Pay no attention to the mouse behind the curtain; just look at all the pretty lights. Seriously, that’s what he’s telling us to do, and on that, more power to him. Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage (CC-BY-ND) The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Deadmau5 might want to take off that mouse head and look around a bit more often.

But give the artist some credit: he’s brutally honest about his own music. In a set entitled “we all hit play,” he has this to say about his own performances: “I think given about 1 hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of ableton and music tech in general could DO what im doing at a deadmau5 concert.”

we all hit play. [deadmau5 "united we fail" blog]

Not every artist in his position would admit as much, and that’s admirable. He goes on to explain why he makes that decision. The reality is this: it’s not in spite of the massive fees Deadmau5 commands that his performances are so conservative. It’s because of them. With tens of thousands of people ready to hear your tunes the way they sound on the album, you simply can’t afford screw-ups. So, Deadmau5 concerts are largely pre-baked sequences, running SMPTE clock to other devices and lighting, and a lot of visual effects and Deadmau5 pulling off creepy, light-up Jack Skellington-goes-to-a-rave-at-Disneyland chic.

It’s a decent guess that some artist in particular set off this rant. (One reader suggestion: Ean Golden at DJ Tech Tools laments the lack of EDM rock stars, which seems to suggest reader Bas is correct when he says in comments this whole affair is a collision of DJ and band culture.) And when he complains that other big acts aren’t doing much on stage, either, when top-flight DJs are doing pretty predictable, pedestrian sets, I think it’s completely fair.

The problem is, Deadmau5 goes further, extending the reality of his set out to the realities of everyone’s sets, everywhere. It’s as if the universe somehow exists inside that mouse helmet of his.

It’s no secret that the American market has again embraced big music acts in a way that’s racking up dollars, both in live venues and on the charts. Such things seem to be cyclical – electronic sounds ebb and flow in the coveted US music biz. One portent of such things: you start hearing the acronym “EDM” again. With the additional business success, more of the mainstream press shines the spotlight on artists like Deadmau5. (Some of these outlets are, sadly, not as preoccupied as CDM with the latest advances in using JELL-O as a musical instrument.)

Whatever the meaning of that pendulum swing, Deadmau5 seems to have appointed himself spokesperson for the resurgent “EDM scene,” investing faith both in the idea and his own unique ability to speak for everyone else in it.

And so, we get this narrative from Deadmau5:

“let me do you and the rest of the EDM world button pushers who fuckin hate me for telling you how it is, a favor and let you all know how it is.”

And as for the push-play sets:

its no secret. when it comes to “live” performance of EDM… that’s about the most it seems you can do anyway.

Deadmau5 rails against the whole idea of “talent” in playing live, whether for a DJ or live act. As a critique of some acts, it’s fair. But to go as far as to say that it’s not possible to do anything else — that’s too much. The key line is here:

because this whole big “edm” is taking over fad, im not going to let it go thinking that people assume theres a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly. becausje none of the “top dj’s in the world” to my knowledge have. myself included.

A lot of resentment of people in positions of success stems from jealousy. But here’s a reason to truly question Deadmau5, and I think fairly: whether consciously or not, he’s using his success as both a platform and a filter. Whereas some artists use mainstream popularity to champion unknown artists (think Radiohead with Sigur Ros, for instance), Deadmau5 defines the “EDM scene” purely based on success, and then makes pronouncements about everyone else.

Many artists are doing “something special” outside of the studio. There are DJs doing more than just twiddling knobs, configuring elaborate loops that allow them to rework music as they play. There are people scrambling to patch modular synthesizers onstage. There are people who sing or add vocals or instruments, live, over their sets, while still maintaining enough underneath that people can dance. There are people who can play entire techno dance sets, live coding or live patching entire compositions improvisationally. There are artists on instruments like the monome, cutting up patterns as they go. There are controllerists and scratch turntablists, finger-drumming percussionists who toss all the loops and play beats from one-shots, multi-instrumentalists and beatjazz maniacs. And the list goes on.

I saw Deadmau5 at SONAR – and, sorry, while I found his production talent to be as evident as always, I wound up skipping part of a set I found inert, or certainly, to be fair, not my taste. (Simultaneous venues made hopping about desirable.) At that same festival, there was an abundance of live performance and improvisational DJing. Flying Lotus’ live set was vigorously imaginative. Daedelus was dynamic as always, slicing up sounds on his monome. The Native Instruments-sponsored Mostly Robot delivered, as promised, everything live: Jamie Lidell singing live, Mister Jimmy playing keyboards live, DJ Shiftee playing turntables live, Jeremy Ellis playing all the beats from his fingers live, Tim Exile mangling sounds in Reaktor live. Bigger festival acts, too, turned out live and improvisational productions, including Richie Hawtin’s heavily-parameterized Traktor set, which is a bit like being in a 747 cockpit when someone turns off the autopilot. (I mention those examples only because I’m familiar with the specifics of those sets; there are many more.)

All of these people have two things in common. First, people dance to their music. Second, they don’t know what will happen at the beginning of the night. Whatever it is you do, not knowing yourself what will happen can be part of the pleasure of playing.

These performance techniques are not always reliable, or even advisable. Part of the reason some of us seek out smaller venues, crowded clubs and experimental music haunts, is because we’re excited to see stuff break. There’s something thrilling about watching a set on the verge of a meltdown, about seeing someone try something that then really doesn’t work – all for the chance to see someone produce something really new. People wouldn’t gamble at horse tracks if they always won. Somewhere in the repeated agony of defeat, you hone the taste for real victory.

Ironically, unpredictability, the exchange of energy between performer and crowd, is supposed to be part of the legacy of Electronic Dance Music or whatever you want to call it. In these bigger shows, with crowds craving predictability, “EDM” seems to have acquired some of the worst tendencies of “just like on the album” replication that has plagued other acts.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Laptops have still only been capable of playing onstage for a short while. It can still be “The Right Stuff” era of laptop music, in which daredevils risk unlikely and unwise feats of death-defying insanity. Deadmau5 may not see anyone doing “something special” with their laptops live onstage. But a lot of us go out to watch people live in the hopes that we will.

Side note, illustrating that the world is bigger – you can now read about controllerism – erm, Kontroleryzm – in Polish, if you like!

http://kontroleryzm.pl/

Updated: Some kudos to Deadmau5 – he’s up for a debate and discussion. Within minutes of posting this piece, he recommended it to his fans as a “counterpoint” to his story. And that’s the quite of conversation we like to have. Better to get frank opinions and ideas out there so we can learn something from each other. (Speaking of reliability, though, I’m in the middle of some hardening and load balancing on CDM so that we can be a bit more “reliable as FUCK” and less, “oh, fuck! 1.2 million Deadmau5 Twitter followers just hit the site at once.”)

  • http://twitter.com/noisetheorem Tony Scharf

    If you don’t want fuck ups, don’t ever come to one of my shows.  In the course of all the shows I have played, some of the most memorable and run moments have happened because of fuck ups, either human or technological.   

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      This may actually apply to other elements of my life, as well. ;) It is not, in deadmau5′s words, “reliable as FUCK.”

  • Jason Phoenix

    I’m a little surprised at Joel (Deadmau5), given not too many years ago he railed on the differences between DJ’ing and his live sets, which he said then were more dynamic. Of course, he has never shied away from controversy, even back when he was on MySpace with 2,500 views.

    Joel is right and wrong at the same time.

    He is correct that the vast majority of EDM performance is push play and that is nothing new. I recall being disappointed 12 years ago to discover t that some of my favorite acts as Live PA were in fact long multitrack arrangements (not bothering to name names at this point.)

    And he is correct that the audience is unforgiving to any perceived errors or glitches, as well as the integration of live lights and video synched to specific elements during the prearranged set.

    What Joel is wrong about is that Everyone is push play prearranged. Two related names come to mind: EOTO and Zilla.

    EOTO (End Of Earth Observatory) is Michael Travis and Jason Hann, and they perform every set live and improvised along with visuals that are not locked to a specific sequence. I have seen EOTO more times than I can count since 2005 and no two sets have ever been identical.

    Likewise, Zilla (Michael Travis, VibeSquad, and Janover) perform live and improvised on drums, bass/synth, and dulcimer+effects, although more rarely than EOTO.

    Joel should know this, but perhaps he’s been too busy inside the Mau5 head to catch other artists that aren’t on Ultra Music perhaps.

    • goobz

      sorry, I’m a huge EOTO fan and know Travis a bit… if you think they’re ripping 100% live sets all the way through, you’re sadly mistaken. There is preconceived music, they just jam on it.

    • Jason Phoenix

      I’m sorry, Goobz, but Travis and Hann are rather proud of the fact that their EOTO sets are 100% improvised.  Understandably so, too.

      Having watched (and helped) set up and break down their gear along with watching them perform from directly behind or sidestage many times over the years since the beginning, I can personally assure you that everything you hear in an EOTO set happens in the moment and is not presequenced nor follows a setlist. 

      No two sets I’ve heard have ever been the same yet.  But don’t take my word for it.  Next time you’re hanging out with Michael, and he’s in a good mood, ask him yourself Goobz. 

    • donald

      def 100% improv for EOTO. they just have presets on there vst synths.. So ya all there compositions are improv but there sounds are pre-made 

    • http://twitter.com/Kommadore Steven Konwal

       ”none of the “top dj’s in the world”
      He didn’t say nobody has, he said that the biggest names in the industry don’t.

    • Rhakka

      Exactly.  I’ve tried to express this to people time and time again.  It’s an extremely rare act that gets a huge venue AND does more than minimal improvisation.  You see this in all professions, not just music.  Actors don’t improv in movies (well, very, very rarely), they improv in very small venues and don’t get paid squat for it.  Even comedians.  It’s extremely rare that a big name comedian improvs at all.  They put together their set of pre-made jokes and stories and recite them on stage.  Hell, even in professional sports… football, for example.  A team will try to execute a well practiced play where everybody moves in very specific patterns, trying to carry out a very specifically organized play and the only improv is dealing with the opposing team.  You rarely see the QB make a choice to change the play after the hike.  They only decide which option path to use for that play.

      Again, in music, be it controllerism, DJ’ing, live bands, etc… it’s why they’re called “sets”, you practice them and you play them.  When you’re up against thousands of other artists, a couple bad choices in your improv and you’re screwed.

      Someone mentioned Sibot, specifically in here, which I found amusing.  Yes, he does SOME improv, but mostly plays practiced tracks, as well.  Watch the interviews with him.  He openly admits, it’s a performance of practiced works.  He has a “show”, though, which is what people want to see.  Like Deadmau5, he has a gimmick above all else.  He dresses in a very unique and memorable way.  He uses his cameras to show him twiddling with controls or pounding out beats.  Even if the things he’s doing on stage only make small differences in his set and honestly, a lot of them don’t sound very good, other than pounding out his beats on his MPC’s pads, it’s a spectacle.  That’s what people pay to see.

    • Anonymous Mou5

      Actors don’t improv in movies? And from what experience are you aware of this? Have you read screenplays and then watched the film to see if everything matches? Are you just watching Twilight and Harry Potter films? You think that Jim Carrey was reading off a script in Ace Ventura or Will Ferrell in Anchorman? And as far as QB’s “rarely making a choice to change the play,” you are clearly an ignorant moron living in his parent’s basement buried way too far into video games and a computer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/erik.vozka Erik Vozka

      What are you talking about? YOU obviously have no idea what your saying lol. Actors have a script and sometimes improv in some parts but the entire movie is scripted out already. Just because the actor/actress ends up saying something better than scripted and the director ends up liking that better doesn’t mean the WHOLe movie is now improvised. And QB’s do NOT fuck up and change the plan last minute or they would not last on the team very long. So how about you think before typing a message.

