Sunday School #1: deadmau5

By: Etienne Melnik Frontera
As part of our blog debut we present you a special edition of our weekly Sunday School segment: deadmau5.

Joel Zimmerman could be described as the most eccentric, unpredictable and just plain down to earth producer out there right now. His alter ego, deadmau5, is a mouse-head wearing superstar that sells out shows across the globe. But what makes deadmau5 stand out isn’t just his iconic image, but also his legendary productions. Describing himself as a pure producer, not a DJ, Joel Zimmerman’s music is composed of a very unique sound, one only he manages to achieve. His chilled out melodies range from trance-like synths to more progressive house rhythms. The proclaimed geek and gamer stands out from the rest of the crowd thanks to his “screw the world” attitude and his love for music and his fans.  He constantly reminds us that he doesn’t plan on selling out his ideals for money and for exclusive venues, but that he rather chooses to keep performing according to his own ideals.

Joel Zimmerman was born in Ontario, Canada on January 5, 1981. During the 1990’s he began his musical career in the production scene, being heavily influenced by chip-tunes. In 2005 Joel finally released his first album, which was composed of 56 songs, largely unfinished demos, ranging from house to ambient to tri-hop. Joel himself said that: “The idea back then was to do a thing called Project 56which was 56 tracks for people with short attention spans. Instead of waiting years to finally throw it together, I figured I’d just toss it to everyone.” Project 56 contains samples and sounds later used on Joel’s debut album as deadmau5, Get Scraped.

In the time between 2005-2006, Joel adopted his artist name, deadmau5. The name originated when Joel found a dead mouse in his computer while replacing his video card. He told this incident in a chat room with  and became known as “that dead mouse guy” by its users. He tried putting his online nick name “Dead Mouse”, but the IRC character limit was too short, so he shortened it to deadmau5. With this new name, Joel made his official full length debut album, Get Scraped, which stands out as one of his most genre varied albums to date. The album contains various influences ranging from IDM, ambient and down-tempo, noise, and tri-hop. It was released as a CD in 2005 and later in 2006 as a digital download with the bonus track Careless (acoustic). Soon after this debut, Joel Zimmerman began working on setting up his own record label, mau5trap, alongside Ultra Records and Ministry of Sound. In 2006, deadmau5 also released his second album, Vexillology.

Vexillology is deadmau5’s second full length album, containing tracks such as Orca, 1981, Dr. Funkenstein, Fustercluck and Lai, a few which are well known among his fans. This album was received as a classic and marked the start of his full and complete immersion into progressive house. His sounds began to take a more chilled-out and matured signature, marking his soon to begin path of glory inside the progressive house scene. After establishing himself with Vexillology, deadmau5 began to work on his sounds and in 2007, on his birthday, launched the Full Circle EP.

Full Circle marked the start of deadmau5’s iconic sounds and helped  to establish himself firmly in the EDM scene. The EP contained 7 tracks: Turning Point, Mr.G, 1981 (Adam K remix) 1981 (Minimal Remix), Cyclic Redundancy, Templar, and Subvert. Later on, in 2008, deadmau5 finally oficially released his first EP, Project 56,  to the public. And in the same year, his third and probably most successful album to date was released, Random Album Title.

Random Album Title marked the growth of deadmau5 as a progressive house artist. With this album he  made his name be known across the globe. The album contains 12 tracks, of which Sometimes Things Get, Whatever,Brazil (2nd edit), I Remember, Faxing Berlin and Arguru stand out as the best. I Remember reached No.1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Airplay. The album received fairly positive reviews and is often hailed as deadmau5’s best work. It was released on September 2008 via Ultra Records and Ministry of Sound. In 2008, deadmau5 also did a collaboration with Kaskade (he had previously done so in I Remember) called Move for Me which also reached No.1 in Billboard’s Hot Dance Airplay. And in the final stretch of 2008, Ghosts’n’ Stuff, his most popular song yet, was also released.

Originally called Hotel, Ghosts’n’Stuff was produced alongside Pendulum’s producer Rob Swire. It reached No.1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Airplay and #2 on the UK Dance Chart and made #2 on Pete Tong’s list of 2009’s best songs. The electro house hit was later on given vocals done by Rob Swire and was featured in deadmau5’s fourth album, Lack of a Better Name.

Lack Of a Better Name is deadmau5’s fourth album, a mayor fan favorite thanks to tracks such as Strobe, Ghosts’n’Stuff, Moar Ghosts’n’Stuff, Hi Friend!, FML and Soma. The album did fairly well in reviews and sales, and is hailed as one of his most important productions, primarily because it contains two of his best productions to this day, Strobe and Ghosts’n’Stuff. Strobe proved to be a favorite among many of his fans, many raving the deep emotional dedication put into it. The track can be called progressive house at it’s finest, with a touch of ambiance and trance to mix it up a bit. The relaxing mammoth that Strobe is, is only challenged by Ghosts’n’Stuff. The hard hitting electro house production contained vocals done by Pendulum’s own singer and producer, Rob Swire. It can be hailed as one of deadmau5’s most popular, if not the most popular, production ever. After this CD, Deadmau5 proceeded to tour the world and have small releases every now and then until 2010, when he released his most recent album, 4×4 = 12.

