'Sandstorm': a Tribute

'Sandstorm': a Tribute

Alex Capper

There I was. A drunk, sweaty, bruised mess of a human, mindlessly stumbling around the chaotic mosh of the DZ Deathrays gig. They were halfway through their encore when I heard it. The high-pitched lick seared through the wave of frenzied distortion and mangled beats like a coyote howl shooting through the desert night.


I didn’t believe what I had heard. A flicker of sound had snatched my attention instantly. Then it happened again.


I was thinking to myself: ‘No way… they can’t be… are they really dropping this?’ Yep. They really went for it.

Thrash/dance punk band DZ Deathrays dropped a live version of the one and only 'Sandstorm'. The passion and anarchy of the performance rocketed the vibe up to 11 as metalheads, hipsters and everybody in between lost their respective brains to 'Sandstorm'.

It was right then and there that I realised the dance anthem 'Sandstorm' isn’t just for 90s ravers or pill poppers having a laugh. 'Sandstorm' is for everyone. It was first released all the way back in 1999 thanks to the work of Finnish producer/cult leader Darude. He was one of the first artists to make use of the Internet to share his music, garnering interest from around the globe after uploading 'Sandstorm' to filesharing site mp3.com. With its Ritalin-fuelled tempo and alien computerised melodies, 'Sandstorm' quickly became a club hit and earned Darude a record deal and worldwide popularity.

...'Sandstorm' has transcended objective rationale.

'Sandstorm' became one of the first major singles of EDM with global sales of over two million, featuring on over 200 compilations worldwide and receiving radio airplay in over 70 countries. However, the world of dance music was constantly and ruthlessly changing, and as soon as Darude was in it seemed as though he was out again.

For a long time, 'Sandstorm' was the punchline of a never-ending joke. Whereas dance tracks of similar acclaim such as Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ or Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better with You’ aged gracefully, 'Sandstorm' became synonymous with being a tacky misrepresentation of EDM. It was a ‘gateway track’, representing the absurdity of EDM, the emblematic soundtrack to the cacophonous, sticky nature of nightclubs.

It used to be that if a DJ dropped 'Sandstorm' in the middle of a set, you would think: ‘Man, this guy is just taking the piss’. However, if we fast-forward to 2015, the repetitive, ludicrous, supercomputer-charged 'Sandstorm' has resurged to become fashionable in the dance world again. Major acts are dropping it during their sets at festivals, clubs continually put it on rotation and Darude has become an Internet meme sensation. Against all logical reasoning, Darude is more popular now than he has ever been, off the back of a track that was made 15 years ago, which has now been listened to over 21 million times on Spotify.

As to why 'Sandstorm' has become popular again, I’m sure there is someone who is basing his or her doctorate on the bizarre phenomenon, but I’ll give my two cents anyway. In truth, 'Sandstorm' never ‘disappeared’, as such. It was a popular track for major sporting events and fixtures such as NFL matches and the 2006 Winter Olympics. It was even the soundtrack to a TV ad featuring NBA megastars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in 2009. Darude also owes a lot to the power of YouTube. Videos went viral of people parodying 'Sandstorm' on toy trumpets, hardcore gamers having 'Sandstorm' as the soundtrack to League of Legends, and, of course, the amazing YouTube video of 'Sandstorm' on repeat for ten hours straight. Thanks to being the butt of many a joke, 'Sandstorm' continued to remain prevalent. Even if it was out of sheer irony, people were always talking about it or listening/raving to it.

With 'Sandstorm' constantly lingering in the background of the dance music sphere, it should be little surprise that, after the full-blown immersion of EDM into popular music, 'Sandstorm' somehow found a way back into our lives. 

I know it’s cheesy, I know it’s repetitive, I know that if any other song like it came out I would absolutely pan it. But 'Sandstorm' has transcended objective rationale. It is a cult classic, and it’s made me and many other people so, so happy.

Dadanahnahdadanahnah all day every day. 'Sandstorm' forever.

Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.