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"We knew we were more about our influences and abilities but also we had this anti-cool / anti-style kinda attitude."

Posted: October 24, 2023
We have always tried to push boundaries and try new things and we even did a decent amount of co-writing with stylistically different writers and producers.

Standing outside the rest as the authenticity grows. Sometimes people don’t grasp what is happening. They are witnessing greatness, before their eyes and ears. This used to occur often in the music industry. Not so much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there are still artists with a unique style and blend that they can call their own. More than not, they are still intertwining methods that have been used by others in the music industry. We are not talking about inspiration; we are referring to be cut from the same mold and another artist or band. Sometimes, it is difficult to identify the distinction between band A and band B. Therefore, there is nothing to incentive to listen to either band.

I can recall the huge impact “Boys to Men” had on the rap/pop genre back in the early 90’s. They were doing something totally different that the rap artists at that time. They brought to different styles together, and then added a flavor or element that couldn’t be duplicated. At least that is what we thought. Recognizing the success of BIIM, other bands started hitching a ride to what they had accomplished. The mold was successful, and other (talented) bands were the recipients.

Thus the 90’s started a trend of cookie cutter artists and bands. Why be authentic when you can just copy what someone else is doing. The 90s were a huge decade for another genre’s such as Grunge. It was a different style of music, and we were all digging it. It wasn’t just the sound, it was the culture, dress, and attitudes. I could count on my hand some of the top bands, that sounded like each other. Was there a band that was going to step outside, and make music their own?

This same cookie cutter mentality could be applied to bands a decade earlier. There were tons of bands that could be lumped into a category of sounding all the same. However, Alien Ant Farm was one of them that broke the mold.

Yes, they were put into the same class as some grunge bands, but there was a distinct difference. They had originality. Both in lyrics and sound.

Our focus today is to decipher why bands or artists fail to thrive on their own talent or authenticity.

ABOUT ALIEN ANT FARM

Since the formation of Alien Ant Farm in 1995, the quartet has enjoyed worldwide success. Over the course of their four studio albums, cumulative sales surpass five million units a Grammy nomination and 4 top 10 singles. The band built a massive following on the road early in their career via high profile 2001 runs with Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Warped, and as the headliner on an MTV presented Fall Tour. In 2002, fame spread across the world, bringing Alien Ant Farm to the major European festivals, Australia’s Big Day Out and a headline run in Japan. The following year they returned to Europe with Metallica, and to this day the band has steadily delivered audiences in territories across the globe.

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 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 Cribbs, 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.

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. 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. It also rose to #3 in the U.K. To set the record straight on the inspiration behind choosing this song amongst the millions of copyrights, Corso shares, “When we were a young local band in SoCal, we’d play a different cover song by a different artist every show we would do. Wild unexpected stuff and sometimes not even songs we were that into. Just whatever was going on around us on the radio or whatever fit in with our inside jokes at that minute, from Ileah to Gary Glitter to The Police, we had a lot of fun with it. One week we had been throwing the idea of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” around the jam room, I believe someone had just watched Moonwalker again. The very next show we played, we hadn’t learned the whole song yet but decided to klunk the main riff out for fun, the crowd loved it and went a little crazy. After that we learned the entire song and super charged it. The rest is pretty much history.” To this day, the cover is a crowd pleaser. This past October 8th, the band was asked to appear alongside Cee Lo Green, Smokey Robinson and The Jackson Family at the Michael Jackson Forever Tribute Concert in Cardiff, Wales.

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 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 nontangible, 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.”

Come 2014 Alien Ant Farm are back, and the path for the future will unfold one day at a time. As their career approaches two decades, Dryden offers, “It’s 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.”

INTERVIEW WITH ALIEN ANT FARM AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar Thrills: Thank you for joining us today. Especially as we address a serious subject regarding authenticity. In the eyes of many music enthusiasts AAF came on the scene at the same time as many other popular bands. However, you had your own flare and style. How did you come up with your style of music?

