Kreuzen, Thrones, Ramones, Pure Hell, Stains, The Repos. Selda, Persona, Beyonce, Wu-Tang, Bone Thugs, Amebix, Replacements, Alice Bag, the Brat, Flipper, various Oi! comps. The music of my youth, basically!
Spotify stuff…so much Kanye, Oasis, Rihanna, Flying Lotus, Drake, T.I. , Rick Ross, Swell Maps, OMD, Depeche Mode, B-Movie, Motörhead, Rain Parade, Cat Power, Lana Del Rey, Lou Reed, Polvo, Grimes, Agent Orange, Swell Maps, Paramore, Saccharine Trust, Dag Nasty, and basically random songs made famous by Vine.
4 hours to write & record new C.R.A.S.H.; when will we hear it?
MS: To be honest, I haven’t heard it since we recorded it. For some reason I believe this one will not have a quick turnaround, but I could be wrong! It’s hard to say. But feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for previous C.R.A.S.H. stuff or for anything, really.
C.R.A.S.H. at Mission Chinese, SF
The infamous guitar-breaking show at Westway, NYC
Mika Miko music vid
Alice Bag vid that changed my life