As I swiped my way through news on the Flipboard iPhone app a couple nights ago, I kept seeing headlines for the “best dad ever” covering Depeche Mode songs with his kids. I watched the videos and had to talk to Dicken Schrader, the dad behind them.
Columbian-born Dicken Schrader, who won three golden internets for these videos, was nice enough to talk to us about his now-immortal father-son-daughter Depeche Mode covers. If you haven’t seen them yet because you’ve been camping in the Grand Canyon for the weekend, you can check them out along with our interview, after the hopperooski.
First off, watch this – it’s just one of the Schrader family’s Depeche Mode covers (the other two are at the end of the Q&A):
Now you see why we just had to get a hold of this guy. From the odd and repurposed instruments, to the split-screen video editing, these videos are awesome. So without further ado, here’s a little digital sit-down I was lucky to share with Schrader:
8BD: Where do you live and what do you do for work? I see stuff in your YouTube account crediting you with editing VH1 clips.
DS: I used to work at VH1 in New York, but we moved to Bogotá Colombia about 3 years ago. Here I have a small production company.
8BD: What prompted your move to Colombia? Do you have family there or was it for work?
DS: I am actually from Colombia, I was born and raised in Bogotá. I moved to the States in the mid-nineties, had my kids there, and came back home three years ago. It just felt like the right moment, I wanted my kids to absorb some of their Latin heritage and to spend some time with family, something we lacked in New York.
8BD: Let me know a little bit about Milah and Korben. How old are they?
DS: Milah was born in Miami Beach in 2003 and Korben was born in Brooklyn in 2006.
8BD: Is mom around?
DS: Mom is the kids’ fashion stylist.
8BD: How’d you choose Depeche Mode? I did see some Depeche Mode mixed into your VH1 Latin America 90’s & 00’s mashup – are they a favorite band of yours?
DS: Since I was in high school, every single moment in my life has had a Depeche Mode song as its soundtrack. Their lyrics seem to speak directly to me. In fact, all three covers we’ve done so far have said something about the moment in which they were recorded. “Shake The Disease,” our first video, was a personal message I had to document at that point, in which I was juggling with many issues at the same time. To see me performing it as a one-man band and, on top of everything, watching my kids making everything more complicated for me…I thought it was kind of poetic. But this was meant to be a one-time event. I never thought it would become a series. It was the kids’ enthusiasm and musical involvement that made us create a second video.
8BD: By the way, I was really hoping for a “Just Can’t Get Enough” with the kids.
DS: Yes, “Just Can’t Get Enough” is on our queue, along with a few others that we like.
8BD: Are Milah and Korben learning any instruments? It looks like Milah might have a future on the recorder…
DS: I’ve always had my beat-up old Yamaha available to them, since they were babies, and after years of playing with it they became pretty good keyboard players. Now they are taking keyboard lessons at school and Milah’s learning the recorder. After seeing our video her music teacher suggested her to also take up flute. And Korben is just a tiny virtuoso. He doesn’t cease to surprise me with his musical dexterity and his rhythm.
8BD: Were the kids excited to do music with you? Your son definitely looks nervous, but that makes it cute. Even if the whole thing is remixed and none of their instruments made it into the final cuts, just having them there singing is precious. Did they want to play certain instruments for the videos?
DS: They absolutely love it. Once we settle on our choice of song and instruments I write down for them some sheet music –which we color-code, as you see in the videos. Then they start practicing right away and they get really into it. None of them gets nervous during our performances. They do, however, get very frustrated when someone makes a mistake and we have to start all over again, so Korben’s expression is more of concentration. He doesn’t want to be the one that messes up the take. He’s very professional.
As for the whole remix thing, I want to make clear that I’ve never claimed to be a musician. I’m a video artist and these are music videos, not live performances. Of course there is some pre-recording and editing involved. That’s what I do. However, I can assure you that this is not a Milli Vanilli situation. Every single instrument you see on screen was actually played in the final recording by the member of the band that appears playing it.
8BD: What else do you do with the kids? Play any video games with them? If so, do you have a favorite video game?
DS: The kids’ favorite game is Super Mario Bros, but I don’t really play it with them. I totally suck, I’m always the guy holding them back in every level. Together we play other kinds of strategy games like Spore. We also play Lego Star Wars, they are both huge Star Wars fans. Guess who got them into it.
8BD: How is fatherhood different in New York than in Columbia? Obviously, you love your kids no matter the country, but is the social or family dynamic different?
DS: Parenthood in New York and Parenthood in Bogotá have been very different experiences. There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. In New York you have so much culture that your kids grow up surrounded by it, there’s nothing like it in the world. But New York is a city planned for business, not for parenting. You can witness this every time you see a poor mother lifting and carrying their strollers up and down subway stairs. On the other hand, Bogotá may lack the multi-cultural metropolis aspect of New York City, but it has amazing schools and we Colombians have a great respect for family values, something that I wanted my kids to learn first-hand from their own family. Colombia is a great place to raise a family, and I’m very proud to see many foreigners doing it now and calling Colombia “home.”
8BD: Got any future projects planned for you, Milah and Korben?
DS: For now, we have a long list of DM songs we want to cover. We’re currently working on our fourth video; we hope to have it online in a few months. I hope to continue making at least a couple every year so in the future my kids can see themselves growing up in stature and musical ability.
8BD: If you could give one piece of advice to fathers, what would it be?
DS: Despite all the comments that have labeled me as “Best Daddy Ever,” I don’t consider myself qualified to give any sound parenting advice. I can, however, express that I believe parents should let their children be what they want to be, not what they expect them to. If you want your kids to be lawyers but they were born to be artists, there are two things you can do: either support them and harness their potential, or get in their way and block it. They will become themselves, no matter what. My kids may have been born not liking music, and I would have loved them anyway. But I’m glad they were born loving it, because this has become the source of an amazing bond between us.
Dicken Schrader might not be the “best daddy ever.” I mean, it’s way too soon to call that one. But all indications say that he’s a damn good father. In engaging his kids in art, music and video production, Schrader has not only made his kids internet stars, but also given them something that’s much cooler than the Handycam crap we all shoot of our kids drinking out of the dog bowl or riding down a staircase in a cardboard box.
Now please enjoy the Schrader family’s other two Depeche Mode covers of “Shake the Disease” and “Everything Counts”:
SPECIAL UPDATE 8/11: BONUS DMK VIDEO BELOW!
Thanks to Dicken Schrader for getting back to us and taking the time to answer a couple questions!