Alien Ant Farm

Alien Ant Farm’s Dryden Mitchell Comments On Being “Upset” About The Breakout Success Of “Smooth Criminal”


Alien Ant Farm‘s cover of the 2x multi-platinum 1988 Michael Jackson hit “Smooth Criminal” fueled a meteoric rise relatively early on in the Riverside, CA-based nü-metal/alternative rock band’s career.

While the group’s take originally emerged in 1999 on their independently released debut album “Greatest Hits” as ‘Slick Thief”, it was the cover’s eventual inclusion on the 2001 follow-up “Anthology” that truly sent Alien Ant Farm into the stratosphere

Yes, “Movies” performed admirably as a first single off of that record. But it was “Smooth Criminal” and its accompanying music video that broke the band into the mainstream. “Anthology” would go on to land a gold certification in the United States a month after the cover’s release. A subsequent platinum certification followed under a month after that.

A look at streaming services today confirms the enduring success of Riverside, CA alternative metal band’s rendition of the King Of Pop’s hit, with it presently having notched up 480 million plays across two separate uploads on Spotify. The official music vide upload also has 307 million views on YouTube. In case  you’re curious, “Movies” remains their second most popular track with 65 million streams on Spotify as of press time.

As many artists have experienced over the years though, finding success with a cover song can be a double-edged sword. Not only do a cut of the royalties go towards the original song composer, there’s also the dreaded side effect of that cover potentially overshadowing the rest of the band’s catalog.

Alien Ant Farm were cognizant of that when their cover first hit and wrestled with the success of “Smooth Criminal” both initially and over the years in turn. A recent appearance on the Nu Pod with Joshua Toomey & Ro Kohli found the group’s vocalist Dryden Mitchell speaking up on his own complicated legacy with the song.

Here’s what he had to say of it [transcribed by]:

“Our intentions weren’t to have ‘Smooth Criminal‘ even come out… at least not as soon as it did. Again, we recorded it, so we knew what we were doing. We put it on the record. But, we’d seen bands that we all love, climb the ladder. It just felt like each record got stronger, better, and then became a better band. I felt like that was something we envisioned.

So yeah, when Dreamworks kinda… ‘Movies‘ was doing really good and [then Dreamworks] dropped ‘Smooth Criminal‘, we were all a little bit surprised and taken aback by it. Again, we recorded it, so ya know… I think we were genuinely a little bit upset when it first happened.”

Guitarist Terry Corso added in part, “we had no control” of the cover release, citing a New York radio station adding it as being the point of no return. Mitchell continued:

“It’s weird to see something in real-time go like lighting a firework, and then be a little bit angry about it, ya know what I mean? So that was a trip. Now, the older I am, I think it was a good thing in hindsight. Again, I had those feelings of, ‘this is gonna eclipse a lot…’ ‘This is almost gonna eclipse the band.’

Me in the blue jacket with the little thing (shaved hair part) and the monkey, was… just on TV all the time that I just felt like it was that whole song and stuff was more popular than Alien Ant Farm. And it really was for a minute, and maybe it always will be. But ultimately, it’s bitchin’.

I’ve gone through my years of like ‘I don’t want to play that song’ but now I’m just like ‘why?’ Just do it dude, it’s cool.”

He later offered:

“It makes me happy now. It’s come full circle. I’ve had seasons of it. I remember we did a tour — this was way back — we did a tour where we didn’t like play the song, and that’s kinda lame. I don’t know what we’re trying to do. Again it all kinda stemmed from, ‘well they put it out unbeknownst to us, we’re just gonna not play it.’

It’s weird to have those… I guess it’s human to have that, trying to retract or something. But T’m definitely not ashamed of it or anything. I just felt like when it came out so soon, it just felt like what we were trying to do was this, but this was what happened.”

Alien Ant Farm will issue their sixth studio “~mAntras~” on April 26th, with the following touring booked around it:

04/12 Las Vegas, NV – Fremont Street Stage
04/13 Highland, CA – Yaamava’ Resort And Casino
04/27 Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad
05/01 Denver, CO – Marquis Theater
05/10 Daytona Beach, FL – Welcome To Rockville
05/13 Greensboro, NC – Hangar 1819
05/14 Nashville, TN – The Basement East (feat. Drowning Pool & Saliva)
05/15 Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue (feat. Drowning Pool & Saliva)
05/17 Knoxville, TN – Open Chord Stage (feat. Driveways)
05/18 Atlanta, GA – Center Stage (feat. Driveways)
05/19 Birmingham, AL – Workplay
05/22 Corpus Christ, TX – House Of Rock
05/24 Houston, TX – Scout Bar
05/26 Austin, TX – Come And Take It Live
05/30 Sioux City, IA – Cosmic Eye
06/01 Iowa City, IA – Wildwood
06/02 St, Paul, MN – Turf Club
06/04 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
06/05 Wyandotte, MI – District 142
06/07 Syracuse, NY – The Song & Dance
06/09 Brooklyn, NY – St. Vitus Bar (feat. Kaleido)
06/11 Mechanicsburg, PA – Lovedraft’s Brew Co.
06/13 Columbus, OH – King Of Club
06/14 Ashland, KY – Paramount Arts Theater
06/15 Sparta, IL – Rotten Apple Fest
06/28 Cheyenne, WY – Cheyenne Depot Plaza
07/20 Cumberland, MD – Rock The Mountains
07/27 Jackson, MI – Rockin’ The Tee Box
09/27 Louisville, KY – Louder Than Life
10/12 Sacramento, CA – Aftershock

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