Ivan Doroschuk had been away from the music industry for so long that when he finally brought his new wave band Men Without Hats back on tour after about a 20-year absence, he discovered a lot of differences.
“The biggest change for me is that the hotel rooms don’t have keys and the numbers aren’t printed on the cards, so I have to keep going down to the front desk to ask what room I’m in,” he said. “Touring again has been a blast, though, and I’m having so much fun being back on stage.”
Some in the music industry were a little surprised when Doroschuk decided to bring Men Without Hats back on tour without bringing the band back together. Instead, the 51-year-old Canadian native hired three young backup musicians in Lou Dawson, James Love and Rachel Ashmore, and hit the road on a successful tour.
“People always ask me why I’m the only guy, but the truth is, I’ve always been the only guy and I consider myself to be the new wave dinosaur, as people have come and gone,” Doroschuk said. “I do all the singing, play the keyboards and the band has been a vehicle for my songwriting. There have been over 30 people in the Men Without Hats tree and I am the one constant.”
The alternative band hit it big in the ’80s with the iconic “Safety Dance” and also found success with the single “Pop Goes the World.”
“These songs haven’t gone anywhere in 30 years,” Doroschuk said. “My son found out about Men Without Hats through the Crazy Frog video on the Disney Channel. Others have heard the songs on ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Family Guy’ and ‘Glee.’ I get a blast every time I hear it appear somewhere.”
That’s why when Doroschuk decided to make a new record in 2012, he wanted to re-create the sound reminiscent of his early hits.
“We went in and wanted to make a record that sounded like it was recorded right after ‘Safety Dance,’ so we got the same gear, the same mikes and same instruments,” he said. “Back then, we were limited by the number of tracks and we would lose sound quality, but that’s not the case nowadays. We pretended we only had 24 tracks, and that approach gave us the sound we were looking for.”
The end result was “Love in the Age of War,” lyrically more personal, yet offering the same synthesizer-influenced tunes that Men Without Hats was best known for.
On Thursday, Doroschuk and the current lineup of Men Without Hats will play at the State Theatre in Falls Church, beginning at 8:30 p.m.
“We’ll be playing all the hits interspersed with songs from the new record,” Doroschuk said. “The new stuff is fitting in seamlessly with the old stuff. We play old and new together and the real diehards who own every record are the only ones who can pick out which is which.”
Between the period of time Men Without Hats broke up in the ’90s to their revival last year, Doroschuk mostly was out of the musical limelight.
“I was a stay-at-home dad for about 10 years, completely removed from the music industry,” he said. “I noticed my songs were being referenced in pop culture all the time and all the new music coming out seemed to be very ’80s influenced, with synthesizers and stuff like that. The combination of those two things gave me the motivation to get back into it, and once I did, I realized how much I had missed it and how much fun it is.”
Once he started writing again, Doroschuk found the experience of raising his son to be beneficial to his songs.
“One of the things about the new record is that it’s a lot more personal than the other ones had ever been,” he said. “The whole impetus for the content was basically my divorce and the mother of my son, who made me realize that life is too short to be unhappy and you can make a difference in your own life and seep it over to everyone else’s, which is a good thing.”
Being back on stage has reignited his life, and playing with three musicians Doroschuk calls “almost young enough to be my grandkids” keeps him young and adds a new dimension to his music.
“I guess I am wiser as well as being older and I find I’m having a lot more fun with it this time around,” he said. “There’s no pressure and no record company pushing their agenda on me. I already did what I set out to do so I don’t have to prove anything anymore. My songs are out there and I’m having a blast.”
He also doesn’t mind singing “Safety Dance” every night again — something that was gnawing at him long ago.
“The time I took off made my songs fresh for me and I really enjoy playing my back catalogue again,” he said. “The best thing for me is to look out into the crowd and see the smile on people’s faces when they hear the stuff and that’s a real blessing for me.”