    • Jason Phoenix

       Fair enough.  I concede this point, and had a similar thought an hour after I posted my comment.
      In that sense of things, the ‘Mau5 is 100% right.

  • http://davepermen.net davepermen

    You missed that he talked about “BIG STARS in edm”. that means the real top acts. tiesto, guetta, etc.. the names that non-edm fans know.

    it’s the same when i go to a u2 concert (which i loved). i went there to hear u2. i heard u2. i did not want to hear acdc or metallica. i wanted to hear u2. they can’t just improvise the hell out of it and do something else.

    that’s the point when you’re a star. you tour the world and have to play the same over and over again everywhere. that’s different if you’re a resident dj in a club, for example.

    • http://www.twitter.com/Spartz Bas Grasmayer

      I guess ‘Big Stars’ are more pop acts, performing the tracks from their album that everyone knows, than real DJs. So the shows are pre-scripted. That’s fine, especially when they’re great producers.

      Live DJs, in my opinion, should play some of their own work, but a lot of other people’s work. Always be surprising, and creative with double-drops and their mixing… hell, they could even re-arrange/re-compose tracks, such as some DJs in the techno scene do (I’m using the real meaning of ‘techno’ (eg. Detroit, Berlin), not the mainstream one).

      I hope to see more of these Big Star DJs switching back to live DJing. Especially deadmau5, because that’s what he was doing when I found out about him 5 or 6 years ago. Or just do a bunch of gigs for the normal fans, and then also do some club gigs… Though I guess it’s hard to manage people’s expectations when they see a name like deadmau5 on a flyer.

    • http://davepermen.net davepermen

      It’s always a balance act. It’s understandable to be too pre-scripted at some point. Touring all around the world with near-daily gigs does not give you much flexibility anymore. Deadmau5 got caught by this, too. The more complex the show, the more events, the less he could just do as he likes.
      This will shift back, again, as he stated before.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jay.cook.7792 Jay Cook

      Hey, I’m pretty new to DJ-ing, but I like what you say above about being creative, re-aranging, etc. I’m also a musician, and I’m very interested in playing live while DJ-ing. The few shows I’ve tried it (I play keys, upright bass, accordion, talking drum, the list goes on) folks have told me how much they enjoy it, but then when I go back and listen to the recording of the show it doesn’t seem like I’ve added anything musically. I think what the audience has been digging is the interaction with someone who is (at least trying, in my case) to be creative, the different energy created, and maybe just the visual of real live instruments on stage with a DJ.

      Anyway, just wondering if there are any musician/DJ types who are working live with tunes in performance. With Traktor, looping a section of a tune (say, by Talking Heads, as an example) and soloing with “real” instruments seems to be the most musically satisfying for me, but would love to hear about any others who have thought about this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/erkdajerkwithaperkinaserk Erik Högberg

       Well said.

    • Paul Rose

      That’s the problem with the mainstream audience. They pay a lot of money to see what they expect. Artists making big money will give them what they expect.

    • http://davepermen.net davepermen

      I don’t see it as a problem. It’s a fact, though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1780345938 Eygner Artiga

      I don’t see that as a problem. I’m sure if fans went to a Foo Fighters Concert (or any other favorite band) and all they did was play cover songs for the whole concert, people would be pissed. People do “…pay a lot of money to see what they expect.” -Paul Rose. They do that because they want to sing and dance along to a familiar sound. You then throw that in with the fact that the artist is a few feet in front of you, along with a loud sound system & bright lights & its suddenly 1000x better than your bedroom or car and now worth the money. Artists will throw a few bones in the mix & play either a brand new unheard track or a classic to add a little variety… but for the most part you want to hear the tracks the artist is known for. 

    • PMetz

      Awww, but people have been going to Phish shows, or Dead shows in masses for decades for the opportunity to see something new and rare.  That’s why a Phish show is so much more than a concert.  It’s an experience.  The improv’d acts are what makes each show a unique experience.

    • Placedubs

      Counterpoint: The Grateful Dead were consistently the biggest concert draw in the US for years, and they were known for not playing the same set every night.

    • http://davepermen.net davepermen

      a) There are always exceptions supporting the rule.
      b) You still knew what you’re going to hear when you went there, they still played their style, I guess (I don’t know them really)

  • Moe

    On the fly?

    Go see Daft Punk.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000508704250 Ben Mealer

      Nope…. Daft Punk has preloaded samples and triggers them at the time of the set in which they are supposed to be triggered. This is why their sets do not change very often during their tour. Basically exactly what Deadmau5 does…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1651530188 Joseph Chang

      Daft Punk + Deadmau5′s stage set up’s are probably most similar to each other if anything. 

    • Areddicks1014

      Yea…because the same group of people that made Daft Punk’s stage also made Deadmau5′s original stage.

    • v8media

      Yeah, I have friends that went to two Daft Punk shows on the last tour and were disappointed to find that they were the same.

    • Armando

      LOL. Someones about to find out that Santa Claus isn’t real. 

  • http://twitter.com/EDMsnob EDMsnob
  • Jacko Millar

    I get why he would just be pressing buttons for the fear of fucking up.. but could he not have all of his songs lined up and just mix what song he feels necessary at the time… Just starting up as a DJ myself and doing a few parties i originally had a prearranged set that i would play but once i got there it felt like the song that was coming next wasn’t needed at the time.. Deadmau5 would know all of his songs off the back of his hand and could mix them as he goes effortlessly no doubt.. Obviously its near impossible to produce songs like his as he is going.. but there are many DJ’s that may not even produce but have real talent in mixing songs. Just seems to me that pressing a button and letting it go is a bit of a waste.. may aswel listen to the songs in a club by some random DJ 

  • Elisabeth_pwnes

    Joel is honestly the most down to earth guy I know of. I think it’s a good thing that he isn’t afraid to speak his opinion, no matter what it is. I’ll always have a lot of respect for him.  Plus, he puts on the hell of a show!

  • http://www.madpiper.net Peter Lehto

    Great article. As a producer and “Live” performer I can relate to the Deadmau5 “rant”.

    However, I would highly recommend you check out an artist called “Sibot” – http://youtu.be/aANFZhesr_A

    he doesn’t use Ableton at all for his sequencing and does everything manually. He also places GoPro cameras on each piece of his hardware so the audience can see exactly what he is doing. 

    My $0.02

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, I’m hoping this conversation winds up bringing up more of the artists there and what they’re doing – I know some of it, but thanks for the Sibot tip; I’ll be checking that out!

  • Bash

    Wow. It’s amazing how a writer can use so many words yet say so little.

    • Memetc

       Are you serious?  His explanation of all the types of creative meanderings on stage is enough to drive his point home let alone the rest of his explanation.  Comments like this just reek of ignorant fanboy-ism.

    • Rhakka

      He talks a lot about what people might be doing.  Deadmau5 talks about what he is doing.  Tons of videos of popular EDM artists performing live would strongly suggest it’s the more common way to play, as well.

      Fans are expecting a performance as flawless as your studio produced tracks that they’ve heard a thousand times.

      That’s actually something you learn as a DJ, pretty early on, if you have any care for your audience.  You want to throw in some twists and turns, but you generally want to keep your track selection to well known pieces.  People love surprises, but they love to hear what they’re expecting, most of the time.

      Anyway, to your argument.  his “explanation” is mostly talking about gear on stage and patching stuff while playing.  That really doesn’t have anything to do with improvisation.  It’s been done since the dawn of live music.  You may need to swap out a guitar or some effects or whatever.  Doesn’t have anything to do with making up some new stuff on stage.

      I admit, some artists DO changes things up while they play, but EDM artists are rarely (as far as every show and video I’ve seen) doing more than a little tweaking or re-arranging.  It’s pretty rare.

      Even in controllerism land… they’re called “routines” for a reason.  Mentioning hip-hop DJ’s.. .same thing.  Hell, even the apt term used to describe what a DJ does with track selection… playing a “set”.  When DJ’s used to use be restricted to vinyl, you’d rarely bring more than a small selection of tracks with you for a 2 hour “set” and you knew exactly what you were going to play, because that’s how you get the best transitions… knowing them in advance.

      It’s the nature of performance.

    • http://www.facebook.com/domtrinh Dom Trinh

      “Fans are expecting a performance as flawless as your studio produced tracks that they’ve heard a thousand times.”

      Really? isn’t that boring? wouldn’t you like to see the artist be an artist and change it up a bit?

      as an artist/designer, I feel like you can always modify your creative piece, for better or worse, and keep pushing your ideas further….like a version 1.1 or 2.0 or 2.1…..whatever. To know that mau5 has the tools on stage (or any other artist) to do something better, yet he (or they) doesn’t use them at the risk of making a mistake ‘live’ is pretty f*king lame to me.

    • Richard

      I don’t know what kind of sets you go to, but the DJs I go to certainly don’t have any kind of predictable sets. They know with which track they’re gonna start with but that’s about it. And I’m damn happy with that.

    • Dadunn1700

      Are they sinked to a live show via SMPTE with sequenced visuals and light sequences? Nope. That’s the whole point. You can’t deviate from a planned sequence or time frame during a huge show like most of the major EDM artists do now. On the other hand….if your DJ’ing w/o all that stuff you have the ability to do more creatively. It’s give and take….and according to the ppl in the industry the masses would rather see a concert w/ a HUGE elaborate synced light show with screens and lasers than a DJ w/o it….regardless of what they’re getting in exchange for the lights and screen. Big elaborate shows w/visuals simply attract more ppl.

      Same thing applies outside the EDM scene. Ppl going to huge Usher concert (for example) get the same deal. The artists doesn’t do much creatively….he pretty much sings the exact same thing at every concert. But theirs a huge light show with fx that makes it more of an “experience”.

    • Dadunn1700

      Another thought….
      A pop artist has producers, engineers, and songwriters helping them make their tracks….some dont even write the lyrics theyre singing….yet its fine when they do nothing creative during their concerts.

      A EDM producer makes everything by himself. They perform every single aspect of making a song by themselves….except for mastering….sometimes they’ll have a mastering engineer do the job But alot of EDM producers still master their own tracks (like Deadmau5) ….and somehow theyre still expected to create music on the fly during a concert.

      Crazy. Pop, Rap, Rock, and Country artists have it made.

    • Jaqui

      That’s interesting because I thought EDM had to start with mixing real music. You know the kind you have to have a singer, guitar, bass & killer drums to make. Yes, most singers don’t write their own stuff & autotune is making pop music formula perfect but real bands have singers, instruments and no I don’t go to a concert to “hear” the record. I want to hear the song live, mistakes, faster, improvise, change it up whatever. If EDM concert experiences didn’t cost so much, I might understand the idea of paying to dance with others. But I thought that’s what clubs were for.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      If I’d had more time, I would have made it shorter. ;)

    • Hkobvious

      hahaha!!!
      that’s the best line i’ve ever heard!!! :)

    • Nix

      goethe (:

    • Buzzbomb

      Obvious troll…

  • Throwingshapes77

    Deadmou5 aside. I think the point is, that artist these days are more free to express themselves how ever they see fit. For my live electro act, we started out playing as many synth parts as we could but over time decide to play less so our singer could move around the stage more.

