The following is an interview done by Jim Hynes, an independant writer
in Montreal. You may use any part or all of this interview free of charge
(although it would be nice to credit Jim).
Even in their heyday as one of Canadas most popular rock acts of the
1980s, Montreals Men Without Hats had a knack for doing things their
own way and for driving the music establishment up the wall in the
process. Now back with their first CD of new music in over ten years, theyre
doing things on their own terms more than ever.
Ivan and Stefan Doroschuk, the brothers behind the Men Without Hats (MWH),
are preparing to release the self-produced No Hats Beyond This Point, a 10-song
CD featuring an updated version of the synth-pop sound they made famous in
hit songs like The Safety Dance, Where Do the Boys Go?
and Pop Goes the World in the 80s. With no expensive studio
time, no outside producers and no meddlesome major label executives to deal
with, the recording experience was a refreshing and liberating one for the
It was pretty laid back, says MWH guitarist and producer Stefan
Doroschuk from his home studio in the Laurentians. There was none of
the usual budget or time pressure from a label, and we recorded in my studio,
which is basically at the end of a dirt road. So we were able to relax.
In 1992, after releasing six albums in a little over 10 years, it looked as
if the Doroschuks were ready to put Men Without Hats behind them.
We didnt break up the band so much as we couldnt find a
major label willing to take us on, Doroschuk says. It was at
the beginning of the consolidation of the large record labels, when a lot
of bands were let go, so we started to focus our energy on finding a new way
of doing things.
Stefan Doroschuk spent the next few years working on his second major passion
after music, working with computers and setting up his own digital studio.
With the studio finally in place, he and his brother Ivan decided to experiment
with different styles and approaches, even recording nearly two albums worth
of French material.
In 1997, Ivan released his first solo album, the electronic and almost dance-oriented
The Spell. Two years later, Stefan and his long-time friend, Montreal singer-songwriter
Mack Mackenzi,e then released their country-rock collaboration Ride For Glory
under the name Mackenzie-Parker Gang, a CD they recorded in Doroschuks
Then a funny thing happened.
A few years ago, I started the Men Without Hats website just for fun
and it instantly started to get a lot hits, Stefan Doroschuk says. People
from all over the world wanted to let us know how much our music had meant
to them and wanted to know what we were up to.
With fans both old and new clamouring for new music, the decision to make
a new record came easily enough.
Its what we do, and we have fun doing it, Doroschuk says.
Despite having their first and biggest hit 20 years ago now, the band remains
surprising popular with pop music fans. The Safety Dance, the
smash single that pushed their major label debut Rhythm of Youth to the top
of the charts and saw the band nominated for a Grammy Award in 1983, still
plays regularly on radio stations and music video channel around the world.
The song has turned up everywhere from a Hollywood films (Biodome. The Mexican)
to The Simpsons and Conan OBrien Show.
The biggest change Doroschuk has seen in his many years in the music business
has been the impact of computers, which had a huge impact on the way he and
his brother have chosen to pursue music.
Computers allowed digital music and the Internet to happen which have
changed what we hear, how we hear it and even how we acquire what we hear.
When we recorded 21st Century in digital in 1989, the Sony digital reel-to-reel
recording machine cost nearly half a million dollars. Five years later, a
computer based studio could do the same thing for under $100,000. As high
quality home based studios are flourishing, its becoming easier for
anyone to potentially make a high quality record. So instead of music being
based on whom the labels will give a ton of money to for recording in a big
expensive studio, the playing field is being leveled, so that making a worthwhile
record is becoming a question of how good a musician you are, not how much
money you can get someone to give you - which is how it should be.
Although the band expects to arrange traditional distribution for No Hats
Beyond This Point shortly, theyve taken the unusual step of selling
it from their website first.
This way people from all over the world can find it easily. And its
convenient, you dont even have to put your shoes on to go buy it,
Doroschuk says. Because weve cut out the people who actually make
the most money off CDs, the labels and the stores, we can offer ours at the
same price as a store would. The fans know their money goes directly to the
band, which can make money off of record sales for a change. How revolutionary
No Hats Beyond This Point is available on the official Men Without Hats website,
www.menwithouthats.com. Visit the site to hear three clips of songs from the
Interview for gordie.ca
Q9- Tell us about the "Safety
Dance Remix Project".
In the past year, we have been approached
by several "dance" labels who all wanted to do an updated
remix of Safety Dance. We thought that it could be fun to have
new mixes for today's club scene, so sometime next year, we hope
to have some new remixes. We chose a main label, Wikked, who
will supply us with some DJs, but other DJs who saw our post
at the site also sent in some really good mixes.
Q10- When was the last time the band
The last show was a benefit for a woman's
shelter in Montreal, It was held at the Club Soda in about 1993.
The band had Piggy from Voivod playing guitar and Michel Langevin
(Away), also from Voivod, on drums, with Stefan on bass, Colin
on keyboards and Ivan singing and playing guitar.
Q11- Out of all your performances,
does one stand out as a favourite?
Probably the first time we played outdoors
at the CNE in Toronto. It was our first really big show ever.
We played 2 nights and attracted around 27,000 people, which
set a record at the time. We were on a rotating stage, but when
Ivan invited everyone down onto the floor, the weight of the
people caused the whole platform to stop rotating. Unfortunately,
it stopped rotating with our sound man nearly in back of us.
Another memorable show was when we opened up for Roxy Music at
the old Forum in Montreal, the holy grail of performing venues
for Montrealers. The legendary Donald K. Donald came into our
dressing room and said to us:" I hope that this will be
the first of many opportunities that we'll have together separating
the public from its money". I was in awe.
Q12- Does one stand out as particularly
bad (for whatever reason)?
I can't say that I remember anything
really bad, but in the early days we travelled by winnabago and
we once drove 23 hours straight from New York City to Minneapolis
and played in front of about 20 people. Or another time, we were
so tired from touring, we opened up the show, instead of headlining
it, so only a handful of people saw the show, and as the night
progressed more and more people were coming into the club for
our show, only to find out it was over, and we were sitting at
the bar getting tanked.
Q13- How goes the search for new band
The search has been amazing. We've had
lots of very qualified people apply.
Q14- Would you consider hiring someone
who plays the spoons for half a pint of Crown Royal?
Only if the spoons are digital and you
bring your own Crown Royal.
Q15- If you guys had been called "Hommes
Sans Chapeaus", would you have been as successful?
Q16- Your favourite Tim-bit flavour?
We're vegetarians, we don't eat Tim bits.
We're against cruelty to pastries.
Q17- Ever have the opportunity to
sing our national anthem? Where and when?
No, but given the chance, I'd make up
my own words, it would be great fun.
Q18- Do you miss the Nordiques?
Even though I'm a Hab, I'd have to say
yes, I miss the No-dicks, it was a classic rivalry, more so then
any other rivalry in all of sports. Each game was a really big
deal, and games against other teams just didn't seem to matter
as much. But Quebec City is a hick town, I'm not surprised that
they couldn't support a team.
Q19- Jose Theodore... too much pressure
on him? Is he going to bounce back and have a good season?
JT is a major choker. Most Valuable Player
for choking the way he did against Carolina in the playoffs last
year? Gimme a break! What pressure? They think he's a god in
Mtl for losing badly last year, so he didn't set any particularly
high standard to get back to, so it shouldn't be a problem.
Q20- What's the next line of this classic
"Cause in nothing there's something
And my heart takes it straight
Or it'll break down again
In your lips I sense a danger
I have no clue, since the stanza doesn't
even rhyme, it could be anything.
Q21- What are your favourite sites
to visit on the internet?
We have a chat board at
so I go there to check it out, but other then that I surf different
sites, usually relating to webmastering, or having to do with
researching something I'm working on, like finding gear for our
live shows, or looking for free software .
Q22- How did "Safety Dance"
end up in BIODOME?
That's the publisher's job. Usually,
a film company will be the one asking for a particular song.
Q23- What are the three languages
that 'Freeways' was recorded in?
German, French and English. But in French
it's called Nationale 7, after their highway, and in German it's
called Der Autobahn.
Q24- Gotta ask... whose idea was it
to cast a dwarf in the safety dance
That was Tim Pope's idea. He was the
director of the video. He did a lot of the Cure's videos, some
Q25- Do you have anything coming up
in the future that you'd like for us to promote at Gordie.ca?
We have a new record that should be out
sometime in December of this year, called "No hats beyond
this point". In a little while, there will be a renewed
website at http://www.menwithouthats.com , where you will be
able to hear some of the new songs, as well as purchase the album
and some t-shirts. Next year, we are re-mastering our first EP,
the first 2 albums, freeways and some live stuff from that era
into a double album that will also be available at the site.
And we hope to have the Safety Dance remix compilation sometime
next year. So in all, with possible live shows next summer, it
should be a busy year.