AAF: So when we were coming up as a young band it was a lot of the more typical sounding down-tuned, chuggy, late 90’s heavy music and we were pretty spread out influence wise. We knew we were more about our influences and abilities but also we had this anti-cool / anti-style kinda attitude. We wanted to be more like our heroes in Bad Brains or Fugazi but retain our own consciousness about how we put songs together to create a unique sound. We’ve never been genre bound and a lot of it is our singer Dryden. He has his own style and sound and it helps us sound like us no matter what style we play.

Guitar Thrills: How would you classify your genre of music?

AAF: We always got grouped into the NuMetal movement but we like to say we are NuRo Metal cuz a lot of our songs are love songs.

Guitar Thrills: When you came on the music scene, how were you received by the music industry?

AAF: We we’re that band that was really popular in Souther California but no one would come off the fence and sign us up. We spent a month at the Viper Room during the daytime showcasing for every record person in town (we wrote the song ‘Whisper’ about that) but no one would take the chance. As history has it, our friends Papa Roach blew up and then signed us to their imprint label under Dreamworks records and things really took off from there.

Guitar Thrills: There are some that may seem that you were capitalizing off “Smooth Criminal”. What would be your response to them?

AAF: We did that song for fun. It wasn’t a designated single and there was no plan for releasing that song as a single. We were working our song Movies at radio when the station KROQ in New York decided they would informally add the song and it just took off. So we had to shift gears, play catch up and get a video for the song together kinda last minute. It was a happy accident.

Guitar Thrills: Did you have to collaborate with Michael Jackson or pay royalties in anyway?

AAF: He got paid publishing on it because he owns the publishing. We did interact with him when we made the video because we wanted to pay tribute not make fun. So we let him approve most everything

Guitar Thrills: Ok. I had to get some questions out of the way. Back to the topic of authenticity. Everyone has a story about how they gained popularity within the music industry. It isn’t easy for artists or bands to do so. I don’t recall any decade, where that was easy. In fact, it seems to be getting difficult in our modern day. When did AAF recognize that they were going to become successful?

AAF: We we’re kinda young and happy to be there back in those days. We had no idea what success or being successful really was for a while. We were like- were on a bus! Success! So it’s always a series of benchmarks I think. Like when we were nominated for a Grammy or say we met some star we look up to or whatever. Nowadays it’s much more about having longevity in the business. Families and households. The music industry seems like a tough, saturated, short attention business for young bands more than ever.

Guitar Thrills: After the 90s, bands found it difficult to reinvent themselves to conform to a modern sound. Whether it was rock, or heavy metal. What has sustained your continued popularity despite the death of Grunge?

AAF: We have always tried to push boundaries and try new things and we even did a decent amount of co-writing with stylistically different writers and producers. Throughout it all, we’ve managed to keep the basis of our melodic guitar and vocal sound involved. So you always know it’s us. Again, Dryden’s voice works so well with so many styles.

Guitar Thrills: It has been many years since you AAF were mentioned in almost every conversation. “You know, there is this killer band, you have to listen to them they are totally different from the mainstream bands”. Do you continue to get that kind of feedback?

AAF: Sure! We’ve been around for a while now so it’s more exciting to see and meet the people that have been with us the whole ride. I love winning over new listeners but we see a pretty steady influx of youngsters coming out to the shows and that is motivating. Maybe it’s the parents telling their own kids “there is this killer band you have to check out”.

Guitar Thrills: Have you tried reinventing yourself to accommodate modern sounds? If so, what are the kinds of things that have worked for AFF?

AAF: We’re always trying to find new sounds and ideas in the studio. A lot of our ideas are retro driven cuz of how and by whom we were taught to record. However, if it sounds cool we’re never afraid to work it into something and see what we get.

Guitar Thrills: What are you working on now, that you would like AAF fans to know about? Is there a new album in the works?

AAF: We have new music and a new record coming next year. We’re very excited thank you. Can’t wait to see everyone on the road.

Guitar Thrills: Where will you be performing as we approach a new year?

AAF: We’ve just returned from a short trip to South America and we are just about done for the year. Next year we’ll have a new record out and be keeping plenty busy. See ya in 2024!

Guitar Thrills: I am glad that we had the opportunity to interview you. Alien Ant Farm continues to be one of our top authentic bands. Please feel free to let us know when you have an album or tour that you would like to promote. It will also give us a chance to schedule another interview. How does that sound?

AAF: cool

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