You can make a strong case that deadmau5 is the most interesting figure in all of Canadian music, and the most recognizable brand in all of EDM.
For evidence of the latter, look no further than the launch event for Jay Z’s music-streaming platform, TIDAL. On-stage among music’s royalty was the Niagara Falls–born deadmau5—looking as comfortable as one can when one is wearing a mau5head and flanked by Madonna and Kanye West.
Also, deadmau5 is a cat guy.
But what makes the 34-year-old electronic musician, born Joel Zimmerman, truly fascinating, aside from his massively popular catalogue of progressive house tracks, is his life is a social-media popcorn flick. Calling out the people he regularly shares the stage with as overpaid, talentless hacks. Proposing to his former fiancée, Kat Von D, via Twitter. Taking Rob Ford on a Tim Hortons run in the Purrari, a Ferrari 458 Italia Spyder with a hilariously gaudy Nyan Cat wrap.
This modern-day theatre plays out online for everyone to see.
Plus deadmau5 has two kitties. Their names are Professor Meowingtons pHd and “the other cat”. He is undecided what discipline Meowingtons earned the doctorate of philosophy in.
His prolific online presence isn’t a one-way broadcast. You’d be hard-pressed to find any major artist more engaged and forthcoming, and lengthy live-stream video Q & As with fans are a common occurrence. In a recent one, which went on for five hours, he covered TIDAL (the launch was awkward, but he likes the platform because it rewards artists rather than labels, who fuck over music-makers on streaming royalties), releasing Skrillex’s breakout EP on his mau5trap imprint (Skrillex would have blown up with or without him), career advice for aspiring musicians (make human connections rather than online ones), and how he got his start in music (his first official release was a remix of Revenge of the Egg People’s “I’m Electric”, which he did under the moniker Karma K. Listening to it makes him cringe).
But did you know he’s got multiple cattoos, including one on his neck? So let’s talk about the cats, because every other topic has already been discussed and debated, ad nauseam.
Speaking with the Georgia Straight via Skype from his home in Campbellville, Ontario, the EDM superstar won’t confess to being a crazy cat guy, despite a mounting body of evidence that suggests otherwise. If you’re looking for the smoking gun, it might be that he humoured a 30-minute catcentric interview without calling his interrogator a fucking idiot.
Some of the questions were lighthearted: who likes lasers more, people who go to dance-music shows or your cats? “The cats. People are over lasers. They understand them. The cats just can’t seem to grasp the concept that it’s a light source coming from a little pen. It’s always magical to them. So weird.”
Others were deeply personal matters: you famously got your name because you found a dead mouse in your computer. Did you ever think that maybe a cat killed it and put it in there as a gift for you? “Doubt it. Didn’t have one at the time. It definitely crawled in an exhaust fan and just roasted on a video card.”
Even though his mother paints rather awesome pop-surrealist portraits of her son with Meowingtons and “the other cat”, deadmau5 didn’t grow up with cats. Rather, he turned to them later in life for the same reason a lot of us do: companionship. Meowingtons, a chubby tuxedo male, was adopted from the Toronto Humane Society five-and-a-half years ago, and “the other cat”, a runty grey female, made it a menagerie two years ago.
“They don’t have opinions,” he says of his fondness for the cuddly little critters. “I don’t know what my cat is thinking or planning.…I get to make up how he’s feeling, myself. They’re so enclosed and so withdrawn from the world that they think they’re the only fucking things in existence, which kind of gives them that air about them.”
Meowingtons is his favourite, and has active social-media profiles, shirts with his face on them, and his own line of headphones for cats. He had a mau5trap tour and compilation named after him, and appeared on the cover of deadmau5’s 2012 LP > album title goes here <.
“It was my album, to be fair. If it was someone else’s album I’d be impressed,” he says, modestly downplaying the cat’s impressive accomplishments. “There’s no real thing to the cat. He’s just a domestic shorthair cat. He doesn’t have a mustache and all that other shit. So he really doesn’t have a whole lot going for him in that department, which is why we can’t have some major cat-festival appearances.”
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of festival gigs for deadmau5, who, as noted, will be headlining FVDED in the Park, a two-day rager at Surrey’s Holland Park. If his recent power-outage-inducing show at Governors Ball in New York is any indicator, everyone should turn their lights off a few hours before his set starts to help conserve energy. Assisting in burning through countless gigawatts of Surrey’s electricity are R&B sensation the Weeknd; trap kings Flosstradamus; hip-hop shit-disturber Tyler, the Creator; and house DJ-producer Afrojack, who is also a former beau of superstar DJ Paris Hilton. Both have been popular online punching bags for deadmau5.
Despite Meowingtons lacking the “it” factor needed for superstardom, the cat and Paris have at least one thing in common. “I’ve always had this idea of doing a cologne for Meowingtons. Not for cats, but by a cat. And do a Meowingtons-shaped bottle,” deadmau5 schemes. “It would have to be some generic thing that you buy for the bottle. There’s no way Paris Hilton’s cologne is the best. Just make an awesome bottle, put your shit on it, and sell it. I was thinking of calling it Pussy Whipped.”
After discussing literal pussy, it’s tough to steer the conversation towards his live show and 2014 release while(1<2), which he refers to as his first “artist album”, as opposed to a compilation of dance singles. This was initiated by asking how he feels he’s pushing things ahead musically so he’ll be able to provide for the cats for years to come.
“I think a cat could live a full and awesome life on less than $20,000.”
While that figure may seem a little high, keep in mind that deadmau5 recently purchased Meowingtons a miniature LP 47 Superveloce. “It’s a Lamborghini, so he has his own little whip,” he explains. “We took out the steering wheel so he could fit in, and put down a little cat bed and stuck it in the office so he can bug my assistant all day. When he’s tired of doing that he just takes a little nap, and it’s pretty funny.”
The Internet agreed. A photo of Meowingtons in this luxurious bed received nearly 47,000 likes on Instagram.
But for those of us who follow deadmau5 online, there has been an alarming shift from cat posts to high-performance-automobile posts over the years. Where do his priorities lie?
“Like, do you mean if they were both going to fall off a cliff and I could only save one?” he asks for clarification. “Uh, I guess it would depend on the car or cat. Yeah, if it was Meowingtons versus a LaFerrari, I’d help Meowingtons out on that one.”
It’s worth noting that a LaFerrari has a sticker price of over a million dollars. It’s also worth noting that the car’s manufacturer sent deadmau5 a cease-and-desist notice because of customizations done to the Purrari. In the past week he’s settled similar disputes with the Toronto Fringe Festival, over a parody titled Deadmouse: the Musical, and with the world’s biggest rodent, Disney, over “mouse ear marks”. We can all sleep well knowing the musical will happen, there’s room in the world for Mickey ears and mau5-heads, and a Nyanborghini is in the works.
Looking ahead, deadmau5 has no feline expansion plans, which is a shame. “Two is enough. I don’t want to be a crazy cat guy with cats everywhere.” But as great as cats are at cleaning themselves obsessively, sleeping in hilarious positions, and shedding on everything you own, they simply cannot be trained to protect your property. It has been an unfortunate and regular problem at deadmau5’s Campbellville estate as random people keep showing up in his driveway, presumably to catch a glimpse of Meowingtons. Still, he’s enthusiastic about the solution.
“I actually did some research. In Canada, if someone is on your property or breaking in, you can have a [firearms] possession-and-acquisition licence, but you can’t shoot anyone. You couldn’t even beat the crap out of them. But, as it turns out, if you post signs every 50 feet that say ‘Beware of Dog’ and you get a couple of trained fucking killers it’s fair game. I’m actually in the process of working with a guy who’s got a litter coming of interbred wolf/German shepherds,” he explains rather devilishly. “I’m sure the dogs will be cool and not rip my cats apart.”
Whether dogs and cats and mau5 can peacefully coexist under one roof remains to be seen. What’s certain is it’ll all unfold online, and we’ll be sure to ask him all about it next time he rolls through town for a headlining festival gig.