Entertainment

Deadmau5: Dance DJs Are Glorified Button Pushers

We all hit play. It’s no secret. When it comes to “live” performance of electronic dance music — that’s about the most it seems you can do anyway. It’s not about performance art, it’s not about talent either (really it’s not). In fact, let me do you and the rest of the EDM world button pushers who hate me for telling you how it is, a favour and let you all know how it is.

As much as we’d like to think that the DJs and electronic musicians of the world get on stage and make crazy dance music on the fly — the truth is that most of the time they’re just pushing play. Just ask Deadmau5, one of the most popular electronic musicians in the world.

I think given about one hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of Ableton and music tech in general could DO what I’m doing at a Deadmau5 concert. Just like I think ANY DJ in the WORLD who can match a beat can do what “ANYONE else” (not going to mention any names) is doing on their EDM stages, too. Have a look, then let me explain:

OK, so here’s me, in a big silly mousehead… twiddlin’ a knob or something. OK so here’s how it works: somewhere in that mess is a computer, running Ableton Live… and it’s spewing out premixed (to a degree) stems of my original productions, and then a SMPTE feed to front of house (so tell the light/video systems) where I’m at in the performance… so that all the visuals line up nicely and all the light cues are on and stuff. Now, while thats all going on, theres a good chunk of MIDI data spitting out as well to a handful of synths and crap that are/were used in the actual production… which I can tweak *live* and what not… but doesn’t give me alot of “lookit me I’m Jimi Hendrix check out this solo” stuff, because I’m constrained to work on a set timeline because of the SMPTE. It’s a super redundant system, and more importantly it’s reliable as F**K! And obviously, I’ve done the show a couple of hundred times easily by now, so the focus over the past few runs with the “cube show” has been more revolved around adding new audio/visual content to keep it current.

So that’s my “live” show, and that’s as “live” as I can comfortably get it (for now anyway). Of course, it’ll evolve and change up, but I’m sure a few key principles will always remain the same.

I’m just so sick of hearing the “NO!!! I’M NOT JUST DOING THIS, I HAVE SIX TABLES UP THERE AND I DO THIS THIS AND THIS.” I don’t have any shame in admitting that for “unhooked” sets I just roll up with a laptop and a MIDI controller and “select” tracks and hit a spacebar. Ableton syncs the shit up for me… so no beatmatching skill required. “beatmatching” isn’t even a skill as far as I’m concered anyway. So what, you can count to four. Cool. I had that skill down when I was three, so don’t give me that argument please.

My “skills” and other PRODUCER’S skills shine where it needs to shine: in the goddamned studio and on the releases. That’s what counts… because this whole big “EDM” is taking over fad, I’m not going to let it go thinking that people assume there’s a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly. Because none of the “top DJs in the world” to my knowledge have. Myself included.

You know what makes the EDM show the crazy amazing show that it is? You guys do. The fans, the people who came to appreciate the music, the lights, all the other people who came, we just facilitate the means and the pretty lights and the draw of more awesome people like you by our studio productions, which is exactly what it is. But to stand up and say you’re doing something special outside of a studio environment when you’re not just annoys me.

Republished with permission from Deadmau5′s Tumblr. He’d like you to know that he’s got a new track on iTunes that just dropped today. Check it out.