Over the weekend, Deadmau5 stopped by New York City to participate in a Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 tournament. Although, by his accounts the Canadian DJ performed very poorly, he seemed in good spirits. A competitor of his stood nearby in the musician's fancy 49th-floor suite. The EDM superstar and his opponent had previously been geeking-out over various specifics of the game. When I arrived at the London Hotel to interview the performer, his team was packing up his complex gaming apparatus. Deadmau5 and I discussed his affinity for video games, exotic sports cars and live performance. The DJ took jabs at fellow EDM icon Afrojack for his driving abilities, and Avicii for his decision to retire from live music. He also discussed his role in paving the way for the mainstream popularization of EDM.
So, how did the tournament go?
I sucked, but you know ... it's cool. It looks neat. I have it now, at home, so -- I just had it installed.
Speaking of home setups, I have to hear about the new studio.
Yeah, let's see. It was designed by PSI International -- they did my previous studio in my condo, which I just sold. But yeah, it's great.
Have you used it on the tracks you've been uploading on SoundCloud?
It's just Sandbox stuff. I don't mind showing people what I'm into.
So would you say a lot of those tracks are unfinished?
Yeah, oh yeah.
Are any of these tracks teasers for an upcoming album?
I'm sure some ideas will come out, once I polish them off.
So, I wanted to ask, why aren't you participating in the Gumball 3000 this year?
Um, because I have some commitments that I have to do. Well, like, Gumball's great, and I'd do it every year if I could; if I had the time off to do it. I have some other things to attend to, because, you know, Gumball is such a time commitment. Like, if I'm gonna do it next year, I've gotta start booking it now. But, I think I'm there in spirit. A lot of my buddies have been sending me photos.
Afrojack is doing it this year, right?
Yeah, he's there.
Yeah, probably. Or about the Lambo crash or everything he crashes.
So how do you think he's going to do?
I don't care. It's not a race, it's a rally. I mean, I think it's great that he's out there. You know, like, being seen.
I wanted to ask you how live performance factored into your artistry, and how you feel about Avicii's recent retirement announcement.
How does live music and Avicii f*cking go together again?
Well, because he's retiring from live music.
Oh he's retiring. Well yeah, he is really old (laughs). I mean, he's pushing what? Twenty-five? Something like that. Like sh*t dude. Holy f*ck. That's crazy man. I can't believe, like, he worked that long. It's such a well-deserved retirement. I mean, you've gotta retire, you've gotta retire. I've considered, you know, selling the farm to Disney at one point.
So would you say that live performance is pretty crucial to what you do?
To what I do? Yeah. I mean, it's not crucial to EDM. I mean, you just go up there and play a CD, and, uh, rock a crowd. You know, that's your job. But, I like to perform live -- I like to do stuff live, cause it's my sh*t.
But my world doesn't affect, or reflect, on anyone else's sh*t.
Well, not really. It's not interesting at all. It's like, I go to a Nine Inch Nails show, I don't want to see Trent up there playing Bee Gee's covers all night. You know, if it's a Deadmau5 show, he's gonna do it the Deadmau5 way.
How has your live show evolved throughout your career?
It's evolved in the sense that, you know, we stepped up stage production. I'm using a lot of new products, you know. Like, I'm really keeping my eye on production design stuff. This year is the year of Ayrton, they're a lighting company. They create these products called magic bars, magic panels, they've got a different magic thing -- magic blade. You know, you go to a typical show and you look at there production, and a lot of them, it's just like "oh, I really liked the video content," and stuff like that. But you know, I go one deeper. Like, what resolution is that video wall? And it's conversations with our content creators, and it's, like, hey, you know kids are gonna be this new products. As opposed to seeing some, you know, picnic table, CD players, laptop, and an LED wall in the back. And everyone's like "oh I like the production." What f*cking production? You know? When I go to see a show, or rate a show, I'm very production oriented. Just because I'm always in that world with our team, and designing our production. There are a lot of factors to consider, like the look and the aesthetic, and stuff. And then it's the portability of the thing. Cause, you do changeovers, and you get like, literally, 20 minutes to completely change that set. I like the engineering involved, and you know, the product.
So are going to be showcasing this enhanced production at your future festival stops?
Yeah. We're gonna bring some custom production stuff, but of course we have to work with the festival. You can't just do what you want. It's always scalable. When you're playing festival stages, you know, you're constrained by time and power and stuff. But, we're trying to make it work.
I remember you saying that certain artists like Lady Gaga paved the way, around 2010, for the emergence of EDM in the mainstream.
Yeah. Well, they're done now. Now, it's kind of backfiring on them. Like, they're coming back to the dance artists to have them do their thing.
How would you say that you've paved the way for future artists to break out?
Oh, um. I think they're two totally different things running in parallel. Where you have, you know, your pop EDM, and EDM EDM. I take the side more of like, you know, I'm a technological enthusiast of the trade. And doing things, you know, a certain way instead of following the mold of collabs and working with other pop stars. I mean, sure I might have, you know, for a hot minute there, in 2008-2010, might have shaped the way that non-commercial EDM sounded at that time and it sort of blended into that. Then of course, you know, other guys took it to the extreme. And some dudes maintained the, for lack of a better term, kind of underground world. But, in parallel they both exponentially increased in terms of popularity. But you know, I'm just trying to stay in my own lane, do my own thing, and not make any bold moves that are like "why am I doing this?"