Digitalism (DJ Set)
If Franz Ferdinand do rock to let the people dance, Digitalism are doing dance to let the people rock! For the past two years, Digitalism have been the go-to men for indie remixes, having reworked the Klaxons, The Test Icicles, Cut Copy and The Futureheads, to devastating effect.
Digitalism hail from Hamburg. Isi, the German born son of Turkish immigrants, met Jens, the child of a liberal family, at the city's Underground Solution record store. Moelle was the first find employment there, towards the end of the 1990s. When he took leave from the shop to devote more time to his school work, Isi filled. Later Jens returned, and the pair worked alongside each other: Jens in the shop, and Isi at the attendant record distribution business. They soon bonded over their shared love of dance and rock records.
When the store's owner, Ollie Grabowski, began casting around for a couple of fresh, young DJs to play at party, he suggested that Isi and Jens team up.
"We were of the same generation," explains Isi, "we liked the same records, so we were put in one room together."
Ever the innovators, the boys bought an adaptor for their first DJing gig, allowing them to plug two sets of headphones into one socket.
"So you could hear the same thing," explains Isi. "You never drop out of the groove," Jens confirms.
As the duo's DJing reputation took off, so the harder the pair worked to find obscure, unheard records to animate their crowds. In 2001, the price of CD writers dropped sufficiently to allow the boys to burn their own records.
"We stared with some edits," says Jens, "just for our DJ sets."
The first was a version of The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army'. This eventually found its way onto vinyl and sold well, marking Digitalism out as electronic producers who could cross over into the rock camp. Its success also prompted the boys to put out another release. On their second record, they also included an original composition. The jagged, makeshift track, with its scrappy vocal hook ('I Have An Idea That You Are Here, I Have The Idea That You Were Near'), called 'Idealistic'.
The record was re-pressed, allowing everyone from Erol Alkan to Pete Tong to pick up a copy, yet it was Gildas Loaec from Kitsune in Paris who eventually contacted the duo with a serious label deal.
"I knew the record had done well," says Isi, "I was distributing it, after all. Yet I was really happy to get the call from Gildas. We were the first album artist signing to Kitsune."
Digitalism initial release on the French label remains their best known: 'Zdarlight'. The boys chose this peculiar spelling to distinguish the record from other 'Starlight' titled tunes by everyone from Muse to Model 500.
They shouldn't have worried. The heavy dance tune, with its acidic undercarriage, lilting guitar line and stratospheric climax, is distinctive enough. It received strong support in 2005 from many including Soulwax, Tiga, Laurent Garnier, Blackstrobe, Tiefschwarz and The Glimmers, and remains a reliable club staple to this day.
Digitalism followed this release with Jupiter Room, another compelling electronic record that, despite its celestial overtones, was actually named after a sleazy bar in Montreal.
Their forthcoming album, entitled Idealism is, in Jens' words, "an attempt to reach out, and create structures," he explains, "but also this space aspect, you depart from earth to something new."
Yet the boys still love earthbound rock'n'roll. Their reinterpretation of The Cure's 'Fire In Cairo', entitled 'Digitalism in Cairo', was one 2006's cult re-edits. They managed to clear this version for their album, setting the band's album apart from the usual 4/4 club bound albums. Listen to a track like 'Pogo' or 'Apollo-Gize' from their new LP. Their loose, heavily distorted, rough grooves and blankly delivered lyrics owe as much to Joy Division or The Associates as they do to Daft Punk and their contemporaries.
Any further doubts are laid to rest during their live shows. This summer, you're as likely to find them appearing live on the festival circuit as playing the clubs. As Sean McClusky, the legendary London rock club promoter, who booked the duo recently, puts it "Digitalism are as popular with indie kids as electro or techno clubbers."
Digitalism's own, ever-evolving gig set-up is becoming less like a porta-studio on stage, and more like a band set-up. This side of the band is set to grow even more this year. There has not been an electronic act with the potential to cross over on such a scale since Daft Punk and the Chemical Brothers. It's been a long wait!
The boys still record in a bunker. The building wouldn't look out of place in a dystopian film like 1984. Its thick concrete walls, blast doors and cell-like atmosphere suits the duo perfectly.
"We drink something, we have fun," says Isi, "we don't have any daylight, any distractions; I think maybe our sound come from the bunker atmosphere."
And though they're stuck deep inside, Digitalism are looking at the stars. Sorry, Zdars.