VAN NUYS, California — Alien Ant Farm singer Dryden Mitchell leaps onto a 1975 AMC Pacer, grabs his crotch and lets out a scream so fierce that the car’s windows shatter.
Step aside Gloved One, a new Smooth Criminal has arrived.
When Alien Ant Farm shot the video for their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” on Wednesday and Thursday, they traded the original clip’s swanky 1930s gangster feel for a low-rent backyard wrestling vibe. But they left room for a few nods to Jackson, including Mitchell’s reenactment of the self-proclaimed King of Pop’s crotch-grabbing and window-smashing video moments.
Directed by Marc Klasfeld (Nelly, Insane Clown Posse), the video features the rising rockers performing in a wrestling ring in a San Fernando Valley back yard as fans mosh around them.
“We want to pay homage to Michael Jackson, but on our level,” guitarist Terry Corso said during a dinner break. “Obviously we’re not that glitzy, so we just want to tastefully take the stuff that’s cool in his videos and apply it in our own dirty little backyard way.
“We wanted to have a kind of ‘Gummo’ vibe to it — the backyard and kids getting all dirty and grubby and jumping off abandoned cars and shutting themselves in refrigerators.”
Alien Ant Farm, who proclaim to be Jackson fans, had been playing “Smooth Criminal” live for years before they recorded it for their debut album, ANThology. In addition to striking some early interest from modern rock radio, the song has even received the “sequined thumbs up” from Jackson himself, the band claims.
“It’s a trip,” Mitchell said. “I would be amazed if Michael Jackson just heard the song, even if he said he didn’t like it. … But we heard through the grapevine that he really dug it. My first concert was Michael Jackson at Dodger Stadium when I was like 10 years old. I was a huge fanatic, and I never stopped being a fan.”
“We didn’t do this song as a joke,” added Corso. “We did it because it’s a rad song. It was kind of begging to be redone.”
Alien Ant Farm said they aren’t concerned that “Smooth Criminal” may mislead listeners or that their credibility may be jeopardized if the band’s first big splash comes courtesy of a cover song.
“We’re happy to go for a ride with ['Smooth Criminal'], because we know we have our own material to back it up,” Mitchell said. “It’s a total novel song for us to do. It’s just fun, and that’s what music should be about.”
“Smooth Criminal” will be featured in this summer’s “American Pie 2″ movie. Alien Ant Farm also penned the song “Good (For a Woman)” for the film’s soundtrack.
ANThology‘s lead single, “Movies,” peaked at #18 on Billboard‘s Modern Rock Tracks chart (see “Alien Ant Farm Invasion Begins With LP, Tours” ).