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Steel Pole Bath Tub's random return (via your television set)

December 4, 2008 |  1:50 pm

Fans of San Francisco-via-Bozeman, Mont., 1990s noise-rock outfit Steel Pole Bath Tub are having flashbacks over the past few weeks, thanks to a national ad campaign for buzzing video game Left for Dead. The commercial, the second for "LFD" after a spot earlier this fall featuring an Elbow song, uses the band's "Train to Miami" much to the surprise of those once fond of the largely forgotten band.

It's fair to say the general trend in advertising (especially in the video game space) is to use new acts to sell a product, so we were curious how the vaguely-Nirvana-esque "Train to Miami," released in 1993, ended up in a major ad campaign. What's next, Unwound in a spot for "Gears of War 2"?

As it turns out, the band's guitarist/vocalist Mike Morasky now works for Valve software, the makers of Left for Dead.

"My job title is composer but I have other jobs, too, so it works out to be a real fit for me," the 44-year-old said earlier this week from Valve's main office, located near Seattle, where Morasky now lives.

"I'm part of the team that does some of that linear material. But when these ads were coming together, I was really busy. I think I was doing all the sound and music for the game. The guy who was thinking these things up knew about the band [Steel Pole] from me, so he threw in [the song for the mock-up commercial] because it really matched the message of online cooperative play -- playing with your friends and all that. The game is really pretty amazing. You come away from it thinking, 'I wanna know who I played with because we just survived the zombie apocalypse  together.' "

The mock-up ended up as the real spot. Morasky, who composed the music for the game (he has worked on other titles as well), said he has received plenty of Facebook messages from long-lost friends regarding "Train to Miami," including a bit of teasing. "Once upon a time, to have a Steel Pole song in an ad would have been really distasteful," Morasky said, "but the world has really changed in that way."

Apparently, the song proved too perfect a fit for Valve to look elsewhere.

"The song got placed in the [final] ad because the lyrics were so perfect and it made the rounds at work without anybody else knowing it was my band."

And yes, for the record, Morasky will be getting paid extra for the commercial, which is on the air in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. "Being a starving artist for so long, I think it's great," he said. "Maybe now we'll sell more than one record a month ... that'd be amazing."

So will the band, which played a reunion show recently in Portland but hasn't had a record out since 2002, re-form in 2009 now that it has presumably gained a few new fans?

"It's been 6 years since we've stopped playing, but we've been hanging out and it's been so much fun that we decided we'd do it about once a year," he said. 

I'm holding out hope that someone out there books the band for a festival or show next year, if only so I can see them play the best Cars cover of all time live.

-- Charlie Amter