FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!"
The next day, Zimmerman is in rainy Stockholm, chain-smoking Marlboros at his laptop while he plays an online RPG called Diablo III. His character is named CatSmasher: "He's a barbarian," he says. "Just hack-and-slash. A lot of people like to be wizards and sit back and throw spells. But I like to get all up in their shit."
For the next few hours, Zimmerman just sits there, smoking and clicking. He ashes his butts in a half-empty water bottle. Then he starts putting them out on the carpet. Then, my coffee. At one point, a young man pokes his head in the doorway, and Zimmerman glares at him. "It's not a spectator sport," he says. The guy scurries off.
Finally, around 5:00 – after eight hours of nearly uninterrupted gaming – Zimmerman heads over to the crew room to check on his Mau5 head. The Mau5 head is his not-so-secret weapon. As a symbol, it's pretty much perfect – whimsical and childlike, but with an underlying hint of menace, with the added bonus of looking great on a T-shirt. "It's McDonald's," Zimmerman says. "No one's got a brand that strong." (As for its similarity to another famous rodent, he's unapologetic: "Someone at the Disney patent office fell asleep on that one.")
For this trip, he brought his classic carbon-fiber number and the big one with the LEDs. Over in the production room, they're doing some brain surgery on that one, the fiberglass sphere laid on the table like a giant electronic hamster ball. The problem is the camera that Zimmerman uses to see out: It's mounted at the wrong angle, so everything on his goggle-monitors is out of focus and off.
He spends a few minutes sawing at it with a butter knife, then with a blade from a wine-bottle opener. Eventually he gets it the way he wants it, and puts it on for a test drive, lumbering around the room with a glowing orb on his head like some steampunk-robot scuba diver. In a few minutes he'll go outside and play his show for a few thousand rain-drenched Swedish kids, writhing around on each other like some kind of Viking rave orgy – but you get the feeling he'd be happier just to stay here, tinkering with his toys. "I want to ask the Jim Henson Company to build an animatronic one," he says, popping the helmet back off his head. "Like maybe the mouth can move, and the smile could get bigger. Or maybe the aperture of the eyes – the pupils dilate, and you can see the lights behind them." He purses his lips, then smiles one of the first real smiles he's smiled all weekend. "That's a really good idea, actually. I need to write that down."
This story is from the July 5, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
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