Alien Ant Farm will take the stage Saturday for the first time since a bus accident in May left singer Dryden Mitchell with a broken back and injured the rest of his bandmates.
The group will perform at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, California, as part of manufacturer Drum Workshop’s annual Drum Day L.A. benefit. Mitchell said the set won’t be a typical Alien Ant Farm show, since it’s really drummer Mike Cosgrove’s day in the spotlight, so they’ll likely jam and play songs that contain challenging time signatures.
Although he made a surprise appearance with 311 on the Sprite Liquid Mix tour in September, stepping into his role as frontman might be a daunting experience for Mitchell, whose doctors questioned his ability to walk again.
“I’m not really nervous,” the singer said. “I’m kind of more antsy to just do it. I think differently now about everything. After what happened, it’s hard to be nervous about something that’s fun and trivial.”
Mitchell isn’t sure how the bus accident in Spain – which also seriously injured the band’s head of security and killed the driver – will affect him down the line. For the moment, he said he’s learned to be more accepting of everyone and to not sweat the small stuff.
“I was not a judgmental person before, but subconsciously everyone is kind of a little judgmental,” said Mitchell, who required surgery to repair a fractured vertebra and had to wear a metal halo to restrict his upper body movement during rehabilitation.
“And that kind of got stripped away with having to go through what I went through. Walking around with a halo brace and seeing peoples’ reaction, maybe not meaning to, but looking at you on a lesser level, I thought, man, I’ve probably been guilty of the same thing when I’ve seen someone with a disability…. It kind of sucks that it took something so tragic to make me better.”
Mitchell still doesn’t have the stamina he once had, which could be due to months of inactivity, and he said it feels like his neck is supporting twice the weight of his head. Yoga and light workouts are helping, though.
He and Cosgrove, guitarist Terry Corso and bassist Tye Zamora have nine rough songs they’ve banked for the follow-up to their 2001 debut, ANThology. The tracks were either cultivated before the accident or long after Mitchell returned to Los Angeles from a stay in a London hospital.
“I love music, but honestly I wasn’t really thinking about it at all [in the hospital],” he said. “In the beginning, I couldn’t even sleep. I had no idea what insomnia really meant. People would say, ‘Oh, I’ve got insomnia,’ and I think that word gets used a little loosely, because I got a dose of what not being able to sleep feels like. I wasn’t thinking about anything, just wondering why this happened and not knowing who to ask…. Just concentrating on how the hell I could get out of this bed and get to feel what it’s like to pee on my own. It kind of brings humility to your life.”
Mitchell said the accident was especially traumatic because he was awake throughout the ordeal.
“I was playing guitar in the [bus’s] back lounge, then I wasn’t, basically…. I couldn’t see anything and felt like I was spinning really fast. It must have been only a second or two, but your mind thinks really quick. I finally realized we crashed and thought that once I [stop spinning] I’m going to die because the velocity was so strong.
“My vision kinda came back, and I was already lying on the ground… and then my body got completely numb from the shock. I couldn’t move my toes or anything. I could only blink my eyes, I remember. I couldn’t even open my mouth to talk.”
Weeks later, support from his label, fans and fellow bands made things a little easier. Some of the cards, letters and e-mails came from the most unlikely places.
“Andy Dick, who I’ve never even met, sent me a card and gift. He made this crazy art piece for me. I’m like, ‘How the hell did Andy Dick even know? It was kind of weird.”
Mitchell said DreamWorks isn’t rushing the band to finish the new album, but he expects to hit the studio by February. And he noted that the still-untitled record won’t be all about the accident.
“That might even be a little cheesy on my part,” Mitchell said. “Like, maybe we’ll sell more records if I write about how crazy this was.”
After a pause, he contemplated, albeit jokingly, changing his tune.
“But for all I know, I’m a big hypocrite and the whole record will about the accident. We’re thinking about calling it Spain in the Neck.”