Joel Thomas Zimmerman (born January 5, 1981), better known by his stage name deadmau5 (pronounced “dead mouse”), is a Canadian progressive-house musicproducer and performer from Toronto, Ontario.
Zimmerman produces a variety of styles within the house genre and sometimes other forms of electronic dance music. His tracks have been included in numerous compilation albums such as the 2007 In Search of Sunrise 6: Ibiza CD. The February 2008 issue of MixMag’s music magazine included a free CD which was titledMixMag Presents: The Hottest New Name In Dance! DEADMAU5 Tech-Trance-Electro-Madness, mixed by Zimmerman. Tracks have also been included and presented on Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trance radio show. His debut album, Get Scraped, was released in 2005, followed by others in the next few years.
As well as his own solo releases, Zimmerman has worked alongside other DJs and producers, such as Kaskade, MC Flipside, Rob Swire of Knife Party and Pendulum,Wolfgang Gartner, Bighorse, and on a number of releases, he has partnered with Melleefresh. An early 12″ single produced on vinyl titled “I Don’t Want No Other” was released by Joel Zimmerman under the alias “Dred and Karma”. The 2006 album titled deadmau5 Circa 1998–2002 was released using the alias “Halcyon441”. He has also collaborated with Steve Duda under the alias, “BSOD”, as well as “WTF?” including Duda, Tommy Lee, and DJ Aero.
Zimmerman was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His mother, Nancy (née Johnson), is a visual artist, and his father, Rodney Thomas “Rod” Zimmerman, is a General Motors plant worker. He has two siblings, Jennifer (older) and Chris (younger). His ancestry includes German, Swiss, and English. He received his first keyboard for Christmas when he was a teenager. His career began in the mid 1990s, with achiptune and demoscene movements-influenced sound with the Impulse Tracker.
In late 2012, an old demo track by Zimmerman from 1995 called “Can’t Remember The Name” resurfaced on YouTube.
2005-2006: Get Scraped and self-released compilations
Zimmerman released his debut studio album, titled Get Scraped on July 26, 2005. The tracks “Just Before 8bit”, “Nice Try, Kiddo” and “Uploading and Downloading” fromProject 56 were edited and expanded upon in Get Scraped under the names “8bit”, “Try Again”, and “Unspecial Effects”, respectively. Tracks “Bored of Canada”, “Intelstat” and “I Forget” reappear on this album as is, as well as “The Oshawa Connection” from deadmau5 Circa 1998–2002.
Three self-released compilations, Project 56, deadmau5 Circa 1998-2002, and A Little Oblique, were finished in 2006, with Project 56 seeing an official release in February 2008.
2007–2008: Mau5trap label and Random Album Title
In 2007, Zimmerman began his own record label “mau5trap”, which, along with Ultra Records and Ministry of Sound, released the 2008 album Random Album Title, which saw the collaboration of Zimmerman and San Francisco producer Kaskade with “I Remember”. Random Album Title, saw a digital release in September 2008 via Ultra Records in the United States and Ministry of Soundin the United Kingdom and Europe. Physical copies of the album were released in November 2008.
In the United States, Zimmerman’s collaboration with Kaskade, “Move for Me”, reached number one on Billboard magazine’s Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart in its September 6, 2008 issue. Since then, Zimmerman has seen two more tracks, also collaborations (“I Remember” with Kaskade & “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” with Rob Swire), reach number one on Billboard ’s Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart, making him the only Canadian to have three number-one tracks on that chart. He is also the sixth Canadian to top that chart, following Deborah Cox, Nelly Furtado, Dragonette, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd, each with one apiece.
2009–2010: For Lack of a Better Name and 4×4=12
On September 22, 2009, Ultra Records released his album For Lack of a Better Name in the United States, and October 5 internationally. On a subsequent tour in the fall of 2009, Zimmerman’s performances were recorded and made available for sale immediately following the concerts on USB wristband flash drives. For Lack of a Better Name includes two of Zimmerman’s most popular songs, “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” (featuring Rob Swire) and “Strobe”.
