Men Without Hats
Once upon a time, in a land far, far north, there lived three brothers who never wore any hats. It was their motto, as Brother Colin so aptly put it, "style before comfort" that led them into the nether-regions of early cyberspace, the world of primitive sequencers, samplers and drumboxes, populated by such classic hardware as the Pro 5, Dr Click and the LinnDrum. Where conformity was a banned word, along with things like "drummer" and "bass player", there came to flourish a whole community of electropop artists, whose goal was to bring something new and completely different to the music scene of the day. This is the story of Men Without Hats.
The saga starts in 1976. Before there ever was MWH, the three brothers were attending the French high school Stanislas in Montreal. This is where Ivan met up with Jeremy Arrobas. During this year, at the school's annual student concert, Ivan, Colin, Stefan and Jeremy (+ a drummer nammed Igor, played their first concert together under the name "Wave 21". The concept was that Jeremy recited his poetry over the music.
In the early days, there were a lot a different formations, some of which never played any shows aside from parties:
In 1977, the first version of MWH is formed. It comprised Ivan, Dave Hill, John Gurin and Pete Seabrooke.
Between 1978 and early 1980, there were several line-ups. They are:
Ivan, Colin, Stefan and Paul Miscala. They did the first real shows of MWH opening up for 4 shows of Alan Lord at the Hotel Nelson in old Montreal. This was at the height of the punk era (circa 1977), when the Hotel Nelson was not much more than a flop house.
Ivan, Dave Hill, Pierre Paquet and Jeremy. This was the line-up formed for the legendary party of Mia and Alex McClean. There is actually a cassette of this show.
Ivan, Jeremie and Colin. Although they never did any shows, they shot some great pictures.
Ivan, Jeremy and John Gurin. A bizarre yet interesting combination of music and art noise by John during the pauses between songs. In those days, Ivan played keyboards, bass and melody, and sang, while jerry played drums. At times, Ivan would play guitar and bass keyboard at the same time.
Ivan, Jeremy, Stefan and Lysanne Thibodeau. This was the band that was heading into studio to record the first EP.
Ivan:" The first sequencer we had was the korg sq-10 which was a 10 or maybe 12
step analog sequencer that went with the ms-20 , it looked like the ms-20
without a keyboard. since it was analog it was really imprecise to program
so we just used it triggering the first step over and over , pulse bass ,
and jerry played along live with it.if there was any sequencing done like
arpeggios or whatever, i did it live manually.when jerry switched from drums
to keyboards , after the e.p. , we used a variety of sequencing devices ,
the cr-78 and another korg rhythm box i forget the number for the pulse bass
stuff , a roland sequencer that we used for patterns like things in my life
, but they were all triggering the sh-2. i was using the cs-50 at that time
and doing a few songs with my left hand , mostly the faster stuff,
1980, 10"EP Folk of the 80's, Ivan, Stefan, Jeremy Arrobas & Roman Martin
This EP was recorded at Marco Studio in Old Montreal and its original pressing was of 3000 copies in 10 inch form (I think that there might have been a second pressing of 3000). It was subsequently picked up by Stiff Records (US) and a further 16,000 records were pressed for the US market. The only difference between the two pressings is that the US pressing was a 12" record. Now raise your hand everyone who knew that Tracy Howe also never played on this or any other MWH album. The folks who have this on their album means that they have a second pressing copy because Tracy's name was added because he had just joined the band!
'80 to '82, various people came and went as the band (without Roman) was looking for itself, such as, Jean-Marc Pizzapia (later to be "the Box"), Tracy Howe (went on to form "Rational Youth") and Mike Gabriel. Here are the line-ups: I,S,J and Jean-Marc Pisapia. Then JM left and was replaced by Mike Gabriel, who as Ivan likes to tell the story, "was booted out of the band along with Stefan", to become a three piece: I, J and Tracy Howe. Tracy lasted enough time for a few cups of coffee and went on to form Rational Youth. At which point Stefan and Mike are brought back in.
Just prior to recording "Rhythm of Youth" and the smash single "Safety Dance", Jerry and Mike leave MWH of their own free will to form Checkpoint Charlie (with Jean-Marc) and then Isinglass (without J-M who goes on to form the Box). Good move guys! Now there's a "where are they now question"!
After being rejected by every record label of note in Canada, we got a deal with Statik records in the UK. Probably the only band in Canadian History to secure a deal in the UK before securing a deal in Canada! "A Canadian Invasion of Britain"!!!!
'82, release "Rhythm of Youth", Ivan, Stefan and Allan McCarthy (he died a couple of years ago), plus a few guest musicians: Colin, Anne Dussault, Dan Vermette and Michel Jérome.
