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'80s - Men Without Hats   (2011) '80s - Men Without Hats (2011)

ĎFolk of the 80's: The Men Without Hats Story'

Men Without Hats is a Canadian New Wave group from Montreal, Quebec. Their music was characterized by the distinctive baritone voice of their lead singer Ivan Doroschuk as well as their elaborate use of synthesizers and electronic processing.

They achieved their greatest popularity in the early to mid 1980s with their most successful single, 'The Safety Dance,' a Top 10 hit in both the US and the UK, as well as other countries including South Africa. Their other big success was the 1987 hit, 'Pop Goes the World.'

After disbanding in 1992, in late 2010, Ivan reformed Men Without Hats with three hired backup musicians and appeared at the Rifflandia Music Festival in Victoria, B.C. - performing ten songs from the Men Without Hats back catalogue.

Doroschuk then embarked on a "Dance If You Want Tour 2011" which included a well attended and positively received performance at Austin's South by Southwest event in March, 2011.

Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Ivan Doroschuk and discussed his baritone voice, their super-catchy 'The Safety Dance' song, and, of course, ... Penguins!

Taking it from the top and Men Without Hats was characterized by the distinctive baritone voice of lead singer Ivan Doroschuk, as well as their elaborate use of synthesizer and electronic processing, of course - so today, all these years later, does that baritone voice still exist?! "Sure, Iím still around, and have the same voice as before."

Being that MWH achieved their greatest popularity in the early to mid '80s, inclusive of their most successful single, 'The Safety Dance,' what was it like being in the band at that time? Looking back, do you think you handled it as well as you should have done? "I donít think that any young bands can handle early success perfectly, thereís always things youíd go back and change. Thatís true for my professional life as well as my personal life," he laughs. "But at that time, it sure was a great ride, Iíd recommend it to anyone. The 80s were also a good time to be involved in electronic music, because thatís when a lot of new gear was coming out, i.e. the PRO5, PPG, sequencers, Macs. Nowadays, pretty much everything has already been invented."

Indeed, and with regard that ultra-successful single, 'The Safety Dance,' do you consider yourself a one hit wonder band, perhaps? "A 2-hit wonder! Thereís was also Pop goes the world. But hey, one hit is still way better than no hits at all!"

And even though various band members came and went, there always seemed to be a Doroschuk in the band - indeed, there were three (3) at one time! A bit of a family affair, one might say! "MWH has always been myself and my brother Stefan, even now, even though Iím touring alone, Stefan is still a big part of the band."

And, for the record, once and for all, just where did the bands name originate? "It was just something that we got off of the top of our heads."

With that in mind, who came up with the lyrics for 'The Safety Dance,' and to this day, be honest, does it all make sense?! "I write all the lyrics, and yes, it still makes sense. Itís about how you donít have to conform, you can be an individual."

And with regard those lyrics, what does this really mean: "As long as we abuse it, Never gonna lose it, Everything will work out right"? "It means as long as we get our true selves out there a lot, weíll never lose our own identity, and everything will work out right."

The one track I love from MWH was their cover of ABBA's 'SOS' from 'The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century'! How did the covering of that song come about, and where on earth did that album title originate? "Itís just a song that Iíve always liked. The title of the album is a little play on Men Without Hats-Hate. The ďwomenĒ were included because I like women!"

You reformed MWH in late 2010, with three hired back-up musicians, and set out on the Dance If You Want To Tour 2011 - will this tour ever come here to (the) Detroit, MI (area), perhaps? "Hard to say, but you never know, weíve played Detroit quite a few times over the years, once on July 4th if I remember correctly."

Will there be a new MWH CD in 2011, perhaps? "There will definitely be new songs coming in the not too distant future, but most likely one at a time - sold on iTunes. Once 10 or so songs have been released, we might put out a hardcopy of them together."

Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love penguins ... do you, perhaps? "Being from Montreal, Iím a hockey fan, so that means I like Sid the Kid - whose favorite team growing up were the Habs - and, of course Mario the Magnificent as well. So that would be a yes, I like penguins!"

Interview: Russell A. Trunk