  • Rainbowsarentmajestic

    it’s funny because even if you’re using a monome, turntables, any NI product it really still is all the same stuff. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/AteBitBaby Emilio Ate Bit Montesdeoca

    many of these same points are made in Rolling Stone’s cover article on the rise of EDM and more specifically, Deadmau5′s role as frontman.  He tears up David Guetta & Skrillex as iPod or midi controller/laptop DJs.  He made the statement that some DJs are getting half a mil to get up and push a cple of buttons whereas he is pushing “many more buttons.”

  • Darkman93

    again, most artists (and bands) have their sets pre-planned and have rehearsed them a million times over. deadmau5 doesn’t give himself enough credit. 

    • http://twitter.com/slugwurth slugwurth

      For pressing play? The problem is he doesn’t give any credit to the people who actually are doing something at the controls…and he doesn’t seem to think any exist. The fact is that it can be as easy or hard as you want to make it, and if it’s too easy you are not pushing yourself. If he’s not going to push himself, then that’s great because it gives an opportunity to the others who do to rise to the top because they are pushing themselves.

  • http://twitter.com/EDMsnob EDMsnob
    • Nic

      God, I’m sick of seeing your boring posts and hackneyed self-promotion all over the internet. No one gives a shit about your crappy blog, get over it already,

  • electronic music fan

    An amazing truly live – improvised in fact – electronic music experience is possible. Check out beardyman – here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR87YGd8x34 and here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNybVh48cHE

  • Spirti

    Meh. Nothing new, that is why I wont go to a DeadMau5 gig, but better instead go to some DJ gig, not just a producer, but also a DJ. Sick and tired of these so called ‘DJ’s’. And yea, nice text.

  • Svantana

    Word up. This is precisely why I created the live performance synthesizer FLAiL for iOS; not only to simplify on-the-fly musicianship, but also make the whole process very visible and physical. EDM needs to embrace some of the very good staples of live-show rock’n'roll — how about an electronic version of the on-the-knees-bending-back guitar shredding solo?

    http://heartofnoise.com/products/flail/

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Best. Product. Name. Ever. ;)

      (Yes, this why I’m actually down with some shameless plugs… always finding out about stuff I didn’t know yet…)And yes, you can do a Jimi-style solo, so long as you leave the clock running in the background.

    • http://www.afrodjmac.com/ AfroDJMac

      I like that idea, on the knees guitar shredding!  I just picked up your app, man, and I’m having a lot of fun with it! Thanks!

    • http://www.cinderblockhustle.com/ Mister Bread

      Its why trance-fusion is the best.  See The Disco Biscuits in the middle of a trance jam, or Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9)  or Shpongle performed as a live band… to name a few…  nothing tops musicians performing EDM style music.  Music produced in the moment contains so much more.

  • Chris G

    It’s ironic that I just mentioned all of this in a discussion at gearslutz. I said that I see no reason to think that any of these people do anything other than press play. It’s less of a slam to the artists themselves, but rather the fans that demand to hear the track verbatim as it was on the cd, which has always been the more accepted stance of a DJ and not a live performer.

    All of this I think may be a uniquely US position in that in the people like DM, DP and Skrillex have simply become lifestyle brands akin to Apple, Monster and Starbucks. I think that phenomenon is worth a critical review in itself.

    As far as Daft Punk goes, what have they said that gives them credit for remixing live and it not being in essence, a re-mix tape? From the many shots that we’ve seen inside the pyramid, they have two Moogs, two Behringer BCR knob boxes and a lemur. There’s no keyboards, no trigger surfaces such as a launch pad and I’d dare say the view from inside the helmets would really allow a view needed to such fervent free style work.  But for the sake of discussion, I’d actually like to know how they pull that off other than tweaking effects on an already remixed track.

  • http://twitter.com/EDMsnob EDMsnob

    If you want an ACTUAL counterpoint (that deadmau5 is censoring because it actually makes an argument as opposed to this 2000-word ponderfest): http://edmsnob.com/deadmau5-is-wrong-djs-are-artists-too/

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Unfortunately, I think deadmau5 was snubbed for a planned headliner show at Ponderfest this year, but we’ll have a booth there anyway.

    • http://twitter.com/EDMsnob EDMsnob

      Perhaps that was a little harsh, but this can not be accurately called a “counterpoint”, you’re not really taking an adversarial position to his. You’re reporting on the story of him saying it. 

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      You’re correct – I’m not trying to be “adversarial.” I would have responded differently if I had read the article as “DJs aren’t artists.” But I didn’t read it that way.

      I think there’s a clear disagreement in that I think live laptop music doesn’t have to be restricted to button pushing, that it really can be “live,” even if many of the big acts really aren’t (at the moment).

      Yes, the “beatmatching” was a cheap shot – unless someone is making the absurd argument that that’s what DJing is about, but I think your article makes clear the long list of other qualities you could mention.

  • Chefkoch

    Honestly, how could Deadmau5 play live with his Mouse-helmet? The sight must be hardly restricted. If he focus on live playing, I guess he never would make a set with that comic head….
    I agree with Peter that his statement isn´t fair against all these real live performer, but it might be based on the audience. In “underground” concert the audience often makes music itself and want to see what (or if) the performer does. It is part of the experience. If your mainsream, much more people come only to party they exactly know from CD. So if he enjoy standing up there with plastic helmet, press play and see people party to his music…why not. There is no “moral” need to really play live, just to entertain the audience.
    Those like me enjoy smaller concerts… ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/crackjawfan Dan Mark

    sorry saying you don’t want a messup in your set is a nice way of saying “i’m lazy and don’t want to do any work but want a bucket load of cash” its kinda pathetic he is so popular when he can’t even bother to do a real live show.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, but you do need some things to be reliable. (I just don’t understand why you can’t solo over top of the clock signal.) Case in point: I remember a Madonna tour from a few years ago; the tour tech there wound up having something like four redundant Mac towers. The first three could fall over or burst into flames and you’d *still* have a fourth. It’s a very different thing than people who are touring with stuff in a backpack.

      That’s also why I’m not as offended as edmsnob is by some of the riders. Sure, some of it gets a little weird, but some of the riders are as detailed as they are in order to make this mass-scale touring livable.

      It’s nice work if you can get it, basically.

  • gbsr

    honestly. if you were to ignore him then he would go away.
    people keep claiming that he’s such a down to earth guy but so far he has managed to not only claim that he is better than all dj-acts because his sets are more dynamic and that he’s like the kung fu master of music (really? except that it’s shit, perhaps), but now he’s saying that his kung fu music skills boils down to him pressing a button because he’s afraid of fucking up.

    who’s the talent less hack here really? 
    just ignore him and the world will be a better place without another media-whore making headlines because of his immense hubris.

    • http://www.facebook.com/erik.vozka Erik Vozka

      Do you not understand that he can’t mess up once in any show? It’s not because he’s scared of messing up and being booed or whatever (because that’s what he did only until he started touring worldwide) but he can’t mess up musically or the visual effects will be thrown off. If the visual effects are thrown off then the show is shit. And also, he has never said he is better than all other djs and he has repeatedly said he never expected to get this big and all of this caught him by surprise. People are not going to ignore him anytime soon, and you know why? Go to any Hot Topic, Zumiez, Journey’s, Spencer’s, go to any fucking mall in America and you will see the mouse-head on t-shirts, hats, jackets, etc. He is more than a musician, he is now an icon.

    • Sven

      All the top rock bands like Radiohead, Animal Collective and Interpol can play live varied sets with improv and maintain complex and totally rad lighting. Meanwhile there are a heap of DJ’s who can do it live with great lighting effects like Sasha and Van Buuren. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the music man, fuck the lights.

  • http://twitter.com/mysonabsalom Stephen P.

    I’d still go to a Deadmau5 show even if he was just hitting play because it’s about the experience of being there, with everyone else, dancing, and watching a show. Going to see a film is like that, right? It’s just the same thing again and again, you can watch it at home, but you go to the cinema because it’s big and loud and an event.

    • Nilsepils94

       How bad-ass would it be if he would just hit play and then come dance with us :P

    • retrofuture

      Dude thats kind of what steve aoki does :p

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.stolarsky David Stolarsky

      Lol, def what he did at sonar last year.

    • gunboat_d

      you mean he’s not controlling the set from the inflatable raft that’s riding on the crowd?! REFUND, PLEASE!

    • Big

      not really, Ive seen Steve live a few times – he’s mixing live

    • lol

      HA, you’re funny, Even when hes behind the decks he doesn’t mix at all, he doesn’t transition, just lets one song end and plays the next one, Like iTunes

    • oskur

       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVbsBEPmzVE

    • Stoersignal

       but when he just pushes play, wheres the show? it`s about hearing loud music together with many people but no show…..

    • http://profiles.google.com/trebtid Polite Society

      The show is in the visual display. He puts a lot of effort into the production of the event. It’s probably more of a AV production than anything else. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/AaronOizo Aaron Rawkip

      So true! i totally agree with you sir, you pay for the experience and to enjoy the music dancing and sharing the experience with others, not necessary to witness the creation of a masterpiece 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1780345938 Eygner Artiga

      That’s one of the best arguments I’ve read regarding this issue. Great point! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1283011231 Maree McKenzie

    Having been to DJ shows of various sizes
    (local DJ’s that spin vinyl as well as folks like Dieselboy that
    use electronics but not laptops) and larger performances (Tiësto, Steve Aoki,
    Gareth Emery), I’ve developed the opinion that it’s time for a split in media
    labeling of electronic music artists. Watching, listening, dancing to, and
    being a part of the crowd at a “traditional” show has been a different
    experience for me than going to an EDM show.  Based on those experiences, in my own mind I’ve
    started to think of folks like deadmau5 as “EDM producers and performers,” not “EDM producers and DJ’s,”
    and I’m glad deadmau5 is getting this fact out there.

    I can’t speak for everyone of course –
    and I’m not sure that people 10-20 years younger than me who only know EDM in
    its current form would even recognize the difference – but when I go to see an
    EDM show, I’m generally there to see the big name (sometimes a relative term) producer
    and hear his/her music & tunes from similar artists/genres, to experience
    the build and energy which that particular performer brings to a club. It’s similar
    to any performance in any other art genre – and depending on the performer the
    experience can range from Cirque du Soleil level to Gallagher style, but that’s
    what I’m there for – the experience. If the performer can work in some new
    music I’ve never heard before, great! But that’s not why I go.

    On the other hand, my expectations for
    going to see a DJ are slightly different. 
    Sure I’m there for the energy, but also to appreciate the skills that in
    some cases are equivalent to what top jazz performers do. Although these types
    of skills include turntablism, the DJ doesn’t even have to scratch to fall into
    this category – it’s about the live arrangement. I also tend to go specifically
    to hear music that I never would have been introduced to otherwise – those songs
    that make you go, “I never would have thought that would fit in this set, but
    it does, and wow, that’s an awesome way to get it in there.” I’ve never been to
    an EDM show or watched a stream of one (thank you uStream & be-at.tv btw)
    where the performer demonstrated the level of skill that most “traditional” DJ’s
    have. It’s not that EDM performers don’t necessarily have those skills,
    especially the folks who’ve been around for years, it’s just that their
    audiences don’t demand or remotely expect them to use their DJing skills, and I
    suspect that a majority of the people in a given EDM performance audience today
    wouldn’t even recognize or appreciate advanced DJ’ing techniques if they heard
    them.

    Obviously my thoughts here are not going
    to apply to every DJ and performer out there – there’s still a lot of overlap
    between the two types of shows, and of course this isn’t even considering
    artists like Basskleph and Lunice (just picking 2 at random that I’ve seen live)
    and others mentioned in the comments here who use samplers, synthesizers, drum
    machines and so on to really create on the fly as they perform, but not
    turntables and in some cases not even CD’s, just digital copies of music as
    their underlying canvas.

    deadmau5’s comments, though they’ve
    really set off some “but I don’t just push buttons” protests/rants/Twitter
    floods from other artists, are spot on. And if you really want to know, just
    watch a given DJ or performer – I don’t mean the nice “highlights” videos on their artist sites & YouTube, but live performance or Internet stream. What are they doing behind
    the decks? How much “free” time do they have to raise their arms and yell “wooooooo!”
    versus actively using their equipment? That’ll tell you whether they are DJ’ing
    or performing, and to me it’s important that the media start differentiating
    between the two in order to show respect for the traditional DJ’s with the
    skills that warrant the name. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1222350280 Quinn Carbine

      This is the best comment I’ve read on here thus far. 

      Like you said, a lot of it has to do with what the fans are demanding, and if people are throwing cash in your face, wishing for a dance-your-face-off-rage-party, where they want to hear the popular tracks (and for the most part are just there to dance and for the AV show), then the big name artists are going to deliver that. It’s the way it’s been with popular music and it’s the way it’s going to be.

      But there really should be a distinction between these mainstream EDM performances and the more technical, improvised DJ sets…

      To be real though, if you’re into the music, follow the artists, and have even a tiny bit of show experience…mau5′s remarks aren’t really all that surprising. If you’ve seen Skrillex “live” you’d have to be a fool to think he was doing anything other than pushing buttons. Now that’s not to say the guy isn’t a fabulous producer, but we’re talking live shows here, and maybe that really is the crux of the difference. Producers will still ultimately be producers on stage at the end of the day, and guys that have more technical, DJ skills will be more technical on stage. In all honesty if you follow electronic music in the least, most of us know what we’re getting into when we go see a particular artist (if we know them)…

      …and then a lot of people simply just don’t care about the technical aspect of the music at all, whether it’s all preset, or not, and just go for the show, dancing, and good times. To hear the popular tracks and rage. And that’s fine too, but there still should be a distinction. To me, it’s sad when guys who have been around for a long time, and definitely have the technical skills, end up making and performing basically the same mainstream crap that everyone else does now (cough…Bassnectar). C’mon, let’s see some innovation like producers and DJs of the early 90′s were doing.

      I think in this day and age it’s silly to expect that an artist of any kind of popularity won’t have anything pre-configured for their sets…like many have said, it’s called a “set” for a reason…it’s practiced, it’s premeditated, and of course, as the artist you don’t want to play a crap show. 

      But this applies to all music, not just electronic. “Live bands” have a setlist, they know what they’re going to play, in which order, and when, and everyone knows they practice their songs a shitload, because again, they don’t want to play a crap show, and the audience doesn’t want to hear a lot of fuck-ups. But they still make mistakes, and it doesn’t ruin the show…that’s an ignorant statement to justify button-pushing if I ever heard one.

      But the ultimate distinction here, is that with a good band, they’re still actually PLAYING THEIR MUSIC LIVE. I understand you don’t want to fuck up as an artist, but when i go see Ratatat, for instance, those guys are playing instruments right in front of you…and they mess up, but it still sounds great and doesn’t ruin the song, it makes it better. You know it’s live, and real, and you’re still there, dancing your face off, having an awesome time, enjoying the experience. DJs should play their instruments in the same manner, there’s no reason they can’t.

      I understand when you play as many sets back-to-back-to-back-to-back like mau5 does, you can’t improvise a ton, simply due to time…but c’mon, anyone with as much experience as him could figure out how to incorporate some non-preset loops or tracks into their shows.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lscarrozzi Louis Stephen Carrozzi

      Stated perfectly! I call myself an “electronic musician” because that’s what I do. I don’t have a clue how to DJ and totally have respect for those that can do it. But style-wise I have always been into synth music ever since the Depeche Mode days of the early 1980s. They are two different art forms, so, you nailed it.

  • just that guy

    SO he’s a button pusher, like other top EDM acts; big deal. At the very least, for lack of excitement from the DJ, the shows are visually AMAZING and ASTOUNDING! 

    I am one where I go to a live show to see the band/artist i like, hear stuff, old and new, and maybe hear something different and see something visually appealing. Is that not the point to being live?

    • Personal Computer Music

      I’d like to know how old are you, to understand what you say.

      Jay Z was in Paris last week : not a damn fucking musician nor chorist, two guys semi hidden behind a tape / computer, everything recorder, EVERYTHING, 90 fucking euros…

      Na na na, that’s not how it’s meant to be. TV has probably accustomed people by broadcasting fake shows or something.

    • Personal Computer Music

      *recorded

  • http://singularity-2045.org/ Singularity Utopia

    I once saw C. J. Bolland live and he really was live, utterly unlike anything heard on his records. Deadmau5 is just a pop star thus it’s all fake, smoke and mirrors. CJ seemed to easily give an excellent live show, it all depends on if you actually have talent which pop-stars such as Deadmau5 do not have. EDM… lol, well I suppose Deadmau5 is correct to call it EDM because it is electronic an people dance to it.

    • Alex Makin

      Since when did mau5 become “pop”. Just because he has gain popularity since he became better well known in like.. 2008 doesn’t mean that he is “pop”. If you compare mau5 to the likes of Guetta, say on, Facebook, mau5 has 6mil likes and Guetta has 33mil.

    • Justme

      No reason to be this ignorant.
      Deadmau5′s producer talents are undeniable.  His tracks appeal to a ridiculously variable/dynamic audience – and this is why he is a millionaire.  Hipster fanboys can criticize all they want.

      With 50,000 people waiting for you to screw up at a big ticket concert, I don’t blame him for being more experimental  on the fly. As has been mentioned before, the magic of the “concert” (to me at least) does not stem from how much experimentation takes place during the set, but how beautiful it is to hear one of your favorite artists playing his own shit while you rave out with 49,999 other fans. To me that is the fun of the show. 

      I have no interest in pushing my way to the front of the  mosh pit to stare at the “button pusher” awaiting some sort of earth shattering on-the-fly tilt in the set.  More on my mind is to get lost in the music that I love; And also at some point decide how I’m going to go about getting laid that night :) .

    • Eyyy

       Well said. The shows should be about having fun and the MUSIC. Not analyzing everything the DJ or whatever the fuck title you want to give him/her does wrong.

    • gbsr

      i guess that depends on what you call “talent”. if you call someone talented because he can spit out shit arrangements and shitty mixes and shove them down the throat of the grey masses of humanity and they like it, then sure, i guess you could call that talent.

      but by that standard, timbaland is equally talented, and all he does is steal stuff and release it as his own.

      i would hardly call deadmau5 talented. his mixes sounds horrible and his arrangements are bland and boring. but he sure knows how to sound like everything else, which i guess is the point of todays mainstream music.

    • Eyyy

      No talent? I’d say he has a shitload of talent. His production quality is amazing and he’s an actual musician who can create diverse music.

  • Bluefoxfarm

    Peter were you being facetious when wondering who might have set off Joel’s rant? If no maybe it was Ean Golden’s article: http://www.djtechtools.com/2012/06/17/the-age-of-the-edm-rockstar/

    If yes, sorry for not picking up the cynicism via the internet.

    Good post by the way. Cheers!

  • http://www.twitter.com/Spartz Bas Grasmayer

    Basically this whole discussion is about the clash of DJ-culture with band-culture. That’s it.

  • Glenn Hill

    How many boy/girlband acts have there been in the commercial music scene? Many of which have their songs and dance moves planned for them. Most can barely sing but are hired purely because they entice other young kiddies to spend lots of money buying their merchandise just because they are ‘pretty’. Yet this far from discourages people from going to concerts with loud speakers and a quality light show just to see their so called idol’s..

    With this in mind, firsty we must appreciate that Joel writes his own tracks, he works on other producers tracks, his label has helped give others a foot into the big game and you can’t deny that it’s not been a great decision for the likes of Noisia, Spor/Feed Me and others to finally get a spot outside their drum n bass domain.

    I appreciate he certainly does come across a bit over the top with his outlandish comments – but then fuck it, why not, I know I would as its all an element of self piss take and ‘tongue in cheek’. At least he is prepared to involve his fans even if its just to cause debate, it sure beats most who cannot be arsed to engage as they are clearly too big for their boots let alone teaming up with a PBunny which also was not a bad move!

    None of us are that stupid to think we are seeing something live, and yes their are great acts like SBTRKT who I have seen live, but then not every producer is an on the fly musician. Many of my producer friends in the DnB scene make sick tracks for big labels, but none of them would really be able to do much in front of a crowd other than press buttons and raise hands either.

    So I would like to say as much as people complain, it still doesnt stop me from going to the shows, which in most cases I go for the atmosphere, the people and after all quality tunes!

    All the time that boybands and girlbands exist in commerical pop music people should be quiet, simply because I am certain Joel must appreciate he hasn’t the same looks as a boyband (hence the head) but as a brand and business man and entertainer my hat goes off to him!

    Thats why we admire the Mau5!

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/wodgod/sets Gogmagog

    The mere fact that there’s somewhat of a controversy over what most DJ’s are actually doing belies the real problem; if the audience doesn’t know what a DJ is doing up on stage, they may as well be doing nothing.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Why?

      In any performance, the knowledge level of the audience is inconsistent. Think about a symphony orchestra. You might have a composer in the audience, and another person who can’t tell the difference between an oboe and a clarinet. For the lay audience, there’s a great deal going on that they don’t know.

      Add to that technology – shifting technology, sometimes invisible technology – and of course the effect is more extreme.

      But there’s always some gap between player and audience. For that matter, I’d hope when you play live, you’re not *only* playing for the audience in front of you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1651530188 Joseph Chang

    ” I saw Deadmau5 at SONAR – and, sorry, while I found his production talent to be as evident as always, I walked out of a set I found inert, or certainly, to be fair, not my taste. At that same festival, there was an abundance of live performance and improvisational DJing. Flying Lotus’ live set was vigorously imaginative. Daedelus was dynamic as always, slicing up sounds on his monome. The Native Instruments-sponsored Mostly Robot delivered, as promised, everything live: Jamie Lidell singing live, Mister Jimmy playing keyboards live, DJ Shiftee playing turntables live, Jeremy Ellis playing all the beats from his fingers live, Tim Exile mangling sounds in Reaktor live. ”
    You can’t compare a group of people playing out individual sections of a song live to a single person who is trying to make it as live as he can be within a set amount of parameters.

    Also not everything that deadmau5 plays out at his show is something that one would “dance” to, it’s more to enjoy it in tandem with the production of his stage & visuals. 

    Just recently I was at the Porter Robinson show in Toronto (with Mat zo and The M Machine) – The M Machine were 3 guys on stage actually recreating parts of their songs live, as well as singing vocals live. Mat Zo on the other hand (from what it seemed) was playing a pre-recorded set and just twiddling the Filters with an overuse of the Jesus pose. 
    Porter Robinson’s set you could actually see him mixing and rocking out on Traktor using the effects. 

