Deadmau5 On EDM Performance – ‘We All Hit Play’

Think electronic dance music artists just go on stage, press play and then wave their hands around?

Here’s what Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, has to say about it:

We all hit play.

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

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.

So – if anyone could do what Deadmau5 and other EDM artists do onstage – what makes these shows worth seeing?

Much of it comes from the fact that an immense amount of work goes into great EDM shows.

Zimmerman explains some of the technical side of his shows:

okay, so heres me, in a big silly mousehead.. twiddlin a knob or somethin…

So heres how it works…. Somewhere in that mess is a computer, running ableton live… and its spewing out premixed (to a degree) stems of my original productions, and then a SMPTE feed to front of house (so tell the light / video systems) where im at in the performance… so that all the visuals line up nicely and all the light cues are on and stuff.

Now, while thats all goin on… theres a good chunk of Midi data spitting out as well to a handful of synths and crap that are / were used in the actual produciton… which i can tweak *live* and whatnot… but doesnt give me alot of “lookit me im jimi hendrix check out this solo” stuff, because im constrained to work on a set timeline because of the SMPTE.

Zimmerman also argues that what distinguishes EDM artists is their skill in the studio:

my “skills” and other PRODUCERS skills shine where it needs to shine… in the goddamned studio, and on the fucking releases. thats what counts…

None of this should be news to anyone that’s paying attention. And it’s nothing new – see this Jean Michelle Jarre performance for a vintage example.

Is spectacle enough, though? Is it time to bring back epic prog solos? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Image:  Caesar Sebastian

88 thoughts on “Deadmau5 On EDM Performance – ‘We All Hit Play’

  1. I recall Emergency Broadcast Network improvising video samples back in 1994 onstage years before Ableton. The rest sounds like excuses and living happily within the limitations of your tools.

  2. First sorry Tvirus I meant to thumbs up your comment not down lol. I agree with you. This guy makes some ok songs that I like but is way over hyped as a performance artist. I won’t call him a DJ. Ditch the pompous, arrogant attitude Dickmou5. Show some respect to DJ’s. For those that might be confused read his full statement. Bad marketing strategy, epic fail.

  3. This guy doesn’t speak for everyone making electronic music. In fact his core fanbase are just teenieboppers and people who view music like fastfood. And this is not about hardware vs. software. Him and his acolytes are making the choice to slave themselves to SMPTE or whatever other excuse for being wusses and not willing to take risks. Whatever you think about his or other mainstream producers music, wouldn’t it be cool to improvise, make the odd happy mistakes, let the visualists you’re working with respond to something slightly new everytime. Instead of going through the motions like some pavlovian lab rat.

    For artists who deliver live, speaking from experience, here’s a small selection: Modeselektor(GER), Steve Summers(US), Legowelt (NL), Xosar (US) Shawn O’Sullivan (of Led Er Est fame) (US), Martial Canterel (US).

    It’s not about analog, it’s not about hardware or laptops, it’s about seeing artists engaged in performance, fighting the musical elements to keep everything in sync, adopting mistakes that might occur and just clearly having fun.

    1. Up until about 15 years ago EVERYONE prepared their show, and then EVERYONE performed it live, regardless of style. He’s just phoning it in.

  4. Well, one approach to being an entertainer is to “create a space” where everyone, the audience and the performer, cause a “happening” that everyone experiences in the moment and that is why people go to the show.

    Hasn’t everyone had fun singing and dancing at a midnight performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and that is just audience participating with a film.

    Parts of Zappa shows were dance contests and such that didn’t require great musicianship from the people on stage. But, nonetheless, those Zappa shows had some of the best musicians of the era.

    Isn’t it all just different strokes for different folks, everyone finds stuff they like, does stuff they like, and life goes on.

  5. its about the common appreciation of the music you hear, not about the performance, and the social aspect of being with friends, meeting the producer who makes the music you love.

    live shows put the music in context, especially with deadmau5 because you see the person, and they may not be able to play the music on singular instruments, but this is a whole new dimension of music.

    this form of live playing with ableton and such, is much like being a classical conductor, telling what section what to do, and how to play it. just this is in a whole new environment, but very much the same as that. with an understanding of the music and the principals of it, and having a connection with the fans, to make the lifestyle of electronic music

    frankly, there is still talent in performance music. but it doesn’t matter as much as it used to. because people who play instruments who whine about electronic music are just jealous. because music is music. fans honestly don’t care how its made, they only care if it sounds good, and if you can’t make music with your instrument, its easy to bitch and moan about those with success, but thing is, you could just pull up your skirt and match them with an innovation of your own. because thats whats made success for everybody was an innovation.

    i have a formal education in jazz trumpet, and found myself playing giant steps every day for about two years until i realized that stuff is long gone, same thing with you guitarists and whatnot playing outdated styles, and pounding them into the ground, do something new. and it doesn’t matter as much HOW you make it. But WHAT you make.

    thats all i have to say.

    1. >because thats whats made success for everybody was an innovation.

      You are kidding with this, right? Big success requires largely being squarely in the middle of the road, and not being too good or innovative, lest you confuse the masses. The innovators usually go largely unnoticed, and the first replicators who can water that down a bit and take it main stream get all the credit.

      1. why would i be kidding? that is, first off just a condescending comment. of course i’m not kidding,

        innovations are why people listen to new music, its because its something new and innovative in some way. innovative with an AIM of course. only innovators go noticed anyways, or else everybody would just listen to the same crap. sure, its not as extreme as people who start it all with something like it. but its a use of an innovative idea. it matters just as much how you use an idea as well as the idea itself as the idea itself. its better watered down, because its blended with existing styles that people already like. that makes it even that much more innovative.

  6. Honestly, the only downfall with electronic production is trying play them out live. Of course everyone would like to see their favourite producer up on stage playing keys and tweaking knobs that actually do affect the set, but it’s not that easy.

    BUT, I do feel that there are some musicians out there who have begun to perfect the art. Nosaj Thing for example has one of the best Ableton Live setups that I’ve ever seen. It’s just him and an MPD 32 but you can still see everything he does as he flawlessly mixes through his songs as if he’s “conducting and orchestra”. He also manages to keep a captivating visual show while throwing in some improvisation. And he’s not the only one, there’s also Araabmuzik, Daft Punk, Daedalus, Mount Kimbie and SBTRKT to name a few.

    1. yeah! i agree completely! i love those shows that they have as well, they make it an audiovisual experience and the performance aspect is all the better still.

  7. I think it’s very strange that people are willing to pay lots of money to see a lousy live performance, but don’t want to pay for the real product, the album.

    1. >the real product, the album

      I used to think in these very terms. The more I experienced music, however, I came to think differently in a very extreme way. I’ll give two very different examples. RUSH puts out a lot of studio albums and a lot of live recordings. There is, or used to be, a folk singer named Loudon Wainwright III who also put out studio and live performances. Over time, listening again and again to studio albums versus live albums, I came to think of studio recordings as almost sterile and contrived. Now I would rather go see a live show, almost any live show, even one you might call lousy, and experience music being made rather just re-played. I still like recordings, but live performances to my ears and eyes are just SO MUCH MORE that even a dubious live performance feels more fun to me than a recording.

  8. It’s not just deadmau5 – the last erasure tour featured (the now DJ-like) Vince Clarke pressing play on Logic running on his MacBook Pro. I would have found it much more interesting to see him start up a bunch of CV/Gate sequencers hooked up to vintage analog gear, and to patch non-preset synths manually on the fly! 😀

    The difference vs. deadmau5 is of course 1) Vince Clarke at least plays rhythm guitar in the erasure sets, 2) Andy Bell is an excellent and expressive singer, and 3) erasure songs tend to be lovely, catchy and well-constructed synth-pop tunes (though their last album is less interesting as it sounds like something deadmau5 could have done.)

  9. I’m kind of surprised that deadmau5 didn’t call out Tiësto by name.

    Or perhaps he was referring to Skrillex? >:-}

  10. I went to a breakbeat show during Ultra this year (I didn’t have the money to go to Ultra itself). And after a few years of going to electronic music shows, I just felt really disappointed. It does just feel like I’m hearing a DJ play a mix through a loud PA. I wish Electronic artists would incorporate more Live musicianship into their performances even if it doesn’t sound exactly the same as the record. Get some keyboard players, a drummer (or even an MPC player), maybe even a guitarist or bass player. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just get that live feel.

  11. Re: markLouis

    What i wanted to say is that the most important is the song itself. Some songwriters are also good artist and can do a nice liveperformance, but most songwriters are just songwriters and they should keep to that.

    In my opinion songwriting and performing are two different things, and the most important are songwriting.

  12. When i first started making EDM music at 15 i was a bit i was a bit isolated in my community in that no history or influence of EDM had ever hit my town, so i looked to the past and stereotypes on like EDM shows from the 90’s i imagined guys up on stage with sequencers and acid bass lines squealing our of a synth, keyboardists, basically synthpop in a can or even acid inspired shows like Hallucinogen would do.

    Now Im 22 and looking back and with some stage experience now I really think it can be done, but that involves immense practice and rehearsal, and for one person that is just way too much. Pendulum, Shpongle, Infected Mushroom they have done these live shows but damn they needed more than just 2 or 3 people to do it.

    I feel like Deadmou5 sets a good example to distinguish himself agains a “im playing others music DJ set” and a “self produced set being DJ’ed”, i do not like when dj’s dont really want people to realize that the music they are playing is not there own. like they deserve the credit for that, i know it isnt all DJ’s but it happens alot, and as for performance, i dont see turn-tablism coming back anytime soon.

    Bottom line, from experience i can say that its a ridiculous amount of work to take a song done in studio and arrange it to instruments to be triggered and played live, there would be like 7 minutes of load time between songs just to load the synth patches.

