Deadmau5 says that he plays pre-recorded DJ sets “all the time”, and reveals the “dead giveaway” that audiences should look out for

11 years on from his much-debated ‘We all hit play’ blog post, Deadmau5 has returned to the subject of discussing what big-name DJs actually do when they’re on stage in a video livestream.

Asked in the comments if he’d ever ‘faked’ a DJ set, Deadmau5 (AKA Joel Zimmerman) was initially confused, wondering if the questioner wanted to know if he’d never just not shown up. On realising that he was being asked if he’d ever played a pre-recorded set, however, he was happy to admit that he does it “all the time”.

“Does that make you mad? Do I go to jail for that?” he enquired. “Sometimes [the sets] are, sometimes they aren’t.”

Explaining why this happens, Deadmau5 suggests that, the bigger the gig, the more likely it is that what you’re hearing was prepared beforehand in the studio.

“Most major festivals, you have to play a pre-recorded set,” he argues. “Like, EDC [electronic dance musical festival Electric Daisy Carnival], I would be surprised if somebody actually played a set that wasn’t pre-recorded, to be honest. Because they’re such a big deal to the fucking artist and the production schedule and the timeline and all that stuff that they wouldn’t want to fuck up.”

Revealing how audiences can tell if the music they’re listening to isn’t being mixed live, Deadmau5 explains: “You know what a dead giveaway to a pre-recorded set is? The visuals, believe it or not. When shit is so immaculately timed and that everything is fucking lining up that means it’s on a playback system.”

As for how DJs pass the time during their pre-recorded sets, Deadmau5 says: “What do they do up there? Twiddle filter knobs and clap. That’s all you can do.”

The star also offered a swift retort to anyone who suggests that DJs who play pre-recorded sets are not ‘real’ DJs: “OK, says who? Who are you - the fucking DJ police?”

In his 2012 ‘We all hit play’ blogpost, Deadmau5 claimed that "I think given about one hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of Ableton and music tech in general could DO what I'm doing at a Deadmau5 concert," adding that, sometimes, "I just roll up with a laptop and a midi controller and 'select' tracks and hit a spacebar."

Revisit our 2022 interview with Deadmau5.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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