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Deadmau5 brings mouse power to electronic dance music

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Deadmau5 may be one of the rising stars in the electronic dance music phenomenon sweeping the United States - but don't call him a DJ.
/ Source: Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Deadmau5 may be one of the rising stars in the electronic dance music phenomenon sweeping the United States - but don't call him a DJ.

And while the Canadian is currently enjoying his biggest commercial success so far, he's not happy about finding himself high up on music rich lists.

"I'm a producer, I produce music, I'd be pretty hard pressed to find a lineup of ... DJs that have played exclusively their own produced music," Deadmau5, real name Joel Zimmerman, told Reuters in an interview.

Zimmerman, 31, also known as the mouse-headed Deadmau5 (pronounced 'dead mouse'), has fast become one of the leading names in electronic dance music (EDM), recognizable for his mouse-head headdress, known as the mau5head, that he wears during live sets.

In 2012 alone, Deadmau5 landed three Grammy nominations, performed alongside Foo Fighters' frontman Dave Grohl in a Grammy tribute to electronic dance music, toured Europe, became the first EDM artist to make the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and released his sixth studio album, "Album Title Goes Here."

The record, which follows Deadmau5's breakthrough 2010 album "4x4=12," has proven to be the DJ's most successful U.S. album to date, entering the Billboard 200 album chart at No. 6 after its release last month.

Zimmerman said he hoped the album would cater to both his loyal following and his newer fans.

"What a larger percentage of my audience doesn't know is that I'm really actually an engineer producer. I love to make music and I love to engineer it, and it's not limited to dance music," Zimmerman said.

Tracks such as the bittersweet "Telemiscommunications," featuring folk-electronica singer Imogen Heap; club-rock anthem "Professional Griefers," featuring My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, and hip-hop inspired "Failbait," featuring Cypress Hill, are directed at his loyal following.

Club-goers welcome the dance floor track "Channel 42" or trance-style "The Veldt," featuring Chris James, while "Superliminal" provides a grittier, harder sound.


After starting his career producing self-released mix tapes and albums in the mid-2000s, Deadmau5 entered the U.S. pop charts last year on an EDM wave along with DJs such as David Guetta, Tiesto, Skrillex, Calvin Harris and the collective Swedish House Mafia.

In August, Forbes magazine placed Deadmau5 sixth in a list of the world's highest-paid DJs, with estimated earnings of $11.5 million. The list was topped by Dutch EDM DJ Tiesto, who reportedly earned $22 million.

Zimmerman laughed derisively at the report.

"If I was making $11 million, do you think I'd be ... sitting right here, right now? No ... way," Zimmerman said. "You're putting the whole industry on one article written by one dude, who does not have access to any of our accounts."

Zimmerman is known for being outspoken. Earlier this year on Twitter he slammed a music video released by MTV "Jersey Shore" star Paul DelVecchio, also known as DJ Pauly D, on Twitter, saying "it looked like it cost about $150 to make."

On the Forbes list, DelVecchio was ranked seventh with earnings of $11 million, which further infuriated Zimmerman, who told Reuters the reality star wasn't a proper DJ.

"He (Pauly D) probably downloads ... his music off iTunes and hits play," he said.

As the growing EDM industry in the U.S. attracts new names, Zimmerman said he has become less concerned with having to make Deadmau5 stand out in the crowd.

What does makes Deadmau5 stand out, however, is his image and marketing skills, partnering with Puma footwear, Sonos soundsystems, Sol Republic headphones and Nokia Lumia. That puts the mau5head on billboards and the DJ's music in commercials.

"I'm not ... stupid. I really don't like the mentality that I got lucky with this," Zimmerman said. "I understand the market better than the ... market understands itself, and if you've got that and you can play that and use it to your advantage, that's an ... art within itself."

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant)