The Evolution of Deadmau5
Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) has remained one of the prominent names in electronic dance music since his breakout hit “Ghosts n Stuff”. Deadmau5 rode the wave of House music reaching it’s peak in 2011-2013 while at the same time other house artists such as Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, and Hardwell were making huge names for themselves.
Falling into the same group of other masked producers, Marshmello and Daft Punk, Deadmau5 had a trademark look that made him standout. Many don’t know that Joel Zimmerman’s first official release was the track “Faxing Berlin”. It gained widespread attention once radio DJ Pete Tong played the track on his radio show, exposing the world to Deadmau5. “Faxing Berlin” introduced the world to Deadmau5’s style of progressive house, while Ghosts n Stuff solidified him as a guaranteed success. Many knew of Deadmau5 after the release of his first breakthrough album Random Album Title but I don’t believe it brought him into the public eye as much as his fourth studio album For the Lack of a Better Name that released in 2009 did. This album included his biggest hit “Ghost n Stuff” as well as his masterpiece “Strobe”. I could go on and on as to why that track is up there with the greatest electronic songs of all time, ill just touch upon it briefly. First off make sure to listen to the full track that pushes beyond ten minutes instead of the sliced down radio edit. The evolution of sound in “Strobe” takes you on an electronic journey full of synths and a melody that challenges the listener as it builds upon itself. The synths offer a background for a melody that continues to progress throughout the track. He manages to improve upon the melody with perfectly executed kicks that give the song the missing piece of the satisfying hard-hitting last section of the song that eventually fades out as quiet as it faded in. “Strobe” takes the listener through an emotional roller-coaster and keeps you engrossed in the track until the very end.
As a whole album, I believe 4x4=12 is his most impressive piece of work. That album is full of intense house buildups that deliver with shattering impact. Although “Sofi needs a ladder” and “One Trick Pony” contain repetitive lyrics that don’t add anything to their respective tracks, but the rest of the album has deadmau5 at his best. The track “Right This Second” rises with anticipation and drops into a repetitive but fitting bass. Standouts from this album include “Some Chords” and “Raise Your Weapon” the ladder having the best vocals on a Deadmau5 song. The drop of “Raise Your Weapon” is a dubstep fueled electronic house drop that Deadmau5 blends together perfectly. This album evoked the most emotion from any Deadmau5 music I’ve heard, you can hear the emotion his piano chords as they mesh with the electronic production to deliver new blends of sound not heard before.
Honestly, after 4x4=12, Deamdau5’s music lost my interest as it seemed he was rehashing his old sounds into rather less creative tracks on more recent records album title goes here and while(1<2). Although each album will have it’s share of good songs, “Pets” on While(1<2) brought me back to the old style of deadmau5 with the infectious euphoric buildups that stayed front seat for the entire track. “The Veldt” falls in the same category, as it is a chill track and even builds upon that with fitting vocals. This kept Deadmau5 still in the current conversation of new electronic music but not on top as he once was. Besides that one track, my passion for Deadmau5 faded, as he seemed to have lost touch.
In 2016 Zimmerman released W:/2016ALBUM/, gotta love those wacky album titles, I don’t expect anything less from him. In 2017 he released Stuff I Used to Do. I found myself unable to enjoy any of the supposed things Zimmerman used to do. No tracks had the flow or uniqueness that Deadmau5 had been known for. I have to add that “4ware” and “Imaginary Friends” from W:/2016ALBUM/ truly brought me back to the magic that Deadmau5 has. “Imaginary Friends” has the melodic speedy buildup that made 4x4 so great, and delivers a packing punch with a drop that compliments the whole song. While “4ware” proved to me that Zimmerman can still make me feel a positive vibe from a relaxed chill instrumental which is what made me take interest in him in the first place as he reverted back to the feeling of “I Remember”.
