Over the decade and a half or so of deadmau5’s career, the Canadian electronic music producer born Joel Zimmerman has been pored over and examined in detail by a rabid press. The fact that he found fame and no small amount of artistic respect while wearing a giant mouse head made the man a mystery (Marshmello was taking note), and all the more attractive to the media.
But that sort of interest is finite. Longevity demands experimentation, or at least a desire to do something different. To that end, deadmau5 has recorded an album called where’s the drop? with South African composer Greg Reveret, well known for his film score chops. The set will be performed with a full orchestra at the Wiltern on Saturday, March 31, and Sunday, April 1.
It all seems very big, epic even, and yet the two of them met during a fairly run-of-the-mill livestream.
“I occasionally do this thing called 'mau5trap Monday' on my livestream — kids donate to charity, I read the posts and link to their music. Greg sent one in and it was an insane film score, fully orchestrated and everything, and I thought it was a joke,” Zimmerman says. “I researched it and found out it was Greg Reveret. I was like, ‘I’ve got some ideas kicking around, we should transcribe and see if we can do it.’”
Zimmerman had previously considered the idea of classical interpretations of his music three or four years ago when he was working on a project called 7. Meanwhile, Reveret had produced dubstep, hip-hop and drum 'n' bass back in his native South Africa, though it was his desire to get into film scoring that brought him to the States. For him, the partnership with deadmau5 just makes sense.
“He said that he had this 7 thing, and I should have a stab at it,” Reveret says. “So I picked a piece, I started with [the track] 'Superbia' and sent it to him a week or two later. It happened in an organic way. He liked it and we went to and fro. He gave me some ideas of what to do and what not to do. The first piece became the second piece. A couple of weeks later, I was at my fiancé’s house for Thanksgiving, literally cutting the turkey, and I got a call from a random number. It was Dean Wilson, his manager, just asking if I can do this project. I was like, sure. We moved on from there. It grew into this.”
The hard work became the where’s the drop? album. Zimmerman says that, though he would have preferred to have spent more time on it, both he and Reveret have mortgages to pay.
“We’ve got to get shit out,” Zimmerman says. “For all intents and purposes, we could have released this shit like a week ago. Got to pander to the marketing machine and let it do its thing.”
Similarly, the forthcoming set at the Wiltern, a very big affair that one might imagine took some serious coordinating, came together in two weeks.
“As much as I would love to say, ‘This is three years in the making,’ it wasn’t,” Zimmerman says. “It was a little over two weeks. I don’t fuck around.”
It feels like Zimmerman is joking about at least some of this stuff, but it’s hard to tell. He’s easy in conversation, likable even, and blessed with an acerbic, biting sense of humor. He’s not one to gush publicly about what he’s got going on. Reveret is a little more forthcoming.
“It’s all been like a dizzy dream for this past whatever time it’s been, and after the Thanksgiving call, after it was all lined up and we started digging our teeth into this, it was Dec. 18,” Reveret says. “That was when we put the green light on this thing. We recorded the beginning of February. That’s the sort of timeline, from start to finish, that you’re looking at.”
“The bulk of the work was the scoring, arrangement and transcription,” Zimmerman adds. “I guess second place would have been the organization of the players. The execution was just like, fucking literally real time. It was nuts. The first time they played the first song, no one’s ever heard it before. They just got the music in front of them, they fucking played it, no one missed a note, and I was like, OK. Next. It’s not surprising what happens when you hire musicians to play fucking music.”
When we ask the pair if they consider this project an opportunity to expose fans of electronic music to orchestral and vice versa, Reveret responds with an immediate “Absolutely,” while Zimmerman shuts him down with an “Absolutely not.”
“No fucking way, dude,” Zimmerman says. “I don’t want to be that guy that fucking is gonna take electronic music and marry it with orchestral and make this hybrid piece of shit. One does not complement the other. Orchestral music is super-advanced shit, in terms of scoring and performance. To take all this stuff and then bury it in a mix, like way down low, throw a kick drum on it, godawful synths. It’s called where’s the drop? for a reason. There’s hardly any electronic music involved in this. The focal point is more around the music that I’ve written. Not big beats."
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Moving forward, both deadmau5 and Reveret will get on with their own work, though they’re keen to work on movies together in the future. These are two genuine artists, visionaries, and the thing they care about the most is creating something new.
“If we’re going to do something, give it a purpose,” Reveret says. “I think we’ve achieved that.”
deadmau5's where's the drop? takes place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, and Sunday, April 1, at the Wiltern.