MOUTHY ISSUE ONE
interview by Ben Gott
Canada's own Mitch Dorge was thrust into the limelight when, as the drummer for the wildly successful Crash Test Dummies, he bashed his way onto the charts with 1994's God Shuffled His Feet. Two more albums with the Dummies followed: 1996's A Worm's Life, co-produced by Dorge, and 1999's Give Yourself a Hand. His most recent project, the critically acclaimed ambient album As Trees Walking, is available through www.mitchdorge.com. Chart Magazine says "'As Trees Walking' is a absolute extension of a creative force. Explaining one man's psyche in a matter of forty six minutes is a feat Dorge was willing to undertake, and, much like the artist himself, is already proving his exegesis to be both multi-platformed and simplistically ingenious."
So here you are, off Arista and recording an award-winning album on your own. How was it being on a big label, and what are the plusses and minuses of being free?
Well, as far as being free, I've always been free. I was the only Dummy that wasn't tied to the label. Having said that, I could jump on the wagon and tear up the label thing but when you realize the nature of the animal you're dealing with, you can keep it in perspective. First of all, all they really want to do is make money. They aren't there to do anyone any favors. If you happen to be making money for them, it's in their best interest to make you believe that you mean something to them. It's their job to cultivate the cash cow, if you're not it, they must move on to the next one. It's job security. They want to exploit you, you want to exploit them. It's a bum rap that they get all the cash, and they do, but the options are limited and for good reason really. Being free, so to speak, has only one real downside and that's that you don't get the exposure. I would suppose there are a few other downs but that, for now is the biggest one. I should add, at risk of being a little long-winded that I, as far as the Dummies went, never really felt under the thumb from a creative point of view. If I was asked for my two cents, from a creative point, I would give it. If it was used, great, if not, next time. I knew that there would be a time when I would do the things I wanted, the way I wanted to do them. I did so with As Trees Walking and with the new Charlie Redstar recording. I've also just finished a composition for the Spirit Haven Meditation Series. All with my own stamp and away from any pressure to have a hit.
What was it like being part of a huge band, making videos and touring the world?
I won't deny that the whole thing was a great experience and that I recognize that I was part of something that the majority of musicians will never experience but it was always about the music and trying to make it the best it could be. Trying to experience the magic, so to speak. It never really felt huge, although sometimes maybe big. Making videos is/was and will always be a pain in the arse. A couple were fun and none so much fun as making the video for "I'll Always Love You" from As Trees Walking. The difference being that with a band working under the label, there is always someone adding a level of restriction. A creativity block or a level of censorship. Away from the label you can work with whom you choose and are only curbed by your own level of guts. All in all, I'm very grateful for the years with the Dummies and had much collaborative elation. I miss that. If it weren't for the success of the band, I might not have the opportunities that I do now and it's important to recognize that.
Speaking of videos, I always wondered: what is it like to make a video, anyway?
A whole lot of waiting around. Another problem is that rarely are musicians actors. The problem being, of course, is that most think they are. Again as well, videos cost a stupid amount of money and as usual, every one gets paid except the artist. If it works, you get something but this amounts to very little compared to what every one else gets. For this reason, sometimes it's a little hard to get pumped up over something that in the end just ends up costing a whole lot of cash. Yet another problem is that someone else does all the editing and unless you are absolutely huge, you have little say over the end result. Having said that, because of the status of the Dummiesí second release, we had some degree of input and never really had fallen under the hell that other bands had to deal with. Once again, I'm a lucky man.
Did you guys ever have obsessive fans?
I would say that there were a few fans that were perhaps a little over the top but that situation is really what you make of it. They're really only obsessive if you give them the power to be.
When did you start playing drums?
I started drumming at the age of six. My influences are too numerous but it's safe to say that there was an evolution of influences. I think it started with Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath to Queen and Rush. From there to the Brothers Johnson and Chic and on to the discovery of Miles Davis. About ten years of being a jazz snob and then back to earth. I spent about five years playing what could be considered cultural music or roots music like Little Feat, Buckwheat Zydeco and then back to Stevie Ray Vaughan. During the touring with the Dummies years my influences revolved around Stockhausen, Cage, Anthony Braxton, Brian Eno, Paul Shutze, Tower of Power, UZEB, Nine Inch Nails and Sting. It seems that now I'm influenced by anything and everything. There are a few drummers that changed things for me though, Steve Gadd, Art Blakey, Jack DeJohnnette, Buddy Rich turned my idea of what drumming was around and as I grew musically the list just grew and grew. Having said that, people like Miles Davis, Stockhausen, Keith Jarrett, Stanley Clark, Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton redefined for me what drumming was.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
Anyone that will have me.
What's your favorite place to play live?
The Filmore in San Fransisco.
What are your musical plans?
To grow as much as possible and not get trapped musically.
Crash Test Dummies covered two XTC songs, "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" and "All You Pretty Girls." I know that Brad Roberts loves XTC, but what do you think of them?
I think that XTC is a group that touched on moments of greatness which is really all one can ask for as a musician or group. I'm not a huge fan but have much respect. I have most of the recordings but would say this, XTC or King Crimson? King Crimson.
What do you think about the state of music?
Difficult question. I feel that the industry of music has become bland and safe. Even cutting edge bands or heavy bands are just one step removed from Nine Inch Nails. Experimental music doesn't generate money so one has to look far and wide for that. Recording music has become very affordable and every dog and his flea can put something out and it's all beginning to blend. Having said that, keep in mind that in a way, this is round two for me. Slipknot is just a 2003 version of Alice Cooper around the time of Killer. You get the point. From a business point of view, it's a harder for the record companies to look for the next big thing because there is so much of what ever is currently big. In a way this is not such a good thing because now they can wait until the investment has already been made and much groundwork already done by the artist and then walk in and carry the momentum. I don't think there is enough time to cover this question properly.
Mouthy Magazine home