deadmau5 may have come to international prominence during the rise of electronic dance music, but musically he stands far apart from the scene that made him a superstar. While other producers collaborate with pop stars in hopes of climbing to the pinnacle of the Top 40, deadmau5 delivers beats and hooks that have filled stadiums, all while exploring the boundaries of electronic and dance music in the same way that groundbreaking artists like Richie Hawtin and Aphex Twin (Richard James) did.
Now he has put all of that together for the first time for the incredibly ambitious, 4×4=12, For Lack Of A Better Name and Random Album Title and marks his first proper artist release with his new label home Astralwerks Records.
From the double album’s first track “Avartia,” which opens the collection with gentle nautical sounds before bringing fans into a rising arena-level soundscape, to pieces like “My Pet Coelacanth,” a song that segues from its experimental opening into a full club anthem, augmented by a jarring out of the blue refrain of someone yelling “Fuck,” to the soft rise of “Mercedes,” all the way through to the closing “Seeya,” a warm house track featuring vocals by Colleen D’Agostino almost two hours later deadmau5 takes listeners on a sonic journey through his complete repertoire.
The one constant throughout is the gorgeous piano interludes, often found in the middle of tracks, like the aptly titled and eerie “Creep” and the techno rich “Terrors In My Head” a song whose beats are broken up by the elegant sounds of keys, or in other instances, the songs are simply piano works, like the classically flavored “Superbia.”
For deadmau5, the piano pieces are the unifying thread throughout while(1<2). “I think the thematic element in all of it is that weird piano solo thing that kind of happens like at equal increments throughout the album, where just like a big song will stop for a second and take a breather and do that solo piece,” he says.
The outline for while(1<2) came from deadmau5’s “Seven” series he posted on his Soundcloud last year. Reflecting on when he knew this album would be this complete journey, he says, “I think it was the “Seven” series, not even an album, but just a collection of piano tracks that all kind of flowed nicely together and I thought, ‘I should do a whole album of this.’ It was during the time I was doing the album too so I started to kind of stitch them into it.”
There are moments as such of downtempo beauty, like the moody “Somewhere Up Here,” a piece that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the trip-hop heyday of the mid-Nineties, or the profoundly unassuming keys of “Invidia.” While many who’ve only witnessed deadmau5’s acclaimed live performances might be surprised by the majesty and simplicity of some of the sparser tracks on this album, longtime fans are aware of his gift understated beauty.
“I’ve had this Soundcloud up for years and years and years and most of my fans know I do some downtempo stuff, so it’s not really a big shocker when I come out with this thing,” he says.
Fittingly for an artist who’s headlined Lollapalooza and baseball stadiums, deadmau5 developed the flow for while(1<2) during sequencing his live show. “It was when I was working on setlists for shows and stuff like that, and it just must have been a couple of tracks that sounded pretty good stitched together end to start and I thought, ‘Well, if I ever do an album or compile this into some kind of album this has got to be that part of the order for that,’” he says. “And I just kind of took everything and played musical Tetris with it.”
He would not have been to tell the story he does though without the help of Trent Reznor, who appears on the album twice via deadmau5’s remixes of How To Destroy Angels’ “Ice Age” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Survivalism.” “The only way I could get certain moments to work in the album was to include my remix of ‘Survivalism’ and the ‘Ice Age’ thing. And the spots that they’re in, without those in those spots, I knew the album wasn’t gonna work for me,” he says. “So first thing I did was went to Trent, ‘Hey, man, this sounds really good on my album. Put us in touch with your lawyer guy, I don’t care if I pay a million, let’s make this happen.’ He’s all, ‘Cool, yeah, yeah.’ We sorted it out and then I was just on this Australian tour and I was coming back from the show, and we get in the lobby, I bumped into a guy standing in the middle of the lobby, it was Trent standing right there. So we had a quick catchup about it there, I guess it just happened shortly after that.”
Reznor’s multiple appearances on while(1<2) seem entirely apropos. If deadmau5’s electronic brethren are experimental acts like Hawtin and James, his greatest musical empathies outside the dance world lie in iconoclasts like NIN, Radiohead and Pink Floyd, artists who lifted their respective genres, even if they had to do it by tearing down things first. deadmau5 sees that as his role in the electronic music landscape.