In 2007 Zimmerman began is own label Mau5trap, which he eventually broke off and when independent with in 2015. Most recently the talent on the label centers on the new cult sensation Rezz. As of lately she has launched into the spotlight dishing out a genre that many can’t pinpoint what it exactly is; the closest I can say is electro industrial. It blends dubstep and some techno elements but she does not classify as techno. She’s been popping up left and right appearing on festival lineups for Ultra Miami, Moonrise, and Coachella just to name a few. I saw her live show back in 2016, before she achieved official cult status. The crowd was very thin and she had the early afternoon slot on the main stage. As I danced to the heavy bass music that reminded me of French techno producer Gessaffelstein, she dropped her early work songs “Edge” and “Plague”. One could tell that she was breaking through with a unique sound that might separate her from the many.
Via his Tumblr in 2015, Joel released this statement…
Deadmau5 is a prime example of an artist reminding the community that we are all human. He starts fights, speaks his mind, and goes through everyday problems that many face.
He eventually broke out of that funk and delivered those two albums I previously mentioned. Joel remains a great representation and reminder of how artists struggle with their own emotions and starts arguments with others in his own community as humans do. Recently he has been at work on a techno side project assuming the alias TESTPILOT. He premiered the techno venture in New York City last year and continues to represent it, as he will be playing Electric Forest this June as TESTPILOT
Zimmerman is one of the few producers that I have had mixed feelings about throughout his whole career. He has become known as EDM’s biggest trash talker, never being afraid to speak his mind no matter whom it insulted. Deadmau5 has gotten into social media issues with Jack U, Kanye West, Krewella, David Guetta, the late Avicii and the Chainsmokers. Most of the time the arguments are started when Joel speaks his mind about certain artists…
It’s safe to say Joel doesn’t care what people think about his opinion and would never mind sharing true thoughts. Considering this is only a small peak at what he has shared over social media it’s safe to say this has hurt his reputation somewhat and turned some fans and artists away from him. I’m all for speaking ones mind about their true feelings, especially someone as passionate as Zimmerman. His execution leaves a lot to be fixed which seems like the problem.
It’s hard for me to even consider Deadmau5 a “DJ” considering he almost only plays his own music at his live shows. That would never stop me from admiring the incredible producer that he is. I was able to see his recent North American tour in New York City during his four-night stint where he debuted the Cube 2.0 on tour. His creativity in that stage was something I’m very glad I can say I saw in person…
Images ranged from dazzling stars and beautiful landscapes moving throughout the cube to hilarious images of animals dancing with deadmau5 heads attached to them. Musically what I received from his show was a nostalgic ride at the end that started with the recent tracks. He opened with “Polaris” a track that I haven’t touched on yet and am glad it came up because it is a truly beautiful song that has Deadmau5’s signature catchy rhythm. The rhythm improves with pleasing synth sounds that remind a Deadmau5 fan the reason he received mainstream attention. The middle of set lacked the pure emotion and creativity that made him unique. The tracks he began to play were unrecognizable to me but not because I didn’t know them. It was due to their lack of originality and skill to make a great Deadmau5 song that would stick with me. I found myself caring less and less as the set progressed until it reached the final third of the set. He brought most of the crowd’s attention including mine back with classics “Ghosts n Stuff” and “The Veldt”. You could hear the audience pour out the raw emotion of yelling to “Ghosts n Stuff”, which I still have recorded on my phone. As appropriate as possible he closed the set with “strobe” which gave a whole audience the vibe of appreciating and celebrating it together. I wouldn’t recommend a casual EDM fan to go see a live show of Deadmau5. Truly, you need to be familiar with most of his work to have a great time.
Most recently Joel released a special orchestral album titled where’s the drop exclusively on the music streaming service Tidal. Unfortunately, the fifteen-track album only features three of deadmau5’s more impressive songs. The final track that id say is worth a listen is the orchestral performance of strobe. If the idea of replacing the synths and electronic sounds with orchestral instruments interests you then you will find it impressive. This attempt came off a little pretentious and missed the mark mostly. It became a more one and done listen for me. I give Joel credit for branching out and being creative. This is the engaging characteristic of him as an artist that will leave me interested to see what Deadmau5 does next with his music.