Back when Joel Zimmerman first built his mau5-head, he gave Rolling Stone an interesting rationale for the new prop: “I thought it would be kind of funny to be the mystery mouse guy, like Daft Punk.”
A few years down the track, Deadmau5 is often talked about as one of the best-realised ‘brands’ in dance music. On stage, Zimmerman’s been through over 20 incarnations of that mau5 head, while the punters who come to his gigs regularly slave over their own replicas to wear on the dancefloor. One eight-year-old fan even has a Twitter account (with 7,000 followers to boot) dedicated to drawing new Deadmau5 designs every day.
But Deadmau5 never really ended up being that “mystery mouse guy.” Far from an enigma, Joel Zimmerman is always right out there. Even when he’s holed up in his studio, working on music with a cigarette in hand, he’ll broadcast it all for fans to see. Then, of course, he’s also the guy who’ll deliver a lacerating takedown of just about anything and anyone. (And yes, he’s never far from the inthemix homepage.) In recent years, we’ve seen more of Joel than ever: the good, the bad and the angry. He remains one of the most fascinating, polarizing personalities in music.
“In recent years, we’ve seen more of Joel than ever: the good, the bad and the angry. He remains one of the most fascinating, polarizing personalities in music”
So when inthemix was offered our first interview slot with Deadmau5 in three years (thanks to an incoming tour with Future Music Festival), we came to it with all these contradictions in mind.
What was meant to be a 15 minute call on Christmas Eve turned into a two and half hour talk on Skype chat (“The label were amazed we got him at all,” the PR rep facilitating the media time told inthemix after the interview).
This is the conversation we could never have predicted – it’s as freeform and unfiltered as its subject, but perhaps one of the most honest he’s ever done. And certainly the longest.
In the interest of keeping things authentic, we’ve reproduced the conversation almost exactly as it happened – lower case lettering, meme references and all. Stick through ‘til the end and you’ll walk away with an insight into Zimmerman’s thoughts on labels, his live show plans, that time he called every DJ in the world a “fucking c*nt”, the Grammys, inthemix forum users, Mozart, Giorgio Moroder and much, much more.
hey, it’s inthemix. I think we’re second in the i/v queue
just type away
I’ll answer on here
I have a cold.
not doing so great
ah okay sure, I also have a cold
so that works
canberra. fireworks and porn.
haha! yep. home for the holidays
my kinda town
are you on another call at the moment?
yeah I’m full of useless shit
just rather type
okay cool I’ll start hitting you with stuff
first up – been having a play on the new site the last couple of days, watching you play minecraft etc. looks cool! does the finished product match your vision for it?
it’s getting better, we had to roll it out in a hurry
what’s left to be done?
well, overall improvements and functionality
but the gist of it is there
music video photos chat… short of me coming over to your house and giving you a personal hand job, what else is there
so we’re doing all that
except the hand job
that will be a $200 in app purchase
haha, well I’m glad we’ve already covered hand jobs
they are of high caliber….
I know there exists an old tumblr post of your where you said “what you need a fuckin theme park, and you and your music are the theme. you want people to come to you theme park and feel like they’re part of your world” – how close do you feel you are to that?
it’s getting close to my theme park idea
do you feel like it’s gonna eliminate the problems you have with open, established social media? (like twitter)
but at least alleviate my need to say something stupid to a buncha people who giveth a fuck not about me or my music
Miley Cyrus manages to find her way onto my timeline / home feed
ergo, I probably end up on hers
so some butthurt Miley fan is going to have something clever to say on the matter of 44.1 vs 96khz audio
heaps. been wondering – what’s the drawback of having that close a relationship with your fans? do you ever wish you had a little more anonymity?
mmm nah, in the online “live site” capacity… I can always unplug for a sec.
I don’t leave the house
and when I do, I don’t get mobbed in malls in China
or malls in Toronto
fair call. it’s funny though, I know once back in like 2010 you were talking about the mau5 head and said “I thought it would be kind of funny to be the mystery mouse guy, like daft punk. you could totally pass those guys in the friction k-mart and not know it”. but that’s not really want the mau5 head ended up being hey
just let it happen.
embrace the shit.
become the shit
I actually wanted to talk about your first australian tour back in 07, for kink
do you remember that?
