The one great thing I can say has come out of this shitshow of a pandemic has been some really great artists creating some really great new tunes. Alien Ant Farm is no exception. This time they’ve put their own spin on Wham’s Everything She Wants and it’s the song I never knew I wanted but absolutely had to have. Not only did they cover the song but true to the AAF style they put together a fun video for it chock full of unexpected and interesting cameos. Way to shake up COVID guys! Not only that but they’ve played the Whiskey a Go-Go and have a new album in the works with Megaforce. I sat down for a lovely chat with Dryden Mitchell to tell us all about it.
You guys have been gone for a few years and now you’re coming back and you’re coming out swinging! Of course, we want to talk about the new song, your cover of Everything She Wants by Wham! What made you want to do that song? What makes you hear a song and think “We can really make that rock?”
We’ve been into covers forever. In a weird way if we didn’t have a riff in the room that we were riding on it was kind of a cool way to break the ice and all jam together. We always would pick not really obscure songs because obviously Smooth Criminal or Everything She Wants are not obscure but they’re definitely not the bigger songs of those artists. I think picking something like Careless Whisper would be the obvious one. I don’t even know why we thought that Everything She Wants would lend itself cool to rock because it’s almost a ballad and then we sucked the ballad out of it but it still works. We just enjoy it and if other people enjoy it and get a rise out of it then it’s cool. It’s a fun thing to do for us. It’s a little bit of a flex to show that you can put a spin on something that’s really cool and fun.
And the thing is, you guys really seem to take that on and embrace it. Your own music is, of course, fabulous as well but it’s like when you do a cover you really just go all in and are like “This is what we’re doing” and you put it out there. I think a lot of other bands would really sort of shy away from that out of fear for getting labeled a “cover band” which you guys obviously aren’t but that stigma can be there lurking.
Absolutely! We’ve seen comments like that throughout our time touring and doing this for as long as we have. I get it. At the same time, as you said, those that know us know that we have music of our own that I hold really close to my heart and I think is some of the best music. I don’t sit and listen to Alien Ant Farm that often but I do really fucking hold it close like I would a band that I love that I don’t even know. So it’s whatever. We’re just doing our thing, whatever makes us happy. To try to get another round out of this is really amazing for me. I feel like we’ve been blessed enough to still go out and do some tours in Europe and the US and that there’s still a curiosity for the band delights me. I’ve seen a lot of bands that probably have had way more success than us but the curiosity factor for them to cruise around and still sell some tickets has run out on them. So for us to still have a little of that is cool.
Anything you can tell us about a new album and getting to go through Megaforce?
Getting a new record deal with Megaforce is crazy. Even though we’re not a metal band it is like a metal label. We grew up loving all the bands that have gone through Megaforce. It’s crazy right now to think that they have artists from Bjork to Anthrax. That’s pretty trippy. Missy, the woman who runs Megaforce has really been kind to us and heard the four songs that are going to be on the record when we get it done. She loved the four songs and Everything She Wants was one of them. We didn’t really care to release anything during this COVID period. We just wanted to write more and commit to a full record. Missy was the one who said “I think you guys should just own it and throw it out there. Not that we’re pushing it. Just see what it does and in the meantime you guys keep writing and finish a record for me.” We made that cute little video for the song and just threw it up. I’m excited to work with this woman at that label who has dealt with a lot of artists I’ve appreciated through time and hopefully we can deliver an awesome record when all this stuff is over. I think that’s when we’ll really push for radio and stuff like that and tour hopefully. Hopefully, we can get a little resurrection out of this band!
From what I’m seeing on media and stuff it looks like people are ecstatic to have you back! A lot are really going back. Like maybe they haven’t listened to you for a while and now they’re like “Man, I forgot how much I loved that album!” Has that been fun to see that reaction from the public and see it going full circle and coming back to the older stuff too?
Yeah, it’s cool! I don’t know why I set out to want to play music in the first place but I guess there has to be some ego deep down in the brain that wants some kind of adoration or something or else we wouldn’t leave our rooms. We could just play it ourselves and never show anyone. But of course, performers want to show what the have so, of course, any comments is fun. Like I said before, it’s delightful! At the same time, you can get shit on too so you have to learn to take a little grain of salt with a compliment. Four compliments later it’s going to be “You fucking suck. You’re just a cover band.” Of course, I like the good and don’t like the bad. That’s everyone’s opinion probably for everything in life.
Yeah. It’s the never-ending conundrum of throwing it out there and seeing what happens.
