Datarock: 800 gigs, 36 countries and… a musical?!

Norwegian dance-rock duo Datarock play their 801st show – and their 36th country – with a DJ set in for Cape Town’s Van’s ‘Off The Wall’ night.

Datarock: 800 gigs, 36 countries and... a musical?!

Datarock by Tom Oxley.

Bergen, the city referred to as the Atlantic-coast capital of Norway, was founded as a port city trading in dried cod and, these days, is famous for things like the Fløibanen, a funicular that runs up the neighbouring mountain. It is also the birthplace of Datarock, formed by Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes in 2000. Since then, the group has played 800 shows in 34 countries, been featured as the face of the iPod Nano and been placed on soundtracks to over 20 video games, including “Sims 3” and “Need For Speed”, as well as iPad games like “Tap Tap Radiation”, reaching an estimated 250 million gamer globally. They also have plans to create a musical.
Fredrik Saroea, co-founder of Datarock, explains that he needs to make one thing perfectly clear. The show that the massively popular Datarock are bringing to South Africa is a DJ set, not the full band experience. Yes, they’ll be there in their trademark red tracksuits, but expect the frenzy of their world-travelled DJ show, rather than a line-up with drummer, saxophone and percussion. “It’s me and the other founding member, Ketil Mosnes,” he says. “We make the DJ set as lively as possible, playing our favourite tracks and mixing in a lot of Datarock remixes. We’ve been lucky and we have something like fifty of those, so it is amazing to showcase the work that other people have done to add to our productions.”
He is being modest. “Mixed Up”, the ten-track album of Datarock mixes by electronic and dance music luminaries such as Rainbow Noir, Dan Sena and Ralph Myerz, shot up download charts upon its release in March this year. “We’ve got people like Holy Ghost from New York, Chateau Marmont and Para One from Paris and Kissy Sell Out from London as well,” says Saroea. “When we play those in our DJ sets, it gives us a great opportunity to add in live elements – like the unorthodox singing – and it makes the DJ set much more live. We usually only approach artists that we really like ourselves to do the remixes so it’s always exciting to hear what comes out of the composition that we did.”
He pauses and then adds, “We have had kind of weird episodes, where we have had to go back to the remixer and say, ‘If this is a remix of our song called ‘Fa-Fa-Fa’, it’s kind of essential to keep in the part of the song where I sing, ‘Fa-Fa-Fa’! It’s only happened a couple of times – usually we are just thrilled with what we get. Very early on, back in 2001 and 2002, we put out remix kits of our songs so people could download them and make whatever they wanted to. Remixes are one of the things that made our name travel as far as it has. Both that, and artists who put together mix-tapes and featured us. That is what keeps the international music scene alive.”
For Datarock, both parts of that last phrase are crucial: they are undeniably international, and their music was hailed as one of the fore-runners to the New Rave scene. “We’re from this little town in Norway, and we don’t really have proper distribution in many of the countries where we play, yet we’ve played shows for thousands and thousands of people – 800 shows in 35 countries, and South Africa will be the 36th,” he says. “It’s all thanks, I guess, to globalisation, and to the music press and blogs.”
What’s next, then, for the Datarock duo? “We’re working on ‘Datarock: The Musical’. It’s sounds like a terrible idea, but it’s not that shocking that we want to do something like this. Songs like ‘Computer Camp Love’ already have traces of being a musical in them. A song like ‘Give It Up’ is also supposed to be inspired by Broadway danceability – and anyone who has been unfortunate enough to go and check out Broadway will agree that it’s a disturbing experience. One of the unique qualities of Datarock is that we have found a way to incorporate humour into a kind of sound – electronic and rock – that does not often include humour. That definitely translates into stage production and film, so that’s our plan. We are making a Datarock musical, and a film of that musical.”
Datarock’s DJ set headlines the Vans Music “Off The Wall” night, also featuring Juggernaught (Jhb), Sabretooth, Great Apes, Bilderberg Motel, DJ Sideshow, Tommy Gun and Iron Leyden / Sexual Tension, and hosted by 5FM’s Catherine Grenfell (Saturday 3 December, The Assembly, 61 Harrington St, Cape Town,  021-4657286; 8pm; tickets R50 presale from, R60 door). More on and