I rode a kangaroo on stage at my first AU gig
I THOUGHT people would have LIKED that.
then I realized how annoyed id be if tommy trash dressed up as a mountie
keepin it vanilla this time
am I right in saying that was your first (or one of, at least) tour outside of canada? how different was your world back then?
yeah it pretty much was
I was full of hope and excitement
and happy to be a part of something
yeah, reading back articles and things from that time, that definitely comes across
what sort of electronic music were you inspired by then?
mmm not really much of, I was in the learning stage then
so was there a turning point where you WEREN’T so excited about everything? how long did that 07 feeling last?
what changed then?
that’s some me, searching me, shit
ain’t nobody got time for that
let’s talk production
when you spoke to someone from ITM before another tour in 2011, you said you were making up to five songs every studio day. are you still as prolific?
well I’d like to be if I didn’t have a million things to run / monitor / approve / dictate / endure and or litigate through
but comes with the territory I suppose
it has its fun moments
but you’ve been making quite moody music lately, stuff that doesn’t feel geared to the dancefloor. I wondered – is your end goal only to play headline shows where fans are going to ‘get it’, or can you still see your music working in the context of a dance festival?
I’m still keeping it relevant enough in the BG to be fest. friendly…. at least with small injections of my “out there whack ass I can’t dance to this isn’t even music where’s the drop bro” shit
IS the end goal to only play headline shows though?
headline as in playing with a buncha other dudes playing other dudes shit?
just do solo shows
oh yes, that’s what I mean by headline shows
not festivals. just you
I’d rather just do solo shows.
is that a possibility for the immediate future? or are you likely to be stuck doing the festivals thing for a while?
I can die happy never needing to get in a fight with Tiesto or Armin’s fuckin team over who gets to use what percent of a fuckin LED screen because all our music sucks so much shit we might as well blind them with CG we had nothing to do with
“WHO GETS THE SCREEN”
there’s a whole political scene
I’m telling you
there are wars happening in the back there with production teams
that NEED to be reality TV shows
and here I was thinking it’s billing artists fight over
I’ll pass that on to MTV. see what they can do.
better than watching whiney 16 year old preg bitches
almost the same thing actually.
I can see the ratings now.
on the topic of festivals though, what incarnation of the live show are you bringing out for Future?
I love aus.
I really do
I do not love freighting things to aus
I really do not
ah yeah, that
it costs WHAT!?
and you can’t exactly rent an “original” production there
outside of the usual product
it’s like that
‘spose it’s our own fault for being so far away
so what’s the ‘plus’ in cube plus?
wait for it
of course I have no idea what that is, and here’s me hoping our production team fuckin nails it
I’m bringing that rad touchscreen shit this time
so it’s a work in progress?
I’m the last minute man
well that’s cool for us, means we get something new
well not to mention fucktons of new music
not like I’m gunna roll up and ghosts n stuff you to death
might mash it up with Levels this time
what sorta stuff is gonna be in your set then? ALL new?
technically that meets the “new” requirement
that will definitely go down well
so they would burn effigies of me in the street if I didn’t ask whether you will do any sideshows..
I got heaps more
can we talk about the ultra split?
also, with live. deadmau5.com, are people not supposed to be able to see the chat unless they’re in it? cause all I get in that section is white screen
k one sec
I’ll be here, scrolling through instagram on my phone
lemme know if you see any good manicures
yo yo honey singhh
all just photos of coffee
yeah kinda of a perk with subscribers
plus I’m on on there right now
because I’m here
but I am a subscriber? hm, I dunno
did you throw money at me?
well my friend did and then let me use her login
actually its coz I’m not on
its pure chaos in there if I just let everyone go crazy
I go on, and it cycles through users
so everyone can have a fair chance to talk
and all get replies
ah, I wondered how that worked
otherwise it’s just
I think the system we got goin on is more tame
which is cool
coz people THINK about what they wanna say
yeah, how many are in the chat at one time?
it looks like 4 on my computer
well I do 4… and once
I get through
I hit a button here
and it randomly picks 4 more
etc etc and cycles thru the lot
I don’t know why nobody else thought of that
for like crazy user chats
if you have a better idea
we’re all ears
we’ve been open to feedback bout that method on the site
haha nah I dig
so we’re taking a lot back from the fans
I just didn’t know if mine was bung
nah it’s cool
okay question time
in the interview with us you did in 2011 you said “I tell you, I’ve developed a really fuckin thick skin”. has anything tested that lately?
rather not talk about it tho.
do you wanna talk about ultra? cause I find that interesting
ultra? interesting? same sentence?
obv you are glad to be out of that deal
but if you could go back, would you not sign with them to begin with/ or do you think they had a positive impact on your career somewhere down the line?
a bitch’s gotta do what a bitch’s gotta do. at the time… I very well didn’t have a distribution model up and running right?
I mean, it’s pretty brutal dog eat dog shit
but as long as you say “hey its business” then you’re clear
no feels involved
all’s fair in business and war?
Moxley is a lovely guy
really he is
but on a business level, you’re done using me, and I’m done using you.
let’s do lunch
coz you’re a good guy moxley
so how’s Astralwerks different?
they have the fear
no not at all
I think I’m just more on the same page with them
in terms of how I REALLY want to survive as an artist without clinging onto some bullshit DMCA written in 1992 that no longer applies to fuck all these days
IT’S THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM!!! MY GOD. IT’S FULL OF DIGITALS! STOP ALL THE DOWNLOADS!
I could probably pass the bar if I wrote it.
it sucks that i had to learn all that
would you ever just go no label, and just put your stuff up on beatport yourself like the old days?
I’m a 100% free agent.
which isn’t saying anything
but it’s a date all right
not only have to be artists
but it’s good to know and understand the economics that surround you
no thanks due to the way the world works
but that’s how it works
so you couldn’t do it now if you wanted?
I wouldn’t want to
it’s not really ready yet
damn are we getting close
to not even neeeeeeding labels
at least the ones out there with shelf lives of over a year
like… Redfoo…. pondering the points of DRM in multiple territories makes me chuckle a bit. BUT thank god he has a label to do all the work
and rightfully so
so he can work on his art!
some artists are just that
who is now pursuing a solo career?
you get it
it’s not the omega fuckin thing
so few artists are going to be able to take on the fuckin world
not in terms of success
just all round shit knowing stuff.
I guess being creative and having a practical mind for legal/finance shit are two very different things
I dunno. as a human
living on this planet
in this economic state of affairs
to me… there a point that I’ve got to experience first hand as a musician
that you reach a certain fiscal point
and you’re like dude whatever fuckit
the day your accountant flies 3000km to you
sits down on your couch and says… hey man, you can totally sit on ass without making income for the next 15 years and be perfectly fine
is the same day
you REALLY stop giving a fuck about being that guy who HAS to make 20 billion
and more about
what EXCITES me
well funnily enough
playing the music buis’ game to me is exciting
might not be for everyone
but I LOVE the fuckin legal drama… the business moves, the cut throat shit
fuckin gets my dick hard
it’s better than TV
high stakes drama
all that shit
goddamned game to me… and sometimes I make good moves
and sometimes I eat shit
but I know that one day I’m gunna die
and there’s a good chance ill see it coming, even if it’s for 30 minutes
and during that 30 minutes
I don’t want to find myself saying
I wish I had more fun with that
I like that attitude
during this funtime ride
people are going to think I’m the biggest asshole
well guess what, that may be!
but goddamn is this ever better than sitting on my ass being a conservative “love the world” safe fuck.
because no matter how hard i hit the wall
I get to do it in style
and the 2 type of people out there for me, are on the ride, or not
no love lost for the ones who aren’t, but much more entertainment value for the ones who are
so you see yourself in this music thing for the long run then? til forever?
what the fuck else can I do?
retail ain’t gunna work
okay another question
you wrote in a 2010 tumblr post that you wanted to “take this music and shove it down the mainstreams throat” – how does it feel to see the mainstream going totally apeshit over it now?
it = I guess #EDM and not so much what you make, but still
had to stir the pot a bit
this isn’t a utopian model
where everyone’s just happy as shit
I mean, had a voice, said what was on my mind…
and things might have or might not have shifted … or bent at least
as long as there’s movement
in either direction really, I’m not picky
just hate the plateau.
I’d be just as happy driving my career into the ground as I would watching it skyrocket.
but better than standing still
not everyone’s cup o tea
Nic Fanciulli OWNS the concept of chill.
I love that guy
he’s so rad
if there was an award for that
he should take it
as in, because he’s not trying new things?
mmmm not nesc that
hard to say really HOW he’s doing it
but one+one put him where he wanted to be
and he’s stayed there, almost deliberately since
and that’s not what you want to be
well I’d take it if I HAD to
but I’d be even more miserable, because I’m bipolar
n the career sense
you know… for a week or 2… I was TRULY convinced I’d NEVER bounce back from literally calling every DJ in the world a fucking “cunt”
that was a mind melting week.
I’ll never forget that feeling…. fuck the sentiment, that’s not what’s important….. just the fact that shit just went outta control
so – you liked that shitstorm?
well, it was better than golf clapping at getting a #344 chart position on billboard that week
well either way, wouldn’t be eventful.
okay I feel you
like I said, stories.
extremes either way, as long as something is happening
I burned a 21 million dollar contract…. stories….
