Since the formation of Alien Ant Farm in 1995, have experienced a plethora of highs and lows on their roller coaster ride to fame. The early history of the band began when the name came from a daydream Terry Corso had while employed at a day job. The concept revolves around the human species being cultivated by alien intelligence, and the colony forming much like it does in a traditional children’s toy. Little did they know that a daydream would manifest itself and eventually become a household name! Here’s their backstory…
In 1999, Alien Ant Farm self-released their debut titled ‘Greatest Hits,’ which went on to win Best Independent Album at the L.A. Music Awards. In 2000, they signed to DreamWorks SKG, and went on to release Anthology. The following year, a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” became a massive hit overseas, rising to #1 in Australia and New Zealand, and on the U.S. Modern Rock charts.
From the beginning, the clever humor of vocalist Dryden Mitchell and guitarist Terry Corso has delivered visual imagery that made the band vanguards in the realm of music video. All of the singles released received heavy rotation on MTV and MTV2, with “Smooth Criminal” was voted the #2 video of 2001 on MTV’s countdown. They appeared on the channel’s programs Celebrity Dismissed, MTV Cribs, and hosted House of Style. Alongside the massive support from cable, Alien Ant Farm were darlings of broadcast television with multiple appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and support from Carson Daly, Extra, CNN, Access Hollywood and Mad-TV amongst many more. With all the notoriety also came a 2001 Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance in 2001.
In 2003, the Alien Ant Farm entered the studio with Stone Temple Pilots’ Robert and Dean DeLeo and cut ‘Truant.’ Unfortunately, they ran in to unforeseen adversity with the closure of their record label, offering an insurmountable obstacle to continue building on the band’s successes. Still under contract to Universal, Geffen green-lit the opportunity for Alien Ant Farm to return to the studio. In 2005, they recorded with Jim Wirt, but that album was not released as scheduled. Alien Ant Farm chose to share it with with fans via a bootlegged version, which has affectionately been re-named ‘3rd Draft’ by the public. Looking back on the adversity the band went through, alongside the massive fame Mitchell reflects, “This Alien Ant Farm ‘Wave’ is a bigger, longer wave than I could have hoped for. All these years later, we are still intact. From friends to foes to friends again, this band is something special, and nothing short of tight and explosive.”
The next year in 2006 ‘Up In The Attic’ was issued, and for the next several years the members went their separate ways reconvening in 2009 for performances in Kansas City, the Sonisphere Festival in Knebworth, UK and at the WARPED Tour in memory of Michael Jackson. They were back, and come 2010 began to rebuild a legacy that grows with each passing month. The band staged a very successful tour over the Summer and Fall, where they road tested new material in front of the live audience. In the New Year, they’ll release the new recordings. Mitchell shares, “The First batch of these new songs are pretty to the point and pissed. Angry, but not negative. That is possible in this non tangible, musical and lyrical world. Unfortunately not possible in the real world, and that’s why I love music. I can get this all out without hurting anyone.”
As their career approaches two decades, Dryden offers, “Its hard to believe we have been doing this as long as we have, I don’t think any of us thought when we started out that our career would go onto do what it has, or that we would face some of the hurdles and losses that we have but here we stand ready to give our fans and the world another piece of Alien Ant Farm, we honestly have the best fans in the business, not only have they stuck with us through all of the personal up’s and down’s but they have never given up on our music and how we create and deliver what we feel is real and pure. We are ready to head down this path again and could not be happier with our new partners at The End Records, there’s nothing like having a team of believers around you that support your visions.”
It’s no secret that the quartet has enjoyed worldwide success and, over the course of their four studio albums, have had their cumulative sales surpass five million units a Grammy nomination and 4 top 10 singles. However, the best is yet to come! Armed with Dryden Mitchell’s amazing vocals, a powerful new single titled “Homage,’ nationwide tour dates to spread the word, a never-say-die spirit and an eclectic new album in the chamber; the band has it’s sights set on a bright future! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Alien Ant Farm’s Dryden Mitchell to discuss his musical roots, the longevity of the band, their recent label struggles and what went into bringing their long-awaited new album, ‘Always And Forever,’ to life.
What are some of the first memories of music in your life and who were some of the influences who had a big effect on you?
My dad would play acoustic guitar when I was a kid and it was a really powerful thing. I was really into Edie Brickell when I was in my early teens. Her music had this whole feel that really appealed to me, the softer side of an acoustic guitar and a vocal. Joni Mitchell was another big influence on me.
A career in the music business isn’t always an easy route. What made you take the plunge to make music your career?
I guess it started with not really knowing what else to do. I felt really comfortable in these rooms with other musicians. Although I wasn’t the most studied guy in the band, I felt I could hang with the guys who were a lot more technical than me. It felt nice and it felt comfortable. Having it turn into a career might not have been the intention but I’m very pleased that I have been able to experience what I have through music. I have been able to buy a relatively nice home and live off of music. That is really amazing!
Alien Ant Farm has been around for almost 20 years. How has the band evolved through the years?
Early on, we kind of plucked who we thought to be some of the better musicians in our hometown from other projects and found our way together. We ruled a couple of shows and tried to grow it from the West Coast outward. That was the plan! We tried to gig as much as possible. What I said earlier about being comfortable in the room with musicians turned into trying to get comfortable in front of crowds. That felt awesome as well. I am hoping we can spark a little bit of a comeback this year. I want to be persistent and gig the hell out of this year. That is all I can kind of ask for right now!
You have new music on the way this year. What can you tell us about the past few years of Alien Ant Farm?
We have been writing. I did a lot of co-writes and I did writing with just Alien Ant Farm in the room. We wrote about 65 songs, which is something we have never done before. Usually, we write about 16 songs and then three will make the record. This one was stacked up! Things went awry with our old label. We have been kind of sitting on our hands with this music. It was already recorded and we were legally bound, so we couldn’t really do anything with it. We are still trying to climb out of that quicksand right now and get the music out with the quickness in the next month or so, hopefully!
It is great to hear there is light at the end of the tunnel. What can you tell us about the album and what you have been up to musically?
It is called “Always And Forever.” It is the same acronym as Alien Ant Farm, AAF. We just thought it was a fitting title. I’m always going to play music, so this is another chapter in the book of songs I have been writing. I have been working on a lot of stuff. I have a pretty nice studio here in my home. I track with a harp player, just him and I, getting back to the folk stuff I dig. This harpist and I have created some really cool stuff and I am really stoked on it. I mean, it isn’t Alien Ant Farm, it is another thing I have been up to right now. I have all kinds of ideas I would like to pursue but I would rather see Alien Ant Farm get some wheels back and flourish in any way it sees fit to flourish.
What can you tell us about these new songs? How do they compare and contrast to what we know from the band?
Every given day I was thrown into a different scenario with a co-write of something. When you are going to a studio that you have never been to and sitting down with someone you may never have met is a cool experience. You can come up with some awesome stuff because you are on the spot. This record is kind of schizophrenic in a way. There is this old school feel, with little tinges of heavy metal but then there are some pretty poppy songs on there. We were just doing what we felt on any given day, throwing it at the wall and seeing what stuck. There is nothing cohesive about it but I like that about it. In the past, we have dabbled with straight up Latin music that is traditional and cool! We have a song called “Tia Lupe” on “Truant” and it is pretty real stuff. If the band can pull it off, it is fun to try what we can.
Is there a process you have for songwriting, whether it’s for the band or yourself?
Not really. I wish I was a little tighter and there was some type of formula. I like to think I play guitar more than I actually sing. I will find a little riff that is a verse and then track that. Then I will start my vocal by flirting with that riff and find the chorus vocally. I start stacking stuff from there. It is kind of like a toddler with building blocks in a way! [laughs]
Obviously, this album didn’t come together as easily as a normal album might. What was the biggest challenge you encountered?
Getting it out, man. That is it! With every other experience, if it was in our hands or if we had a label that was on our side, from the day we knew we were going to do a record, we would maybe take a month or two months of writing. Then we would spend about six weeks in the studio and we were done. The process for this album has been whack. We have been interfered with and it sucks. Now, we are getting things corralled and we have The End Records out of Brooklyn helping us. We can definitely see some light at the end of the tunnel, so that is definitely cool.
The folks over at The End Records are great. It is cool to see Alien Ant Farm join forces with them to make this album happen.
Yeah, things are looking cool for us! We have a couple little ideas that are going to snap off here in the next month and then we should be off and running! We just did six weeks on the road and now I am back home hanging out with my daughter for a few days. I get to spend a little bit of time here and then go out and do the second leg of this tour. Then hopefully we will be off to Europe and wherever else they take us!
Of this new material, what songs most resonate with you?