Right out of the bat, 4×4=12’s name origin is again a unique story. Joel Zimmerman was once explaining to his fans, on one of his usual UStream session, the details of his new live setup: “Yeah, it is in four banks of four, and that equals 12,” to which everyone in the chatroom said:, “Dude, that’s 16!” From there it soon became an inside joke between Zimmerman and his fans “everyone started saying it over and over again, and it just caught on.” One of his fans proceeded to suggest Joel to name a track by that, but instead he named the whole album 4×4=12. The album is currently nominated for the Grammy of Best Dance/Electronica Album. The tracks that stand out the most are Some Chords, Cthulhu Sleeps, Animal Rights with Wolfgang Gartner, Sofi Needs A Ladder with SOFI and the epic dubstep Raise Your Weapon with Greta Svabo Bech. All of these proceeded to become singles and reach high positions in the charts. As well, the album received a generally positive review.

Raise Your Weapon became deadmau5’s first experiment with dubstep, proceeding to do it at his own style. The track featured vocals by Greta Svabo Bech and was well received by Joel’s fan base. The single came along with 3 other remixes. The first was done by the talented for that time  16 year old producer, Madeon, who changed the whole song into a Electro-Pop phenomenon. Noisa and Stimming also gave the song a makeover by adding their unique touches to it . Joel Zimmerman’s latest production, Aural Psynapse, was released in 2011.

Aural Psynapse is a progressive house track that comes accompanied by the Special Features remix of Strobe. Aural Psynapse is considered by many as the second version of Strobe, due to it’s chilled and relaxes synths and ambient  elements. The remix done by Special Features was also hailed as excellent due to the originality of it.

After embarking on his succesfull tour entitled, Meowingtons Hax Tour, Joel released the compilation album Meowingtons Hax Tour Trax, which served the purpose of promoting the other artists that accompanied Joel on his tour, including the likes of Skrillex, Excision, Tommy Lee, Moguai, James Njie and Al Bizzare. Also included was the release of his own track, Where Are My Keys.

Work on his latest album, confirmed by the man himself, had begun in 2007, mainly through songs that didn’t make the cut as singles. Previewing the songs on his Soundcloud, deadmau5 slowly started working on his long promised album after 4×4=12. Early on in 2012 we saw many of the singles such as Proresional Griefers, Maths and The Velt begin to take shape, many of which where officially released prior to the album release. Finally on September 21, we saw the release of >Album Title Goes Here<, deadmau5’s latest album, and most genre infused work as of yet. Though the album does have a focus on Progressive house and Electro-House, it ventures into other genres such as Downtempo, Hip-Hop and Ambient. It’s also the album which has had more collaborations, of which are Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance on Profesional Griefers, Wolfgang Gartner on Channel 42, Chris James on The Veldt, Imogen Heap on Telemiscommunications andCypress Hill on Failbait. The album, although recieving mixede reviews by critics, pointing out the lack of creativity on said composition, >Album Title Goes Here< performed very well on the charts, obtaining the top possition on the Dance/electronic Albums Chart and received the nomination for Best Dance/Electronica Album for the 55th Grammy Awards. Recently, the canadian producer got engaged with ink artist Kat von D, and caused mayor controversy by calling out Madonna for using a reference, who many understand was directed to the use of Molly, or Ecstasy (something Joel Zimmerman has always been against of, consuming drugs at raves that is). he also began a collaboration with Armin van Buuren, often releasing their work progress on a open source format through Soundcloud. He’s also celebrating his 32nd birthday on January 5, here in Puerto Rico on his second official visit performing on the Island, so be sure to come down to Electric Holiday and celebrate the day with us.

Joel Zimmerman can be considered one of the millennium’s top producers, right at the top with the likes of Daft Punk and Armin Van Buuren. His visionary productions and “screw the world” ideals have earned him the love of many fans and the hatred of many others. In the end he doesn’t care about what people think of him, but rather of entertaining them as much as he can with his music and high-tech events. The originality of his shows have made him one of Canada’s top artists. The self-proclaimed geek and gamer shows no fear towards his interest, boldly exposing his viewpoints and ways of thinking to anyone who wishes to get to know him, either by his music, his constant livestreams, or his extravagant shows. He also has a cat named Professor Meowingtons, who has helped him greatly in gaining inspiration to produce certain tracks. The man that has turned into a mouse has established himself superbly inside the electronic dance music scene, and he doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon. Even though he says he hates it and wants someone to kill him, we just think it’s a little too hot inside that mau5head of his.

Deadmau5 – Professional Griefers from POSSIBLE on Vimeo.

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