MTV named Zimmerman as the house DJ for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and MTV PUSH artist of the week on August 16, 2010. He expressed gratitude towards Lady Gaga and David Guetta for bringing dance into the pop music scene and paving the way for him to the mainstream. At the awards, Zimmerman performed with Jason Derulo and Travie McCoy. His song “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” had been featured on the soundtrack for the MTV reality series Jersey Shore earlier.
His fifth studio album, titled 4×4=12, was released on December 6, 2010 in the United Kingdom and December 7, 2010 in the United States. Singles “Some Chords”, “Animal Rights”, “Sofi Needs a Ladder” have been released and have been featured on the album, with “Raise Your Weapon” released in 2011. “Some Chords” was featured on an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation where Zimmerman made a cameo appearance, and an instrumental version of “Sofi Needs a Ladder” was featured in the film The Hangover Part II.
2011–2012: Album Title Goes Here
On August 9, 2012, Zimmerman announced his upcoming sixth studio album, Album Title Goes Here, which was released on September 24 of that year. Singles from this album include “Maths”, “The Veldt” (featuring Chris James) and “Professional Griefers” featuring My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way. This collaboration was announced on Facebook prior to release. In December 2012, FUSE TV named “Professional Griefers” one of the top 40 songs of 2012
2013–present: Astralwerks, 7 EP, and while (1<2)
In November 2013, Zimmerman deleted three years worth of music from his SoundCloud account, replacing them with an EP of seven melancholy piano sonatas (simply called7), named after the Latin translations for the Seven Deadly Sins: “Acedia”, “Avaritia”, “Gula”, “Invidia”, “Ira”, “Luxuria”, and “Superbia”.
Also in November 2013, Zimmerman signed with record label Astralwerks, the famed NYC-based imprint that houses artists such as Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, andThe Chemical Brothers. Speaking on the partnership, Zimmerman admitted, “I found a place that knows what to do with my music.”
On January 7, 2014, Zimmerman announced via his Twitter account that his much-anticipated new album is complete. “In other news…i finished my album today,” the tweet read. “2 discs. 2 continuous mixes. 25 tracks. and something im proud of.”
On May 10, 2014, deadmau5 announced through his subscription service live.deadmau5.com that his upcoming album will be titled while(1<2) and will be released on June 17, 2014.
The album was preceded by the release of four singles: “Avaritia”, “Seeya” (featuring Colleen D’Agostino), “Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer” and “Phantoms Can’t Hang”. Starting on the week of May 20, 2014, each single was released weekly for a total of four weeks leading up to the release of the album.
On January 13, 2015, it was announced that deadmau5 would be a headlining act for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, in Manchester, TN, to be held June 11-15, 2015. Zimmerman is the first EDM artist to attain headliner status in the festival’s 14-year history. On February 2nd, 2015, it was announced he would appear at Reading and Leeds Festivals.
Video game appearances
Zimmerman is a playable avatar in DJ Hero 2, a video game released in October 2010. The game featured several tracks by the artist, including a mix of Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff with Lady Gaga’s Just Dance. He is also featured as a non-playable character in the 2014 video game Goat Simulator.
His music has been included in other video game titles, including Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Saints Row: The Third, FIFA 13, Grand Theft Auto IV, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, GoldenEye 007, Wipeout 2048, The Sims 3, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and Sound Shapes.
On July 30, 2010, at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Zimmerman collapsed on stage, suffering from exhaustion and vomiting. This resulted in the cancellation of the rest of the show, as well as nine shows following the event.
Zimmerman began dating Lindsey Evans shortly after meeting her at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in September 2010. Evans eventually moved to Toronto to live with him. Zimmerman announced in September 2011 that the two had broken up.
In September 2012, Zimmerman began dating American tattoo artist and TV personality Kat Von D. After breaking up in November 2012, they shortly rekindled their relationship. On December 15, 2012, Zimmerman proposed to Von D via Twitter, and they announced that they would marry in August 2013 with an aquatic-themed wedding. They both have several matching tattoos, including the numbers “289m3d22h” on both of their arms, which is sentimental to the day that they met, as well as two black stars underneath their eyes. Zimmerman moved to Los Angeles to live with Von D. In June 2013, Von D announced that they had ended their engagement.
