We could all use a rung up every now and then, but not often does the biggest magnate in electronic dance music extend his hand personally. It takes the right spirit for things to flourish as they did between Joel Zimmerman and Sofia Toufa, aka Deadmau5 and SOFI, who collaborated together on Zimmerman’s 2010 album, 4x4=12, to produce the single “Sofi Needs a Ladder.” Aggressive, satisfying, and wry, the track went on to win the 2011 Juno Award for Best Dance Recording — a title Deadmau5 has claimed for four years running — while Toufa has enjoyed touring and recording with the world-class producer since. This month, she takes her place on Zimmerman’s Mau5trap label alongside such ubiquitous names as Skrillex, Kaskade, and Wolfgang Gartner to record her own EP and reinterpret the sound that Deadmau5 helped invent.
It’s difficult to imagine a more significant accolade in the pop music world for Toufa, who has worked as a dancer and choreographer for Fall Out Boy, Britney Spears, and will.i.am, just to name a few. In the five years he has been putting out releases under the name Deadmau5, Zimmerman’s status as the big cheese of dance music has come to be unassailable. One could spell out all the accolades from Beatport, Juno, International Dance Music Awards, or his meteoric climb to fourth place in the 2010 DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll, but a mere cursory listen to the music would prove that the man knows how to push all the right buttons. From State Street and Isla Vista to Ibiza and the Las Vegas Strip, his records inexorably follow wherever the party may roam, and his live show is an impeccably crafted profusion of lighting and showmanship unlike any other deejay I’ve ever seen. As a producer and performer, Deadmau5 trumps all comparison, but can the Mau5 play muse for his fellow artists and realize the full potential of his label? To find out, I took a call from SOFI herself to talk about ladders, leaders, and dance music’s most dysfunctional family.
Why, exactly, do you need a ladder? [Laughs.] Here’s the thing: Before I sang on the track, Joel named the song “You Need a Ladder” as a working title. The next day, he saw me feeding the fish, and I usually do step on one of those little stepladders to feed the fish, and he was like, “Ha! You really do need a ladder!” So he makes fun of me like that, and we just stuck with it I guess. At the show, he brought out a ladder for the first time in London, and he handed it to me on stage. I guess I need a ladder to climb to my next step, if you want to look at it from an artistic point of view.
Mau5trap sounds like quite the family. Yeah, it is. I love to call it the “dysfunctional family circus.” We have all sorts of different personalities and characters, it’s funny. There’s Mau5 leading the way, then we have Tommy Lee, the rocker coming from his Mötley Crüe background, and Aero, who’s a total computer freak. And Skrillex is just a little, tiny, lovable munchkin who’s raping everyone’s eardrums off with his dubstep right now. So it’s just funny when you line ‘em up and look at everyone; you’re like, “How did this all come together?”
So, how did it all come together? How is the Mau5 as a leader? I don’t think he really gets involved in anyone’s writing, but he will tell you if he likes something or not. He’s not going to release something he can’t stand behind. So it’s really cool, in a way, because it pushes you to be better. It’s great to get that input but at the same time have complete freedom to do whatever you feel like creatively. I guess it’s the power of the Mau5, you know? People follow him.
What can we expect from your forthcoming release as SOFI on his label? Are you handling the production yourself? The EP that I’m doing with Mau5trap will have two parts, and the first part is coming out this month. I’m more of a songwriter/singer/performer, so I haven’t gotten into producing yet. I’m working with Millions Like Us: They’re a trio from Brighton that’s very industrial sounding. I’ve also worked with Kill the Noise, Skrillex, and Noizy FT for the second part. So it’s very dramatic, heavy, dubstep sounding, with some lovely melodies and a little bit of my signature rap vocal on top of it.
Who has more fun up there, you or Joel? [Laughs.] I don’t know, I’ve never asked him. I’m having a great time. I think he’s having fun up there. We’ve had great crowds. I personally enjoy the interaction; I love that I can get on the mike and talk to people and be personable, which I feel like is missing with a lot of producers.
Deadmau5 and SOFI play the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday, October 27. The show begins at 4:30 p.m. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets.