Datarock have never been associated with shy, understated or morose performances. The Norwegians’ current tour has offered all the delights of sax solos, stripping band members, crowd surfing and even the odd spot of aerobics that are intrinsic to Datarock’s live shows.
Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes (Ketil-2) put huge enthusiasm into each live performance, demonstrated at the recent Birmingham date. During the final song, drummer Adrian Meehan’s performance resulted in an emergency hospital dash to treat a double spiral fracture to his ankle.
Meehan’s unfortunate accident happened while they had three more dates of their mammoth worldwide tour to get through, promoting latest album Red. For some bands this could be catastrophic, but Datarock are relatively relaxed about the situation, explaining casually on their website their back-up plan of bringing in the drummer from their support band until drummer Tarjei Strom (aka LA Gear) can join them in London.
There’s just a hint of excitement as T-Man exclaims, “Have you heard what happened to Adrian?!” as soon as we meet. Apparently coping with being a member down is not a problem as Datarock’s ever changing line-up and rotation of members is the norm, even without injuries involved. Sax and percussion master Ketil explains, “There is a main core of about three or four people that we have on stage. But we may have a different keyboard player or may change some parts”. This is demonstrated with their last album Datarock Datarock, where there were over 30 members acknowledged for varying roles, from performing to lighting and sound, all which play integral roles within Datarock production and live shows.
This variety is a unique trait that Datarock embraces, not only when there is an emergency as at present. “It keeps it fresh on stage with different people and personalities giving different performances to the live show,” justifies Ketil. And their infamous uniform of red trackies and wrap-around sunglasses also eases the ability to rotate the line-up and slot in new members without it being instantly obvious to the audience.
It’s difficult to see past the uniform; it defines Datarock. Ask anyone to sum up the band and you could put money on ‘tracksuits’ being one of the first descriptive references to be recognised. It’s something that the band are well aware of and use to their advantage. “The tracksuits help, as people won’t know who it is on stage,” says Ketil. “When it was in the beginning it was a different line-up. Now I’m in the band and I am 6’3″, but people don’t even notice the change, as they don’t see past the tracksuits.” From the sounds of things those tracksuits aren’t just a convenient guise for slotting in varying members to an unwitting audience; they also act as a form of portal into the madness of the world that is Datarock. “We totally change personality when the tracksuits go on,” Ketil-2 continues.
Meehan’s injured state hasn’t actually been mentioned until now. When asked, they explain that he has been operated on, he’s doing fine but they are more excited about the fact that he’s got a line of morphine that he can self-medicate to his heart’s content.
The conversation turns to how they’ve used Meehan’s misfortune in a creative capacity. “He was taken to the hospital and we took a lot of photos on the journey up there and documented the whole thing. Once we got home we spent four hours editing and making a video with a Datarock song, Fear Of Death, accompanying it. Back home in Norway, it was top news on television. The video had 12,000 hits which, for a country of four million, is a large proportion. We were hoping to make something out of a negative event.”
Tonight’s show has resurrected the old finale favourite singalong, Time Of My Life (yes, from the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing). It raises the matter of where Datarock will take their music now that Red and its tour is pretty much done and dusted. The influences on their music are glaringly obvious; Red contains a track comprising Talking Heads song titles, another describing their love of Molly Ringwald and clear nods to Devo. There’s more than a little affinity with ’80s popular culture going on.
But if they left the ’80s alone, which other influences might they explore? “Are you saying we should?” jokes Ketil. “As there are a lot of us there are a lot of influences. Some of us listen to more hardcore, although judging from the music that we are all listening to now it should be a death metal album.”
On this thought it can only be hoped that this doesn’t materialise, for if their brand of ’80s electro can cause such a brutal injury, who can guess what a Datarock death metal live show will break…