    1. Darren M. – it depends on the types of music you’re making, but of course it can be done. Loads of bands/acts do it. Partly because not ALL music made in the ‘studio’ is made on a computer, and partly because you don’t HAVE to replicate it exactly. My band (there’s 2 of us) writes in the studio using a mixture of old and modern hardware and software, usually controlled or played in Logic. All the MIDI is exported onto an MPC, with a few samples of stuff we can’t reproduce live, we take a few bits of hardware out and play. No computer, no controllers. Mainly CV+Gate analogues with no memories onstage. It never crashes. There’s no load times. It doesn’t sound like the studio stuff – sometimes it sounds better! It’s never the same twice, and it certainly makes for a better show!

  13. I would rather go see someone like hot chip who all play instruments together on stage, even though its all electronic.

  14. Whether or not EDM should be ‘performed’ live – can it be, really? Folks like Lamb for example do a great job of adding acoustic drums and bass but even they suffer from on-stage knob twiddling that can look fake. Would ‘real’ instruments work for the Mau5 and what would make a great ‘live’ performance anyway – improv solos, jams, mistakes?

  15. It’s polished, safe (not meant in a disparaging way) dance music. Pressing “play” is a perfectly valid solution to giving people what they want: polished, safe, DANCE music experience.

    Think of all the people that go to see bands that had a single hit years ago and they’re stuck playing it over and over like a jukebox. It’s maybe not the bravest thing to press play, but it’s giving most of the fans what they want.

  16. It’s worth it to hear a skilled and tasteful DJ mix selections of real vinyl but in that case you’re paying admission to the club not to see a “show” so it’s never a question of “musicianship”. As for laptop DJs like Deadmau5, meh, I don’t really have an opinion either way.

  17. I know im going to repeat some points, but im taking this opportunity to write out some thoughts on the topic ive been happening recently. I feel like there is a misconception that performance is what happens in a moment. I believed this until I got into into electronic music tools like synths and samplers.. I play guitar through a DSI Evolver desktop. Sometimes I’m playing guitar a lot, sometimes I’m holding notes for 4 bars and, the sequencer is doing the interesting work. A performance like that began when Dave smith created the Evolver and it’s limitations, and when I created a sequence which changed. filter frequencies that was the next step, and the step after that is me playing the notes to that. (some can philosophically expand this to those who created me, guitars, ect…. But I will contain this for our discussion.). That being said, I don’t have enough limbs to accurately trigger the step sequencer and achieve the effect that the preprogrammed sequence does with it’s consistent repetitive aesthetic. So, I let the machine do that work. This is at the heart of the debate. It seems like there is a percentage that people are willing to tolerate of ‘real performance’ vs prerecorded and preprogrammed. Music is now being made with samples, tool, and ideas that can span centuries. When you sample Bach and repurpose it you are taking something written centuries ago, interpreted and recorded decades ago (for the sake of argument, it could be any time), and maybe altering and triggering it live. Altering it live isn’t the beginning of the performance you are jamming across centuries. I think there is an ego issue we have, where we have to be doing the bulk of the work at the culmination of it hitting the audiences ears for it to be a performance. Perhaps that’s what makes it human, legit, crunk, have soul, ect… But I think that’s got more to do with us being lords of own creation. Most music we hear in our lives is prerecorded, and performed a long time ago, but suddenly in a venue that’s a crime. Seeing music live is not just about seeing someone hit the keys on their instrument. It’s also about venue, seeing the person in the flesh, hearing the music in a group setting, and knowing there are others like you who have a connection to the musical work. There is a stigma involved, because of the milli vanilli and Ashlee Simpson pop culture disasters. But that’s our problem really. There are hundreds of different ways to perform a musical piece, and more ways to enjoy it. If people get what the paid to see and leave happy there is no harm in it. It’s not wrong, it’s just another way to do it. I’m surprised to see such close minded posts from an electronic music blog commenters, we’re in the land of automatic, preprogrammed, lfos, step sequencers, samplers, tape music. Does anyone think we should be manually controlling those things? No because the effect would be different. Maybe some music can be performed best by pushing squares, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Also, this debate is going to get more lively with musicians not being able afford to tour like they used to, bands can lighten their loads by trading a drummer and a keyboardist with a guy pushing play, it’s cheaper and takes up less space in the van. I think the only mistake here is putting a value judgement on it, it’s just another way to put on a show.

  18. i love his honesty… enjoy a few of a his tracks… but having always known it was just some kick ass studio work that wouldn’t translate to a live performance i never bought an album are went to a show

    i couldn’t do what he does in the studio.. he has talent.. i believe he and everyone else could have more live chops tough… and he could always add real musicians to his live shows to funk shit up… people forget how fucking awesome tubas are… just saying

  19. At the end of his post he gets to what, to me, is the crux of the experience….

    “you know what makes the EDM show the crazy amazing show that it is? you guys do, the fans, the people who came to appreciate the music, the lights, all the other people who came, we just facilitate the means and the pretty lights and the draw of more awesome people like you by our studio productions. which is exactly what it is.”

    I’m only recently to making it, but I’ve been dancing to this music for 20-25 years…it is such a singular experience to get the people, the vibe, the sound, and the produced art all in one place at one time. It never gets old for me. I really appreciate his honesty about the important *PART* the artist/DJ plays in creating the shared experience of a quality dance event. If he didn’t come to the table with the carefully prepared sounds he has produced,sculpted, shaped, and planned, we wouldn’t have the same experience.

    I’m not dinging acoustic music, or other kinds of live performance either – they can be singular experiences themselves, too. I can be totally moved by them. But…I really LIKE the synchronized, planned, carefully thought out sets a good “button-pressing”producer can build for us. But it’s a different form of artistry than straight-up live performance expression. I honestly don;t care when it was all prepared – I just want to be there when it comes together.

  20. If by “show” you mean “performance” and by that you mean “playing instruments live” then you just need to face the fact that electronic music is _NOT_ like rock n’ roll in this respect. Get over it, or don’t go.

  21. There are people doing really interesting stuff live in EDM. Go search youtube for Headcleaner… you don’t have to be a slave to SMPTE.

  22. I agree with some of the things he says, too much of the music industry is focused on skill with a particular instrument. I mean just look at the general population, everyone has this “Wait, you do what? You produce? Oh okay that’s cool, do you play an instrument? You don’t shred guitar? Wait….. then you’re not a musician.” mentality that quite frankly irritates the crap out of me. Electronic musicians are producers, they don’t have to sing, they don’t have to play a guitar, what they DO have to have is a good ear for music.

    On the other hand I don’t think hardware and software should or even does limit live shows. Just look at what madeon does with a launchpad (check out his video called Pop Culture on youtube). If you put enough effort into it I’m sure you can rig up a system that produces the light show on the fly with you’re music anything is possible with MIDI, just look at half the stuff here on synthtopia.

    But that all leads to another problem, maybe the edm producer just doesn’t have enough time to develop a skill such as launchpad playing or keyboard shredding. So why not hire some people? Form a live band? Don’t want to hire other people to play you’re music? Well then that’s fine. But if it’s not gonna be a live performance it better be one heck of a show. I’m talking about the whole works, smoke, fire, lasers, strobe lights, jugglers, firebreathers, fireworks, all of it. Does that sound like a circus? Well good, because if you can’t blow away the audience with you’re epic instrument skills then you put on a show that absolutely blows their frickin minds.

    But in the end, what he said about what really matters is you’re releases in my opinion is true. You can’t afford to put on a show without already having had a good backing, djing some shows, putting out (consistently) good releases etc.

    But all that’s just my opinion 😉

  23. Of course it’s all different too. EDM artists don’t put on “performances”, these are shows, gatherings. That’s what it’s about. It’s people who like the same artists coming together to enjoy the music and lights. Some people might think that’s corny, but it works. People all get together at these things and they stop being one person, it’s just one mass of people that has their mind set on the artist and his show. Like a mob, just (generally) less violent.

  24. EDM is not really about live performance of specific parts of the song. Most are programmed so tightly that if it was “played” then it doesn’t sound legit. I’ve been dinged before because I “played” the parts that the sequencer could have played better.

    Joel is a cut-n-dried strong attitude person. If you have followed him for any time – seen any of his u-stream live feeds, you’d understand where he comes from. He has huge heart but also a I don’t give a f*ck attitude.

    Makes for interesting music, imo.

  25. In the picture he has a Lemur and a Monome 256 (!!!!!). If he is just pressing play, than he needs to hand that shit over to someone who’d make better use of boutique gear.


    But ferreal, I blame the fans. If people don’t want live musicianship, venues will GLADLY forgo the cost of paying a live 4-piece band. It’s easier on the sound guy as well.

    As for the electronic musicians who actually do stuff on stage (i consider myself one of those people), I’ve witnessed people walk up to a dude performing – doing some deep shit – and ask for a request. Folks just don’t get it. It’s sad.

  26. I think that the most important part (and skrillex even said this durring their fight on twitter yesterday) is that the audience connects with the the performer! Even if his performance really is just one button, you can’t deny the value of the tons of people at show up to his concerts and vibe like crazy off of his stuff.

  27. For me, it’s about exchangeability. With dance music people bring the experience with them when they walk through the door. They expect to have a great time, and they do. It could be anyone “pressing play”, and the experience would be the same. A huge group dancing is something very primal and awesome. But it was also awesome 20+ years ago when we did it in warehouses and fields with generators and anything that could be cobbled together for the event. No Ableton, no fancy lights. And it was awesome when funk bands played live in the 70s to stadiums of 15,000+ people. And it was awesome when the Count Basie Orchestra played to packed ballrooms. And it was awesome through the centuries as tribes banged on skins and logs without electricity.

    But walk into some crappy club with a band playing a style of music you don’t really care for, and 10 minutes later be totally into their show because they are just that freakin good… that’s awesome too, and in a much more specific and admirable way. That’s what a lot of dance music has lost. It’s too perfect and interchangeable now to bother seeing a specific personality live when the restaurant down the block is probably playing the same track. (and to be fair, most all pop music of any genre has been this way since the mid-90s). A horn section can react to an audience, and so can a bass player, a singer, or anyone doing things “live” to some degree. Even people making EDM. The instrument doesn’t matter, as long as someone is “playing” it. But all that goes away if you just “press play” and don’t take chances.

