"God bless Skrillex," says Joel Zimmerman. "I love the kid but he puts out a new video, what, every four weeks? I'm like the Dos Equis guy. I don't normally do music videos, but when I do, I go big." It's a warm night in May and the producer better known as Deadmau5 is hanging out in the bedroom of a deluxe RV. He's wearing a Nyan Cat T-shirt and smoking a cigarette. Outside, 2,000 fans and a genuine Thunderdome nestle beneath the massive concrete support struts of the Sepulveda Dam on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Moments ago, our host was there, shaking hands and signing things. Now he's just let slip that the cost for all of this is "in the seven digit range." Wow. "Not to be all Kanye on you" — the Canadian producer pronounces it can-yay — "but this is one of the highest-budget electronic music videos of all time."
We're on set for the filming of the music video for "Professional Griefers," an outsize and aggro electro-house hit featuring vocals by My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way, and though he's the captain of this unwieldy ship, Deadmau5 just can't help being Deadmau5: jittery, funny, unfazed, uncensored. When news of the unlikely team-up broke back in March, a certain British publication pointed to his Tumblr rant against collaborations, but he defends this: "If it was forced upon me by my label, absolutely, they could suck a dick. 'Oh, we can get will.i.won't for the album.' Fuck that. I don't even know the guy and he's kind of a weirdo, so that's not gonna happen. This was cool because I enjoy the kid. It was a really good fit. Gerard is a really great dude and I'd totally hang with him."
That's kinda important, since the pair of performers are stuck here all night. To get the shots they need — of Zimmerman and Way perched at Borg-esque command stations battling one another via remote control robots as the bloodthirsty masses go wild — they have to have darkness. Driving up to the cement wash was a surreal scene. As the sun set, hordes of neon-drenched youth poured over the floodgates carrying homemade Mau5heads of various hues (red, purple, black, blue, money). They won't know about the CG robots until the video actually comes out. They only know that Deadmau5 told them to come, and so they did. Like their messiah, they're exuberant and buzzing, happy to be where something is happening. It feels a bit like an old school rave, actually.
"We had a lot of kids show up at 3:00 p.m., and roll call wasn't until 7:00," says Zimmerman, "so I got up onto my manager's SUV with a megaphone and let them know, 'Listen guys, we're gonna be here till 6 in the morning, so you're getting the Mau5 unadulterated, no bullshit.' It's fun getting to know these kids — they're so awesomely faithful. Some of them came a long way to be a part of this and we're gonna make it worth their while. It's almost better than a concert because a) you don't have to pay, and b) we'll just hang out." In a behind-the-scenes video, one fan asks if Deadmau5 is going to perform. The return quip: "How much did you pay for your ticket?" A taco truck looms in the distance next to 45 Porta Potties, sporting a message Magritte would appreciate: "Sorry, not a taco truck. Tacos will arrive at 12:00."
Also impossible to ignore are the leather and chain-clad musclemen roaming the grounds, not to mention the UFC banners flapping in the wind. "This is UFC in the future," says Zimmerman, "where Gerard and me are combating each other in this sort of Mad Max meets Real Steel way. We've actually been working on this for eight months, so the idea came before that Hugh Jackman thing, but the UFC element has been a comfy fit. Dana [White, president] and those dudes are fans, so we went in, had a meeting and they said, 'Look, we'll totally help you out with some of the finance.' What's cool is, the seven digits we're spending is mostly going into brand new render technology. We're merging this location with El Mirage, the dry lakebed in the Mojave Desert, and inserting these 20-foot robots. The CG is gonna be in-fucking-sane."
Before he heads back out into the throng, we ask Zimmerman about his plans for "Professional Griefers." He scoffs. "If I had a nickel for every time someone asked, 'When are you doing an album?' My career is way too transparent to do say, 'Guess what — I've got 16 tracks you've never heard!' It's more likely to be another one of these goddamned compilation things. Like, 'Okay, he's gonna take all this shit I've known about the last 13 months and put it all in one place.'" It's since been announced that the track will appear on Deadmau5's September 25 LP, > album title goes here <, but Zimmerman wouldn't likely rescind his words. He abruptly leaves the trailer and is off to the action. Under the dome, he wrestles the mike away from the dweeb in charge of crowd control. Beer spilling, he shouts: "Come on, fucking get pumped!"