Intergenerational noise, house, and ambiance for hooking up with dudes on dance floors
There’s no way that I can ethically publish this interview without disclosing my friendship with Michael Brodeur, the former Dig music editor who currently performs as New Dad. At the same time, listing all the ways that we go back—Brodeur is a major inspiration and even once helped get me a career-defining gig at the now defunct Boston Phoenix—will inevitably be seen as a name-droppish divulgence. As anybody who participated in or even observed the cultural prodding the Dig took much pride in pushing through the wild aughts is well aware, he’s a standout talent across mediums, the creative answer to that gorgeous mutant bastard you envied in fifth grade for their renaissance ability to dominate athletically as well as academically.
With such accolades and adoration sprawled on front street, I might as well also admit that I considered writing a traditional profile of New Dad for this week’s issue. But then I transcribed our interview and remembered that Brodeur, who has continued to write for the Boston Globe since moving to Texas several years ago, is more than qualified to speak on his own terms. I chatted with him days after he rocked a party at South by Southwest as New Dad on a bill with a Texas drag queen named Louisianna Purchase.
I know there’s a lot of it, but break down some of your personal Boston music history.
When I first showed up in Boston I was in a band called the Wicked Farleys, a loud-ass band in the Boston tradition of chimp rock. Chimp rock is a term I think Swirlies came up with. At that point there was a lot of self-serious shoegaze and noise music, and chimp rock was sort of like a Boston take on it—it didn’t take itself seriously, it was loud as fuck, you wouldn’t be able to hear the next day. But it was also pretty friendly. It wasn’t death metal. More like life metal. Mid-to-late ’90s. I was happy to be mixed up in that.
What was your next big leap?
When I was in the Farleys it was about being in a band that was so loud I could drown out the fact that I was gay. It was just this way that I could insulate myself from the inevitability that I would one day have to come out and participate in gay culture. Because there was nothing less gay than being in the Boston noise rock scene at that point. Not to cheapen the experience, but it definitely served a function.
When I was in Certainly, Sir it was like a house-meets-Pet Shop Boys type of thing. That served its own function—it was me busting out and saying, You know what, I love George Michael, I love Sade, so fuck y’all, we’re going to start doing some George Michael-Sade sounding shit. It was a way of getting in touch with that gay side and acknowledging that I like pop music.
From 2000 on, me and Nick Hubben, who at the time was in a band called the Ivory Coast, started an electronic duo thing, which ended up being a template that a lot of people were doing at the beginning of the aughts. I think the ease of recording technology that was becoming available was helping people move into electronic music.
When you were living upstairs from me in Jamaica Plain around 2010, the first thing you did was set up your equipment.
After that is when I started DJing and we did [the dance party] Group Hug. At the time I was just sort of horrified. Wherever I went out in Boston I was just hearing shitty gay dance music. I remember the breaking point was I was at a bear night, and I was there with my buddy drinking and I hear “Enter Sandman” come on. But right as it was about to launch in, I realized it wasn’t “Enter Sandman,” it was a fucking trance remix of “Enter Sandman.” It was like someone shat on my face. It was then that we went to the Enormous Room and asked if we could have it for one night a month. That kind of opened up the next 10 years of me DJing.
Music-wise, what are you first and foremost? I guess I should know this, but did you start off playing guitar?
No, I’m fucking terrible at guitar. I don’t know chords or any of that stuff. In the Farleys, we were kind of inspired by Sonic Youth and Swirlies and breaking the standard before we started playing. I went into everything like the Kool-Aid Man.
What’s your starting point for New Dad music?
Nine times out of 10 I’m starting out with an ambiance thing. Static, or noise, or some kind of wall of sound or something. I’ll play with that for days before a drum even shows up. … It’s very much the way that I used to write rock music. I’m really kind of working with noise and trying to pull something pretty out of it. It’s kind of cool because there’s not a lot of producers that I’m seeing who are combining noise and ambiance kind of stuff with something that’s very much concerned with hooking up with dudes on dance floors.
What’s the New Dad live set like?
I roll in with a mixer, a sampler … I’ve been writing specifically for dates, so I’m not playing the same sets. I’m anticipating and setting myself up. I’ve been playing these little gay dance clubs. It’s not like an on-stage type of thing. The way I envision it, I’m writing the DJ set that I want to hear.
When did you become New Dad?
New Dad comes from a chat I was having with a friend when I turned 40, and he was like, You’re a new dad. Because one thing that happens is on the apps, there are guys who, if they’re a daddy chaser, they’ll just sort for 40-plus, and their first message to you will be like, Hey dad! So when I turned 40, like overnight, that was the nature of the messages I was getting. Who knew all I had to do was get old?
The New Dad name is kind of a reference to this point in my life. I don’t think you can be in your 40s and be making dance music for people in their 20s without a voice in your head being like, What are you doing? Or, Why are you here? You start to scrutinize what this is all about.
It’s easy to doubt yourself and call it a midlife crisis, but really the kind of interactions I’ve had, especially with younger gay folks, is something that when I was that age, I didn’t really have. If you were part of Generation X, you wanted to learn about yourself as a gay person, but all of those people [you would have learned from] were dead. AIDS wiped out an entire generation. My generation is the generation that didn’t have someone to help figure it out.
I’m getting more actively interested in showing process over necessarily having results. So I’ll show songs in progress, write about booking the tour. I’m not a fan of how opaque electronic music tends to be—lots of nameless producers, software tricks, secrecy masked as sorcery, and I think the end result is that it makes electronic music feel off-putting or out of reach or maybe even elitist. The price of so much of the gear doesn’t help this.
Part of the Dad thing for me in a lot of ways is realizing that I have a responsibility to hand things down and lead younger LGBTQ folks who feel lost or don’t have the access or confidence just to emerge fully formed. I also think that social media cultivates a very bad and dangerous emphasis on results over process—there doesn’t seem to be any room more mistakes or “becoming” something, you need to arrive and survive as a brand.
This is a mentality that I think I can help work against by being very honest about music, my motives, my mistakes, and my audience.
NEW DAD IN BOSTON. SUN 3.24 AT JACQUES CABARET, 79 BROADWAY, BOSTON. AND W/ LE FEELING (PVD) ANIMAL HOSPITAL AND OTHERS FOR A MASS TRANS POLITICAL COALITION FUNDRAISER ON FRI 3.29 AT PLAYLAND AT THE DORCHESTER ART PROJECT, 1486 DORCHESTER AVE. CHECK OUT NEW DAD AT SOUNDCLOUD/NEWDADNEWDAD AND INSTAGRAM.COM/NEWDADNEWDAD.