Across his many stand-alone singles and 2021's Revenge EP, Mike's Dead has explored all kinds of sounds — rap, punk, nu-metal, the list goes on — but now he's going industrial. And to introduce this latest sonic swerve, he's unleashed a gritty, provocative new cover of Garbage's Nineties classic "#1 Crush," which was originally released as the B-side to their debut single, "Vow," and later appeared on the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Shakespeare modernization, Romeo + Juliet.
Mike's Dead first heard Garbage while playing the video game Rock Band as a kid, but didn't dive in deep until more recently. Attacking "#1 Crush," he added extra raspiness (plus some almost-Gregorian-style chanting) to singer Shirley Manson's iconic vocal lines, and extra industrial bite to Garbage co-founder (and Nevermind producer) Butch Vig's production. The result represents a compelling new facet to Mike's Dead's shape-shifting persona.
Stream his "#1 Crush" above via its visualizer video, and read our interview with Mike's Dead on the cover and his future direction below.
WHAT DREW YOU TO "#1 CRUSH"?
MIKE'S DEAD I think early Garbage, it's like early [Nine Inch] Nails. It's so different. It's like, before you inevitably have to start making commercial music, you kind of make really whatever you want. And I think at that early stage of a band [when] they're really experimenting more, that's where you get these really sick songs …
And Shirley Manson's performance was so haunting … It's not something that you see nowadays. It really stood out to me in that grunge realm ... It's borderline industrial.
I was like, "Dude, this would be so sick to do if I just cranked it up a little bit more." Just a little more industrial, a little bit more edge, a little bit more grit to the vocals. Because she takes it in such a haunting way, and I wanted to take it in a gritty way. And you hear that when it hits the raspy chorus and verses and stuff like that. Really, honestly, the [vocal] performance of that track is what stood out to me the most.
YOU TAKE A PRETTY DIFFERENT VOCAL APPROACH ON THIS COVER THAN ON YOUR OTHER, ORIGINAL SONGS.
This definitely has a different vocal delivery. This track's all singing. And for me, I dip in every single thing: I can sing, rap, scream … Last [record] was a bit more rap, punk-focused. This is all singing and it's a bit different. …
I have this natural rasp. And that was something that I really wanted to push more. And you hear it as the track progresses because it's not a commercial pop bullshit single where it's two minutes and it's verse, chorus, verse, chorus. It's very dynamic and it has a little journey to it. And so each section performing was very different, whereas the first verse is more smooth and provocative, and the second verse is angry and in your face, it's just dynamic and diverse.
DID YOU FULLY PRODUCE THIS TRACK YOURSELF, TOO?
Yeah, I fully reproduced it. I produce all my own music. I just went in and had to listen pretty intently. But figuring out reproducing Butch Vig's production is definitely not a simple thing. Once I got the main chords, bassline, drums, everything like that, then it was fun for me because I can add in. ... I'm an absolute synth nerd. There's a lot of synths and stuff going on in this track, and that's where I could really start to experiment more and add more layers of guitar and different tones really. ... The bass tones, they went with a clean tone. I went with a gritty industrial tone, stuff like that. But the production, I think, especially when you're doing a rendition, it's super important because if it was just the same instrumental, it would be bland.
IS THIS A STYLE OF VOCAL AND A STYLE OF SOUND IN GENERAL THAT YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO BE MOVING TOWARD ON A FUTURE PROJECT? IS THIS YOUR WAY OF TEASING THAT NEW DIRECTION?
Style of vocal for sure. Sonically, I think it's a mix between Garbage, the original song, and mine. Sonically, I can't be like, "Oh, every song is going to sound like this." Because this is definitely a bit more grunge, a bit more provocative, a bit more laidback as far as tempo goes. It's like 94 bpm, whereas most of the shit I write is 140, 150, if not higher. And so I think it's a mix of really trying to mirror and honor and respect the original song, and then also trying to give it my own flavor and my own sauce and spice it up.
DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO DO MORE COVERS GOING FORWARD?
Yeah, a hundred percent. If I had it my way, I'd love to include a cover with every album or something. … But I like going against the grain. I'm not the type of person who just enjoys copycatting things. The reason for this song, this isn't one of their biggest songs ... People know this song — it was used in Romeo + Juliet — it was a thing, but it was a very specific thing. It's not "I Think I'm Paranoid." It's not [one of] the main hits. And that's the same stuff, where it's like if I were to do a Nails cover, I'd go early Nails. Like "Wish" or something like that ... I wouldn't just go do "Closer" or "The Hand That Feeds." I wouldn't do the exact normal shit that you'd expect. With future covers, I think that's the same route that we want to take, where we find songs that have a specific feel and a moment to them and then recreate those.
TO ME, YOUR GARBAGE COVER IS A VERY MUCH AN INDUSTRIALIZED VERSION OF THE ORIGINAL SONG. DO YOU THINK YOU WANT TO GO MORE INDUSTRIAL GOING FORWARD?
Everything in general moving forward is heavy on the industrial side.
Just for background, most of 2021 was just calibrating and honing things in. Since I produce and write all my own music, I just sit here and write a fuck ton of music. And inevitably the sound changes over time.
A ton of music. Two albums and two EPs worth of music. Where we're now just really starting to A&R the shit out of them and being like, "All right, add this, do this to make them bulletproof." That's the way that we're going about it now. We've got a bunch of stuff in the tank and everything leans into the industrial side. And I think that naturally that's where my persona, my attitude in the message of everything that I'm trying to send beyond the music falls into, as well. Bands like Nails, Rammstein, anything in that realm is stuff that I love and just listen to in general.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT RAMMSTEIN?
Dude, the reason I like Rammstein … is because their riffs are simplistic but driving. … As the guitarist, I don't do metalcore-level complicated riffs. I love metalcore, but it's something I've always seen in industrial. … The riffs are simple. It's stuff that makes you move. You listen to "Dragula" by Rob Zombie, It's pretty straightforward from the guitar side to the bass side. It's like, This just pumps. And that's why I like Rammstein. A lot of their music is simplistic, but it has the drive and the feel that you need to really get into that groove and pocket.
YEAH, I MEAN IT'S STRIP CLUB MUSIC.
Dude. I know. Well, that's interesting with this song, with "#1 Crush." That's a marketing thing that we have going.
Yeah. It's getting sent out to 600-plus strip club DJs.
THAT'S CRAZY. IT MAKES SENSE.
There's a huge element for that where it's like, "Fuck it, this song's sexy and provocative and intense then let's play into it."
HAVE YOU EVER SENT OUT ANY OF YOUR SONGS TO STRIP CLUBS BEFORE?
No. This is the first.