Rezz in the studio

REZZ just wants to keep it simple

With the release of her sixth studio album, Can You See Me, the Canadian future bass star is finding balance at last.

Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

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Rezz’s music studio is tiny. It’s a tabletop setup in a shed in the backyard of her house in Toronto, Canada. Two JBL speakers, an old pair of SolRepublic headphones, an audio interface, and a MacBook with Ableton Live and an arsenal of plugins. That’s it.

As you’ve probably heard before, though, that — coupled with some ingenuity — is enough for a modern-day producer to conjure massive, mind-bending tracks. “That’s all I’ve ever used,” assures Rezz, whose loyal fanbase – the ‘Cult Of REZZ’ – has dubbed “a wizard” of sound, and whom heavyweights Skrillex and deadmau5 have championed since 2016.

“I’ve never been a ‘studio person’. I’ve always been the type of person to just sit on the couch comfortably with my laptop on my lap, headphones on,” the 28-year-old producer says. In a breakdown of her track, Can You See Me, the title track of her forthcoming LP, Rezz sums up her philosophy: “It’s not about what you use. It’s about what you’re used to.”

On Can You See Me, Rezz breaks away from what she’s familiar with, musically. A 10-track album with eight collaborations, the project scratches your ears with intricate, intriguing sound design and hypnotic beats, the type of music expected from Rezz, but which here often deviates from the midtempo bounce of her previous work. During the creation of the album, Rezz also found a new tempo in her life as a DJ, moving away from hectic touring schedules and into a nourishing lifestyle.

“I am, without question, happier than I’ve ever been,” she says, adding that Can You See Me, released on her HypnoVizion label, is her “best album by far — like, by far.”

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

Rezz, real name Isabelle Rezazadeh, talks about her craft with more enthusiasm than most. Every question I ask gets a long, excited answer that doesn’t spare the details of her artistry or anecdotes of her career. For someone who is so in love with ‘slow, trippy’ aesthetics, she races through different ideas surprisingly fast.

“Heavy but slow with hypnotic elements; that’s my favourite type of music,” says the artist who’s donned her light-up hypno glasses since the start of her career. “I had these psychedelic experiences when I was young that made me fall in love with really slow, trippy-sounding music. When I was then going to concerts and festivals, I found that there wasn’t anyone [playing that music] on a large scale.

“It really felt like there was a hole. And I could hear so many songs in my head, slowed down — like, a deadmau5 track slowed down to 105 BPM. That’s a vibe I really love, and I wanted to make that. Since then, I’ve probably made thousands of mid-tempo tracks. So with this album, I wanted to do something different. My sounds are still recognisable, but it’s just evolved. Heavier and darker and at a different pace.”

Rezz’s sounds aren’t ripe for mainstream appeal, nor for the underground dancefloors of house and techno. But bass junkies and lovers of sound design and music production will struggle to keep their heads still while Can You See Me thrashes on.

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

After being so profoundly inspired by a 2013 deadmau5 show she attended as a teenager, Rezz found her feet in music production by constantly experimenting with Ableton Live and watching YouTube tutorials. The Niagara Falls native was soon creating almost a song a day — a feat she says she still manages regularly.

“After two days of working on a song, I’m like, ‘Okay, this is done.’ But a week later, I might be like, ‘Oh, shit, actually, it’s a little bit quiet at this part’. So I’ll go back and turn something up. But, yeah, the composition and arrangement of the track still takes me about a day or two.”

In terms of polar opposites, Rezz and I both reference her fellow EDM producers, Madeon and Porter Robinson, the former of whom once claimed he spends up to 200 hours producing a track.

“I’m not surprised that it takes months and sometimes years for Madeon and Porter to finish their songs, because they’re wearing so many hats,” she says.” They’re not just producing the song; they’re recording guitar, drums… There are so many more elements to that kind of music.”

Listen to any Rezz track, though, and you’ll hear myriad details, noticing new sounds with every listen. A standout track from the album, DYSPHORIA with Holly, is a prime example — chopped, stuttered synths among atmospheric pads and sound effects. Another track, Exorcism is jaw-dropping, teeming with distorted, mangled sounds that would do Justice proud.

Is Rezz just being blasé about the intricacies of her work?

“I just try not to overthink or overcomplicate things. Overcomplicating things is what makes it time-consuming,” she says. “I’m sure Madeon has finished music quicker than 250 hours — people who take a long time to release music, that’s totally fine, because they end up putting out super high-quality music. I’m just generally very impatient. I’m very much like, ‘I need to finish this up and move on to the next thing.’ It’s just the way my brain operates.”

Rezz may be able to put a track together at lightspeed, but she caveats that inspiration doesn’t always come so easy. Her role as a “sound collector” can take much longer, tinkering with synth patches in Xfer’s Serum to find a motif, or spending time building drum beats as a foundation for new ideas to flourish.

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

“I love composing, arranging, mixing,” Rezz adds. “But the process of creating and collecting sounds and ideas can, for me personally, be the most tedious part of music production. But if I did have a direction to go in, and had already collected a plethora of sounds to use, then I’d probably have a song done in that two-day timeframe.”

Tedious as that process may be, it’s also the reason Rezz is such a prolific collaborator. Alongside making tracks and performing with her idol-turned-friend, deadmau5, under the Rezzmau5 alias, she’s released genre-bending music with Subtronics, Polyphia’s Tim Henson, Zed’s Dead, and many more.

