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Rockers Alien Ant Farm crawl back into sight

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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As it hits its 20th anniversary, Alien Ant Farm is ready for a new beginning.

The alternative rock troupe, best known for its punky 2001 remake of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," battled through some business turmoil in recent years but has finally come out the other side with a new record deal and new representation -- Mikey Eckstein of Detroit's Embarco Management. "Always and Forever," the quartet's first new album since 2006, may surface as early as this month according to frontman Dryden Mitchell, with a bit of buzz already generated by the first single, "Homage."

"I think 2015 is gonna be what we anticipated (2014) to be," says Mitchell, 38, who will lead AAF a halftime performance for the Detroit Pistons' game Friday night, Jan. 9, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. "I don't mean just success, either -- just keeping busy. We've seen success come and go; I'm more concerned with just being a working band and a great live band and getting out and playing for people.

"We're excited about the record coming out, too, but really we just want to work and not have to go to Home Depot and sort bolts or whatever. So there's some hope in my eyes now."

True to its title, "Homage" pays tribute to artists and bands that inspired Mitchell and company over the years, starting with the Beatles and including those you'd expect (the Pixies, the Beastie Boys) and surprises such as Jackson Browne, Phil Collins, the Eagles and Otis Redding. "That just came out in 20 minutes," Mitchell says. "We had this three-chord thing with a real anthemic feel. It sounded like an ode, and I wanted to give props to all these players that helped me through hard times or even happy times.

"I felt like I was overdoing it 'cause I was naming every band possible. I thought, 'Is this lame?' And then I thought, 'I've heard lamer. this sounds pretty cool to me.' "

"Homage" is, however, an appropriate enough song for a group that's 20, even if Mitchell finds the anniversary to be a "scary" prospect.

"I still feel like I"m 22 years old, y'know," he explains. "It's weird to think about. I look back and sometimes forget how much we've done. There's a few sad lulls, a few years in that pocket where we could've done a lot more. But I think it's OK, and I'd like to think it's not over yet, especially with (the new album) coming."

Alien Ant Farm

Halftime of the Detroit Pistons game against the Atlanta Hawks at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9.

The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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