This was recorded at Listen Audio in Old Montreal back in '82. It was subsequently picked up by Warner in Canada and MCA in the US.
'84, release Folk of the 80's part III, same lineup as previous record.
At the end of the record, if you let it keep playing, Mother's Opinion will come back with a stereo flange on it. Problem was, no one bothered to tell the printing pressers that there were in fact 10 songs, not 9. So some of the early copies are missing this piece!
The weird guitar solo thing in Where do the boys go was done with the first completely programmable guitar effects rack made by Sequential Circuits, the people who brought us the Prophet 5, otherwise know as the Pro 5.
'85, release Freeways EP, Ivan & Stefan, (plus a few session musicians).
85 live band, Ivan, Stefan, Alain "Al Gunn" "le Pif" Lefebvre, Denis "Trop Plein" Toupin, Lenny "the Pinster" Pinkas & Colin
'87, release "Pop goes the world", Ivan, Stefan and Lenny, (plus a few session musicians). It was recorded in London, England at Eden Studio and mixed with Paul Northfield at Morin Heights Studio in Canada, which is not very far from where the latest album was recorded and mixed. Supplemented on the road by Bruce Murphy, Heidi Garcia, Marika Tjelios and Dick "Donut" Duff.
'89, release "the adventures of men and women without hate" with all the touring band for "Pop".
Recorded at the Hit Factory in New York with Mike Scott, or as they called it while we were there, the Hat Factory! They have box seats at Yankee Stadium and we were supposed to go see Nolan Ryan pitch (limo, the whole deal!), but it was rained out and we never went. In his next game, the Ryan Express threw his 5000th strike-out! What a bummer!
'91, release "Sideways", Ivan, Stefan, Michel "Mick Mustang" Langevin (from Voïvod) and Felix "El Gato" Matte (Ideés Noires). Jimmy Souranis joined for touring. Recorded in upstate New York at a very excellent studio called Hudson Studio (we named it!) run by one of the coolest and most knowledgable guys in the biz, Mike Scott (he engineered the previous record), his techchie Chris Muth and we won't forget Bo, our friend and driver, he turned me on to Howard Stern! Mixed in Rhode Island and mastered by Howie Weinberg. "MEN WITHOUT HATS ARE GIVING IT TO POP ENTHUSIASTS ...
"Everyone focuses on going forwards or backwards. There are other directions to go in as well." --- Ivan Doroschuk (Music Express)
Men Without Hats' latest fearlessly lunges forth into rock's core, adding scars to pop's sometimes-too-perfect face. Featuring Montreal's finest in the hard rock scene, Michel Langevin (Away from Voivod), Felix Matte (Idees Noires), and John Kastner (The Doughboys), "Sideways" remains true to the band's powerful pop fables, yet delivers their message in pure guitar sound. "People's lives are very linear," said frontman Ivan Doroschuk. "We don't really take the time to look beside ourselves. We are always so worried about going ahead and progressing. 'Sideways' is an attempt to see directions other than forward and backward." As the title indicates, "Sideways," follow-up to the gold-plus "(Adventures Of Women And Men Without Hate) In The 21st Century," marks an intriguing change in musical direction for the hatless. A harder edge, guitar-based and vigorous album, it cuts melody with exacting precision, and bleeds rock in its fullest glory. Recorded last fall in upstate New York, and mixed in Rhode Island, the album was produced by Stefan Doroschuk, co-produced and engineered by Mike Scott, mixed by Tom Soares (24-7 SPYS, CroMagnons) and also features a guest appearance from Greg Martin of the Kentucky Headhunters on three tracks. "It was the most fun record I've made so far," said Doroschuk. "I haven't felt that I was in a band for a long time. It was good to work with real musicians as opposed to machines." "Find what was real in the world and touch it, that was what a man ought to do," once wrote American author Harry Crews in a story called "The Hawk Is Dying." Despite the fact that an instrumental on the album is titled "Harry Crews," the links between "Sideways" and the author run even deeper. Like Crews, the album is characterized by this search for what is real and meaningful, and is bound to real places, people and memory, offering a new perspective to those who think they know Men Without Hats. "The last two albums were very sociologically, ecologically and equality concerned," said Doroschuk. "I think one of the main things I'm thinking about lately, for instance, is the difference between sexist and sexy." The rich and intriguing artwork for "Sideways" explores this idea, and delivers the message that the band has become a lot more personal in their approach to human issues. "You develop the rhetoric first, you live with it for awhile, then you make changes when you apply it to the real world. It takes on a different form." From the soaring ballad "Everybody Wants To Know," to the driving power of the title track and first single "Sideways," the album invites you to discover the band all over again. The country-core romp of "Fall Down Gently," and the streetwise "Kenbarbielove," combined with the intensity of instrumentals such as "Life At Diamond Head" and "The Van Der Graaf Generation Blues," is launching Men Without Hats into a whole new era. "My experience has been that the more records you make the easier it gets, just because I realize that it's just a record and not all that important in the big scheme of things," said