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, sure I can, since Deadmau5 prefaced his rant with “EDM music” – not soloists, not mainstage soloists, but everybody.

      That said, of course, this comparison was skewed (though I was trying to indicate the range). I think the Porter Robinson comparison, though, is more direct – as would be Richie Hawtin, who has been doing a whole lot more in his solo shows than simply playing a fixed, prepared setlist, and often for similar mainstage audiences. (Off the mainstage, of course, you can see any number of things.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ialienweb Mark Baker

    The Mau5 is right. We all hit play. A little something in the middle of pushing play and improvising is proper IMHO. But with regards to electronic music it’s push play and push a few nob’s and tweak a few dials as it goes. What people like is how it comes together anyways. SOme of the biggest rock act’s and pop acts do nothing but hit play and they try and sell you the idea that it’s live. What a joke. At least EDM artist’s do not try and hide it.

    -AudioByAlien
    http://youtube.com/alienx23

    • Muzik 4 Machines

      We dont all just hit play Some of us actually play live with ni safety net

  • http://twitter.com/_gabethomas sɐɯoɥʇ ǝqɐƃ

    monome is not an instrument, its a MIDI controller. get it right

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      You know what MIDI stands for, right? (And, actually, then, technically, it’s an OSC controller, not a MIDI controller.)

  • http://twitter.com/Calebpierce38 Caleb Williams

    I don’t really mind that Joel has a push-play live set because in the studio, he’s a genius. He always is posting videos of his studio setups and they are enough to make you jizz and cry at the same time. There are so many racks of synths and hardware, and he allegedly makes all of the patches he uses himself on hardware, which, at least to me, justifies him for having a push play live setup. It would be inconceivable to bring that much equipment with him everywhere he went! Plus, I’m glad to see somebody creating their own sounds rather than using software presets or just tinkering in Massive. 

  • http://muzik4machines.com/ Muzik 4 Machines

    great article, i come from a band perspective and when i play live, i really play live, all sounds are generated, tweaked and mixed ive, even the structures are constructed live, and i make it a pride to not use pre rendered tracks and stems except in a few tracks where i really need more hands and feet
    http://youtube.com/muzik4machines

    sure those videos don’t have expensive light and video shows, but i can’t really afford those (and seriously, why would i install 250KW of lights in my studio lol)

  • Jim Aikin

    Creativity is the same, whether you do it onstage or two weeks ago in your studio. Technology allows the performer to time-shift some of their creative moves forward onto the stage. I don’t see this as a problem. The main reason audiences want you to be doing stuff onstage are instinctive, not aesthetic. Audiences respond to real-time moves that are felt to be difficult, because for hundreds of thousands of years our ancestors used those moves as displays of fitness for mating purposes. Audiences still expect you to do stuff that’s difficult onstage because they’re hard-wired to want to see a display of digital (and mental) dexterity.

    Personally, I don’t care. Press play. If anyone has a problem with the time-shifting of creativity, I say, get over it.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Absolutely – and I think deadmau5 made a good argument for time-shifted creativity and how it can feel live. I just disagreed with the idea that this was all that’s “possible” – obviously, a long history to the contrary. (As I said, “possible” doesn’t always mean “advisable,” of course.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755802498 Chris Muir

      Creativity may be the same in either location, but _when_ are they being creative? I used to go to a bunch of taped music “concerts” put on by CCRMA at Stanford. The running joke was that you wanted to sit close enough to the mixing console so that you could see the footage meter on the DAT machine. The concert itself was not particularly creative, although the music itself may have been. The social aspects of such a gathering wore off quickly. Assumedly, the social scene at a deadmau5 show has more to do with the party.

      I think one of the reasons people go to see music is to be witness to creativity, to see the process. Pressing play is not an inherently creative process. Dancing with a mouse suit on is not a tremendously creative process. 

      Perfection is boring. I like my concerts with the potential for disaster, as well as the potential for greatness. Pressing play ensures neither.

  • http://twitter.com/steevotron Steevotron

    How is this even a story? When are you going to start looking out a bit further from your cosy navel?

  • theSpiritOf75

    this whole thing is totally a matter of preference, (i know you stated that in the article… once) but the entire piece read likes “I dont like this… whaa whaa whaa.” Personally, I DONT LIKE hearing electronic music artists “sing” or “cut” things up or “scratch” that stuff is old too… and tired. I just go to shows to have fun. I’m not sitting there thinking “is this dj really pushing the boundries enough??” thinking like that totally kills the fun. which you sir, are doing.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I never said any of these things were obligations — only valid options.

    • Alo

      and theAgeOf95

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755802498 Chris Muir

    It seems to me that if you can’t fail, you are not performing. If it doesn’t really matter whether you are on stage or not, beyond pressing play, you’re not performing, particularly if you wear a giant mouse head so that no one can even tell if it’s really you in person. How are you different from someone in a Mickey Mouse costume at Disneyland, dancing in the Electrical Parade? 

    • v8media

      +11
      If I figure out the show I’m at is just being played back, I leave. I’m going out to a live performance to see the skill of this artist or group. If the artist doesn’t care to share that, they aren’t earning my money.

      Beyond that, I do visuals for shows, and have found that I can’t stand having presets for anything. Everything I do onscreen is live, and there can be failures. I design my setups and software so that I have to be interacting constantly. I tried using presets and found that to be horribly boring. Can you imagine doing 100 or so shows a year that are the same show? That’s almost a nightmare scenario to me.

    • gbsr

      that’s what i do too if i find out that it’s just a press play type of deal, and find something else that’s an actual live performance.

    • http://www.facebook.com/satrio.wijaya1 Satrio Wijaya

      Yeah, Imagine being in a Broadway musical doing 100 shows. I bet there is something awesome in there somewhere or else noone would do it. I think maybe there are subtle changes as cast members interact and what mindset they brought to the show that makes it exciting for them. For the person seeing the show 1 time, they never feel that subtlety (is that a word?) but probably think it is played out exactly the same every night..

      I have also done liveshows as a DJ all over the world with sets played with Paul Van Dyk when he was no1 Dj of the Year and done “preset themes” to songs cut up to be played live. Problem was trying to time stuff to breaks where the DJ keeps pushin it and pushing it, and you rip the big explosion to early and has to scramble to get something cooler up when the DJ actually enters the break. But the crowd never understood the timing was off, they thought it was supposed to be like that.

      That illusion of Interactivity is in the mind of the audience. I would never go to a magicians show if I knew how all the tricks (it’s called an illusion, Michael..) were made.

      I´m not going to the big shows as I know there is nothing new there for me as a punter. I go as a professional to see where the bar is at with that artist. But then it´s not fun, it’s work. So maybe you are all to pro-sumer to appreciate those big arena shows?

      Leave them for noob kids as a way into the EDM scene and then when they grow bored with it and see the wizard of OZ, the will hopefully come out to the steamy sexy live club acts that are making more mistakes, less money but more exciting shows.

    • http://www.facebook.com/satrio.wijaya1 Satrio Wijaya

      People pay a lot of money to see Mickey in the Electrical Parade. Maybe cash is a key issue. It is still called the music business right? He is making good business. As for the songs, he certainly wrote them, produced them etc. This big arena shit is what the kids want, so that is what their getting. As an old club-kid I don´t really like this progression, but whining about it just makes you into your parents complaining that your music wasn’t real music.

      Funny that “real” bands used to say DJ’s didn’t play the music or delivered anything special, they just played a record. Now Dj’s are telling Arena DJ’s they are not playing music, they are just pressing play on a computer. 

      History repeats.

      If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Let the kids have their fun their way. If you think something else is better, You’ll make it and You show them. 

    • Sven

      Amen Mr. Muir.

      And can I just add, Mou5 has a handful of great tracks, they just go better in sets played by actual DJs.

      Some can produce and perform. Some can produce and not perform, but do it anyway to let the beautiful green rain down.

  • Hprizm

    When factoring in the other aspects of a large scale production  (lighting/visuals/pyro) the margin for error is slim- but considering EDM to be a metronomic BPM based art there is always room to go “off of the grid” so to speak- Sadly the same mentality that keeps performances slaved to sync codes is the same mentality the keeps slavishly locked into 4/4

  • Andy

    I have to agree with the Mau5 a bit on this one. Whereas he does come across horrendously elitest in his cantor on the subject, sugesting that only success on his level makes you a legit artist, its a different sector of EDM he operates in. The fact is that the rave – once relinquisehed to only festivals or the dark corners of illegal warehouses – has now begun to hit the major arenas in the USA. People want the show, like a circus. They want an Ibiza club on the grandest scale. They want to spend 2 hours being transported to somewhere else by the music, lights, and effects working together. And that headliner CANNOT fail in that endeavor if he/she wants to keep doing things as big. Its way way more involved up there in his cube than just working the 1s and 2s. Hes the conductor for the WHOLE SHOW, not just the music. The entire production is the art of it. I remember the old Tiesto, Armin V.B., Oakenfold, etc etc, shows of the 90s where they were up there with 6 turn tables dropping sets live….problem is, those sets were SO BORING at times, as the beat dragged out on and on as the beat matching across drawling trance music was complete. The lights and such were also generic, and felt like any other club on the planet. Mau5 is also right that if you’re are paying the prices to see him live, you wanna hear HIS music that made you a fan in the first place. 99% of people became fans of his work by listening to it as a recording, THEN went to see him live. Anyone can go to a club or a bar and hear a halfway decent DJ play other peoples stuff while tweeking sound FX knobs and scratching. So PRESS PLAY all night Maus, because you put on one hell of a show when you are headlining. If you are at a festival, and the consumer wants to see live DJ innovation, then that person can walk down the way to the “small tent” and see it. Check out the amazing things that Pryda (the EPIC show) or Avicii (LE7ELs tour) are doing as well. At a show like that, the spectacle is what you are paying for, not to scrutinize the act with a fine tooth comb to see how on-the-fly his set really is…. Just like a studio guitarist might shred like Hendrix playing Hendrix’s work, but could never write a song of his own. Everyone hating needs to see what they themselves can do in the studio, make something original, then maybe you can scrutinize todays “press play” acts. Or ya know, just go drop some molly and lighten up a bit and ENJOY THE SHOW!!!! hahaha

  • http://www.facebook.com/domtrinh Dom Trinh

    agreed, the mau5 needs to get out of the house more…I hope the audience wises up too, but they won’t. They are sheep.

  • http://profiles.google.com/zaxxdavros Zaxx Davros

    As an improvisational electronic artist/controllerist this article really hits the nail on the head. He’s top 40 “bro” music and he panders to that. Sure, the dude can make “edgy” comments as if he leads some scene  but “EDM” is an accronym that has never held any relevance in my world of music. The dude is not live and many others with far more expansive skillets, catalogs and even fan base are are. Bros don’t care about live and thats his core audience. Being a cash cow if his fans don’t care why should he? Kudus to him for giving a CDM bump to the article though and wonderful job on the article Peter.   

  • Bane

    one of the worst written articles i’ve read in a long time

  • Sean

     If I go to see Foo Fighters live, I’m going to get Foo Fighters. They’re going to play their songs, maybe tweak a few a little bit to keep it interesting, but that’s about it. I’m going to hear what I hear on the album. Normal bands, when playing live, simply play their songs. I don’t understand why EDM stars are expected to do so much more than that. Yes, if they didn’t they’d just be standing their doing nothing, but I don’t mind if they don’t mix it up a ton. I just wanted to see them live and hear their music in a live, concert setting. However, I do agree that doing the same exact set at every show can be a bit boring. But, if those songs are what fans want to hear, then they’ll get them I guess.

