Speaking at SXSW with fellow Canadian EDM pioneer Richie Hawtin, Joel Zimmerman offered a harsh criticism about the state of modern electronic dance music. At the talk, Deadmau5 argued that the EDM scene is "suffering" because of "the pursuit of commercial success" and the technological ease of production standards. In short: Deadmau5's crusade against "press-play" DJs wages on. Via the Wall Street Journal:
Better known as Deadmau5 and Plastikman, respectively, Zimmerman and Hawtin agreed many of today’s EDM musicians have developed an instinct to copy rather than create. The irony, they said, is that there’s a vast array of software available to create new sounds, but artists are following a narrow path while using them.
Zimmerman, who is 32, and Hawtin, 42, spoke before a capacity crowd at the Austin Convention Center. They reminisced about the early days of making electronic music on equipment picked up at pawnshops.
“We were two kids who found a love of technology,” Hawtin said. “We’re two geeks.”
The availability of new technologies, and the pace at which they arrive, can be overwhelming, they agreed.
“What do you lose when everything is easy and accessible?” Hawtin asked. “There’s very little time to practice.”
“I have to take crash courses on all these things that come out,” Zimmerman added
“I’ve always aspired to be a lot more underground and less big room sound. I listen to techno, to the dubby old stuff, your stuff,” he said, nodding toward Hawtin. “It’s nice to know I can break out of a mousehead.”
Hawtin pointed to the dilemma Zimmerman faces as a global EDM brand. “You’re the number-one gatekeeper in electronic music. It’s your responsibility to open the door as wide as possible.”
Is he wrong? Last June Zimmerman fired shots at some huge DJs on the EDM scene in a Rolling Stone interview, accusing them of showing up to a live gig, pressing play, and getting paid a half a million dollars. But are increased concert and touring schedules actually driving a knife into the chest of electronic dance music as a musical genre?
Maybe. Take a look at this list of EDM Dream Team members then cross check it with the last time any of the festival headliners on that list have actually produced something. But isn't this ignorant of the dozens of worthwhile, hard-working, and lower-profile artists striving to "make it" on the scene? Does Zimmerman believe artists like 3lau, Vicetone, Basic Physics, Kap Slap, Pierce Fulton, etc -- all with their own organic fanbases -- are contributing to the oversaturation of a music scene by copy and pasting one particular dance sound in Ableton? If so, that's bullshit. Those guys are working their asses off to carve out their own niche in the space.
Perhaps Zimmerman's harsh criticism of "the scene" is a stubborn refusal to stare EDM in the face and call it big what many people see it as: party music, just like disco in the '70s, glam metal in the '80s, and techno in the '90s. People come to shows because they want to have fun wearing ridiculous neon outfits and get sweaty dancing their faces off. Artists make Brinks trucks of cash by showing up, pressing play, and being the ringleader of said party. The medium that makes that experience possible -- the actual music -- is lost somewhere in the production of the overall experience. I admire Mau5 trying to push the scene's artistic boundaries, but I wonder if his puritanical message about EDM is falling on deaf ears at this point. At SXSW, he even acknowledged that the mouse ears are more of a brand to the majority of his fans than an artist: "Five year olds like Deadmau5, he said, perhaps more so because of the brand than the music. Without the mousehead, he conceded, young listeners might not be interested," reports the WSJ.
Look, Tomorrowland sold out in 1 second (...which is a concert promoter hype bullshit tactic) and 200,000 some ravers are planning on flocking to Miami for Ultra over the next two weekends. To put it simply, the genre's bottomline doesn't seem to be hurting at all. If the EDM scene is dying because of the easy artistic barrier of entry or artists not willing to take a few hard knocks, does anyone really care?
Now let's admire the visually-stunning music video for Deadmau5's electro-pop ballad with Imogen Heap, "Telemiscommunications." It's beautiful and just dropped yesterday: