Live & Touring

Deadmau5 Says ‘All EDM DJS Are Button Pushers’, Peter Kirn Sets Him Straight

Deadmau5Deadmau5 recently attacked push play DJs in Rolling Stone and got some pushback himself from artists like Swedish House Mafia. So he clarified his position in a blog post on Friday stating that "we all hit play" which, in Deadmau5 style, led to "another pr disaster."  Part of his argument is that it's about all one can do in live EDM shows, but Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music responded with a potent range of DJ's whose live shows are truly live.

Deadmau5 is an interesting character whose willingness to call it like he sees it has helped to polarize his following. In a recent interview for Rolling Stone's current issue featuring him on the cover, he stated:

"David Guetta has two iPods and a mixer and he just plays tracks – like, 'Here's one with Akon, check it out!'…Even Skrillex…isn't doing anything too technical. He has a laptop and a MIDI recorder, and he's just playing his shit…there’s still button-pushers getting paid half a million. And not to say I’m not a button-pusher. I’m just pushing a lot more buttons.”

This pushed some of Swedish House Mafia's buttons, perhaps because they've gotten some flack for what some say are performances built around push play, who spoke out:

"That's interesting that [Deadmau5] said that, because that's exactly what he does – but we don't…We've have four CD players, six hands, so we're going in and out all the time, otherwise we would be bored and take our fuckin' lives. I have never seen behind Deadmau5's booth, so I can't really say anything about it."


Given the uproar, how could Deadmau5 stay silent? In a Tumblr post on Friday, he dug into more of the details of his attack on push play. Here are some snippets:

"we all hit play. its no secret. when it comes to 'live' performance of EDM…that’s about the most it seems you can do anyway. It’s not about performance art, its not about talent either"

"I think given about 1 hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of ableton and music tech in general could DO what im doing at a deadmau5 concert."

"my 'skills' and other PRODUCERS skills shine where it needs to shine…in the goddamned studio, and on the fucking releases. thats what counts"

"because this whole big 'edm' is taking over fad, im not going to let it go thinking that people assume theres a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly. because none of the 'top dj's in the world' to my knowledge have. myself included."


On the one hand, it's great that Deadmau5 is lifting the veil and calling people out. But, as Peter Kirn points out, he apparently doesn't realize that many DJ's in EDM are improvising and experimenting with what happens in a live show:

"I saw Deadmau5 at SONAR…At that same festival, there was an abundance of live performance and improvisational DJing."

"Flying Lotus’ live set was vigorously imaginative. Daedelus was dynamic as always, slicing up sounds on his monome. The Native Instruments-sponsored Mostly Robot delivered, as promised, everything live: Jamie Lidell singing live, Mister Jimmy playing keyboards live, DJ Shiftee playing turntables live, Jeremy Ellis playing all the beats from his fingers live, Tim Exile mangling sounds in Reaktor live."

"Bigger festival acts, too, turned out live and improvisational productions, including Richie Hawtin’s heavily-parameterized Traktor set, which is a bit like being in a 747 cockpit when someone turns off the autopilot."

He's got a lot more to say and Deadmau5 gives him props for his insights. As Kirn says of Deadmau5, "he's up for a debate and discussion."

And that's certainly one of the appealing aspects of the Deadmau5 game. Rather than going silent or sending in the publicists after saying something others find inflammatory, he digs in and then moves on to the next event.

More from Dancing Astronaut:
Editorial: Dance music has gone mainstream, but it doesn’t have to sell out

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) blogs about business at Flux Research: Business Changes and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. In the age of American Idol/Glee professional karaoke, Deadmouth must seem creative to young dummies.

  2. Quite satisfying, thanks Clyde. Nice to see some big name button pushers finally getting called out. What`s more, a lot of these EDM guys put all their stage budget into multimedia gimmicks (light, video, and laser shows). It all seems quite automated, but the kids seem satisfied. If I were in the audience I would be happier to see a live drummer pop out on a riser, or see the DJ pull out a guitar for some live-looping into a sing-along.

  3. There are actually a good amount of Electronic/Dance artists that have incredible live shows, where they actually play instruments, and sound comes out of them.
    Soulwax, probably my favorite shows how they do what they do live here
    The reality is that this costs money, takes time and a bit more skill and you can keep a lot more for yourself by going solo, pushing buttons and wearing masks.

  4. Opinions… opinions, opinions. If the people enjoy the show and their bodies move… SHUT-UP…

  5. you’re putting deadmau5 in the same breath as american idol and glee? you clearly have no idea what you’re on about mate…

  6. It’s one thing to be gifted with the right vocal chords and literally just mimic people who already made it. It takes a whole lot more dedication to spend thousands of hours in the studio building and modifying your instruments from the ground up, mastering and remastering, making sure every sound wave is in tune. Even something as simple as echo and decibels become complex and vital when working with music-making software. I’ve seen both sides, and I have more appreciation for the work that goes into producing electronic music than simply hitting a note with pre-made instruments (vocal cords or a guitar).

  7. SHM are huge button pushers. They’re doing what anyone else doing. If those six hands were going to town on the equipment, the songs they play wouldn’t sound completely identical to the poppy anthems they recorded. Also, artists like Flying Lotus are clearly experimental acts which do not come close to falling in line with the likes of Skrillex, Avicii, and Tiesto…the artists which he is calling out. Those guys and the local DJs you see at clubs. I’ve seen many DJs and every one just had itunes or youtube open lol…

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