“Homage” is great, man. It is like a little heart-string puller for me! Maybe some people might say, “This doesn’t sound like Alien Ant Farm … ” but to me it doesn’t matter. I don’t even know what Alien Ant Farm sounds like, so if we do a song, and I love it at the time, I just love it. “Homage” is great! We also have a song called “Dirty Bomb” on the record that sounds like very early Ant Farm with tinges of metal, like I said. There is a song called “American Pie” that is a really big sounding song. I am really happy with the whole album and I can’t wait for people to hear it. I wish I could intrude on 700 million computers like U2 did! [laughs] That would be rad! I love how people are bitching about it! Who cares! Why are you mad at U2?! [laughs]
With everything you have been through in the past several years and putting this new material together, what did you learn along the way?
Honestly, I am just trying to be a sober boy, man. It is not a new story that people traveling around like hobos on a van start to do drugs and alcohol. I am happy to be five months sober. That is like nothing really but it is a really great feeling to climb out of that web. It gives me more time for the people I love and to do a lot more music. I am not wasting my time getting drunk because it sucks.
You mentioned your child and I know you have another on the way. How has fatherhood impacted you?
It’s a trip, man! Ya know, Ant Farm was stagnant for quite a few years, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t accustomed to being at home but being at home with kids is crazy! This little girl is a trip, man! She is staring at me right now and laughing. She has completely become humanized since I got home from the first leg of the tour. It was only six weeks but six weeks for a 10-month-old baby is a big change. It is really cool to see! She is amazing for sure!
Speaking of getting back out on tour, what can people expect from your live show?
We just try to play tight, man. I am not frontman. I guess people who are fans would probably disagree and would think it is great but I don’t know what to say to these homies that are watching. We just do our thing and hopefully people get into it as well.
What is your biggest professional milestone with Alien Ant Farm?
Just staying around for all these years is a bit of a milestone. We have some real highs and some super lows along the way. I broke my neck touring in Spain in a bad bus crash but we have also had some rad nights! Freakin’ James Hetfield of Metallica took me and my parents to dinner. It is crazy to think back on it and hear someone like that say, “You are a good singer.” It makes you say, “Whoa! Am I fooling everyone or is some of this real?” That is really cool and I guess it is a milestone, ya know?
How have you evolved as an artist?
I don’t know if I have evolved. I think you learn the majority of what you know at 5 or 6 years old. You get a little wiser, I guess. I think I tend to gravitate to things that are more simple musically to find the core of it. I guess I am learning in that way.
What does the future holds for Alien Ant Farm in both the short and long term?
Short term, we are hitting the road for the second leg of the tour. I think if we can keep it on the road and get a little scratch to maintain it, I think this band has a real chance at having some real relevance again, so real relevance.
Gene Simmons recently made the statement that rock is dead. What is your feeling on the current state of rock?
I don’t know. Maybe it is. Didn’t Lenny Kravitz say that in a song like 12 years ago? [laughs] He is the real rocker! He is like the only rocker out there! Ya know what? Rock ‘n’ roll is limping along. It is like blue jeans. It goes out for a little bit and comes back but it is always there. Rock ‘n’ roll is pretty lame right now but I don’t think it is dead but it is certainly lame.
You have seen a lot of changes in the music industry during your career. What is the best piece of advice you can give to those looking to make their career in the industry in today’s climate?
I don’t know. I would say looking towards the engineering side of things might be the best bet, editing and things like that. Times have changed so much, I don’t know what advice to give. We were the last of the platinum babies, when records still sold, we got a little glimpse of that. It seems a little tougher now. My advice? I don’t know. Be badass, I guess! [laughs]
Thanks for your time today, Dryden. We are definitely excited for this new material and will be spreading the word!
Awesome! Thanks so much for your time, man! I really appreciate it. I look forward to seeing you on tour.
For the latest tour dates and information on the band, visit their official website at www.alienantfarm.com. Catch them live when the band comes to your town!
ANYarchy In The USA Tour Dates
10/4 – Sacramento, CA – Rio Ramanza Marina
10/17 – West Hollywood, CA – Whiskey A Go Go
11/4 – Portland, OR – Tonic Lounge
11/5 – Seattle, WA – Studio Seven
11/7 – Missoula, MT – Stage 112
11/8 – Billings, MT – Babcock Theater
11/9 – Williston, ND – DK’s Lounge
11/10 – Minot, ND – The Original Bar and Nightclub
11/12 – Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
11//13 – Fargo, ND – Shotgun Sally’s Rock N’ Roll Saloon
11/14 – Chippewa Falls, WI – Every Buddy’s Bar
11/15 – Macomb, IL – The Outskirts
11/16 – Des Moines, IA – House of Bricks
11/19 – Arlington Heights, IL – Home Bar
11/20 – Pontiac, IL – Freakster’s Roadhouse
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.