  28. It’s 2012, and technology has put its fingerprint on music. I’m a Deadmau5 fan because of the sound of his (studio produced) music and the emotion it evokes. I attend his shows to hear his music at a level I could never experience at home or in my car; combined with state-of-the-art multimedia.

    From my perspective it’s not so much about ‘watching a person play instruments’ as it is about the audio/visual experience.

    I don’t care how many buttons are pushed. He’s sharing what he’s produced, and I’m there for the music.

  29. “MTT on June 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm said:
    This guy doesn’t speak for everyone making electronic music. In fact his core fanbase are just teenieboppers and people who view music like fastfood. And this is not about hardware vs. software. Him and his acolytes are making the choice to slave themselves to SMPTE or whatever other excuse for being wusses and not willing to take risks. Whatever you think about his or other mainstream producers music, wouldn’t it be cool to improvise, make the odd happy mistakes, let the visualists you’re working with respond to something slightly new everytime. Instead of going through the motions like some pavlovian lab rat.

    For artists who deliver live, speaking from experience, here’s a small selection: Modeselektor(GER), Steve Summers(US), Legowelt (NL), Xosar (US) Shawn O’Sullivan (of Led Er Est fame) (US), Martial Canterel (US).

    It’s not about analog, it’s not about hardware or laptops, it’s about seeing artists engaged in performance, fighting the musical elements to keep everything in sync, adopting mistakes that might occur and just clearly having fun.”
    dude, that was awesome. well put and so forth…

  30. There are ALWAYS HATERS. It doesn’t matter if your Rush, the Beatles, Tiesto, Crystal Castles, Radiohead, Trent Reznor or MJ. Everyone has got a fucking opinion on why you suck fucking balls. People should shut up and do their own fucking thing whether it’s play an entire orchestra with your penis or press play on a laptop and go take a shit for 2 hours.


  31. I want to add my piece of mind to this most of you guys I totally agree and some I somewhat agree, everyone here has good points. But I have to say as a producer, I really do not agree 100 percent what he says because I produce dub music I never take loops from my production I use all Soft synth and Hardware synth. My live act all runs on MIDI. It would of not been possible if I had Ableton, I put several drums kits of my production and what I do is copy all into a folder all the midi notes I use this goes with the drum rack instruments I use and the virus ti snow. I have running on one channel playing my chords and I have affect chains in the virus ti snow instance. My live show are 100 percent improve. I use my original tracks but they are not in the T when it comes to mixing it. I could last a solo with just dub chords and snare hits over time with long delays and such what. Yes you have to hit play of coarse how the hell would you play the midi notes sometimes I even use my midi controller and play a chord have a new dub chord in a track that was produce in the studio and I come up with a new tune while I was doing that live set. So what I am saying its the work flow type of setup you use, for what I am seeing he is saying that he takes clips of his produce track and render some of them to audio and have those playing well I do it the other way around all my loops are midi base. But yes I hit play but not the way he hits play.

  32. Nice live setup with actual “live performance”:

    Of course live EDM is ofen “reduced” to arranging patterns / filter & fx knobbing / “DJ Style” performance (But then, decades ago Grandmaster Flash showed that DJing can be more than hitting play. Or just remember doing mixtapes for your friends… – Yes, that’s a lot harder than handing out a DVD with thousands of MP3s to be played in random mode).

    The thing with EDM is that you can do “almost nothing” (actually insert a CD into a CDJ, hit play and go out to smoke a cigarette), or so many thing you would need some dozen hands…

  33. Deadmau5 needs a publicist. Of course they “All hit play”… Particularly EDM, where there is little room for real expressiveness with SMPTE having control of so much of the show. At least he isn’t lip syncing some studio recording of his voice, trying to pawn it off as live. The biggest difference, is artists with a publicist – don’t mention the fact that they are mouthing the words to a pre-recorded version of their songs as they dance around stage – pretending to sing. Kudos for the honesty.

    1. I like that Deadmau5 doesn’t seem to have an ‘off button’ or a PR firm filtering his rants. He’s not trying to be a spokesman, he’s just a guy that tells it like it is. I liked his Madonna ‘granny pusher’ tant, too.

      Let’s face it, as soon as you bring a computer onstage, everybody knows that the computer is playing some of the music – it’s just a matter of degrees.

  34. I can PARTIALLY relate to the DJ scene because I got to do a very similar thing on college radio. Whipping vinyl, carts and cassettes back and forth while diddling the mixer is just one step back from Ableton. The difference (and what makes a lot of dance boring to my ears) is that I took CREATIVE risks in real-time. Most worked out well and were fun; a few cratered, requiring a fast shuffle to recover control. Still, it was all organic, with no safety net. The only risk a Skrilloid DJ runs is a power outage or very rare computer crash. I hear some great material in the field, but the aroma sounds like pre-programming without the same fire one gets with a cooking live band. Dance takes no real RISKS, so it lacks what I think of as “heart.” That said, I am not 22 and do not attend raves, so this is where I STFU and don’t diss people for having some fun their own way. After all, the message of dance is “Let’s dance,” not “Let’s ponder it into the dirt like hippies trying to explain the flying mountains on an old Yes album cover.”

