We were lucky enough to score a chat with Fred Saroea of Norwegian tracksuit donning electro-heads, DATAROCK. Here’s what Fred had to say about their latest ‘Data Rock’ package and the state of the music industry today.
Hi Fred, where are you today? I’m sitting in Bergen, Norway. I’m finally back from the insanity we finished two days ago. We just came off the tour we are calling ‘Datarock’s Designer Toy Story Tour.’ Last month we released this designer toy USB package that has a bunch of new stuff. It has our new EP California, our new EP Catcher In The Rye which has got about six tracks. There’s a brand new album called Music For Synchronization, 15 instrumental tracks, a brand new compilation album called Lost & Found which is B-sides and rarities from limited edition vinyl releases, the first album with bonus tracks, the second album with bonus tracks, 43 remixes, 22 music videos, a 65 minute concert film, 1,500 photos, all the artwork, blah blah blah. Are you reading this from a sheet of paper? No, I have talked about it in like a hundred interviews already [laughs]. So yeah, we just came off this tour which was 20 shows in 7 countries in 4 weeks. It’s been a lot of fun – it’s been great. I bet you’re feeling pretty tired and looking forward to putting your feet up and watching some TV? Yes [laughs]. Exactly… So now we have a couple of weeks here, and then we are coming to Australia! We are really looking forward to seeing you guys again. Thank you! It’s really quite something – this is the seventh tour we have done in Australia. There is a lot of respect for you guys here and such a buzz surrounding your performances. Can you imagine how that feels for us? Not really. We play here in Norway and then we come to Australia and have this massive audience around the country – it’s really amazing. You can imagine what people think back in Norway, it’s like: what the fuck?! Seventh tour in Australia? What’s going on?! [Laughs].
Can you explain the rationale behind the designer toy theme? As not only do the vinyl variety appear on the cover art of the new single but again you are offering this package to house all of the various tracks. Well, we have been a band now for about ten years. The first release was a limited edition 10″ on a very small label back home in Bergen, Norway. It is the same label as Kings of Convenience, Röyksopp, Annie and all sorts of other bands. That was kinda the world we came from – where everybody was signed to tiny labels that were run by some music fan and financial gain was never their driving force, it was just doing it for fun. Then over the course of our career the music industry has changed so much that now even the indie labels have difficulty printing vinyl releases. Everything has changed with online file-sharing and iTunes. Often when we are at music conferences we are doing panel debates and one of the things we are sick and tired of focusing on is all the problems. Everybody is talking about how hard it is and the music industry itself has been very blunt about it – even involving music fans in financial difficulties. Personally, I dont think even a fraction of music fans really want to know what is going-on in the board meetings of the record companies. When it comes to music, that stuff isn’t supposed to be part of all that, it’s supposed to be about the music and not about financial stress. So I think it has been really impolite how the music industry have put their problems out there and involved fans. Actually, I think it is ridiculous. In our case for instance, we don’t really sell a lot of records but we don’t care because we have a world-wide audience. We have done 800 shows in over 35 countries and in most of those countries, the people in the audience know all of the lyrics – they care about the band and the music. We only have proper distribution in probably 10 of those 35 countries. So all the difficulties the industry is going through are because of the same reason that makes it possible for us to tour the world – we can’t let ourselves be disappointed by that, it is great! The way music is consumed now has been very beneficial for us. It is a great time for musicians – it’s not a great time for record labels perhaps, but who gives a fuck? That’s not what it’s about! So the whole concept of the designer toy is that it’s actually a vinyl release because it’s a vinyl toy. A vinyl release in the shape of a ‘Data Rock’ – which is a rock and inside of it is a USB stick, hence ‘Data Rock’. The USB stick is really just dealing with the fact that everybody is consuming a band’s production through their laptop etc. We just wanted to deal with how things work now. If everybody is consuming music through their laptops, why not add all our music videos, and why not produce a concert film, and then lets just add tonnes of footage from our touring?! It makes it exciting. Most of those things you couldn’t fit on a fucking vinyl anyways! So for me it’s like, we could release vinyl but it is in my experience that a lot of people that buy vinyl releases, put it on their shelf and then they use the download codes to put the music onto their iPods etc. A do love vinyl but I don’t see the point in releasing vinyl if people aren’t actually even going to play it. So what I’m saying is that what is great about our release is that it is fun, you know? It’s just about fun and working with the designer toy company has just been amazing, it’s about creativity, it’s not about getting your song on the radio or whatever. It’s just like, lets produce something together that is fun and is hopefully going to be enjoyable for our fans. You know, it doesn’t make much sense, we are going to lose money on this release no matter what happens, but that’s not the point. The point is that it has been so much fun! The music industry has forgotten about the fun and forgot that it was all about being a creative outlet – an inspiration for the business, it’s become such a fucking industry [laughs]. Now, we are trying to reinvent fun and it has worked for ourselves. We really respect your approach to the music industry. [Laughs] thank you, you probably hate me. No not at all, we have never heard another artist speak of the music industry in this way but what you are saying is completely valid and true! Well we are you know, we are industry. We have a label, we have like 36 releases on our label but if we did anything to stop their music from being spread to as many people as possible, how can that benefit the artist? If you are in the music industry just for the money, you are in the wrong place – go to the stock market or something. The industry shouldn’t try to criminalise file-sharers. I have a lot of music cassettes from when I was a kid and that was all file-sharing too. I copied all of my friends records onto cassette tapes, it’s exactly the same thing. What the fuck is the problem?! They gain fans – I went to shows to see the bands that I had on my cassettes, it’s just the same now. The release we did is just a way to deal with the positive and slightly the negative sides of how things have changed. Hopefully people will pick it up because there has been a lot of work put into it.
Are you excited about getting to play in some rural parts of Australia this time round? Yes I am! We been doing a lot of touring around Norway recently because we get sick of big cities. A lot of the festivals we play in Norway now are rural – I love getting out of the cities, back to mother nature, I thinks it’s great. I find when you play outside of the cities, you play for a more varied audience.
The red tracksuits, have you guys ever thought about dropping them and performing without them? Yes, we have. We have tried many times but we have come to realize that we don’t wear the tracksuits – the tracksuits wear us. They are not a piece of clothing, they are an organism [laughs]. We just can’t escape them, they follow us wherever we go. And if we leave them at home, miraculously they end up on our bodies before we go on stage [laughs].
DATAROCK will be back in Australia this May as part of the Groovin’ the Moo Festivals and will be doing a few sideshows while they’re in the country.
Head over to the official Groovin’ the Moo website for all the festival info and see below for sideshows:
Wed 4th May – The Zoo, Brisbane Buy Tix
Thur 5th May – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney Buy Tix
Thur 12th May – East Brunswick Club, Melbourne Buy Tix
DATAROCK’s ‘Data Rock’ is out worldwide via the band’s website.