As Deadmau5, Joel Zimmerman has made a ton of infectious dance music, a fair bit of straight-up beautiful music, crafted an iconic look, toured the world, made millions, dated celebrities, collaborated with everyone and generally ascended to a rarified EDM status that borders on the mainstream. He’s at least popular enough that frat boys and sorority sisters will request his music but not know if it were already playing.
Hopefully, that whirlwind life will have all been worth it just to get to the point of finishing his new studio in Toronto, Ontario. In a new video by Razer, a maker of high-performance desktop & laptop PCs for gaming and media creation, Zimmerman walks us through the results of his year-long studio build.
The impressive array includes a large Eurorack modular synth; a one-off Modcan custom A-Series modular synth; tons of vintage and contemporary keyboards from Moog, Sequential Circuits and others; and ATC main loudspeakers and seven satellite speakers for Dolby
7x ATC SM150 Loudspeakers for Dolby Atmos surround mixing.
However, the most important piece still seems to be his computer with Ableton Live. Zimmerman says of his other gear, “they’re all really just extensions of what we’re doing here,” he said, pointing to his computer. “It’s a lot of in-the-box stuff.”
“I’ve seen a lot of great gear go to really bad use,” he continued, “and I’ve seen a lot of bad gear go to really great use.”
The studio also has a floated floor to aid in complete soundproofing and is totally acoustically treated. “You shut the door in here, and your ears ring,” Zimmerman said, “which is good because you’re not used to hearing no reflections or echoes.”
Zimmerman also talked about melodic structuring in a second video with his friend and collaborator Steve Duda of Xfer Records, who also makes plug-ins like the Serum synth and LFO Tool, which have become highly influential in the EDM world. Zimmerman and Duda have also collaborated as BSOD; in this video Zimmerman says their first album was seven tracks made in eight days -- all in the box except for one rackmount synth.
This video focuses on how Deadmau5 tracks are created with melodic structuring. “80% of my creation time is coming up with tons of phrases and melodies … no drums… I don’t set out to make a track from start to finish… that���s just my method,” Zimmerman said.
“As you start to stack on a theme, you just keep stacking and stacking and stacking, and the process of creating a track is essentially just bringing in a taking out those parts,” he continued.
Watch the video — part 1 of a series — for more details and to learn what “Mr. Potato Head EDM” is.