"Hold the high score, bowling alley Dig Dug/King suds 'cause I drink out of a big mug/I'm in a bowling league, but we never practice/I got a custom bowling shirt with an embroidered cactus."
San Francisco rapper Jay Friedman, a/k/a Satellite High, has fully captured the platonic ideal of dads. His new release, The Dad-Rock EP, examines dads of every stripe: the backyard grillmaster, the disappointed football dad, the "Cool Dad" who might steal your girlfriend: "Cruisin' in an empty car, noddin' his head and saying 'fuck yeah' to NPR/Cool Dad write a parenting blog, black iPod filled with Girl Talk when he go for a jog." Though none of the dads presented are exactly like any one dad, they combine into a full picture, encompassing bits of my dad, the dads of friends, the dads of exes — all dads.
It could have been a comedy-rap release, but Dad-Rock is a major work, a thing of true craftsmanship: great rhymes, handmade beats, impeccable attention to daddish detail. Friedman has released plenty of joke tracks (find "TLO Roll Call" on YouTube for a popular example), but Satellite High has been largely a serious hip-hop project. "I've tended to try to keep a strict line of demarcation between the two," Friedman tells me. "This record is probably a reaction to that, and I feel that it has a ton of my personality in it." I harassed him online for further dad thoughts:
WHAT GOT YOU INTO THE DAD FRAME OF MIND? Originally, the theme was just musical. I love the phrase "dad-rock," and I play the guitar, so the idea was to make a hip-hop record where every song had electric guitar on it, in an obnoxious blues-rock kind of way. But I realized pretty quick that if I did that I should probably go ahead and carry the theme through to the lyrics too.
HOW MUCH OF THIS WAS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL DAD ACCOUNTS AND HOW MUCH WAS PURE SPECULATIVE DAD FICTION? It's 100 percent speculative dad fiction, or anecdotal. I didn't grow up with my dad, so an album about MY dad would be incredibly uninteresting. So this is pretty much a pastiche of TV Dads, Imagined Dads, and Dads of My Friends.
HERE COMES THE BARBARA WALTERS SHIT: DO YOU THINK YOUR DADLESS UPBRINGING CONTRIBUTED TO THE KIND OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL VIEW OF THE DADS THAT YOU WORK WITH ON THIS EP? Oh yeah, no doubt. I definitely am trading more in "concept of dad" than actual dadness. I'd say that each song is kind of a sketch of a dad type that I've encountered somewhere and been fascinated by, like the Auto Workshop Dad, or Cover Band Dad.
(I didn't conduct this interview in person, so I couldn't tell if he was crying when he answered that; let's assume he was.)
ANY DAD AMBITIONS OF YOUR OWN? Not currently; it seems like a lot of work, and I think dad-life is best viewed from a distance, for me at least.
WHICH OF THE DADS ON THE RECORD DO YOU THINK YOU'D BE MOST LIKE — ARE YOU MORE OF A COOL DAD OR MORE OF A GRILL DAD? In my head, I'd be "cool dad," because I lack any sense of discipline and am basically a giant teenager, but I think the truth is that I'd be more of a Grill Dad. I enjoy football and barbecues and a lot of other man-cave activities, no matter how much I deny it to myself.
If you want to thoroughly bewilder your old man, you can download him a copy of The Dad-Rock EP at satellitehigh.bandcamp.com. It's on a pay-what-thou-will model, so remember to tip your waitress. Satellite High has a non-dad-related "serious" album coming in January.
DAVID THORPE | dthorpe[a]phx.com