I threw away my grammy ballot 2 days ago…
yeah, you’ve sure got stories
threw your grammy ballot away 2 days ago?
well that’s just it
got it in the mail
tossed it out with a laundry detergent flyer
would be funny if the ALLOWED me to win this year
I guess I don’t really understand how the grammys work, tbh
is that like a voting thing
well they send you an invitation to “attend”
then a ballot, to vote for who you think deserves a cookie
how do you feel about that mainstream stuff anywho
does it just make you laugh
or is it nice, in a way, to see them kinda trying to “get it”
nah they know exactly what they’re doing
because they’re doing what they’re told most of the time
😉 who’s telling em now? EDM
Diplo didn’t exactly take a page out of miley’s book.
how’d they manage to get you to do the performance thing that year?
I love dave
he seems like a good dude
quality human being
one of the best there is
just fun to hang is all, found an opportunity
had to make it work in some capacity
get on TV
no harm no foul
cept for dave saying something WE DONT NEED COMPUTERS TO MAKE MUSIC
immediately after a performance
with computer guy over here
ah yes, that
I watched that from the dressing room
how’d you react?
I peed a little
like a sympathy pee?
nah, he’s just really passionate about what he does
I do the same thing with EDM
comes with the territory
I think you said you respect Richie Hawtin for the same reason, because he’s passionate
we’re just smart monkeys with opinions
that important to you?
idgaf if you make the shittiest music in the world
if you’re driven
but if you’re “hey im a dj and im gunna make money!!” you’re a twatwaffle
plenty o twatwaffles
what if redfoo is super driven and passionate tho?
driven to make money is cool too
but ever hear of blackjack?
look into it
just don’t try to convince people you’re creative, on your quest for titties and top fest billing
makes me sad.
I know what you mean
the titties will come naturally
you have to just let the titties happen
you can’t chase the titties
say titties one more time
how many of the EDM dudes around today fall into that category do you think?
well I dunno
I KNOW you’re fishing
well you are.
maybe a lil
I’m not new
which pub is this anyway?
your fave :/
I thought you guys hated me
we love you
don’t you hate us?
yeah yeah yeah
I’m not out for blood, no
can’t hate a publication really
they only report
it’s not like anyone made shit up
we do have some vicious forum users though
that’s what it was
they are usually angry
now I remember
yeah. I can relate
why is it almost a requirement now for blogs / pubs to have comments on everything?
whatever happened to that state of inner dialogue where you’re like… “I agree” or I disagree…
the internet ruined that
every thought must be broadcast
IN ALL CAPS
“HAHAHA FUCK YOU, ME… THIS IS TOTAL COCKWASH.”
anyway, I digress
I dunno…. I just think the social media / subscription model thing is a lil bit of risk taking
trying out something new away from the clutches of the “I’m a big artist… I need a fb, twitter, instagram and soundcloud.”
an admirable ambition, I think
and at the very least, its pays for itself
at the very best
i sell it to twitter.
well, if it covers its expense and helps out in place of online music sales…
then mission accomplishbro.jpg
fuckin ain’t gettin no 30% of my shit apple!
kinda destroying the hive mind
so at that ideal heaps profitable place, would you just give all your music away for free?
I already do now
but no more albums?
no more full iTunes/on-the-shelf albums?
everything on my site is free!!!! *for 4.99 a month
I’d give it all away…. for just a little more. – M. Burns
and how does Astralwerks feel about that
we’re gunna find out
note shitstorm convo
well obv we’ll work something out
but like I said
if I keep on with this model
it’s probably not a good idea for a label to step in and sue their own artist for bein cool
this is true
see Toni Braxton
ask EMI bout that one
they LOOOOOVED it
speaking of artists, who are you vibing on lately?
max coopers pretty great for listenin
vessels a cool body of work
I can dig it
have your tastes changed much over the years?
mmm not really
still like what I always have
NIN, Aphex Twin, BOC, Plaid, Squarepusher
Aphex Twin, now there is a dude
yeah, he makes me feel not so antisocial
have you ever got to meet him and tell him you like his stuff?
I don’t think I even would
I’ll just let it be and enjoy it the way I interpret it
I don’t want to connect the personality to the music
the music becomes mine when I hear it
sad that usually isn’t the case anymore
I kinda hold that close
that is interesting, cause you obv put quite a lot of personality across
I wish I could be held in that sense
you say Deadmau5, you hear justin bieber, miley rant loud mouthed Deadmau5 head wearing prick
you say Aphex Twin…. I hear nothing, and remember the long bus rides from Niagara Falls to Toronto listening to Druqs
so you wish you’d held more of yourself back?