Doroschuk to Canadian Composer. "But it's also a learning process. You get better at it and one thing I've learned is going for emotion over precision, going for feeling, not trying to get it right on key. I'm just trying to make it sound good." More importantly, it's got to feel right - and it does. The brainchild of many nights spent with local musicians in a Montreal institution - Le Biftechque - which eventually lead to more elaborate affairs - such as jamming with other natives like The Doughboys, The Nils and Voivod at Ivan's loft in St Henri, "Sideways" is a testament to a way of life championed by the Bukowskis and the Crews of the world - that is , the idea of living life and music by the moment. "We have taken the attitude that we've changed our sound so much that we don't have to play it by radio rules," said Doroschuk. "I think it's totally ludicrous to do that anyway because you get caught up in it and by the time you have written a song, recorded it and put it out, years have gone by and radio has changed. People are actually trying to write songs that won't come out for two years, trying to anticipate what people will listen to. It just slows the whole process down. We're not really paying attention to what radio is doing. We're just writing songs."
The musical relationship of melody and raunch is what ties the twelve tracks on "Sideways" into one cohesive whole. It ignites with the lead track and first single "Sideways" - the theme song of the album. "It's the whole notion of there being another way of looking at things," said Doroschuk. "There are other directions that people can go into." "Fall Down Gently," the next track and one of the songs that features Greg Martin, is a progression of that same theme. "I'd rather learn about life a little bit at a time then go through the thing blind. Life is not always rosy and so I'm prepared to take little setbacks now and then, than have one major fall down in my life." The experience working with Martin, who just dropped by during the recording of the project, made it even more enjoyable. "It was great," said Doroschuk. "I'm not wary of that type of situation. I'm a big fan of his and he's a big fan of ours."
"In The Meadow" is the classic Men Without Hats pop song. "'In The Meadow' comes from a dream," said Doroschuk. "It's just the meadow where there are no worries and there is no pain. You just sit in the sun and have fun." "The Van Der Graaf Generation Blues", one of the
instrumentals on the album, is a song for the band's generation. "We're not the flower children and we're not the yuppies, we're somewhere in between - The Van Der Graaf Generation." "Nadine" is your basic Men Without Hats love song, according to Ivan, and features once again the singer's female side, yet taking on a different form. "She's becoming a lot stronger."
"Everybody Wants To Know" is Ivan's reflections on what people want from life. "Everybody wants to know what it's all about and I'm sure everybody wants to be loved. But not everybody wants the same things. Life has been sort of forcing everybody into wanting the same things & it ties in with the 'sideways' perspective." Next up is the band's cover of the Beatles' classic "I Am The Walrus" - inspired by a Grateful Dead cover band. "I forget which band did it," said Doroschuk. "They were opening up for a band called 'Phish' in New York. I figured it would be a good-off-the-wall tune to do." "Kenbarbielove" is the song on the album about relationships. The title has as its source, a story about Voivod's Michel Langevin growing up in Quebec and when hearing the Beatles sing "Can't Buy Me Love", for the first time, he thought they were singing 'Kenbarbielove'. "Lost Forever" is a song about love in today's society. "It's a development on the theme of love and how we're living in a one-on-one society where we're forced to love one person, and we can't express our views to anyone else. It's like a weird love prison." "Life after Diamond Head" is another instrumental on the album --and was inspired by Ivan's love for the "rock Eno-era of Roxy Music. Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music put out an album called "Diamond Head" and it was at that period for me when music changed," said Doroschuk. "I was trying to get back that old Roxy sound when Eno was playing keyboards." "Love (All Over The World)" is, as Ivan puts it, Men Without Hats' message for 1991, a bid for peace and happiness - 21st Century style. "Harry Crews" was inspired by the author himself. "He's really real," said Doroschuk about his writing style. "He wrote a lot of things for Playboy magazine and Esquire and he's just real - like Bukowski's Barfly."
The album art, photographed by Roy Pike and designed by Lumbago Inc., breaks from the anti-sexist rhetoric of old -- a differentiation between sexy and sexist. "A woman's body is a beautiful thing," said Doroschuk. "I'm not trying to sell records with it, I'm just trying to
appreciate it." However intriguing the cover is, Ivan prefers to concentrate on the music as opposed to image. "The visual aspect of the band has become very secondary," said Doroschuk. "It's funny, too, because this is supposed to be an era where the image is so important. I guess it is for some bands very important, but for fans it isn't. They just get very calculated images thrown at them and it has nothing to do with music. One of the reasons I got into music was because of the magic that was going on with record covers."
