As a kid, Mitch Marine would put on the headphones, turn up a Rush record, and play make-believe. He'd close his eyes and hear an announcer over an imaginary public-address system telling the crowd that drummer Neal Peart just couldn't make it tonight. "But Mitch Marine's in the audience," he would say, "and he knows all the songs, so get up here and play with Rush tonight, Mitch." Marine would them bang along with 2112 or Fly by Night and hear the crowd roar with delight -- with him, at him, for him. He always did want to play for the big rock crowds, the kids who knew all the words to all the hit singles. Shit, it's every little boy's dream.
And finally -- after stints with Brave Combo, Tripping Daisy, The Tomorrowpeople, and Brian Houser -- Marine gets to live it out. Last Tuesday, Marine was invited to join Smash Mouth, which has a Top 10 album (Astro Lounge) and a Top Five single ("All Star") on the Billboard charts. To think: Two weeks ago, Marine was just another local drummer looking for a gig, any gig, to help pay the bills. "It has been a roller-coaster, to say the least," Marine offers from his Denton home as he packs his bags and ships his gear to California. (His first gig with Smash Mouth was on Monday, in the band's hometown of Santa Cruz; the band plays Starplex Amphitheatre, with Lenny Kravitz and Buckcherry, September 30.) "But there was this really fast train that rolled by, and I grabbed on; now, I'm just trying to hold on."
Marine found out that Smash Mouth was looking for a drummer in mid-June, during a stop at the Brook Mays Pro Shop on Mockingbird. He went to hang out with some pals and pick up some gear when one of the guys behind the counter told him about the job (how he found out remains a mystery). Marine called the band's management company to confirm it, and then sent off a package containing some tracks he had done with Brave Combo and The Tomorrowpeople. He also went out and bought the band's two CDs -- 1997's Fush Yu Mang, which spawned the hit "Walkin' on the Sun," and June's Astro Lounge -- and fell in love with what he heard. He wanted to be in the band "so bad," he says. "I remember when 'Walkin' on the Sun' first came out -- I thought, 'This is awesome. Here's a pop band I really like.' That doesn't happen very often."
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But Marine could never get the manager's secretary. So he decided to use his music-biz connections to get in touch with the band. Eventually, a woman at a drumstick manufacturer put Marine in touch with Smash Mouth's drum tech, who hooked up Marine and Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp. On July 26, Camp asked Marine to audition -- only to inform him a week later that the band had made up with drummer Kevin Coleman and auditions had been canceled. "Now," Marine recalls, "we have a bummed-out Mitch walking around looking like Night of the Living Dead." On August 9, the band's manager phoned again to tell him to come out to California to audition after all; things with Kevin just weren't working out. Marine flew to San Jose on August 16, played with the band for nearly three hours, and got the job the following day.
"I'm totally pumped," says Marine, who does indeed sound like he's totally pumped, talking so fast he's nearly out of breath at the end of every sentence. "I seriously love the new CD. Then, I got the first one and liked that a whole lot too. As a drummer, the first album is a lot of fun to play. It excites me to think I'm involved in a band that has the depth and willingness to go in new places. It's risky to do that, but they pulled it off, and after so many years with Brave Combo, this is totally up my alley. I'm the right drummer for the band when you listen to these CDs. At least, I think so, and I'm gonna prove it every damned night. I mean, this is the real deal, and it's fucking awesome."
For now, the gig is permanent -- or as permanent as any rock-and-roll job gets, which is to say, not. Marine expects to tour with the band for an indefinite period of time -- most likely a year or two, depending on whether Astro Lounge spawns more hit singles (and the album is loaded with them) -- then, he hopes, he will play on the band's third album. Like a pro ballplayer, Marine's just taking it one day at a time. For now, he's simply delighted to play with a band that actually has a couple of hit singles to its credit -- and good ones, too, songs that resonate beyond yesterday.
"When I played 'Walkin' on the Sun' with them the first time, I was smiling, man," Marine says, insisting it was just like those days when he was a kid, pretending to be Neal Peart. "I was grinning from ear to ear. The whole thing is just so hilarious."