    1. So to you music is all about “risks”? You want the artist to be a sort of daredevil performing stunts? Perhaps you’d be better off attending an “X-treme Sports” competition instead of a concert then…

      1. To some extent, yes, because all music IS a risk at some point. Whether live or in the studio, there’s always a chance that what you do will be arse-up at the end, due to the unforeseen. I don’t expect a steady flow of stunts, nor am I keen on totally pre-programmed content. I simply hope to hear more of the sweat that was invested to make thing X occur at all. My personal bias leans towards those who can play a “real” instrument to some extent, because hand to Moog, I can hear the improvement in their results. It surfs better to my ears. I sequence and cut-&-paste like most of us do now, but having played keyboards and drums by hand, I have a slight edge in FEEL, I think. That doesn’t make me “better” than others who are into music. It simply gives me an advantage in flexibility and that flex is what real synthesis is about. Besides, of COURSE I like stunts. I am an AMERICAN, heh heh….

  35. Honestly it’s not about how cool his performances are and I think deadmau5 would be willing to admit that, it’s about what works. Sure he’s using his hardware as an excuse to limit himself, but hey, he makes a heck of a lot more than I do just, as he puts it “pushing play.” Is that right? I dunno, does it matter? Personally I wouldn’t ever see deadmau5 live unless it was at a big event (electric daisy carnival, bonaroo, coachella etc.). But I’m just not a huge concert person, even when there’s epic guitar solos and stuff. In my opinion it’s the feeling of connectedness that’s cool.

    1. I have to agree with what he says about the fans making the show, but he seriously needs to pipe down the attitude a bit. He shouldn’t put down other dj’s who are more skilled than him. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re lack of skill, and being ok with it. Especially when it’s not the highlight of you’re show. But don’t try to take the pride away from people who do have those skills.

  36. To me, The way that I took the entire blog post was a few different ways actually.

    1. Yes, tons of artists use ableton and launch clips only and don’t ever do anything “Live”.
    I think that is what he is trying to point out with this. That lots of producers don’t do their best creative newest work out at a live show, but in a studio. Then they plan it into a show and use it there.

    2. I don’t think he meant that EVERYONE EVER has done this. Thats impossible. You can’t say “we” all hit play, because not everyone does. I think thats why this pissed so many people off also, because he said “we all…” making it sound like everyone in EDM production is a robot on stage and nothing new is expected.

    3. What I personally take away from the whole blog post:
    There are tons of producers that hit play on clips of ableton and just run their shows like that. and good for them, have fun being a boring robot. BUT. Not everyone HAS to do that.
    I think that it means that producers generally make new, exciting, different stuff in a studio, where it is safe. Because you can hit a wrong note and not have to re live it forever on YouTube. They don’t want to try making a instrument from scratch on stage in front of 10,000 fans.
    I mean I wouldn’t want to try that off hand, because there are those people that listen to music, ” Like fast food” as one user commented, and they go to a show expecting to hear the songs as they are exactly. If you pulled out something new, and it fucked up, I can’t imagine what those kind of fans would say.

    It made me think this as well:
    If you can get the right crowd, venue, and practice it enough, just clicking instruments, tweaking knobs, and flipping switches in seconds without really knowing what they will should like, You could play a show that is LIve, and not staged. If you put in enough time and effort and really knew your instruments AND you were brave enough to do that in front of thousands, and possibly millions through the internet, you could either pull off an amazing new show every night, and sell way more tickets I think in the long run, or fail miserably.

    just my Opinion.

  37. of course they all hit play.. I dont understand why do people hate on him. Its just the truth. Its the reality of playing electronic music live… there is really not much you can do. He is just being honest.

    almost any one can dj, its really not hard. Kudos for him for his music and his ability in the studio.

  38. Very cool blog post IMO, nice to see someone breaking down the hype a little.

    I don’t know if I agree with him about his comments regarding “Everyone can do it” because while everyone can push a few buttons; the trick of course is knowing which buttons to push.

    Seriously though; I’m not a performer myself but this is one of those things which intrigues me nonetheless; building your material takes time & effort (sound designs, etc.). Composing your music score(s) also takes time and effort. Now, I’m not saying a performance is easy; but you can make it as easy or hard on yourself as you want I think.

    Still; I doubt many people would realize the massive amounts of work you may have put into your material if you did simply press play on stage without doing much else.

    Heck; I witnessed this myself a couple of months ago. A famous DJ (iirc Tiesto, but not too sure since I don’t keep up with this scene) was tricked by his friends into doing a surprise performance. I think it was because of his birthday or something. Well, they basically put some of his material on stage and put him behind the keys. Needless to say; but the performance was cut short a little; iirc he played for half an hour or so and then quit.

