LONDON, United Kingdom – Sometimes it helps to define people by what they are not. And this man isn’t Dead Mau Five and he’s not a DJ.
Joel Zimmerman, in his hallucinatory mouse ears reminiscent of the movie Donnie Darko, is a music producer verging on performance artist.
When he takes the stage, the roars from the crowd anticipate a unique journey into sound created with authentic techno sounds sourced from programs that deadmau5 has written and “instruments” he has built.
“There are no CDs involved,” he explains on his website. “It’s a technological orgy up there and I try and keep it more my music than anyone else’s. If people come out to see deadmau5 I want them to hear deadmau5 music.”
If you are in any doubt, check out what he does on Sundays!
This isn’t some guy going wiki, wiki, wiki on a Technics turntable. And he’s not some space cowboy with a gimmicky hat like the guy from Jamiroquai. He makes Jay Kay’s headgear look like a hobbit’s rampant ear infection.
A full-on hi-tech off-beat electro persona, some of deadmau5’s work is closer to being an “installation” than a set of tunes.
So he seemed the natural focal point for Nokia Lumia Live on Monday at Millbank Tower in London which will fuse his musical talents with a visual spectacle by Drive Productions who based their 4D projection experience on deadmau5’s sound.
He told Female First website: “The visuals have been created around an exclusive mix I have put together and it looks and sounds awesome.
“I make new music everyday but the visual guys said do whatever you want and we’ll work around that – it’s great to have that kind of creative freedom.”
The event, commissioned by Nokia, feels like it should end up as a video loop in the Tate Modern, a couple of miles down the river.
So who is the maestro, or should that be mau5tro, behind the mask.
Joel began his musical career squeezing sounds out of old computers, effectively turning them into musical instruments and his “chip tunes” caught the attention of Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and he ended up on Lee’s 1999 album Methods Of Mayhem.
Known as the ‘dead mouse dude’ after telling people he’d found a deceased rodent in a PC, Joel adopted the Deadmau5 tag which eventually grew into his persona and brand.
His first job was as a lowly “technical assistant” on a radio show in Niagrara Falls called The Party Revolution.
“All those guys were interested in was recording two turntables on to a computer and burning off a CD so they could send it the radio station,” he says.
“I learnt about digital audio and making music on computers and new editing techniques. Every new bit of technology that was released to do with making music, I was on top of it. They were still dinosauring it out playing on turntables.”
His ambition to be a producer and more than just another DJ led him to knock on studio doors with limited success. But he kept going, working as a web developer and writing music-making software some of which he still uses in his act.
His first hit This Is The Hook, written with Steve Duda under the name B.S.O.D. (Blue Screen of Death), came in 2006. It was intended as a parody of mainstream dance music, but clubbers loved it.
His biographer describes him as “one of the most innovative and popular electronic live acts globally, his driving foresight is constantly pushing the technological boundaries of his stage show.”
Zimmerman’s trademark mouse ears stunned audiences when he first wore it.
“I remember putting it on and looking out of the visor and seeing everyone in utter bewilderment,” he says. “They were like, ‘Who is this guy? Is he for real?’ But they warmed up to it real fast. When the lights came on in the helmet and they started blinking to the beat, the place went crazy.”
Already nominated for a Grammy award, last year he sold out London’s 17,000-capacity Earl’s Court arena. And he wore a crystal encrusted version of his mask for the Grammy Awards, where he was nominated for Best Remixed Recording.
“Even though no one knew who I was, as I was walking up the red carpet, all these reporters and TV crews were stopping me. In the end I actually missed the award because it took so long,” he says.
On Monday there is no danger of him being anonymau5. The performance is destined to be one of the most talked-about multimedia experiences of the year.
Don’t miss it.
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