Yep, but it’s all good news. I want to just keep doing stuff that makes me happy and playing with my friends makes me happy.
Totally! And as a band, you guys have always just looked like you’re having fun like you are there just having a good time. Your videos are always big and fun with these crazy effects and it’s always just having a good time.
Yeah, I agree. The music isn’t always so humorous or anything like that but when it came to visuals I grew up seeing all these bands that were more serious and had this image or edge to them. Although I do appreciate that theatrical image of those kinds of bands I didn’t want to be like the “cool band“. I wanted to just go out and be fun. Seriously, I know maybe it sounds dumb, but when it came to visuals I wanted a ten-year-old kid to love this video and I want my mom to love this video. You know what I mean? I didn’t want to be that hard band that dresses in black and thinks he’s fucking cool. We all know that he’s not cool so we didn’t want to be that person.
You do that well! I’m thinking of this music that is very heavy or serious or very rocking and then you turn around and do a song and video like Glow. It’s great that you guys have kept that! So then you guys decided to release Everything She Wants and it’s video time. Obviously some of that video was born out of necessity but DAMN you got some people in there! How did you get so many people to get on board and be a part of that?
We just sent out a mass email so some of the people that we got were like Nick Hexum from 311 and some random other musicians we think are neat people. We sent them the song and said don’t share it. We didn’t want to give it away so random fans we sent a link. We didn’t want anyone who was really a fan of the band to hear it so we sent random sounds. They look like they were rocking out but they could only hear the beat. They didn’t know what song it was until we released the video. It was just fun to see random people from like the Howard Stern show and there’s a pro golfer that I really love that’s on there and it’s neat to see people wanting to do it. It’s flattering to get love. With Nick, we did so much touring with them in the past and Nick and I became really great friends but I haven’t seen or talked to him for a long time so when he did that video I got all welly-eyed and just felt it was really cool that he did that. The video could have just been Nick singing to me and I’d have been all teary-eyed. I could probably go gay for Nick Hexum but that’s the only guy. [laughs]
Did you guys have another plan for that at any time or hadn’t you gotten that far yet?
No, not really. Since we hadn’t really planned to release it yet we just decided to do this and thought it was a great idea. Once all this has chilled out I don’t know if we’re ever going to be the same again as far as business is concerned in the music world but once we do have this record, that song is cool and I hope it hangs around for a while but I do wanna show what we’ve been creating because it’s really interesting and it’s different for us. It sounds like a more mature band. That maybe makes it sound like it’s not good to say it’s more mature but I feel like it’s smart rock and more technical. The band is really studied musicians and it’s not just three-chord rock. I mean, I love all that shit too. Those simple AC/DC songs are some of the greatest ever but I like that this band is a little kinky and can maneuver if you know what you’re listening too. It’s fun and it’s clever and I feel like this is the most clever music that we’ve done. Maybe because we’re a little older and maybe more thoughtful and respectful for the little noises that come out of our bodies.
Well, you guys as a band have really had this roller coaster journey, with record companies closing and denied releases and bus crashes. You’ve had members that have left and members coming back. You’ve worked through PledgeMusic. You guys have really run the gamut of what can happen over a band’s career. Do you think then that at this point, looking at what you are creating now, are you a stronger and more cohesive and powerful unit?
I’d like to think that we are but we all go back to our own silly bad habits. I don’t think about it that hard but when you say it I think it’s true. I feel like I’d be the perfect person to ask like when they say “would you give any advice to young bands.” I feel like I’d be the perfect dude to ask, but then I still don’t have one answer. I wouldn’t know how to maneuver in any of the seasons that this band has gone through in the music business. I still don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just prevailing here and there and taking punches here and there. It’s been trippy. It’s been a fun little marriage for the four of us with like all that comes with a real marriage…the good shit and the bad and lulls and highs. It’s good to see some good news creeping up again once this has settled. I want this to be a good little exclamation point on something cool that we did.
And again, if there’s a band that’s faced it all, it would be you guys. This COVID stuff ain’t nothing for you guys! You guys even did a live stream from Whiskey a Go-Go recently. How was that to get back together in the same room again?
It was cool. It was odd just to have a bunch of cameras and nobody there. We filmed some stuff like for BBC back in the day so we’ve done some stuff that was like that but it’s definitely not the same vibe as shows.
Yeah…how do you as the performer keep that energy up when you don’t have that audience energy feeding you back?
It’s kind of like if you’re recording anything at home or in a studio you just kind of get back into the song the way it was written in the first place and that’s the motivation. I know some of the coolest moments I’ve had musically and singing has been just by myself in front of a mic in my room. You kind of find that place if you’re going to do a show with nobody there and it works.