    • Personal Computer Music

      No no no, normal bands DO play their instruments, physically, even if they always play the same, which is a big difference, while the electronic artists could play (cf. controllerism) but rarely if never. This is a worldwide scam that drives me crazy. 

      Moreover, considering that 80% of today’s line-ups (at least in France) are declared Djs (people who just play others records they like) while the supposedly ”live” other 20% only push play, going out is BORING.

      Last but not least, the regular button pushers are paid from 5k to 15k euros in Paris.
      And i don’t mention assholes like Aoki which are paid 250 000$ a show for doing NOTHING and  dare have such riders : http://www.harderbloggerfaster.com/2012/06/19/steve-aoki-dj-rider-unveiled/

    • gunboat_d

      “I’m going to get Foo Fighters”

      with an elaborate back-end that includes sync’d backing tracks, timed lighting and visuals, and a click track.

    • Stoersignal

       but the foo fighters are playing their instruments! and i think a electronic musician should play their instruments too

  • Saebkcire

    I think instead of mixing sets artist could start actually making tracks live.

  • kent williams

    So it’s … 2003? 2004? Friday night in Detroit, the night before DEMF kicks off. Dan Bell’s hosting a 7th City pre-party on Woodward.  Claude Young is DJing, and it’s brilliant as usual.  Then Shawn Rudiman comes up and does an all hardware set for an hour or so that’s everything DeadMaus’s music is not — dynamic, soulful, melodic, and always interesting.  After an hour Claude Young goes behind Shawn’s bank of drum machines and tabletop synths and whispers in his ear. Shawn busts a big grin and nods. Claude boots up his laptop and starts dropping loops over Shawn’s beats — not sync’ed, Claude is beatmatching in Live. 

    And so for nearly two more hours, Claude and Shawn are jamming — nothing planned, nothing rehearsed, and if it isn’t 100% note perfect it’s pretty close, and it’s live.

    I try not to be a hater when it comes to successful musicians. There’s a lot that goes into being successful, and hats off to ‘em.  But fuck Deadmaus.  He’s not without talent, he could be doing a load more than he’s doing.  The whole point of live electronic music is that it’s live.  Daft Punk doesn’t have any trouble putting on a great show that isn’t the same every night, why can’t Deadmaus find a way to do something besides press play? 

  • Comptechdiaz

    Lets See An artist use A KORG Electribe emx all night that ”live” production…

    • MTT

      That artist is called Xosar. Seen her live twice

  • Clapping

    You both make valid points, but I don’t think you see deadmau5s point.  Yes, some people are very innovative when it comes to playing live sets, but then again, some people are not.  And those some people like to to think that what they’re doing is hard, when in reality, it’s what he said, it’s just pressing play.  These people will defend their case and say “No, there’s a lot more to it” when really, there probably isn’t.  And that’s what I believe he’s trying to say, people are probably to scared or insecure to actually admit that what they are actually doing is “just pressing play”.

  • Reid H.

    There are people who do sh*t live on stage in the “EDM” scene. As evidenced here by Phil Weeks:
     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8kkKF3qmLY&list=FLMWED5WEl2HjiZ1OC9jhESg&feature=mh_lolz
    Now for acts that just hit play. You can’t say it’s an act. Acts require the sound production to be live, therefore the opportunity for screwups. That’s where the big names get scared. I won’t name names, but we all know who they are. As far as production skills in the studio they may be top notch, but get them live in front of a crowd and they will look like a deer caught in the headlights. Now, there are DJ’s like DJ Dan and DJ Sneak who have done the live thing for 20 years matching beats by ear on turntables. They are acts because they play live and always have. I will pay top dollar to see sets by them because it is always a different show and ride. Props to everyone though for bringing house music to the forefront.

  • http://twitter.com/a_w_young a_w_young

    Sparing a couple of unfortunate bad days (we all have them), every set I did under the Tractile guise before personal issues lead to dissolution of the whole thing was a fresh set, constructed on the fly using hundreds of little building blocks and there was absolutely nothing fake, or “play pressing” about it. I prided myself in doing something unique, weird and doing things that ultimately damaged my gear (though I tried to be careful… a regret of everything I did was not buying sturdier things or building my own so I could just go all out and enjoy the “rockstar” part of it more.. not the lame, fake fame, but the physicallity and enjoying “rocking out” with everything I had whether people liked it or not).

    Some of my contemporaries would spend multiple evenings perfecting and crafting the perfect “set”, overwhelmed by the importance of glueing something together that they thought sounded perfect and worthy of praise. Nothing bored me more. What I did instead + all I wanted to do was write something new or make some new creepy intro or big finale that I would work out the details of in an improvisational manner at the gig itself. I am really convinced that even though I had to “leave the game” for a time, I had more fun than 95% of the other people doing it as a live techno act.

    At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. IF you have a good time doing cool and weird things, you’ll find a great audience that enjoys it with you. I still talk to loyal fans who fondly remember those moments.

    I’ve always had a bug up my ass about Deadmau5. It’s not really fair to him I suppose. He built something for himself and good for him if he’s happy with what he’s got. I was much more interested in making the music I wanted to hear and play shows that I wasn’t seeing. It was so great that thousands of people were into it and supported it and it was a fantastic feeling that I loved sharing with them but I didn’t do it for them, I did it for me.

  • Jamceeee

    You only have to look at picture from behind/ inside his ‘mau5cube’ to see that he IS using modulars live. He brings part of his eurorack on tour, plus you can see a slim phatty, Virus C and Voyager up there. 

  • musicalgeometry

    Great response to a rather silly blanket pronouncement of “the way it is” by Deadmau5. Thanks Peter.

  • Mprosk

    The real point of a show like Deadmau5 isn’t to see someone perform a set live. Sure, it’s cooler if it isn’t just someone sitting there switching songs on iTunes, but what does it matter if the music isn’t 100% from scratch? Shows like this are about the experience, the lights, the visuals, the party.

  • http://twitter.com/RobertWulfman Robert Wulfman

    the problem with an extremely creative set is that it gets to the point where there too much musical performance and not enough physical performance. I mean this is still better than not have either I mean look at ANY of daft punk’s shows, but sometimes one needs to find a balance between going crazy and mixing like crazy.

  • crom

    dude is a dick, end of story.

  • Doodely

    I know they can still be a great live draw compared to the rock scene but it really fucks me off the way DJ’s get paid/treated considerably better than actual bands, who have more expenses, more gear, more problems…these guys get to “live the life” for pushing play. I know this isnt exactly a cut and dried issue but it doesnt make it any less frustrating…as much as i love say…noisia…compare how much they might make for some club shows compared to a band doing it tough on the road. 

  • Julian H

    I have been a huge fan of edm(All of it). I always played it my my class because our teacher let us and no one ever want of play their music so i always voluntarily play mine. Little did i know my teacher had a music background.He gave a little incite on my “type of music” based on his background. He told me it sound good to someone without a music background but if you were to go depth this what i would see. So i showed him some aly and fi and some armin van burren(big trance fan) and he told me to write it out on a staff. I told him did not really know how to so he did. He explained that every thing mostly stays in one key and that Many of the song had dissonance in them because the artist was not play a note but simply tweaking it to sound right. he said the music was really good but if some of the artist had a musical back ground it would be outstanding. He explained how most pop song are written in a 1 3 5 verse and that is what make them sound “poppy”. He told me the problem with music in general is that artist just bang out track left and right and the production quality drops. Same with shows, they do them left and right. He point out that artist get to big that it become unrealistic for them to do a different show every night.

    This true. i produce music and so i began composing a song on paper with  the teacher. I was surprised with the out come.The music just flowed and changed and had emotion. I learned how mix harmonically and to mix on note and how to create tension and release naturally through the songs i picked and mix. And then i had a fantastic  set all done on the fly. i will never dj 300,000 people but i can say i don’t ever play the same song in week and done all live. The music has emotion which i think is sometimes lost in “anthems” that artist now make

    So the question is do you substitute quality  for money.  I will never be famous but i can honestly say mix come naturally  and is not forced. (YOU CAN TELL WHEN A MIX IS FORCED)

    Take a music theory class. You would be surprised  how many big name artist(djs)  have none and you will Hear the wonderful difference i promise. 

  • Martin

    Audiences love surprises. However they may expect ‘the album’…. but people love not knowing what’s is going to happen. That is the exciting part!

    Want proof? … There are pretty big audiences at sporting events.

  • Tom D

    Great article. One nitpick/point of curiosity – “Richie Hawtin’s heavily-parameterized Ableton Live set” – I was under the impression Hawtin was still playing on Traktor, possibly using Ableton as an effects host for the VST effect he uses for that tape delay effect he uses a lot of, with Maschine over the top – perhaps you know something I don’t though :)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Sorry, yes, that’s correct, I should differentiate that set and his separate Plastikman set, which is all Ableton. The latter is at big venues (I saw him set it up and perform it in front of a similar-sized crowd at Tempelhof), but it was Traktor, not Ableton, at SONAR.

  • RheyneMusic

    Examples of live music created from scratch, performed live, with nothing pre-recorded:  http://youtube.com/rheynemusic

  • humanchu

    I think the conservatism or snobbism re the fact that music is better if improvised and/or performed is far scarier than the reality of pre-programmed EDM-sets.

    Why should EDM-performance strive for the same live performance goals as defined rock, soul allt the way back to classical music?

    I thought the whole point of going electronic was to distance youself from these notions? 

    The only rational degree of mentioned success is by the reaction of the audience. And the satisfaction of daft punk/deadmaus audiences does indeed prove that their approach is quite successful.

    The above does not diminish the fact that Flying Lotus audience is feeling satisfied by the “improvised” (who knows?) sessions. But it also does not in any way factually bless Flying Lotus with a higher level of artisitc relevance. 

  • goto10

    The point is moot, really. We all know it’s somebody else inside that Mouse helmet anyway.

  • Matt V.

    What this article calls “pressing play” is only possible after an enormous amount of effort behind the scenes…that much is obvious.  Nobody in their right mind, including the author, would question the fact that pretty much every successful artist (EDM or otherwise) understands what it takes to put together a great experience for their audience.  Famous painters and film makers (rarely) “perform” their craft live at art galleries and theaters, yet they are deservedly respected for the years of careful training and execution that it took for them to create their masterpieces.  In a sense, Fortune 500 CEO’s “button-press” from their high rise corporate offices everyday.  They produce nothing, but are ultimately responsible for their brands just like an EDM artist, painter or film director.   These days, people are buying what EDM artists are selling, and Deadmau5 wouldn’t be in the position to speak out like he does if not for his ability to give people a phenomenal live experience.  That’s his product.  Making a ton of money by taking an consistent, innovative approach to selling it is as American as apple pie (or as Canadian as Tim Hortons in this case…sorry Mau5…).

  • http://www.suecae.com/ Robert Halvarsson

    I watched Röyksopp play in Stockholm two years ago. The amount of playing with the stuff they did was immense – also having a live bass player and vocalists help. I have to call bullcrap on his “we all hit play”-thing, although I do think it’s coragous of him to actually say this – but it’s not how everyone rolls, as folks have noted.