Men Without Hats also plan to taste the reality of life on the road in Canada with a tour, slotted for late spring, early summer. "We haven't done a tour in Canada for over five years," said Doroschuk. "It's going to be great. I love to travel and to get around and meet people. I don't care where we play as long as it's fun -- and there's a remote control and a colour TV in the hotel room." Last summer, Men Without Hats, (Stefan Doroschuk on bass, Colin Doroschuk on keyboards and Ivan on vocals, along with Matte, Kastner and Langevin), delivered their new material to a packed house at hometown Les Foufounes Electriques and at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square for 5,000 people, on a bill including the Pursuit Of Happiness. "One of the strangest - and arguably best - concerts in Montreal last year was Men Without Hats playing at the punk club Les Foufonnes Electrique," wrote Alastair Sutherland from Music Express. "A packed house witnessed a complete revamping of the Hats' repertoire ("Safety Dance," "Pop Goes The World," "Hey Men"...), courtesy of a band whose lineup read like a cross section of the local music scene ... And, making a special appearance for a hard rock version of "Bye Bye Mon Cowboy," there was pop chanteuse Mitsou, resplendent in full go-go girl regalia. Even people who knew the Hats and had followed the twists and turns in Ivan's mindset had to shake their heads and wonder what was next."
Ivan once said that he always considered the Hats to be an electronic hardcore band - and with every album, the band seem to be getting closer to the core of what propels them further and further in music. The band have come a long way since their sonic experiments in the basement of their home in 1977. Their first single "Safety Dance", released in 1983, went top ten in twenty countries, getting the band a nomination for a Grammy in the process as well as worldwide acclaim. The swiftness of their success lead to the band's three-year search, culminating to 1988's "Pop Goes The World" and then last year's "(Adventures Of Women And Men Without Hate) In The 21st Century."
The gold-single "Pop Goes The World," went top three in Canada, and top twenty in the U.S. The album surpassed platinum (100 000 units) in Canada, and won a Felix award (Quebec's annual music industry awards) for English pop/rock album of the year, while the single won a nomination for a Juno (as single of the year) and was honoured by PROCAN as the most played English language Canadian single at radio here in 1988. During the US tour in support of that album, in the early spring of 1988, Ivan began writing some of the songs for "...In The 21st Century," which was recorded at The Hit Factory in New York with Stefan Doroschuk as the sole producer and Mike Scott as engineer.
"...In The 2lst Century," which shipped gold upon release, produced a top 15 CHR single in Canada with "Hey Men" (the video for this album also went to #1 at Musique Plus and #3 at MuchMusic), but more importantly, was an easy transition to the heavy sound the band have been flirting with until now. "Singer Ivan Doroschuk of Men Without Hats burst out of Montreal in 1979 with a popping electronic sound that was the antithesis of no-frills noise guitar," wrote Mark LePage of The Montreal Gazette, "now, after more than a decade on the pop music highway, Ivan is wheeling into a U-turn." With "Sideways," Men Without Hats venture inside themselves to deliver an album, that in any which side you look at it, successfully rides the threshold of pop core.
[ PolyGram National Promotion/Publicity, 1991 ] "
2002, in the familiar synth-pop style that people have come to love from MWH. For this album, the brothers Doroschuk used some classic synths like the Prophet 5 and the Yamaha CS-50 that were used on their first album, Rhythm of Youth. To this, they added new sounds, to come up with an album that strikes as both familiar and new. A brand new day has broken for synth-pop in the 21st Century.
For the first time, Ivan did all of the artwork himself, showing a talent that had been hidden for far too long. Each panel takes you deeper into the voyage, unfolding a mysterious and vivid view of their universe.
The album was recorded completely in digital on a Pro Tools system at Stefan's Big Mountain Studio up in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, he engineered and produced the opus. All of the music was done by Ivan and Stefan, with the exception of some female background vocals, which are handled by Mary-Lou Deehy, with Stefan's and her two daughters, Mary-Lynn and Emmy-Lou helping out on one song.
An honorable mention has to go to two of the best roadies who ever lived: "Disco" Danny Giguere & Sergio "Seeze" Barreca. And the Ironman Award goes to our soundman Paul "La Plage" Lepage who, as rumour has it, has not slept since 1982. And of course the picture wouldn't be complete without mentioning our manager and good friend, Denis Wolff.