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 line, Deadmau5 is often talked about as one of the best-realized “brands” in dance music. On stage, Zimmerman’s been through over 20 incarnations of that mau5-head, while the people who come to his shows regularly slave over their own replicas to wear on the dance floor. 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, a nearly constant presence one way or another. Even when he’s holed up in his studio, working on music with soda and 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.
Recently, the inthemix team in Australia was offered its first interview slot with Deadmau5 in three years, thanks to an incoming tour with the country’s Future Music Festival. 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 free-form 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 sample Zimmerman’s thoughts on labels, that time he called every DJ in the world a “fucking c*nt”, the Grammys, Mozart, Giorgio Moroder and much, much more.
inthemix: hey, it’s inthemix. I think we’re second in the i/v queue
Deadmau5: just type away
Deadmau5: I’ll answer on here
Deadmau5: I have a cold.
Deadmau5: not doing so great
Deadmau5: just rather type
inthemix: okay cool I’ll start hitting you with stuff
inthemix: 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?
Deadmau5: very close
Deadmau5: it’s getting better, we had to roll it out in a hurry
inthemix: what’s left to be done?
Deadmau5: well, overall improvements and functionality
Deadmau5: but the gist of it is there
Deadmau5: music video photos chat… short of me coming over to your house and giving you a personal hand job, what else is there
Deadmau5: so we’re doing all that
Deadmau5: except the hand job
Deadmau5: that will be a $200 in app purchase
inthemix: haha, well I’m glad we’ve already covered hand jobs
Deadmau5: they are of high caliber….
inthemix: 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 your theme park and feel like they’re part of your world” – how close do you feel you are to that?
Deadmau5: it’s getting close to my theme park idea
inthemix: do you feel like it’s gonna eliminate the problems you have with open, established social media? (like twitter)
Deadmau5: but at least alleviate my need to say something stupid to a buncha people who giveth a fuck not about me or my music
Deadmau5: Miley Cyrus manages to find her way onto my timeline / home feed
Deadmau5: ergo, I probably end up on hers
Deadmau5: so some butthurt Miley fan is going to have something clever to say on the matter of 44.1 vs 96khz audio
Deadmau5: totally relevant.
inthemix: 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?
Deadmau5: mmm nah, in the online “live site” capacity… I can always unplug for a sec.
Deadmau5: I don’t leave the house
Deadmau5: and when I do, I don’t get mobbed in malls in China
Deadmau5: or malls in Toronto
inthemix: 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
Deadmau5: shit happens
Deadmau5: just let it happen.
Deadmau5: embrace the shit.
Deadmau5: become the shit
inthemix: wise words
inthemix: let’s talk production
inthemix: when you spoke to someone from inthemix in 2011, you said you were making up to five songs every studio day. are you still as prolific?
Deadmau5: well I’d like to be if I didn’t have a million things to run / monitor / approve / dictate / endure and or litigate through
Deadmau5: but comes with the territory I suppose
inthemix: oh damn
inthemix: that sucks?
Deadmau5: not really
Deadmau5: it has its fun moments
inthemix: but you’ve been making quite moody music lately, stuff that doesn’t feel geared to the dance floor. 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?
inthemix: whew long question
Deadmau5: I’m still keeping it relevant enough 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
inthemix: IS the end goal to only play headline shows though?
Deadmau5: headline as in playing with a buncha other dudes playing other dudes shit?
Deadmau5: not really
Deadmau5: just do solo shows
inthemix: oh yes, that’s what I mean by headline shows
inthemix: not festivals. just you
Deadmau5: I’d rather just do solo shows.
Deadmau5: more control.
inthemix: is that a possibility for the immediate future? or are you likely to be stuck doing the festivals thing for a while?
Deadmau5: 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
Deadmau5: just sayin
Deadmau5: “WHO GETS THE SCREEN”
Deadmau5: there’s a whole political scene
Deadmau5: screen scene
Deadmau5: I’m telling you, there are wars happening in the back there with production teams
Deadmau5: that NEED to be reality TV shows
inthemix: I’ll pass that on to MTV. see what they can do.