I guess I’ve never thought of it that way.
Yeah, really the coolest time for me doing the song is during the performance of the song on the recording which is usually like you and one other person in the room anyway. You get used to that. It’s weird too in my career when I’ve taken songs into a producer I’ve never met before or something. I feel so weird singing this love song or whatever it is, some important lyric that really only I know what it means. I would love to only have one person around me. Now I kind of don’t want anyone around. I just record myself and just send it to the producer.
Probably a little easier to go to that place, less distracting and nobody looking at you.
Making all those dumb face contortions and bad notes that come with trying to make it perfect. It’s kind of nice to just record it and edit it alone and not have to feel self-conscious about some dude that you don’t even really know watching or judging you or whatever they do.
And nobody makes funnier faces than a musician performing.
I know! It’s like is that dude playing a rad guitar solo or is he shitting his pants right now?
And now it’s not unusual to do it more on your own. So many artists now are turning to live streams or StageIt or whatever platforms on their own. Do you think once all this is over things will go back to the way they were or do you think this is kind of another little turning point in music where another element of something has been added into the toolbox and into the industry?
That’s a cool question but I have the dumbest answer. I have no clue what it’s gonna be like. I’m curious and anxious to see what happens. I just hope it’s sooner than later.
Agreed. There’s so many that are hurting from this, not just musicians that can’t tour but crews and everyone.
Yeah. I’m so fortunate. I had sold a home in Huntington Beach. I was going backwards in my property taxes just tripping out. Selling that house afforded me to pay for what I’m in and I made some smart moves in the last year so while I totally know the stresses of that I feel so relieved that I’m not so dependant on having to tour. But at the same time, my other dudes are feeling that. It’s weird to feel selfish about not having that bill over my head any more. I want to get back to doing all that fun stuff just for the love of it.
That is a great position to be in because so many aren’t. I mean, we’re all getting older and the thing is not everyone wants to be like the Stones and still touring at that age.
And they have the benefit of being able to travel so luxuriously that it’s not even like a tour. When you’re that big you can take your whole empire with you wherever you go. We’ve grinded it out and we’ve seen some beautiful aspects of travel with being on Dreamworks and cruising us around in their fucking jet. I was thinking like is this what touring is going to be like? No way! You got to taste a little bit of it but then you’re in a van with your sweaty egotistical brothers and all the accoutrements that come with that. It can get daunting and old but then it’s also like rock and roll summer camp too. It’s fun to go out for a minute, but the older we get it’s cool to be at home too with the kids and seeing the world again innocently again. I don’t want to miss any of that.
Anything else you want to tell us about the new album?
I don’t know. Maybe when you hear it you can write about it and what you feel about it might be completely different from me.
I can absolutely do that! We always end with something called My Four. This might be kind of a difficult question. You can take it and go completely off the wall with it or give it a smidge of thought since I’m putting you on the spot right now. Since your new song is a cover, what four artists would you love to have cover an Alien Ant Farm song and which songs would you like them to cover?
Huh. I think I would want Edie Brickell from Edie Brickell & New Bohemians to do a song called Attitude.
Fuck, I don’t know who I would want to cover us. I feel like I name a band and they would be like “Who? I wouldn’t cover an Alien Ant Farm song.”
I just want Edie Brickell to sing my songs. Or I just want a heavy-ass band like 36 Crazy Fists.
I wish I remembered, but there’s a scream metal band that just did Movies and it was total scream core. It thought it was awesome how “aaaahhhhh” it was because I feel like I’m singing that song all pretty and it’s funny to hear it all buffed out and crazy.
I feel like I’m not giving you four and just telling you a story. I just want Edie Brickell to do all four songs. She’s my favorite.
Or I want Joni Mitchell to sing Glow.
I would want Sade to sing anything that I wrote and I would kiss her feet.
You guys did Smooth Operator so that would be tit for tat!
That’s true! One time we played for Metallica on two or three German shows and we played Smooth Operator. We didn’t make it heavy or anything. We just literally did it the same way that you hear it. I remember James Hetfield came into our dressing room and he was telling us that German crowds love their heavy music and he thought they were going to kill us when we played Smooth Operator. When they all loved it he had never seen anything like that before. It was cool to get that compliment that he thought it was going to be a tragedy and we pulled it off. That was pretty great.
Check out Everything She Wants by Alien Ant Farm available now and be sure to stay tuned for upcoming album news!