I don’t want to remember the dude who didn’t care what I thought of him
better to be a memory than a voice.
but, that’s not the way it went for me
so here we are
so would you do it differently if you could go back, then?
and differently after that too
maybe in the next life
just a thought
I wonder what would happen if you just became a full hermit
is it too late now to chart a different path?
I think i might have been a little too impressionable
10 years… oh you mean the guy who talked all that shit about….
haha yeah, I guess people don’t really forget
you know Mozart, in his time
was considered total fuckin trash
and, he was a COMPLETE asshat
and if it weren’t for “Amadeus” he’d still pretty much be globally remembered as a musical deity
also a great film. you should probably watch
I will make a note of that
seriously, great film.
bout Salieri and Mozart
puts a REAL good perspective on EDM in a way
do you know who Salieri was?
no, sorry, don’t judge
that’s kinda the point of the story
but everyone remembered Mozart
well now I feel like less of an idiot
so what’s the moral for EDM?
watch the film.
I mean, it’s probably not historically 110% percent… but it’s close enough to make a great juxtaposition on the longevity of memories of music
that was his thing.
his is my thing
might not be what I want
but it’s what I got
so how do you think Deadmau5 will be remembered in 100 years then?
I’ll probably be wiped from the books after 15 years tops in terms of the popularity of music
I mean, do you want people to remember you for your music more than your personality?
you probably haven’t heard about Kirss Kross in the last 5 years until I JUST said that now.
5 more and I would have lost it too
or spin doctors
or Presidents Of The United States
we’ve all had similar levels of success.
and millions more
I do wonder how we’ll all look back on this EDM thing in 30 years’ time
probably the same way our parents do about disco
which mind you
has had a longer shelf life
but we don’t hear about the old disco days
15 / 20 window…. it’s gone. maybe lore for films set in the era
but nothing on MTV
But I feel like people are talking about it again now, what with Nile Rodgers being cool everywhere
same with Giorgio
yeah, it’s great
met him a few weeks ago in LA
very nice guy
was he a legend?
just a nice old italian man
I want to shake his hand
very soft spoken
but I want to hate him when a 15 year old kid says in a comment that my old track sounds like something along the lines of “whoa sounds like Giorgio Moroder!!!!”
welcome back Girogio, welcome back.
I would have probably been impressed if he made that comment a year ago.
but, again, same goes for me.
I didn’t even know who the fuck he was
not to be RUDE
but I honestly didn’t
had to look him up
and I’m like
oh wow… a founding father of electronic music! neat! That’s cooool.
glad he’s getting some sun
probably enjoying it
as he should
pretty cool he did his first ever DJ set this year
and is playing HARD festivals
yeah at DOTA
I was there
what was it like?
yeah I headlined against him
that’s how I met ‘em
poor dude had the tent
and some of his shit broke, saw him after the show
but hey, everyone in that tent would been loving it
and he was like… the sound was so baaad the monitors
but I was all
nah man, it’s cool they’re ALL like that
but trying to be super nice about it coz it was like 80k people on my side, 4k in the tent maybe
so… last thing I wanted to do was come off like a smug little prick to a nice little old Italian man
oh yeah, you’d go to hell for that
better him than Nervo or some shit
coz the smug prick woulda been way outta line
4 tits and a CDJ. good job
this is by far the longest interview I’ve done
of all time.
yep, me too
I feel like you owe me
what do you want
money’d be great
nah I ain’t got that
I’m a writer yo
I’m 9.3 million short of the 2014 fall tour.
and I wish I was kidding
I’ll contribute $20
yeah that’s like 300 here
fuck I’m gunna be there a whole month
with just weekend shows
crazy time off there
are you doing the Malaysia FMF afterwards too?
just got off the press junket with them
never been there
how was that
so they’re all pumped
I tried my best to sound excited
and I kinda am I guess
never been, so
that’d be cool
seems like India’s getting huge for dance music
can’t expect it to suck as bad as Australia right
we got fireworks and porn, remember?
you don’t get that in India
only in Canberra
only place in the whole world
that is really weird
why is that anyway?
we just have a very different government
you’re the same country
yeah it’s just the way state/territory governance works here
I gotta go eat
It’s been real
thanks for the chat man
I appreciate it
Saturday March 1 – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
Sunday March 2 – Joondalup Arena, Perth
Saturday March 8 – Royal Randwick Racecourse, Sydney
Sunday March 9 – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Monday March 10 – Adelaide Showgrounds, Adelaide