Featured Story - deadmau5
Joel Zimmerman, better known to the world at large as deadmau5, the surreal mouse-headed progressive house musician and DJ, is arguably one of the most prolific and successful producers to emerge in the last decade. From relative obscurity to headlining festivals in a few short years, his work is astonishingly well crafted. And as the embodiment of the bedroom producer, what's even more impressive is the extent to which his production ability is self taught.
As part of a studio upgrade, Zimmerman took delivery of a pair of Genelec 8250's and the GLM microphone and interface - 8250's now sit at the heart of his Toronto-based home studio, alongside a reasonably epic collection of analogue synths, modules, outboard and most recently a Steinway piano (with MIDI retrofit). Source met deadmau5 prior to his sell-out Earls Court show for a chat somewhere in the corner the air-craft hanger that is Earls Court 2. Not unknown for a short temper and colourful language, he is easily spotted in an omni-present baseball cap, heavy videogame tattoos, and cigarette in hand. With just enough time for a quick chat, we squeeze in mixing, synths and those mighty fine DSP speakers.
So you're on Genelec 8250's now. What do you think?
I think they're really good. I like the AutoCal stuff because I'm switching rooms like constantly; so I just do a quick one-two on the AutoCal system and tune 'em up nice. They're great for nearfield. They remove the need for me to have a sub, basically. Which is really important, especially when you're monitoring. You're mixing all that stuff - it's so hit and miss because you could accidentally overcompensate on your sub.
Do you have one specific studio where you work?
I've got one where they're permanently installed In Toronto, and they're just on the rubber pads, in an equilateral triangle with my head. Been workin' out great. Before that I was using…uh, not the Rokits…
I saw in an older mau5trap-recordings video that you had the (KRK) VXTs?
Oh that was long ago…yeah (laughs). I doshed out a little extra for the 8250A's and I was super impressed.
And do the mixes you're doing on the 8250's translate when you try them on other systems?
Yeah they're doing their job. If I mix it right on those nearfields when I'm in my room, then it generally sounds good anywhere. All my engineering I do just in-house, and whatever sounds good on those I trust them enough that, if I got it where I need it on those, then it'll sound good anywhere.
And if it doesn't sound that great...then the venue's ****'d up, y'know what I mean?
Where did you learn production - how did you get your chops?
When I was younger I was kind of an intern - slash - kid-that-always-hung-out-at-the-studio. Where they had the Adam-ses, and NS10Ms. They had all the little **** tricks, you know: (Nerdy Professor Voice) "Oh y'know if you can make a mix sound good on these pieces of **** it'll sound good on anywhere, and that's the theory!"
And I'm like…well, it's an interesting theory but I'd rather just hear my mix the way I wanna hear it! (Laughs) Rather than how I shouldn't. Anyway, I learned from the mullets: the guys who were all using outboard analogue gear for mastering and stuff like that. They didn't really have much in terms of just limiters and all the fancy-dancy **** that kids can download today.
...and just slap on anything.
Yeaaah, that reduces me to tears basically, when people do that. Because you can hear it. "Oh it's not clipping" …but it is clipping, I know! But when I'm mixing, I tend to stay away from a master-chain and just try to get it to sounding as good and as loud as I can without clipping.
You avoid mastering?
I avoid it to start, until I get the song done. I mean you wanna hear it as good as you can hear it while you're arranging it, at least. As oppose to just doing a whole track and saying "I'm gonna go back and fix that", and then you finish the track and you've got like a mile-long list of stuff you've gotta go back and fix.
So I generally like to build my songs within eight bars of four bars, and master from there. And once that's mastered I'll go in and do the intro/beginning/outro and all that stuff and kind of maximise everything, audio-wise. And I stay away from session view (in Ableton Live), unless I'm performing. I just stick to arrangement mode, and just hack out a drum track real quick and not be married to any particular sounds.
I was also wanting to ask you about modular synth stuff. It's something I've been getting into...
Dude, that's crack. You get one, then you get another one, then you get like eight more. I've got a wall.
Yeah, I watched a video of yours and was like - "I didn't know deadmau5 was into modulars!"
Oh I love modulars. And the reason why I like modulars is you can't do the same thing twice if you wanted to. Any stupid-*** kid can load up [Popular dubstep-associated soft synth name removed] and scroll through the presets and go - 'great'. And all of a sudden we're hearing 20 tracks that sound the same.
It's true. And then there's the physical interaction. It's not the same.
I like the physical interaction and all that, because there's just **** you can't automate. And stuff you can't duplicate. A filter sweep even, something as simple as that. It's just so much cooler, at least in my mind, to do it by hand. Time it to the beat in your own little internal clock in your head.
If you'd drawn that (as automation in a DAW), you're just going to get that point A to point B thing. It's going to be a linear thing. But when you hear these weird little ****-ups and hiccups and **** like that…I like that kind of thing.
Everything sucks all on its own, if you ask me. So it's just a matter of patching, wiring it, and then an hour later your frickin' modular's looking like the flying spaghetti monster - but it's making some cool ****. And then when you wanna do something else, you - (mimes pulling out patch cables) - You didn't record that, you're done!
So it's really great. Especially with these guys who are using sample CDs, where they get these one-shots from, and these drumloops from. That's all good and great and stuff, but - you spend a day just making blips and loops - you make your own. You got that sound and no-one else has.
His fifth album, 4+4=12, is out now.
www.facebook.com/deadmau5 / www.deadmau5.com
For more information on Genelec monitoring and 8250's, visit: www.genelec.com
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