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Deadmau5 Talks Orchestral Album, Defends Tidal

"If [going with Tidal] makes me a weird, horrible person who doesn’t give their sh-- out to Apple and Spotify fans, whatever, that’s cool.”

This past Friday, electronic music superstar Deadmau5 (real name Joel Zimmerman) released an exclusive orchestral rendition of his work. “Where’s The Drop?” featuring Deadmau5 tracks like “Imaginary Friends,” “Ira,” “Superbia” and more, composed and arranged by Greg Reveret, is the fulfillment of a years-long dream for Zimmerman.

The response to the album, which he brought to the stage this past weekend for two triumphant sold-out shows at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theater, has been mostly positive — with the exception of his chosen release method: as an exclusive on upstart streaming service Tidal.

“They’ve got such a bad rap on social media in terms of a service,” Zimmerman tells Variety. “When I announced the record is on Tidal, everyone was, like, ‘Ugh, Tidal.’”

But Zimmerman, who as Deadmau5 was one of the first artists to sign on with Tidal as part of a much-hyped launch in 2015, says, “It’s been nothing but fine. We’ve got a good relationship with the company. They’ve helped us and they’ve been quick with their turnaround and delivery. So no qualms there.”

Never one to bow to public opinion or pressure, the always outspoken and fiercely independent Zimmerman offers no apologies for choosing to work with the Jay-Z owned company on the project. “Don’t come at me with your dissent towards whatever streaming service you want,” he snaps. “I chose this because it’s my music and it’s my work and my IP and I will do as I see fit. I want to put it out lossless, and that’s not something Spotify is gonna give me. Spotify sure as hell didn’t co-produce this, so why the f— would I just go ahead and give it out? But nothing is permanent. You’re not never gonna hear it because it’s exclusively on Tidal. I’m just giving it what I felt it deserved and if that makes me a weird, horrible person who doesn’t give their shit out to Apple and Spotify fans, whatever, that’s cool.”

Ultimately, the record wouldn’t have happened without Tidal, who he thanks in the tour program for, “Paying for everything and making this happen.” Adds Zimmerman: “Matter of fact, this album wouldn’t even be if it weren’t for them. This is what enabled me to do it. So I’m just doing what a normal human being would do, which is give back and give them a bit of exclusivity on the album. Common sense 101.”

For Zimmerman and Reveret, the delivery method of the album is far less important than the content, which is something both of them are immensely proud of, especially, since from a collaborative standpoint, they both get to hear the record as fans of the other’s work.

“I get to listen and enjoy music that is partially mine,” Zimmerman says. “Maybe influenced and guided, I created some simple outlines, but ultimately I’m hearing a derivative work.”

“Same. I listen to it and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” Reveret adds. “There’s obviously another brain that was involved in getting there and that’s why I keep listening to it. Just listening to how the arc develops from start to end, it’s a collection.”

Deadmau5
CREDIT: AI Visuals

Speaking ahead of the L.A. performances this past weekend, Zimmerman expressed some nervousness at taking the stage in front of an orchestra rather than behind the decks. “I no longer get nervous walking up on 18-foot tall cubes, but now I’m going into a playground with a whole bunch of different pieces to the mix. I’ve never done that. I’ve never performed with an orchestra. I’ve never heard my stuff being played back with a whole orchestra. It’s gonna be different having taken on one pass, one play, that’ll be the piece. So that’ll be nerve-wracking, but satisfying.”

With both shows having sold out and night two wrapping to a huge standing ovation, the live rendition of “Where’s The Drop?” was an unquestionable success, leading to the obvious question, will there be more live orchestral shows?

“There’s always a possibility,.” says Zimmerman. “There’s also the possibility of me walking into that wall and my atoms lining up just so that I pass right through it. … Who knows. It’s dark territory for us right now and I cannot confirm or deny. I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. I’d love to, yeah sure, orchestras everywhere. So we could go and show up with a folder full of paper and put it in front of ‘em and say, ‘You guys play this/’ That’d be cool. But right now we’re at its infancy, we just released it, so let’s chill the f— out, see if it even sounds good in a live environment cause this is all new to everyone — it’s new to us, to my fans. Many of the people who are coming to the show have probably never seen a live orchestra. I have once. ‘Phantom Of The Opera,’ in grade f—ing seven. But that’s about it.”

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