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An electronic music veteran, deadmau5 has spent decades engaged with music culture, from attending shows as a teen to scoring the new Netflix original film, Polar. Digging into more than just deadmau5, but Joel Zimmerman as a person, Forbes has released a new interview highlighting nine defining moments of Zimmerman’s life—ahead of the premiere of Polar on January 25th.
Part of Forbes’ “Who I Am” interview series, the piece looks at important moments from Zimmerman’s formative years to today. From influential music to advances in technology, check out what deadmau5 has to say about some of the most influential times of his life.
Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral (Age: Teens)
Deadmau5 cites Nine Inch Nails as a major influence on his music making process:
“I was like, ‘I want to make music like that, how do I learn?’ That was the kind of kickoff for me. Having listened to all the top brand-name acts when I was going through high school that was the one that stuck out, that motivated me to go out and learn how to do it myself. I remember when Downward Spiral came out I rushed out to go grab it on cassette.”
With Trent Reznor also pursuing film scoring and continued experimental and analog production, the idea of a young Zimmerman being attracted to this seminal album makes perfect sense.
Seeing KISS In Concert (Age: Teens)
Deadmau5 points to KISS as an influence to his playful performance style. He remembers that “nobody was talking about Gene Simmons’ crazy, Les Claypool-like bass solo. They were talking about when the drummer blew up a piece of truss with the rocket launcher.” Likening this destructive moment to his faux-computer issues and his “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” remix of Martin Garrix’s “Animals,” Zimmerman understands the philosophy of mixing live sets with entertainment.
Putting On The Mouse Head For The First Time (Age: Twenties)
At the start of his career, Zimmerman was not as confident in rocking his signature mouse head in his performances. The first time he played in the head was at a show in Halifax, where he worried about people’s first impressions. “‘What the f**k is that?’” he worried. “Oh god, they think I’m a clown.” But it actually went really well. It was some sweaty little nightclub in some basement. It was weird, maybe about 150 people tops. And I had it, I just put it on and went, ‘Yep, I’m deadmau5, here’s my mouse head.’”
Getting Off Twitter And Facebook (Age: Thirties)
After years of making a name for himself as a controversial figure on social media, deadmau5 has taken a back seat in the digital sphere, noting “These social platforms are for what purpose other than showing meals and look what I can do. The only other purpose I can see outside of that, for an artist or a public influencer is obviously advertising or promotion. So why not just give that to my manager and then I don’t have to have a f**king aneurysm reading through a million tweets that are unrelated to that.” Clarifying that he had no desire to cut off ties with genuine fans, deadmau5 tells his followers “you know where to find me.”
Professional E-Sports (Age: Thirties)
Fulfilling his desires to move away from the occasional monotony of music production, Zimmerman has taken up professional gaming as a hobby. He humbly mentions that he’s “actually gotten pretty f**king good at it so [he’s] won tournaments. We actually just won $20,000 for Extra Life charity at a big OGN tournament, me and my team. We beat some of the pro players, that felt really good, beating the s**t out of those kids.” From playing tournaments for charity to casually beating highly-ranked players, deadmau5 is making a name for himself in yet another digital realm.
Getting Married (Age: Thirties)
In 2017, Zimmerman married his wife, Kelly Fedoni, who seems to have added some stability in his life outside of music. Describing the partnership, the prolific producer notes that “Being married has been cool. Now I’m not eyeballing the front row anymore (laughs). It’s great. I found a chick I love and she loves me. She takes care of me. She’s the best. She’s not into electronic music, which is great, and she’s doesn’t sing, which is amazing! She’s not a DJ, which is a f**king godsend. So it’s all good.” Continuing that she makes him less stressed person, it makes sense that his marriage is one of his defining life moments.
Where’s The Drop (Age: Thirties)
An album full of deadmau5 tracks re-imagined by a symphony with the help of Grégory Reveret, Zimmerman is extremely proud of his work on Where’s The Drop:
“That was something that changed a lot of things because it was one of those unattainable things where I would always think, ‘There’s no way I have the capacity to compose and score 90 minutes of string arrangements and s**t like they used to do overnight back in the day.’ That was really cool because that then basically opened up accessibility into all those kind of venues where that kind of stuff is applied, whether it’s film, or even more symphonies.”
Continually expanding his creative output, deadmau5 moving into new mediums means exactly that–new music, new venues, and new opportunities.
Polar (Age: Thirties)
The focal point of the interview, deadmau5 shares his thoughts on producing the soundtrack for the new Netflix original film, Polar. “Having done the symphony, when I was approached by Jonas [Akerlund] to do the soundtrack I was like, ‘Yeah, sure I can totally do it with the confidence that I could do it.’” Thrilled by the openness of Akerlund’s flexibility, Zimmerman mentions that “he seemed like the kind of guy that’s more of a collaborator than a dictator…I could write a really cool piece of music that didn’t necessarily match the picture and then Jonas said, “Wow, this is a really cool piece of music. I’m gonna edit the picture to this.” Then sometimes the other way where it’s like the picture was so good I had to force the music into that.”
Using Touch Designer (Age: Thirties)
Known for his dynamic and technologically advanced live shows, deadmau5 may be getting even more innovative for his videos. Discussing the use of Touch Designer for his new live visuals, he looks to the possibility of real-time visuals for, perfect for improvisation and more.
Every performer ever, from EDM to rock, always has that guy sitting in the back showing those visual aspects. Because I’m a huge video gamer I’m playing video games thinking, “If you can get graphics looking this good using real time in a video game why can’t you do that on a LED wall?” If you’re showing a video of a circle going back and forth, then you’re like, “Oh, here’s this moment in the track where I want the circle to go up and down.”… So now I’m getting into real time software and that just totally opened my eyes to my show content because now I could do all sorts of cool tricks. And this is something we’re building right now for my next tour.”
With more sonic and visual experimentation to come from Zimmerman in the future, 2019 is shaping up to be another big year for deadmau5 fans.