Deadmau5 'Following a Storyboard' With Music and Technology

EDM star has big plans to explore storytelling through multimedia

Deadmau5 performs in Austin, Texas.
C Flanigan/FilmMagic
Deadmau5 performs in Austin, Texas.
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When Rolling Stone caught up with Deadmau5 at the Made in America festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend, the EDM star told us about his new partnership with Astralwerks and plans for 2014.

Photos: Hard Day of the Dead Highlights

Last weekend we met up with him again, this time preceding his headlining set on night two of the Hard Day of the Dead festival in Los Angeles. Before he went out and played a masterful 90-minute set during which he dropped several new tracks, Deadmau5 filled us in much more extensively on his ambitious new project, a conceptual work where he is "following a storyboard."

In this exclusive interview, he unveils plans for the new project, which will encompass studio music, touring and maybe even more, such as film rights.

How is the new music coming?
We're up to 12 songs. I'm almost ready to push the button on, like, the first one of two on a double CD, or maybe just two releases instead of having to wait. But then you've got the label stuff to go through, so it always takes a minute, even after you finish the last track. You need lead-in time and stuff, so it's around the corner.

Is there a stylistic theme that's emerged in the 12 tracks so far?
Yeah, it's a bit of a downer, audio-wise. And not to say, "Oh, I've been going through dark times, so I'm writing dark music." No, I kind of did one or two playing around and I'm like, "Wow, this is a really melancholy, unsettling kind of thing." And then the next one was, too, and I'm feeding off the tracks basically as I go. Then I'm like, "There's this really sordid, pretty vibe."

Is there music that's a reference point for what you're doing?
I hate to do it, but if I had to pin a name like, "sounds like," it's kind of like the Radiohead thing with "Codex." It's a beautiful song, but it's open to interpretation. So it's that kind of thing – could be a beautiful thing, could be a dark, scary thing. I like that kind of mystery around it. There's really no premise that I had in mind, saying, "I designed it to be this way and therefore it is."

Have you thought about bringing this to the stage?
Here's the thing with this particular project, and the one following, is that I'm following a storyline. I'm really following a plot, so there are moments in the story where I'm really thinking, "I gotta create a certain atmosphere" . . . We're really, really going storyboard with this thing. We've got some writers who've written some amazing things working on a script for a show.

So, obviously, we have things in mind. We're making all things accountable, like, "OK, what if we include film rights to a deal with something?" It has to lend itself to that.

Who would you want to direct the film?
If I wanted anyone to direct my show it'd be [Alejandro] Jodorowsky, like Holy Mountain shit, but with structure.

That calls to mind conceptual records like the Who's Quadrophenia, which hasn't been done in dance music yet. Was it important to you to bring new elements into EDM?
Yeah. I want to explore the world of storytelling with music and technology, and presenting that technology in a way where you can unify the whole thing, and it's not just a guy playing fucking good songs. So it's big-picture stuff.

Is there a timeline for when you think you'll hit the road?
We're looking at fall 2014, maybe. Tonight we'll be bringing out a couple of robots – we'll try some things in small pieces here and there, just to make sure it works. But I think there's going to be a point where we end up renting a venue for a month and then doing the whole show in the venue and just do rehearsal and setup for a month.

Are there shows that have really excited you visually and inspired what you want to do with the technology?
Yeah. That's a very safe answer, without giving too much away.

Are you OK waiting as long as necessary to get the show right?
If it takes until spring 2015, that's OK. Why not do it right? I feel like the last few tours that I've done – which I'm not saying they were shit and totally fell short of my expectations – but there was always some element of, "Oh, I wish we had more time to do an A or B and really think something through." So this is now that time, because it was always a rush to keep the business going and grow as a company as well.

Are there other artists you'd like to see use this technology, or do you want to keep it for yourself?
The greedy asshole in me wants me to have the me stuff, but if I had to go by sound I've always got my eye out for dudes like Squarepusher and Amon Tobin, who are working with creative dudes with unfortunately not multi-million-dollar budgets to do really creative things, but are still capable of achieving that multi-million look.

You also have the ability to introduce artists to whole new generations. Are there one or two classic electronic artists you'd like to take out?
Com Truise. I would love to take Com Truise out and build them a massive Commodore 64 Seventies kind of cool stage production and let them do their awesome thing all fucking night.