Origin of “deadmau5”
Zimmerman’s father claims that when his son was in his early teens, he was chatting with a friend on his computer, which then abruptly shut off. According to Zimmerman’s father, he said that it had a smell like burnt wire and had a strange odor. Zimmerman started to dismantle his computer and happened to find a dead mouse. Zimmerman then became known as the “dead mouse guy” among friends. Joel tried to change his name to “Deadmouse” in an online chat room, but it was too long, so he shortened it to “deadmau5”, which is a form of leet.
Joel created the original logo—called “mau5head”—while learning how to use some 3D modelling software. The logo appears in many different colors and designs, and has been shown on the cover of most of Zimmerman’s albums, with the exceptions of At Play and Vexillology. He was given the idea to wear a headdress based on the logo by one of his friends, Jay Gordon of the industrial metal band Orgy. In an interview with CBC Television, Zimmerman said that he wants his logo to be an “icon”. Fans often attend deadmau5 concerts sporting their own copy of the mau5head.
He created “deadmau5.com” and began uploading songs to SectionZ and producing under the alias “deadmau5” in 2002.
In December 2007, Marcus Schössow, Maor Levi and DJ Eco created a project named Deadrat6 as a joke on Zimmerman, claiming his tracks sound alike. A similar faux project was also created under the name of Sinterklaa5.
In 2008, an artist called DirtyCircuit claimed to have been threatened with legal action after using a sample called “LP_Faxing Berlin C_128bpm” that came bundled with FL Studio, and to which Zimmerman claimed copyright. The sample was a direct clip of a full bar of the song. Zimmerman provided a “Demo Track” which came bundled with FL Studio, along with several loop samples. The case caused a slight discomfort among the users of FL Studio, and some have pointed out potential inconsistencies in the EULA of the software.
Disney trademark dispute
In a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, Zimmerman acknowledged possible similarities between his mau5head logo and that of Mickey Mouse, joking that “someone at the Disney patent office fell asleep on that one.”
In March 2014, it was reported that the The Walt Disney Company had filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to investigate Zimmerman’s application to register the mau5head emblem as a trademark, noting its semblance to the figure of Mickey Mouse. Disney officially filed its opposition in September 2014, arguing that the mark is likely to cause confusion because it is “nearly identical in appearance, connotation, and overall commercial impression” to Disney’s trademarked iconography of Mickey Mouse. In response to the opposition, Zimmerman attacked Disney on Twitter, arguing that the company thinks of people as being “stupid” because “[they] might confuse an established electronic musician/performer with a cartoon mouse.” Zimmerman also believed that he had been targeted by Disney due to their attempts to “cash in” on the EDM market, specifically alluding to Dconstructed—a recently released compilation album containing remixes of music from Disney properties by major electronic musicians such as Armin van Buuren, Avicii and Kaskade.
On September 4, 2014, Zimmerman revealed on Twitter that Disney had used “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” in a Mickey Mouse “re-micks” video on their website and YouTube channel without his or his labels’ permission, and posted pictures showing a takedown notice that had been sent to Disney by his lawyers. The letter also contained a trademark infringement accusation, arguing that the use of deadmau5’s name in material regarding the video falsely implied his endorsement of it. Disney argued that it had properly licensed the song, and that there was “no merit to his statement.”
In an October 2014 USPTO filing, Zimmerman argued that Disney has attempted to co-exist with him in goodwill. Zimmerman presented evidence that Disney had been in contact with him regarding potential collaborative projects, including an offer to participate in a “re-imagining” of Fantasia as a live concert tour for the film’s 75th anniversary.
- Get Scraped (2005)
- Vexillology (2006)
- Random Album Title (2008)
- For Lack of a Better Name (2009)
- 4×4=12 (2010)
- Album Title Goes Here (2012)
- while(1<2) (2014)
- At Play Vol. 5 (2014)