About a minute into Dan Bodan’s debut single “Anonymous,” overtop a spare beat that sounds like street sweepers and rattling old coins, the singer drifts in and begins moaning, sounding like the ghost of one of Bertolt Brecht’s characters. You’d be forgiven for thinking the ballad was some 1920s mix of cabaret and poetry, but listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll hear something a little more contemporary: the story of the lonely life of a computer hacker. “When I was young, I would like hack into porn websites,” the Canadian musician says over the phone from his adopted home in Berlin. “But this song’s about what it would be like to be a true hacker. You know, breaking into your girlfriend’s email account and finding out she’s fucking someone else, finding out the world is way more fucked up than you thought.” Though at times Bodan’s hushed, haunted moods conjure up the Berlin of nearly a hundred years past, he’s a modern man writing songs about the weird things that make up life at this very moment.
Even with the internet on his brain, 28-year-old Bodan owns one naturally old-fashioned tool: his voice. Born in the very cold prairies of Edmonton, he took classical singing lessons as a kid, learned the Alexander technique of controlled breathing and even sang in a couple of operas, including the gold standard, Carmen. “I kind of thought it was lame,” he says, laughing. Bodan moved to Montreal with his family, milled around the city’s noise community, then after a semester abroad in Europe, ended up in Berlin, home to all-weekend clubs and cheap rents—his first apartment, he says, cost just 50 euros a month. He’s remained there for seven years, experimenting with music and making a living off of live performances. “When you’re used to not working that much,” he says, “it’s kind of hard to move.”