Origin stories: Mitch Dorge, Crash Test Dummies

‘I have an absolute interest in everything’

In addition to his work in Crash Test Dummies, Mitch Dorge is also an accomplished composer and record producer. (Supplied photo)

Mitch Dorge, drummer for the band Crash Test Dummies (CTD), celebrated his 62nd birthday while (virtually) sitting down with The Uniter in Red Deer, Alta. while on tour with the multi-platinum-selling band.

Drumming is an innate ability for the St. Boniface native. He remembers a childhood spent drumming with his fingers, cutlery or whatever he could use as drumsticks.

“I was that child that when you went to a restaurant, there was someone banging on cups and glasses and using their forks and knives as drumsticks,” Dorge says.

He was 11 or 12 when he formed a band. He played drums with his buddy Barry, who played accordion, and later took up the bass. With the addition of friends with guitars, the band’s musical ability progressed.

“It graduated into something where we were always trying to express ourselves musically,” Dorge says.

By the age of 14, he was playing gigs and had discovered his career. “It was my first foray into playing and actually getting paid for it,” Dorge says.

A Zero to Drum article describes Dorge’s drumming style as “unique.” The modest Winnipegger is at a loss when describing his technique.

“I think I play drums ... I don’t call it rock. I don’t call it jazz. I don’t call it country. I guess I have a particular way of approaching the instrument,” Dorge says.

As a multi-instrumentalist, he also plays guitar, ukulele, keyboard and trumpet. Dorge professes that his playing of those instruments is not for public consumption. “I play them at home. I play them in my studio. I would never, for any instant, suggest that I could take someone else’s position on any one of those instruments,” Dorge says.

He is a prolific composer and record producer, too. The list of film and television shows for which he has provided music is extensive. He brings that expertise to his famed band.

“My talents with CTD are twofold: one from a drumming perspective, two from a production perspective,” he says, referring to his role co-producing the group’s albums God Shuffled his Feet and A Worm’s Life, the first of which also featured Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads and The Modern Lovers behind the boards. “My ideas flourish there, but they flourish in the background, ” Dorge says.

But music is far from his only interest.

“I love anything and everything,” he says. “I love the game of squash. I took my racquet with me everywhere we went on tour.”

For a time, he was a provincially ranked player. A high ranking in Canada meant a comparable ranking in the United States. He became acquainted with the head of the Professional Squash Association in the US, who facilitated Dorge playing in squash tournaments.

“They flew me out to New York to play an exhibition for the tournament of champions,” he says.

As for the unusual CTD band name, Dorge explains the band later wanted to change the name but had achieved success under the moniker, so it stuck.

He recalls how frontman Brad Roberts was out for drinks, trying to come up with a name for the new band. A doctor friend arrived and had a few too many drinks. He had been watching what happens to people in car accidents using crash-test dummies and offered a suggestion.

“You guys should call yourselves Crash Test Dummies.”

Published in Volume 77, Number 04 of The Uniter (September 29, 2022)