    Some people in my surroundings considered that poor (would have expected at least 60 minutes), but I don’t agree there. I think people don’t realize that preparations and such maybe well most of the work here.

  39. It does seem a bit generalized. Although I’m currently torn. I perform live. Nothing prerecorded, nothing prepared except synth voices and arp patterns. I improvise. But the problem is that sometimes the performance is shite because you can’t schedule inspiration. But I want to do some dance music, and am faced with trying to figure out how to spin all those plates without hitting play. It seems tempting to make some clips in ableton and mix and match and just call it something else.

  40. I saw Deadmau5 on his latest tour, and it was a spectacular spectacle. The lighting and video installations where incredible, everything was very tightly timed and I could see that there would be very little opportunity for improvisation. Ableton was at the center of his setup, and as mentioned in the article he got to twiddle a few knobs.

    I also saw Star Slinger on his last US tour, and it was an incredible show. He didn’t have much of a lighting setup, and he was clearly playing live. Ableton was also at the center of his setup, however the appeared to very little predetermined in his set, and he was clearly playing in response to the crowd.

    Both artists pressed play at the start of the performance, but DeadMau5 was hemmed in by technology, and Star Slinger was set free.

    This type of thing happens in all forms of music. You go see a garage band in a bar they’re going to be improvising and playing directly in response to the crowd, you go see the Rolling Stones and they’re has hemmed in as DeadMau5. The Rolling Stones have to put on a show and while they may have a human triggering the lights etc but they have about the same level of flexibility as deadmau5.

    1. Except that there is a difference between pushing a button on pre recorde music and human beings physically crating the sounds in time with one another. It seems as if he feels guilty for this in a way but won’t admit it. The question is this… Why couldn’t you take him off the stage and let everything just run. Judgement Day style?

  41. A few years back I saw two shows in one week that particularly apply to this. One was Fourtet, Junior Boys and Caribou. The second was M83 and Ulrich Schnauss.

    Junior Boys opened, were good, but played along to backing tracks. They had good banter, etc, and were essentially a pop duo with a drum machine. Caribou did something weird: Vocals were pre-taped, drums were live. They jammed. Hard. Live drums, visuals, samplers and some guitars (if memory serves). The Fourtet- He just jammed samples and sequences from his records. A lot of straight improv too. I remember his set ended with a hard 4/4 beat and a wall of white noise. Everyone dancing. He did what a solid laptop player could, and did it well.

    A couple days later, I went to see M83. I’ll just say in passing, I find Ulrich boring on a number of levels, hardly worth mentioning at all. M83 were essentially a rock band with live electronics, but lots of backing tapes. Still somehow managed to leave room to jam out on songs and be organic.

    Around that time I saw Ratatat live on what I think was their first tour. All in Spring ’05. Fucking worst thing ever. Two dude playing guitar with a sequencer/keyboard in the middle of the stage running all their songs. Projections looked like Winamp screensavers. Not to mention, they looked totally bored. Worst live show ever. I remember their record was decent, had tons of layers of guitar, but they did nothing to make their show exciting back in 2005.

    Now I guess none of these bands could be considered “EDM,” but I think the same principles of playing electronic music live apply. How do you make a live show out of music that is programmed and played back by computers? How do you make it “live” and exciting to watch? If all you can do is sync a light show to your set and allow a little room to tweak your gear and extend mixes, its cool. but I wouldn’t drop $100 to go a rave anyway.

  42. I’m guessing when deadmau5 says “we all press play” he talks mainly about mainstream producers that spend all their time in the studio thinkin ” this sounds like it will make me rich/famous” without even knowing how the mixer and decks work. Real DJ’s have the ability to take 2-3 tracks mix them together to create some special that you would not hear anywhere else and its those ppl who are there mixing for the love of the music not the paycheck.

  43. Like it or not, this is spot on. I’ve found the dudes music to be a bore but his rants are ace. I’ve played in bands, I know what the meaning of LIVE is and its not a damn app. I also know what it means to improv. My current set up is pretty simple, and only a few things held together by MIDI. It’s a bit dangerous to do anything live on it. But it leaves me a true open ended set up to improvise and it’s fun. I know There are others out there working from the same angle. And Id bet money so does mau5. That said I really think his point is on the “Live acts” that claim to be doing more than they are. The guys whos biggest part of the performance is LOOKING like theyre doing something. Hell with the Deadmau5 equation he doesnt even have to do that! And God bless him for having the balls to admit it! I interviewed Paul Van Dyk with Lance Hendrix at the 2001 Winter Music Conference. When asked if he would ever do a live show he said he wasn’t sure, saying “there are colleagues of mine who have what they call a live show, and with the lights, and some new sounds and material added to the over all mix, to an extent is is live in that it’s happening in front of you. But it isn’t LIVE” and made the motion of a guitar being strummed. As I was transitioning from drums to drum machines…with that answer he became a hero HAhaHa What Mau5 is pointing out NEEDS to be. Someone has to keep the industry honest. He’s done it before, describing DJs as a necessary evil to producers. IF that needs explained than you’ve never written a track of your own…and I don’t mean with pre-looped samples. So yeah, he knows there are a few artists out there REALLY doing it live, but to the rest of the Electric Daisy Chain masses…there aren’t. And as those are the people who attend his show and his website, kudos to him for telling it like it is to the people who need to hear it most.

