Pogo might be one of the most popular musicians in the world, but there’s a fair chance you’ve never heard of him. He doesn’t drop surprise albums like Beyoncé or fill stadiums like the Boss, but he rules on YouTube. His channel has well over 300,000 subscribers, and his pop culture mash-up music videos have been viewed more than 100 million times.
Pogo’s real name is Nick Bertke. Where some mash-up artists stun with clever technique or surreal juxtapositions, Pogo is first and foremost a fan, passionate and careful with his sources. He grew up in New Zealand immersed in American culture – Back to the Future, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, all things Disney. Even as a child, he was fascinated by the small sounds that made up the bigger pictures he would watch over and over. As an adult, he found a way to make music with them: “What if you made this kind of collage of all of these sounds and voices?” Bertke wondered. “So that you’re actually using a film and the essence of that film to make a song?”
His first attempt was posted in 2007, when YouTube was a toddler. He dismantled Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and put it back together in under three minutes:
“Alice” won Pogo millions of views and a letter from Disney – not a takedown notice, but an invitation to Pixar’s California headquarters. He left with a copy of Up before it was released and sent back “Upular.” Since then he’s made a career out of commissioned videos, with original work for Warner Brothers, Showtime, and a number of car companies.
But Pogo makes pop music, and his white whale is the live show, which he says he has yet to perfect. He dreams of costumed dancers and remixing his work live. In the meantime, he confronts “a terrible bucket of stress, having to go on that show with this dinky laptop,” he says. “On the other hand, it is immensely invigorating and inspiring as well.”