Deadmau5: better than watching whiney 16 year old preg bitches
Deadmau5: almost the same thing actually.
inthemix: okay question time
inthemix: 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?
Deadmau5: rather not talk about it tho.
inthemix: do you wanna talk about ultra records? cause I find that interesting
Deadmau5: ultra? interesting? same sentence?
inthemix: I mean, obv you are glad to be out of that deal
inthemix: 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?
Deadmau5: 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?
Deadmau5: I mean, it’s pretty brutal dog eat dog shit
Deadmau5: but as long as you say “hey its business” then you’re clear
Deadmau5: it’s business
Deadmau5: no feels involved
inthemix: all’s fair in business and war?
Deadmau5: Moxley is a lovely guy
Deadmau5: really he is
Deadmau5: but on a business level, you’re done using me, and I’m done using you.
Deadmau5: let’s do lunch
Deadmau5: my treat
Deadmau5: coz you’re a good guy moxley
Deadmau5: etc etc
inthemix: so how’s Astralwerks different?
Deadmau5: they have the fear
Deadmau5: no not at all
Deadmau5: I think I’m just more on the same page with them
Deadmau5: 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
Deadmau5: IT’S THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM!!! MY GOD. IT’S FULL OF DIGITALS! STOP ALL THE DOWNLOADS!
Deadmau5: help computer!
Deadmau5: I could probably pass the bar if I wrote it.
inthemix: would you ever just go no label, and just put your stuff up on beatport yourself like the old days?
Deadmau5: it sucks that i had to learn all that
Deadmau5: I’m a 100% free agent.
Deadmau5: which isn’t saying anything
Deadmau5: but it’s a date all right
Deadmau5: artists not only have to be artists
Deadmau5: but it’s good to know and understand the economics that surround you
Deadmau5: no thanks due to the way the world works
Deadmau5: but that’s how it works
inthemix: so you couldn’t do it now if you wanted?
Deadmau5: I wouldn’t want to
Deadmau5: it’s not really ready yet
Deadmau5: damn are we getting close
Deadmau5: to not even neeeeeeding labels
Deadmau5: at least the ones out there with shelf lives of over a year
Deadmau5: 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
Deadmau5: and rightfully so
Deadmau5: so he can work on his art!
Deadmau5: some artists are just that
Deadmau5: like Redfoo
Deadmau5: who is now pursuing a solo career?
Deadmau5: you get it
Deadmau5: it’s not the omega fuckin thing
Deadmau5: so few artists are going to be able to take on the fuckin world
Deadmau5: not in terms of success
Deadmau5: just all round shit knowing stuff.
inthemix: I guess being creative and having a practical mind for legal/finance shit are two very different things
Deadmau5: I dunno. as a human
Deadmau5: living on this planet
Deadmau5: in this economic state of affairs
Deadmau5: to me… there a point that I’ve got to experience first hand as a musician
Deadmau5: that you reach a certain fiscal point
Deadmau5: and you’re like dude whatever fuck it
Deadmau5: the day your accountant flies 3000km to you
Deadmau5: 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
Deadmau5: is the same day
Deadmau5: you REALLY stop giving a fuck about being that guy who HAS to make 20 billion
Deadmau5: and more about
Deadmau5: what EXCITES me
Deadmau5: well funnily enough
Deadmau5: playing the music buis’ game to me is exciting
Deadmau5: might not be for everyone
Deadmau5: but I LOVE the fuckin legal drama… the business moves, the cut throat shit
Deadmau5: fuckin gets my dick hard
Deadmau5: it’s better than TV
Deadmau5: high stakes drama
Deadmau5: market fuckin
Deadmau5: all that shit
Deadmau5: goddamned game to me… and sometimes I make good moves
Deadmau5: and sometimes I eat shit
Deadmau5: but I know that one day I’m gunna die
Deadmau5: and there’s a good chance ill see it coming, even if it’s for 30 minutes
Deadmau5: and during that 30 minutes
Deadmau5: I don’t want to find myself saying
Deadmau5: I wish I had more fun with that
Read on to page 2 and 3 for Joel’s take on the Grammys, his reputation and what happened after he “literally called every DJ in the world a fucking ‘c*nt’.”