Deadmau5 on Taking a Stand

Joel Zimmerman, a.k.a. Deadmau5, hates being labelled a DJ.

Despite being one of the most successful EDM artists (and brands) on the planet, he’d give you an earful if you ever mistakenly lumped him into the category of people whom he’s scathingly referred to as “glorified button pushers.”

Highly opinionated, sometimes to the point of abrasion, the outspoken musician never hesitates to vocalize his frustrations, sometimes to his own detriment. In 2012, the cocky Canadian made headlines for slamming Madonna’s ecstasy reference at the Ultra Music Festival, a stance he vehemently defends:

“Am I really such an arrogant, egocentric, jerk-off, hypocritical dumb shit? You can believe that if you wish, because we don’t know each other. I had the balls to speak my mind freely and say what I felt. What will you stand up for today?”

Zimmerman is constantly butting heads with the industry and his critics. But tirades aside, and beneath the edgy exterior, is a deeply caring artist. His authentic boldness is rooted in a genuine love for the craft. It’s this very love that reverberates through his award-winning music, but also makes him a polarizing figure in the industry. He voraciously rants against the state of EDM and denounces those who purport to be DJs:

“If I wanted, I could play a fucking .wav file and just stand there and fist-pump all night, and no one would give a shit…David Guetta has two iPods and a mixer and he just plays tracks – like, ‘Here’s one with Akon, check it out!’ Even Skrillex [a friend of Zimmerman’s] isn’t doing anything too technical. He has a laptop and a MIDI recorder, and he’s just playing his shit. People are, thank God, smartening up about who does what – but there’s still button-pushers getting paid half a million. And not to say I’m not a button-pusher. I’m just pushing a lot more buttons.”

Part of Deadmau5’s allure is his bold persona and strong stances. But his vociferations are hardly a gimmick. From day one, Zimmerman has been vocal about maintaining personal and artistic integrity:

“I’m not exactly sure what the defining moment was for me…but there was a bit of a paradigm shift when I found myself making music…for a company that sells music to TV commercials, website developers, and other dudes who didn’t feel like paying $30,000 to license “whoop there it is” for their fucking tampon commercials or whatever.”

These days it seems like every other song on the radio has a beat from DJ Mustard and a feature from Iggy Azalea. In the face of these fast fleeting fads, Deadmau5 has remained true to himself and continues to focus on making music to which he can proudly put his name.

Going left while everyone else is going right requires boldness; people will laugh, critics will hate. But in the end, you’ll be able to outlast the storm with your integrity intact.

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Further Reading:

Deadmau5 on EDM: ‘It’ll Eventually F-k Itself So Hard’

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About Hamza

Digital Strategy @RyersonU. Teaching @SenecaSoMe. Founder @SplashEffectCA. I talk hip hop, hustle and higher education.