starts off by giving us a brief summary of Wheatus' climb to fame. "Wheatus
was playing in New York City to begin with before they were signed with
Columbia and before they started touring and what not. I wasn't in the
band at the time but they played for about ten shows in Manhattan and
that was about it. There were two venues that they played at and then
after being signed and having the record released and all that, I joined
about a year ago. Then we started touring. We toured for about four
months in the States then we started to go international and then we
did Australia and then over to Europe and we've been in Europe since
why have they had a band member change after such a short length of
time? What happened to the old bass player? "Well nothing happened
with him and me, he just wasn't working out with the band and wasn't
the right person for the band basically. I had known Phil and I knew
Brendon and Pete through Phil. Phil is the percussion player, banjo
player and producer. I was in a band with him and that's sort of how
I got into it. They fired their bass player because he wasn't working
out and then I joined, pretty much. I joined the band and then we started
touring immediately, like the next day basically.
That sounds very fast to me. "It was a pretty quick transition.
That was some time in August; I think we started touring about a year
ago like mid July in the States. We had some one-off shows here and
there and then we started touring properly in late August."
Where was Mike in his life when he was asked to join Wheatus?
"Oh, Where am I in life ever? I had a career as a corporate flight
attendant. As a flight steward, I was working for AOL Time Warner, a
big company, and I was on their private planes flying around like with
movie stars and actresses and musicians and corporate people and all
that stuff. I did that for about three years before I got in the band".
Was it quite a surprise to you then to become a permanent band member?
"No, I've been playing music since I was 14 and I've been in a
number of bands so it's not a surprise that I'm doing this. It's something
I've always wanted to do. How it happened and how quickly it happened,
yeah that was a surprise, but you just have to take those risks and
do it, you know".
band have been very successful with the debut single 'Teenage Dirtbag'
and with the follow-up cover song Erasure's 'Little Respect', how does
he feel about this success? "It was quick! It had a lot to do with
the people over here and Europe understanding us and in Australia understanding
the music. Also it's to do with the label over here understanding us.
So do Europe and so do Australia. They just marketed us better than
in the States where it just didn't happen as much you know.
"We sold about 250 thousand records in the States but comparably
we never crossed over to the top 40. They stopped pushing our album
and the single before it crossed over so it probably was going to but
for some reason they pulled out and then we exploded in Australia and
then we exploded in Europe so... It's funny enough we're going back
to the States. They reissued the album in the States and they're re-pushing
us because I guess they realise there's something good here, you know
after we did everywhere else in the world.
"So now on the second single we are going back to the states and
pushing and hopefully that will take off."
Are you surprised?
"Yes, we just came out of nowhere really so it was a surprise but
nothing really suprises us anymore. We've seen a lot, we just sort of
do it now. This is what we do."
is this the kind of success that they have always wanted for the band,
or had they hoped it would be different?
"Yeah, definitely. We should have top 40 hits. I think the songs
are the calibre and fortunately Europe liked us and understood us, and
Australia too. When I say Europe I mean a lot of countries; Austria,
Germany, UK and Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden. In most of these countries
we've had top 5 hits. Was it suprising? Yes, but you just take it in
its stride. I don't think we are as successful as people think though
to be quite honest".
second single, 'A Little Respect', was released just prior to this interview.
"Yes, it debuted at number three in the UK and number five in Ireland.
It debuted pretty high everywhere. It's great to still be in the limelight
and what not but that doesn't mean that we are successful financially
and that things are easy going. We're working hard and pushing the album.
We're not millionaires or anything. We're just a touring band".
Do you feel the single was a success because it was a cover song or
because so many people love you at the moment?
"I think it has to do with both. It's a familiar song so it sorta
bridges the gap between the older audience and the younger. I think
we have the younger audience and Erasure has the older audience so that
sort of brought the two together. 'Dirtbag' is a more popular song than
'A Little Respect' at this point. When we play it we know that, yeah.
Maybe when 'A Little Respect' has been out a little longer than it'll
be more popular but when we play it live there's a much better response
It was not the band who primarily decided to release the single.
"The choice was made more by the label then by us. It wasn't our
choice to put out a cover song for a second single. They wanted to because
it was a safe bet, it was a really successful song years ago in the
So it was deliberate then?
"Oh, it was very deliberate. Everything the label does is deliberate.
Whether it's wrong or right it's deliberate. More often it's wrong but
the UK had a lot to do with it 'cause it's a UK band".
What do you think of the current eighties cover revival?
"I was never really big on it to be honest. Original songs are
better. I always look forward to original music more so than cover bands
but coming from Long Island, it's mostly a cover song area, you know.
So my whole life I've been fighting that and so has everyone else. We
are all pretty much from the same area in New York.
"Where we are from more original music is frowned upon. It's more
if you want to make money you have to play cover songs at bars and stuff.
I've always kind of been against it, probably for that reason. Just
because early on in my career when I was like 17 or 18, when I was trying
to make music, original stuff, no one would let you so I had to do Police
covers, and Beatles and Hendrix and all that shit
which is cool
but it kind of delays the process you know".
Has the band ever been in contact with Erasure about the 'Little Respect'
"No, we haven't but we heard from them
that they wanted to
remix the version and that they liked it. Basically that's what we heard.
We didn't talk to them directly but that was enough for us - just that
they heard it and they liked it and they wanted to remix it. It was
a scheduling problem where they couldn't".
talk about the geeky image that the band has. "People call us Geek
rock. We've been called everything - Pop/rock, Geek/rock, Nerd/rock".
Wheatus fans are similar too.
"I think a lot of our fans are geeks, nerds maybe. I think they
are original in their own way and that's why they like us. We are original
in our own way".
They think that geeks are great because "it separates you from
the mass, the crowd, the herd or whatever you want to call it, which
is the worst thing I think. The more originality the better".
record company was mad enough to let this new band produce their own
debut album. Will it happen again with the second one?
"We've already started recording our second album. We recorded
five or six tracks I think and we stopped recording for a while until
we have time to get back to it because right now we are recording, but
yeah we are going to do it ourselves, self produced again but not in
the basement. It will be somewhere, although I'm not sure where. We'll
be using better equipment, basically".
played the Capital Radio event Party in The Park in July this year.
The band were very different to most of the pop and R 'N' B bands that
also played that day.
"It's nothing new for us. We've never fit in since we've been touring
in the States. We did some tours with Papa Roach and V.O.D. and these
really heavy bands where we did some festivals for 40,000 people. We
did a festival with a really weird line-up and it's the same here. Like
we're doing Party In The Park with Jessica Simpson" who wasn't
actually there, "and just weird stuff. Um, yeah, we just don't
The radio station had a competition for four lucky winners who sent
in tapes of them singing Mena Sauvari's part in 'Teenage Dirtbag'.
"I didn't get to hear the tapes myself. Brendon or Phil may have,
I'm not sure".
How did it go?
"We met the people obviously. They were in the costumes and it
was cool. It was a bizarre situation. We got on stage and we sort of
did a soundcheck while there was a TV break. We went out onstage and
did a soundcheck in front of 100,000 people, went off stage then they
called us on and then we played our set."
Getting people up on stage is not unusual at all though.
" We do that everyday. We'll do that tonight. That's what we do
every night, it's awesome".
The other gigs are often more personal though. "We usually hand
pick them. Because Party in The Park was such an organised huge deal
we had them from this competition. That's why we didn't hand pick them
'cause from 100,000 people that would have been crazy."
shows are a lot of fun for both the band and the fans, but if they had
to choose between an atmosphere and note for note perfection
never come out perfect, it's more about the fun than anything else."
Which pretty much sums up the band in full. Fun.