  • gunboat_d

    it would be cool if Deadmau5 got some people around and scored his tracks out for instruments and then played the set live with augmented electronic bits.  but that would probably eat into his budget and it kind of destroys the whole “man behind the decks” image of live EDM. and maybe he can’t actually play an instrument.  who knows.

    cornelius plays a live show with a band and it’s highly sync’d to provide coordinated visuals, but the music is live and the system is set up to allow tweaking of the timing of the visuals with the music in order to maintain a bit of spontaneity.

  • Klrxs

    My dad used to complain when we paid too much to go out to eat because it “all ends up coming out of the same hole anyway”. In this case, speakers. A little food for thought.

    DJs have really only one responsibility. One single explicit responsibility and Nothing else. There are no better, worse DJs per se. Everyone is a dj. There are just djs that you personally prefer over others based on your the criteria you’ve developed. What is yet responsibility? It isn’t about ‘discs’ anymore, it isn’t even about the crowd, or best-matching or any of that. That is just criteria. DJs get paid on the radio even to represent other interests. All a dj has to do, is: offer context

    When you accept and understand that part of it, the rest really just comes down to personal taste. It is OUR job to apply our mindsets with their offerings.

    As for live performances. Button pushing is not far

    • Klrxs

      Oops. Was cut off somehow.

      Simple button pressing is not far from elaborate button pressing. Which leads to extremely precise button pressing. And then you get into dynamics an strings and plucking and hammering and instruments in general. Everything seems responsible for generating some kind of sound wave under certain circumstances. Importantly is How predictably it seems to be pulled off.

      I don’t like listening to David Cassidy because his voice is Too perfect.

      I also find a great number of musical band acts to be bland because of their ‘standing up tere, drivel long the time away in a verbatim recital of their album’. YET, on the flip side I’ve come to appreciate the art of writing the original piece in the first place. In which case it pays the piece much respect to recite it flawlessly. Just as we are expecting many classical pieces to be pulled off, note for note without error, yet with its own unique expression.

      So then we come back around to that guy standing up there. Build ups are a fun and exciting game. It seems to work for sex. And many build ups in music are

    • Klrxs

      Okay, my phone is messing up now haha. End rant!

  • Tommyrampling
  • Blahblah

    Plenty of good DJ’s out there… Deadmau5 is NOT one of them. Sadly the majority of people don’t know the difference. Same goes for “live” EDM acts. Electronic music is more about personalities than music nowadays, hence the “button pushing”. 

  • Aaron

    Perfect example of who not to be like and why so many electronic music fans hate the guy. And its not genuine or refreshing for him to have that conversation about “pressing play”.. we’ve been talking about that for 12+ years. Even his live ‘performance’ is a blantant rip off of Daft Punk.. he should go on for an hour about that instead of something he obviously has nothing to contribute to. However, he’s a whore, and its obvious he says these things because it’ll work up all those pompous haters.. because thats what we are right? He brings shit up like this all the time.. its the all news is good news approach, and vitriol brings on more postings on the internet than fluff pieces do. Just look how many people have responded to this about someone half the responders don’t even respect?

    • Aaron

      +++ deadmau5, skrillex, and the like are just today’s version of the epic “press play” party dj types that I’ve always loathed.. Keoki, Sasha, Digweed, BT, etc..

    • http://www.facebook.com/Gavintech Gavin Varitech

      How do Sasha and Digweed fit into that group? Both of them are amazingly talented and are the opposite of “press play” acts. They never play preplanned sets (although I’m sure there is some preparation like any good deejay should) and can play 8 hour sets just as proper as they can a 2 hour set.

      Keoki was never a “press play” DJ either, just a shitty DJ (if he was a press play DJ his sets might have been better). BT I know (and care) very little about.

  • http://twitter.com/regend REGEND

    from an outsiders perspective, these debates are perhaps a response to the mass consumption of the music…and the music no longer living up to the hype and the stage shows now falling flat. perhaps with big names coming out and responding to their critics these Dj stars can push the scene into non-commercial realms and perhaps it’ll re-surge. i agree that there is a scene of “Live” and Mobile PA work out there and that it is not well promoted or marketed. there are tons of electronica shows that go unnoticed and i see it as a counter culture to commercial EDM. hey, what do i know? i still enjoy Q-Bert and Kid Koala scratch actual records, don’t mind seeing eDit and his crew push buttons to trigger samples, and i’ve played a waldorf synth through an analog ibanez delay live on stage to make people dance.

  • Guest

    What qualifies as real musical performance? To use a somewhat tired rock band analogy if you saw a punk band play basic three-chord tunes would they still be performing? That isn’t much more difficult than pressing a button. However, those tunes could still have real emotional and artistic impact for some individuals, as simple as they may be to perform. Current critical theory being what it is I would have thought the end result of the art in question was more important than the perceived difficulty in creating it. 
    I also think specific to what Deadmau5 and others like him do is that part of the idea is people get to hear the music on a (hopefully) decent sound system, rather than what they normally listen to. For those audience members any semblance of performance is secondary.
    I haven’t made it through all of the comments here, so apologies if this is repeating what has been said.

  • http://twitter.com/Cybersklar Zach Sklar

     I appreciate Deadmau5 for his honesty, however, all DJ’s and their sets aren’t created equally. I have DJ’ed for 22 years and evolved from turntables and mixer to the whole digital setup with laptop, controllers, usb mixer, etc…. Lots of DJ’s create on the fly. Sure they don’t make whole new songs, but the ability is there to remix on the fly with the stems of songs. As this article says, there are many tools to the trade to stand out and make every set different from the last. I just picked up the Traktor F1 and can now sample on the fly and create my own remix of a song or mix it in with another track, which would be different every time out. Deadmau5 can be outspoken at times. There is no secret to that. If he wants to reveal how simple his sets are, that’s fine, but don’t lump every DJ in with what you do. I mean, Deadmau5 is more of a producer than a DJ anyway. It’s understandable that he would have an easy set up just to play his music live. I just hope the EDM community doesn’t assume what we do is easy. I can assure you, it’s not! Maybe Deadmau5 can train a new DJ with the skills he uses in an hour, but it would take some other DJ’s years to train someone to do what they do. I’m kind of getting sick of how popular EDM is getting. It wasn’t meant for this. It’s meant for the underground. It needs to get back there! Rappers crossing over to it to sell records. Paris Hilton faking like she is a top DJ. These are things that will eventually destroy it. I’ve been a DJ and producer for 22 years. I’ve followed electronic dance music since innovators Kraftwerk were doing things years ahead of their time. I have seen the evolution of this music come full circle. Now that it’s what’s hot, it needs to cool off. By doing so, it can get back to being what it was meant to be. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/edisonbuttons Edison D

    if you’re producing songs and then figuring out a way to reproduce them live, you should be able to do what ever the fuck you want… its your music… if people come watch it…. yay….
    dont put people down for it….

    besides that… a DJ is a DJ… a musician is a musician…. there is a LARGE divide
    between the 2… what is there to discuss???
    dudes can do both… but no,  selecting/rearranging songs is not making
    them… if people are dancing in a club because you are playing other
    peoples shit, it doesn’t give you musician credibility… it gives you
    something to be thankful for… people made good things for you to use,
    to get people to dance to… i
    there are good DJs out there… skilled DJs… DJs with years worth of chops under their belt… but they are not the equivalent of musicians… sorry….

    but then again, anyone’s opinion should matter as much as deadmau5′s opinion matters… not at all… just do what you do… if you’re talented, people might dig it…

  • 5meohd

    I’m just going to throw this back out there for Joel. Fuck it dude. Seriously, you’ve got that attitude.. I think many fans are on it, bolt the fucking monster case on some hydraulic lifts and do an upside down solo 50 yards out into the audience. I mean.. you’ve gotta be close to having everything you need, so throw it in and do what you want. You could lose ALL the fans and still be in a better spot than the rest of us. Or not. Cheers.

  • matteocurcio

    I remember, a few years ago, the complete lack of predictability of any Orb live set. Maybe it’s just the difference between EDM and IDM. 

  • cumthrower

    less dadstep more xanopticon please, thanks cdm

  • Lichi69

    Deadmau should start touring with paris hilton.. bc they both blow. Being a dj myself i would never ever want to just hit play are u fckng kidding me, that’s a fckng joke

  • http://www.hicox.com/ plurgid

    LOL, yeah. He’s absolutely right!

    Sure there *might* be some people out there actually creating shit on stage, but for the most part … they’re creating shit you don’t want to hear. Or perhaps put more politely … they are playing art houses and coffee shops, not packing be-blowstick’d masses into arenas night after night.

    There’s a difference between going to see some cutting edge performance art and going to see the mau5, ya dig? Same as there’s a difference between going to Burning Man and going to Disney World.

    much kudos to deadmau5 for telling it like it is.
    You didn’t come to the show to see some guy press play. You came for the experience, and to hear all the unique cool shit the guy spent untold hours preparing *before* the show.

    Nobody gives Mickey Mouse shit because the electric light parade show is the same damn thing night after night, is what I’m saying. They’re pretty much in the same biz, no?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Mouse on Mars, just to name the artists in the next story, are in fact playing big festival venues — albeit European festival venues. 

      If Berghain is a coffee shop, it’s one hell of a strange one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/b33son2 Beeson Epr

    I think deadmau5 just needs to get inspired on the DJ side of things rather than trying to convince himself there’s nothing else you can do. I think he’s put himself in a box… shaped like a mouse head, so it makes it tough for him to be on the fly creative. 

    I felt the same why when I was using the wrong type of software to make my sets. Anyhow, Deadmau5 should watch some Laidback Luke live DJ set videos and see what else you can do. There’s truly a lot you can improvise when DJing… And I’m sure he’d find it a lot more and challenging as opposed to just hitting play.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1376520250 Jon Cappetta

    Has he never heard of http://www.smithsonmartin.com/?

  • Mouse Catcher

    Joel Zimmerman/Deadmau5 is a troller for life. Passive aggressively
    trying to piss off other DJs/producers/artists by dismissing them all
    and throwing them under the bus. Either he has never grasped the concept
    of DJing (since he’s a producer foremost, started off as a producer,
    not a DJ) or has lost the concept somewhere along the way to stardom:
    it’s about building a set, layering, progression, taking the audience on
    a journey, not one hit after another or randomly play some of your
    produced tracks. Maybe for his music, where the quality is obnoxious, is
    snap crackle pop type of music, he never got to set building, into
    progression in a DJ set. That is where the art lies. You can’t teach
    that. Either you have a musical mind or you don’t, or you can try to
    develop it over time at a young age. It is not something that can be
    tested or measured like mechanical skills of beatmatching on turntables
    or pushing buttons on ableton. Those are technical means, not the main
    purpose. The main course is in building a DJ set. That is different from
    DJ to DJ, from artist to artist. That is what sets DJs apart, as we
    know it in this Electronic Dance Music context, from wedding DJs, mobile
    DJs, radio DJs, strip club DJs, etc. Long ago, there was this event
    where Sasha was playing on only one turntable because all other
    turntables were not working. He was playing one record at a time, no
    mixing or beatmatching, but everyone had a good time, because of the
    music, because of his track selection and the progression of the tracks,
    which is part of set building (the other part being mixing). That you
    can’t teach someone. Everyone’s interpretation of music is different.
    It’s not as rigid as beatmatching. Maybe part of this rigidity in latest
    dance music DJ sets is because of the nature of Ableton, which made
    people focus on the technicalities rather than on the music, which is
    where people should be focusing on at the end of the day.