“I love working with Rezz; it comes so incredibly easy to us,” Subtronics tells me. “Everything just falls into place sounding exactly how we want it. In terms of musical preference, our styles align effortlessly. She is also a joy to work with and easy to communicate and collaborate with.”

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

Collaboration is rampant in all corners of modern music — many fans encourage team-ups between their favourite acts — but can be a daunting prospect for the shy creatives. Some producers find it intimidating to share their creative process, or would simply rather keep their secrets safe (some producers won’t even partake in interviews like this in a bid to maintain mystique). Rezz has become more than happy to open herself up to collaboration.

“When you first start, you think there are things that you’re potentially doing wrong, and you’re insecure about that,” she admits. “You’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I want another artist to see all the shit that I have on my master chain’. But the thing is, when you’ve produced music for a long time, you realise that there actually are no rules. Some people’s project files are absolutely insane. Some people’s mixdowns aren’t aren’t the best, from a technical standpoint. But it doesn’t matter at all. Because the song idea still came across.”

But, she adds, “If I’m going into the studio from scratch with someone, I am not comfortable with that.”

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

Rezz recounts a recent collab with deadmau5 and Virtual Riot as an example: “With Hypnocurrency, I started it by myself in my house then took the track’s skeleton to Joel’s [deadmau5], then Joel left his touch, finished mixing and mastering it and made it sound tighter. So when I was actually in Joel’s studio, it wasn’t like I was going in and turning the billions of knobs on his studio synths.”

“I worked in Joel’s studio recently with Virtual Riot. We were working on a song in his studio but, really, all we did was plug our laptop into Joel’s sound system. So once again, it’s not like we’re going in, using Joel’s millions of dollars worth of analogue gear. I don’t want to like go into a studio with someone with a blank canvas. That kind of freaks me out. Virtual Riot had sent me an idea, so we already had a direction. And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s easy, because I already know what I’m going to do.’”

The novelty of collaborating with her idol hasn’t worn off for Rezz. Although deadmau5 recently hinted at an upcoming retirement, Rezz remains by his tireless career. As she begins to wind down from touring, her 43-year-old idol is continuing to put on shows for his fans.

“As much as deadmau5 originally inspired me to create music, I’m inspired by him now because of his longevity and the fact that he’s still touring as much,” says Rezz. “I’ve been doing this now for 10 years, and I’ve significantly slowed down on touring. I do, like, three shows a month. I used to do nine, and that was just the norm until I realised it doesn’t really work for me.

“I think some people are built for it,” she continues “Diplo, built for it. Skrillex, built for it. It’s their lives and that’s totally fine. I love to play my shows, but I need them in moderation.”

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

It was a function of deadmau5’s nearly two decades on the road that he was able to keep Rezz calm during a recent near-disaster of a situation.

“We were about to play a show as Rezzmau5 in Philadelphia and the visuals messed up,” she recalls.” We were literally about to go on stage — I had my glasses on. But there was a 20-minute delay and I am a very punctual person, so if it weren’t for Joel, I would be freaking out.

“Joel’s behaviour during this was so inspiring to me,” she continues “Some people have this perception and idea of him being an asshole, and I’m sure he’s had his moments, right? But what I saw that day was something that I can only wish to be like.

“I was thinking, there’s a massive problem with the screen — we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on production — are we really about to start our show and not have it executed the way we planned?

“And Joel just like, inhales his cigarette and goes, ‘All right, worst case scenario, what are we working with?’ He did not even slightly get mad. I think with Joel and how long he’s been in the industry, he’s learned now to just calm the fuck down…The only reason I even remained remotely calm was because Joel was calm. If Joel’s calm then I’m calm.”

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

While she may be touring less, with a dedicated fanbase like the Cult Of Rezz, she at least knows the demand is there when she’s ready to play. She just sold out her show at the legendary Red Rocks venue in Morrison, Colorado — with the state being a massive market for bass music — in literal minutes.

“It’s amazing, I’m so grateful for that. Honestly, to have sold out so quickly, especially so many years in a row now, is truly insane. Stuff like that is a highlight but I am genuinely looking forward to all my shows this year because I now have that balance. I know that after those shows, I’ll be able to go home and reflect, soak it all in and really think about what just happened and really appreciate it.

“My career before this was just, ‘on to the next show, on to the next thing’. It got to the point where I was winning awards — I won Junos [Canada’s major music award], and didn’t even notice at the time. I have this area of my house where I keep awards and I look at them now like, ‘I didn’t even have the chance to feel the happiness I should have felt because so many good things were happening consistently.”

Rezz in the studio
Image: Stella Gigliotti for MusicTech.

Now, Rezz’s schedule is a lot more relaxed. Though she stresses that almost all of her free time is spent making music, she’s found comfort in…well, comfort.

“When I’m at home, I’m honestly either working on music or going to a concert in Toronto or chilling with my fiance, watching a movie just relaxing. Honestly, I just like taking it easy and enjoying life. Even sometimes — I don’t do this too much — but online shopping and enjoying what I’ve built for myself. Like, ‘I like these bracelets, I’m gonna like order them online.’”

With Can You See Me, we’re watching the shed-room producer enter a new phase — one in which she can afford to slow down and be more considered with her artistic vision. “I would do this for free forever. But I’m not going to go do a pool party, even if they offered me $100,000. I’m very aware that I’m very lucky to be able to even have that choice. Now I’m able to make what I actually want to make. That might be weird, obscure music; it might be music that doesn’t stream that well online. But that’s just what I want to make. And that’s what I’m gonna do.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

REZZ, Can You See Me, will be available 14 March 2024 via HypnoVizion.


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