Deadmau5 Returns to Voodoo Fest November 1
I recall stumbling upon Deadmau5’s Voodoo Fest debut back in 2011. I knew nothing of him at the time other than that he was an electronic artist — a genre I thought had thankfully been disgraced from the American musical mainstream at the turn of the century along with rap-rock and boy bands — and that he looked like Skynet modeled a time-traveling cyber-assassin after the mascot of the Mouseketeers rather than a body builder-turned-politician in a future Terminator sequel. My skepticism was quickly put to rest. Deadmau5’s beats possessed a pulsating, controlled cadence — nothing like the “techno” from my high school days, the mangled Sega Genesis-sounds on infinite repeat that kids who did drugs swore was “music.” Furthermore, Deadmau5’s stage presence was as powerful and engaging as any A-list rock performer, amplified by a stunning lightshow fitting of a Disney finale. I’ve since reconsidered my stance on EDM, embracing it ever since.
As Deadmau5 approaches his Voodoo sequel on November 1, I decided to learn a bit more about the artist, whose real name is Joel Zimmerman, prior to his performance. Here are a few facts for the unfamiliar.
He plays his own instruments (sort of…)
In a July 5, 2012, interview with Rolling Stone by Josh Eells titled, “The Rise of Deadmau5,” Zimmerman lashed out at several of EDMs top stars, accusing their live performances of consisting of nothing more than button-pushing. Zimmerman stated, “David Guetta has two iPods and a mixer and he just plays tracks… Even Skrillex…isn't doing anything too technical. He has a laptop and a MIDI recorder, and he's just playing his s%!t… I'm not saying I’m not a button-pusher. I'm just pushing a lot more buttons."
Zimmerman goes on to describe how he constructs his own computer, stripping apart his songs and putting them back together during his performance so he can give his fans an authentic, live performance.
He helped launch the career of another Voodoo 2015 headliner
Two-time Voodoo headliner and one-half of this year’s much anticipated October 30 closing act Jack ü, Skrillex was originally signed to Deadmau5’s mau5trap record label. In an April 2015 live stream hosted by website Twitch, Deadmau5 says he discovered the now superstar when he approached him after a show with a USB containing the track “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” “If he had spammed me with email or on Twitter, I may never have seen that piece of music,” Zimmerman said in the interview. Though Skrillex has since left mau5trap, and there are rumors of a beef between the two artists, Deadmau5 saw his potential and gave him a boost in his early days.
Deadmau5 has been in and out of legal fisticuffs with Disney for years over the copyright for his signature mouse ears. Disney claims his likeness causes confusion with their ubiquitous animated ambassador, Mickey Mouse; Zimmerman consistently refutes this, stating no one could ever confuse him with a cartoon. Despite their round-eared turf war, the two have continued to cross creative paths, with Deadmau5’s music commissioned for various Disney works, including an invitation for Zimmerman to do a Star Wars remix.
Mickey’s mighty mouse muscle may have finally been exhausted this year. Billboard.com reported in a June 22 post by Eriq Gardner that an agreement with Zimmerman over the registration of his trademark helmet has been reached.
Just say no
In his aforementioned June 15, 2012, Rolling Stone cover story, Zimmerman says that he stays clear of drugs. His abstinence is partly due to a cardiac condition, but also because he does not care for the feeling of losing control. Still, he acknowledged that his music, and to a degree his genre in general, panders to drug use.
Zimmerman, though, believes the stigma of drug use hurts the scene, and was responsible for halting electronic music’s growth by slamming the brakes on the rave scene in the late ‘90s. He has been known to go after those that link drug use with EDM shows — most notably Madonna, whom he had harsh words for after she advocated the use of Molly – or MDMA – at a dance music festival in Miami earlier that year.
David Grohl has taken several jabs at EDM, and Deadmau5 in particular. He took a swing at musicians who sit behind computers and don’t learn to sing or play their own instrument at the 2012 Grammy Awards before going on stage with Deadmau5 later in the show. Just this past month, Grohl asked his crowd at a show in Portland, Oregon, to put lighters up in the air before a performance of “Big Me” rather than cell phones, stating he would rather they “look like a Scorpions video than a Deadmau5 video.”
Despite this, Deadmau5 remains a Foo fan. Speaking with Rolling Stone during his cover interview, Zimmerman, who did a remix of the band’s hit “Rope,” said he would like for Grohl to remix one of his songs, “because f**k dance music, you know?”
Deadmau5 headlines the Altar stage at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1. Photo by Ahmed Siddiqui.