    By the way, the EDM bandwagon he’s talking about isn’t even electronic.
    It’s pop dance music. You don’t see the mainstream jumping on Techno
    wagon or DnB or Psy Trance or IDM etc.

    His outrage at Madonna is also fake righteousness, looking at his own
    behaviors in the past. It’s more of him feeling contempt towards a
    bigger artist is stealing a piece of his pie, except it’s not his pie to
    begin with. It’s everybody’s pie. The scene is not his. It’s
    everyone’s. Another example of his inflated ego showing.
     

  • Brian Tuley

    It’s a concert version Rave.  I don’t know why anyone would want to attend performances for this sort of music.  I like the music well enough, but the live aspect just doesn’t add up to anything but dj’ing.  I watched a concert video of this on Netflix recently.  After five minuites I got sick of waiting for something to happen, but it never did, so I turned it off. 

    Deadmau5 = Daft Punk Light, Just substitute the Cats head for a Robot Mask.

  • http://twitter.com/Cybersklar Zach Sklar

     People!!! Deadmau5 is NOT a DJ. He is a producer. Should he want to be critical of other producers for the way they compose or remix, then he can have his say. However, when it comes to DJing, he really has as much of a say as Paris Hilton. His opinion of what DJ’s do is garbage. Sure, there are many electronic music producers that can really do so much when playing their music live, but don’t lump them in with what DJ’s do. That’s an unfair assessment and he deserves whatever backlash he gets from his idiotic, outspoken comments. I respect Deadmau5 as a producer and he’s certainly made his mark in the EDM community. I don’t even consider him a DJ. It’s funny when I hear people who tell me they saw him or are going to see him say, “I’m going to see or I saw DJ Deadmau5″. LOL!!!  The truth is, most people who go see him can care less if HE is pushing buttons. That’s why he does it. It’s easy, and he collects a HUGE paycheck for it. You’d do it too if you were in his position. Playing live for producers, or any bands for that matter, is the way they make their money. Labels take a HUGE bite of album/single sales. If Deadmau5 didn’t make so much money from touring, he’d probably just stay in his studio. Same with every other EDM producer. I guess where I am going with this is there is a difference between EDM producers and DJ’s. Very few deserve to have the designation as being both. I am both. I’ve DJ’ed and produced for 22 years. I’ll be the first to admit that all the new technology has made it very easy to do both. However, that only makes it easier to improvise your sets live as well. Not doing so is just being lazy. So, basically, Deadmau5 is just telling us that he is lazy and not putting in the effort that could make him a better DJ/performer playing live. That’s unfortunate to hear. Maybe he should lose the Mouse head and get more serious about his live performances. Then, and only then, will he understand that you can do so much more than JUST PRESS PLAY!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1437338463 David Vass

    I’m pretty sure the people you names aren’t considered “top dj’s” considering his near constant appearance in magazines like Rolling Stone…

  • anonymous

    While many dj sets are pre-recorded, many of them don’t just stand there and press play. That defeats the whole purpose of being a dj in the first place. They mix what they record live, and give the crowd flow and something to dance and go a long too. Deadmau5 literally hates on dj’s for giving the crowd flow because thats the one thing he cannot do. Deadmau5 is an AMAZING producer. However he sucks live, and admitting to only pressing play shows the lack in creativity he puts into his live sets. It’s  probably why Ultra Music Festival, the biggest electronic festival in the world, didn’t invite him back to play this year. 

  • whisk3rs

    Late to the party, but… drawing on my run-ins with Joel on TranceAddict back in the days when he was still jerking off into old gym socks in his bedroom, he does not seem to have matured a bit. He’s a talented producer and a businessman, and he capitalized on both quite nicely by capturing the attention of the crowds through shiny lights and repetitive, mass-produced 8-note patterns.

    He always had the facetious “fuck you, I’m better than you” attitude toward the EDM scene, DJs, producers, and his fans. He always loved controversy and a good flame war. Who remembers his interview comparing DJs to lawyers? He could use his massive fame to criticize the industry for the better in a clever and intelligent way, but, unfortunately, he does not seem to be capable of it… yet. He’s just a very famous troll who’s good at producing, and people lap it up like they do Jersey Shore.

  • Theofficialrawr

    It comes down to the old, subjective question, “what is art?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/ialienweb Mark Baker

    The problem is Djing as an art form some just do not accept while others do and the cross stream to it all is guys that produce everything about a song but still have to more or less present themselves as a DJ since they are unable to produce studio crafted work on a live stage.

    Deadmau5 laments about this constantly.

  • knowyourrole

    “you simply can’t afford screw-ups.” When did this become standard? Some of the best shows I can remember were when you heard the DJ you came to see “screw-up”. This really brought them down to a level you can relate with as a DJ. The whole electronic scene is being flooded with people who don’t know shit.

  • Kushest

    Well put. I’m a play pusher myself and the enjoyment of performing is definitely the awesome energy and vibes. A dj with vinly is really no different. They have a prepicked set as well. After that its simple beatmatching. What we need is live singers as well, that will make an awesome show and that’s the direction I’m taking. All of these big vocals in these songs don’t mean shit if no one sings it live.
    This is KUSHEST, Taking it to the next level.
    Kushest.com

  • Conall

    I think the main thing to focus on as an performer is to maintain some level of spontaneity, however you choose to perform. IMO if all your doing is pressing play, then you may as well email a mix to the promoter and save them the plane ticket.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Lucas/100003116874083 Josh Lucas

    Deadmau5 is a product of hype and advertising.. he is the the McDonalds of EDM.. a lot of people may know about him, but that doesn’t make his music or his DJ’ing good.

    Anyone who knows about bit about EDM, knows that there are quite few producers that produce far better music than this talentless hack.
    Also, there are quite a few DJs that actually do a lot of stuff live, play around with FX and add a lot more to the music that is currently playing, that just pressing “play”
    There are things you could do in Traktor and Ableton that cannot be done with just turntables. Artists and DJs are limited only by their imagination when playing live.

    Yet, the irony is that everyone knows about “deadmau5″ and nobody knows a lot of really talented producers, because they don’t buy advertising in the form of covers in Keyboard magazine and
    For those who know a bit about the music business.. magazines and blogs are desperate for advertising money, and if you have a successful record and production company, you can get featured, inverviewed and written about in any magazine or blog in exchange for “advertising”.
    If are sort of well known, and are have some business skills, you get get yourself in the cover of keyboard magazine and even Rolling Stone.

    “Deadmau5″ is short on talent but long on money to spend, so he can put himself in magazines and blogs such as this one.
    Talentless hacks like deadmau5 bring web traffic, which is why we are reading this “story” about him, not because he has any talent, but because he is good for business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lscarrozzi Louis Stephen Carrozzi

    I read this article (and many others recently) and I think there are some good points. I am an “electronic musician” not an “EDM” musician, but I am looking to learn the tricks and try my hand at some tracks. Why not? I also know enough about the gear, and exactly what the gear does, to say that this article is pretty spot on. Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in a time where there are SO many talented people and so many different kinds of music, and ways to make it (not to mention actually perform it live) that this debate could go into 100 different directions, and everyone would essentially have valid points, from one viewpoint or another. DeadMau5 was just being straight about HIS craft, and others that he views as doing the same thing he is. He makes some GREAT “dancy” songs, puts out an “album” to promote himself, and then strings them together into a live show that is something a bit more than the album. The real grunt work is in the studio and the prep for the show. People pay $100 a ticket or more to get the whole “experience”. The music, the costume, the “scene” and the light show. It’s not an off-the cuff experience, and as the case with most mega venues, NONE of it is. Performers lip-synch, they use auto-tune to correct vocals, and all other kinds of tricks basically to make sure nothing screws up when people are dropping big money for an experience that they want to be perfect – and be a part of. There are, of course some musicians that truly are better live (and without the safety nets) but DeadMau5 doesn’t consider himself to be one of them. But I remember what an old 1960′s rocker friend of mine told me one night when were talking about some of the most amazing guitar players of the 1980s. He said, “You know, you could play a guitar like Joe Satriani, or play the drums like Neil Peart, but at the end of the day if you want to sell records, simple sells.” That’s the bottom line. I think that’s the point DeadMau5 was trying to make: Just because people like it doesn’t mean it’s “special” in terms of skill on stage. You know what? I still love his stuff and I’d love to go to one of his shows.

  • Andr3w

    On the left are the live musicians, on the right are the DJs. On the right of DJs are radio DJs. In the middle are “controllerists” (deadmau5 et al).

    No arguing with the clever people that can play instruments, and undeniably, a DJ charged with keeping the dancefloor heaving has a considerable responsibility to a live audience, both sonically and technically. EDM artists have, it seems, a little luxury: They can, in fact, decide *how much* of their material they want to perform live.

    Take Madeon, for example. His famous YouTube Pop Culture video is impressive, not only because he fashioned such a catchy tune, but also because he plays as much of the sound live as is reasonably conceivable for one pair of hands; whereas he could’ve made life easier by mapping less buttons on his Novation Launchpad to play more samples. That’s the beauty of Ableton Live: it’s so powerful and flexible. So hats off to him, he relishes live performing, and is a very clever young man.

    deadmau5 – also very clever – takes a different view it would appear, but I think he’s being slightly disengenuous to himself. Whatever, I really like his music. I just love it for what it
    is, and would not miss the opportunity to be at one of his gigs if I get the chance. Fantastic lighting at these shows also make it worthwhile. All this has echoes of the old debate about what, or how much, the conductor of an orchestra does. We all know he’s important, but it does make you wonder what happens if he drops his baton. Does the music stop?

  • http://www.facebook.com/garen.powers Garen Arden Powers

    Wheres the sense of rebellion? Any music movement has to have the badasses, the people that refuse to conform and challenge themselves and their listeners. Every single big name in EDM is to chicken shit to try anything new and thats the SINGLE flaw that will kill the movement, the lack of personality.

    I dont care if you never get famous, if you go out and try to play something new, different and exciting each and every time you perform, I will see you.

    That being said, I would still go to a Deadmau5 show just for the experience, but not the performance.

  • Bobby

    I know this is an old post. but still want to chime in. I’ll have second thoughts about paying big money to see a Dj “perform” live now. You don’t go to a live concert to see your favorite singer lip sync, so why should you see a f**king DJ press a damn button ? The promoters mind as well save thousands by just playing an iPod of the artist’ music.

  • daft_junk

    daft punk’s alive ’07 tour is the perfect example of giving people what they want while still giving them an entirely “new album”. Even if they recorded all of it before hand and “pressed play”, kudos to them for making their show something extra memorable.

  • JC

    Joel is a very good EDM composer and producer. He has his own style/sound and I imagine people go to see him live for the overall experience and energy exchange.
    Kudos to him for being upfront about how he choses to conduct his live show.

    I would also like to add Minilogue to the list above of EDM artists that are really playing and improvising when you see them live. Check em out on YT.

  • Dcardi

    My good people, A DJ regardless he just hits play or not?.,Uses fixes mixes or not. We’ll you are right . We all do. But here it’s the thing, as djs we dedicate lot of time to make good music a perfect remix so that when we are on stage we don’t look stupid. And so that’s why people come on, music is music no matter what just enjoy it. Like Tiesto said (Dance For Life)

  • Kiltercrash

    As a too old DJ from the 70s , Jesus wept. It explains why nobody takes it serious anymore. You have to fake everything . Even the equipment companies don’t take you dip shits seriously anymore. You take some of this over priced half built shit and stoke your dicks around it in amazement.