    1. you’d lose that money, cos you didn’t even read the article. that is precisely what deadmau5 openly admits he’s NOT doing.. almost zero flexibility due to SMPTE etc, not ‘loosely held together by MIDI’..
      yes, DJs are a ‘necessary evil’ but if you’re a producer on stage, imo the idea is to DJ the tracks you’ve produced, live. he takes that away by basically just being a walking playlist, no mixing or crowdreading whatsoever, no time to muzz out and enjoy the track they just get shuffled from one ‘hit’ to the next. as many have pointed out he could perform without even being on the stage.
      i very much disagree with the idea that this ‘needs to be’, you don’t need a damn lightshow or fireworks at a concert, and if you do you’re really not there for the right reasons..

  44. Why do we applaude at concert of classicl music? Because of the great solos? It’s the composition we like and enjoy. We applaude because people do something new or at least somrthing we like. It hasn’t to be played live.

    1. But a conductor can take liberties with a classical composition and, in turn, tell the orchestra how to play that piece as he or she sees it… live.

  45. Well i totally agree with this guy; today DJ’s think they are mean mfs and they aren’t. Why all of you big shots don’t try and actually produce some real music in studio and then take 3 or 4 guys and really play this music live. Electronic music was in the ’80s played LIVE! Bands like Human League, Clock DVA, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy and so on played LIVE electronic music! So yes, DJ’s just push button.

  46. Reservations about his music aside, the worst thing about deadmau5 is just how unprofessional the man is. Rants like this, and an earlier one about how DJs are ‘like fucking lawyers’ are not necessary. I remember when dance music was about feeling good and enjoying life – along came deadmau5, and suddenly we start this era of aggression, volatility, scathing blog posts and ‘disputes’ between big name DJs (he being one of them, every time).
    In reference to the article itself, beatmatching is only just about ‘counting to four’ when you use software which synchronises the tempo for you, such as Ableton and Traktor. A lot of DJs still use CDJs or even vinyl decks, and in those cases a lot more goes into the mixing.
    This blog post is not ‘spot on’, it’s actually really stupid. Maybe deadmau5 just ‘hits play’, but he can’t speak for everyone, and it’s sheer arrogance of him to try.

  47. I think there is a lot of confusion between dj’s and producers these days. I also think that right now is just one of those times right before everything smoothes itself out. Dubstep and EDM just got huge, people freaked out and now are kind of seeing that it’s not exactly what they thought was going on behind the giant pyramids of light on stage. I will say, being a musician, I have much more respect for someone pushing play if they have created that music by themselves instead of pushing play on 2 track over each other they had no hand in writing. But, like I said before. Give it time to smooth itself out. It always does. The true great artists will power through and last forever and the “fakes” will wither and never be heard from again. When Bob Dylan was first catching on they loved it, then at the peak when there were imitators and competiion and his music was subjected to more critics people started to say it was mindless ramblings over simple chords that were already songs. But it stood the test of time and he is now immortal whether you like him or not. The same thing happened in the 80’s when synth and that “pop” music was happening, and again when Nirvana got huge, and again and again and again. It’s a constant loop. We have only recently destroyed music companies telling them that we will chose what we want listen to and we don’t need them middle manning us. When you look back years from now when this same conversation is happening but with a different group of people and different music smile. Give it time. If it is not true or pure people will eventually notice and it will not last.

  48. First thing first – I do produce EDM from time to time. Coming from the a guitarist background with emphasis on jazz/blues applications of music theory, and from having jammed both on-stage and off multiple times, i still have a lot of respect for EDM artists (yes, I used THAT word). As someone above has pointed about, a live experience can be as “live” as you make it. It’s not just electronic musicians that do it – a lot of bands out there, even the pros, just play their stuff exactly as is on the record. However for every one of them, there’s another jam type band in existence (all I need to say is this: PHISH).

    Music comes in many forms and every possibility exists. I could take Deadmau5’s stems and make a live show entirely improvised. Will it sound like Deadmau5? no. But it will be improvised.

    And for any detractors who say that using stems makes it cease to be improvisational…how many of your favorite guitarists/drummers/bassists/etc do you know make their own instrument by hand by going out and cutting down a tree?

  49. My wife and I drove to NYC a few years back from Vegas to see Dead Mou5 for New Year’s Eve. We were the only ones there that looked like we belonged there and the vibe and venue were a joke. To top it all off he had some gallons that were supposed to drop that never did and his light show has nothing on Ra Las Vegas (rip) on any given weeken we won’t even go into the sound system it was by far the worst EDM show we have ever gone to and my wife has been going to raves since the candy factory days in the mid 90s on so we’ve seen some great shows and a few bad ones but this was a joke a joke that cost me a lot of cash for nothing. I heard so much about this guy but don’t get the hype!

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