The My Pet Dragon story begins with a young Todd Michaelsen climbing into his old, beat-up Buick headed for New York City with a lyric book and Stratocaster in tow….
Todd grew up in upstate New York in a town called Granville, a small mining community on the Vermont border not too far from Saratoga. He grew up listening to his parents rock records of Springsteen, Young, Hendrix, and Dylan, but was also very influenced by 90’s alt-rock. He had just quit college to expand his horizons in New York City’s East Village, where he crashed on his uncle’s couch for a year. After meeting artists, musicians, and DJ’s, he moved to Bushwick, Brooklyn and immersed himself in the burgeoning music scene of Brooklyn. It was there he started playing with future My Pet Dragon drummer Rajeev Maddela. The two bonded over a love of rock music influenced by big, expansive artists such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, and Bjork.
It was at Raj’s loft/rehearsal space that Michaelsen met Reena Shah, an actress and classical Indian dancer from New Jersey. The two became inseparable and quickly moved in together, their blossoming romance punctuated by the harsh reality of living in a cold water flat in a rough neighborhood. A shared love of music and art got them through this stressful period. Their luck changed when they went to Mumbai to visit Reena’s relatives. It was Todd’s first trip to India and he was amazed by the experience. The couple explored Jain temples and saw live music, dance and the martial arts of Kerala. Indian culture was thriving despite intense poverty, just as they had thrived as a couple despite the hardships of their lives back home. After two months in India, Todd proposed to Reena on a beach overlooking the Arabian Sea.
After the inspiring trip, the couple returned to New York and formed My Pet Dragon, named after Todd’s imaginary childhood nemesis. Todd and Reena’s journey throughout India heavily influenced Todd’s songwriting—rock fans and DJs, alike, embraced their homemade debut album, First Born. A remixed version of the song “Dragon Breath” was played on BBC Radio and the album and subsequent tour received rave reviews. First Born also caught the ear of acclaimed DJ and producer Karsh Kale, who had Todd write and sing three songs on his 2006 album Broken English and appeared on Breathing Under Water, his 2007 collaboration with Anoushka Shankar. (Todd was also featured on the track ‘Phoenix Rising’ off of Kale’s latest record “Cinema”, which debuted at #1 on the iTunes World Music Charts this year). Todd and Reena worked together again on 2009’s award winning animated feature film “Sita Sings the Blues,” with Todd composing the score and original songs, and Reena voicing the title character of Sita.
“[The] My Pet Dragon song “Love Anthem”, was originally inspired by The Clash’s Joe Strummer documentary film called “The Future is Unwritten”, which depicts Strummers life and fight for justice and equality among all classes, races, and nations. The reason I wrote the “Love Anthem” was because I was sick of seeing class warfare being waged in the name of insane greed. You see the scales tipped unfairly to the richest people in our society (and world) and this leads to wars, pollution, bailouts, a rigged election process – none of it represents normal hard working Americans. I’ve been playing this song proudly in New York City for the last 2 years so when this Occupy Wall St. movement started I finally felt in the right time and place to have been singing it. Finally we see the passion coming out from all walks of life of concerned citizens. This movement is going nowhere.”
“Occupy Wall St. has a clear message regardless of what the mainstream media says- Lets get rid of corporate money in our political process so the majority of hardworking people (lower and middle class workers) can benefit from a fair and representative government. Simple. This movement means we are awake. Finally.”
Todd Michaelsen, My Pet Dragon