“I’m just trying to dismantle in any little way I can, but at least as long as it stays within my creative realm, this EDM fad that’s just been going on longer than it should’ve. I’m not saying everything is a calculated move to destroy EDM culture, that’s just the way it usually pans out for me,” he says.
Take for example his recent headline-making appearance at Ultra Music Festival in Miami this past March, where he wasn’t scheduled to appear until the day before, stepping in for Avicii who couldn’t perform due to a medical emergency. “I replaced Avicii on the Ultra lineup, I just really didn’t take it that seriously,” he says. “The whole festival everyone was playing this one-hit wunderkind and ‘Animals’ and fucking Avicii stuff. I went on and did the complete opposite and it’s fucked up because maybe technically, proficiently speaking it still wasn’t the most amazing set at Ultra because we had less than a day notice to show up and we didn’t have all our stuff, lights, pyro, whatever it is the fuck you need. It’s still the most talked-about set because I did an ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’ joke version of Martin Garrix’s ‘Animals.’”
As much as he loves to rib the genre, and make no mistake, deadmau5 brings a sense of humor to everything he does, he is not turning his back on electronic music with this ambitious collection. He sees it as a hybrid with his own electronic style. “I can go the way the fuck out there, but it would definitely have to conform to my style, my taste, my creative tips. Having been involved in this EDM shit show thing it’s got a good share of that in it, just because that’s my whole shtick,” he says. “That’s where I’m not from, but that’s where I ended up.’
deadmau5’s online service, live.deadmau5.com, is a digital destination he personally architected for fans to get direct access to premium content and intimate experiences. Teaming with Upfront, he breaks the mold by building this fan-centric platform. It's available on the web at this url, and it's also part of a downloadable desktop application for Mac and PC along with Native mobile apps for iOs, Android, and Windows Phone. An account is free and with it, users may sign-in, listen to 30-second clips, read all of the latest deadmau5 and Meowingtons news, view photos, and even experience live streams. Meanwhile, a paid subscription boasts a myriad of exclusive features and benefits. The majority of live streams will remain exclusive for subscribers only. These include but aren't limited to tutorials from deadmau5, screen sharing, events and concerts. Moreover, they will have access to full-length songs, which may also be downloadable. Then, there's the aptly dubbed "MSG BOREDS.” It's just like it sounds. As deadmau5 puts it, "Everyone can enter and lurk, but only 'suckscribers' can post." He will occasionally make appearances there to in order to say hi and engage in stimulating conversations. The most revolutionary feature is the "CHAT.” It's a groundbreaking approach that allows paid users to be voiced and chat away. Non-subscribers can watch, but not speak. In addition, once a chat is announced, the service will randomly select four users for a designated period of time and allow them to chat with deadmau5. Paying subscribers can also expect lots of downloadable content from the deadmau5 studio. Jump inside deadmau5's world at live.deadmau5.com.
Joel Zimmerman, more commonly known as deadmau5 (pronounced ‘dead mouse’), is one of the world’s most respected electronic music producers of modern times. Enjoying international chart success with his singles “Professional Griefers,” “Sofi Needs A Ladder,” “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” and “I Remember,” he has also released four critically acclaimed albums: >album title goes here< (his previous release which reached #1 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Chart, #2 on the Billboard Independent Album Chart and #5 on the Billboard Digital Album Chart), 4×4=12, For Lack Of A Better Name and Random Album Title. The multiple JUNO Award-winning and Grammy®-nominated artist performed at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards as part of its first ever telecast performance highlighting electronic music. His ability to push the boundaries of his talent grows at an equal rate to his fan base, which counts almost 9 million on his Facebook page. A major touring act, he has headlined Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Budweiser Made In America, Sonar, Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, HARD Day of the Dead, and Creamfields, and sold out Rogers Centre in Toronto and PETCO Park in San Diego, as well as multiple consecutive nights at legendary venues like the Roseland Ballroom in NYC and the Palladium in Los Angeles. Plans for a major world tour in 2015 are in now the works. He appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone (summer double issue, 2012), marking him as the first electronic artist to do so.