ONE TO WATCH
Jason Sniderman (a.k.a. Ensign Broderick)
Who he is: The son of Sam the Record Man founder Sam Sniderman, 60-year-old Jason Sniderman recently thawed his alter-ego Ensign Broderick, a glam-rock persona he had developed as a young teen in the 1970s but which has been frozen in amber for decades. Over the years, Sniderman has played piano and keyboard on albums by Chalk Circle, Randy Bachman, Rush and countless others, but he shelved any notion of being a solo artist after he joined Toronto new wave band Blue Peter in the 1980s.
“It was hard for me to envision myself as a front person after watching Blue Peter singer Paul Humphrey,” Sniderman says. He went on to become an executive with Sam the Record Man and serve on music industry boards. In 2015, he posted music he’d written and recorded over the decades in relative secrecy on Soundcloud.
“I was living in such a vacuum with my music,” he says. “I didn’t know if it was any good.” Shauna de Cartier, the founder of the Toronto-based Six Shooter Records, heard the music and was enthralled enough by it to unleash the treasure trove of the time-capsule music. To date, the label has released six Ensign Broderick albums in just over a year, including, last week, BloodMyth, a companion to last year’s BloodCrush.
What he does: His grand music bears the influence of Roxy Music and a glittered David Bowie. Standing in My Light (which appears on both BloodCrush and BloodMyth) is a glam-rock boogaloo from the past, with bouncing piano notes and a disco ball gone super nova. Love Died/Dies Here (from BloodCrush) is a heroic exercise in epic minor key balladry, standing as tall as Elton John’s highest platform boots. Electric Blue follows footsteps left on The Dark Side of the Moon.
His worst gig: “It was at a high school talent show. Our band was on stage, but I played on the floor because we couldn’t get the upright piano up on stage. A friend on roller skates came over and dumped a bowl of baby powder on my head, and then he dumped a bowl of candy hearts on me. We played a song called Glitter Gun, which ended up on 2018′s Ranger. Then we played a New York Dolls type of song. The two girls who organized the event were crying, asking us why we wrecked their show. A teacher told us our performance was too long, too loud and too effeminate, except he didn’t use that word. The next day we had to issue an apology over the school PA system. Some kids would thrive on the rebelliousness of it all. Not me. I was an introvert. I went back to my bedroom and closed the door. Music was everything to me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to shake it. The talent show was a reality check. I realized any music career was going to be a long haul.”
What’s next: A pair of solo-piano gigs opening up for Sarah Slean will give Broderick exposure in Toronto (at the Mod Club, June 18) and New York (June 19). He’s currently in the middle of recording two new albums: a glam-rock disc with Grammy-winning producer-engineer David Bottrill (Muse, Peter Gabriel) and a piano-and-strings project with Jonathan Goldsmith (Bruce Cockburn, Jane Siberry and Slean).