Interview | deadmau5

Interview | deadmau5

Dance music's biggest star takes off the mask

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 08.03.11 

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Frequenters to this site know that the mega-club world occupied by masked electro sensation deadmau5 isn't really our preferred coverage. With the producer's oversized mau5 ears and track record of selling out every venue he enters, the toronto electro kingpin doesn't exactly need the press. That said, we were given the opportunity to interview him for Time Out magazine in advance of his Lollapalooza appearance. He's just wrapped up the remainder of the tour he began in Chicago this summer and he's got a new tune climbing the iTunes club charts, so we thought we'd share a bit of our chat with the musical rodent, just in case you didn't catch it the first go-around.

“How much does your head weigh?” asks Joel Zimmerman, mockingly throwing me the question he gets asked all too often. It's the end of our conversation and he's done talkinb about himself. When Zimmerman dons his much talked about mau5head, as he did for thousands of screaming ravers at Lollapalooza back in Auguest—and on the subsequent Meowington's Hax tour which he just wrapped up—he becomes deadmau5, the biggest dance act since Tiësto. Without the cartoonish rodent head, the tatted-up, nail-biting chain smoker looks more like the computer proframmer he once was rather than the club-music rockstar he is now. The 30-year-old is a frantic ball of energy when we reach him by phone in his Toronto studio. He’s knee-deep in all the gadgetry that became  the laser-light show for his fall tour, and we’re dying to hear about that, and more.

On being a gearhead 

 Talking with Zimmerman, it’s easy to tell that the techno-toys trump the techno itself. Has be been a dance music fan since an early age? No. “I’ve been converted. I grew up a little metalhead; Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, that kind of shit. I was a bandwagon jumper. If everybody in high school listened to it, so did I.” More so than the classic rave-informed tech-electro he makes, it’s the futuristic spectacle of the performance—and the requisite gear—that fuels Zimmerman. “I’m just a little artsy-fartsy computer dude,” Zimmerman says. “It’s not an alter ego. It’s not, now it’s time for crazy time, put on a mouse head—adventure! I’m the same guy in and out of it.” 

On the evolution of the mau5head 

“Oh wow, if I had a nickel for every time I had to tell this fucking story,” Zimmerman mumbles. His most recognizable attribute, its worth one more telling. The mau5head has seen seemingly endless permutations: red with bugged-out white eyes, solid black with a glowing mouth, chrome. Most recently it’s become a glorified LED screen with pixilated lights for its eyes and mouth. “It was a 3D model years and years before it was anything else,” he explains. Then a friend convinced him to turn it into a mask. “I wore it out for my first official deadmau5 gig, and everyone was looking at me like, what the fuck? It was a combination of that, the big brand identity, and the music, that pushed it all forward. It was so tongue-in-cheek, it’s like no fucking prisoners. Fuck it, if I do this, I do this. If I fail, I’ll go 3D model my head off till I’m old and gray and still sitting behind a desk. I’m happy either way. Now I can’t take the fucking thing off.” 

On the Disney rumors 

In May, spoof conspiracy-theory blog ran a story claiming that Disney bought the trademark to deadmau5. “Dude that is such bullshit,” Zimmerman bellows. “Disney fell asleep at the fucking wheel when I trademarked my shit. I have a thing with a big grin and mouse ears. If you blacked it out, everybody would be like, oh, Mickey. Someone over at Disney was taking a nap.” The only interaction deadmau5 has actually had with Mickey is a gig in Orlando. “I’m thinking that I’m gonna go into the dressing room and the door is gonna slam shut and Goofy and fucking Minnie are gonna come out and I’m going to get a beat down.” He came home bruise free.

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John Mackey said...

I hate to have to ask this here, but its the only way sadly! Do you know if the image at the top of this post (the red mau5 head with the worn background) is subject to copyright law? I wish to get it printed on my wall and I may not be able to if it is :) Thank you.

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