In 2013, Isabelle Rezazadeh went to Hard’s Day of the Dead festival in Los Angeles, where electronic music titans Skrillex, Deadmau5 and others partied deep into the night the weekend after Halloween. At the time, Rezazadeh was living with her parents in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada and waitressing at a nearby Hard Rock Cafe.
Inspired by the event, Rezazadeh taught herself at 16 how to produce electronic dance music—more specifically, music that blends bass with downtempo electronica (read: not techno). Once she started spreading her musical content on social media, Skrillex took notice.
Fast-forward to six years later, and the EDM sensation has already partnered with her idols Skrillex and Deadmau5. She then released her Beyond the Senses EP through her own label over the summer—and, as an indication of just how large her fanbase has already become, more than 75,000 fans participated in a global virtual reality listening party. She’s already played Coachella, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
Rezz’s Instagram feed is littered with imagery that accurately reflects her live performances: psychedelic scarecrow characters conspiring with aliens in Dark Side of the Moon-esque lasers, along with spiders and pyro. She makes no secret of her love for Budweiser and partying, either. Rezz liberally peppers YouTube with lengthy remixes, live performance videos and shorter cuts that have drawn hundreds of thousands of views. And her Spotify page attracts nears 780,000 listeners on a monthly basis, with “Edge,” “Lonely” (featuring the Rigs), “Falling,” “Relax” and “Hex” ranking as the most popular listens.
Social media included, what Rezz perhaps best represents in the entertainment industry of 2019 is that music must be a multifaceted experience that extends well beyond the medium itself. Immersive visuals, community involvement and even cult appeal are all essential traits of a contemporary music sensation. If it ain’t multi-sensory, it ain’t getting attention from the kiddos.
But mystery factors into the equation too. Rezz’s Facebook profile is practically devoid of personal details, and her eyes are usually cloaked by those glowing spiral glasses. The “story” she lists in the “About” section of her profile simply lists all the releases she has issued to date—at least one for each year: 2019 (Beyond the Senses), 2018 (Certain Kind of Magic), 2017 (Mass Manipulation), 2016 (Something Wrong Here and The Silence Is Deafening) and 2015 (Insurrection).
Being prolific is one of this artist’s hallmarks, with the relative newcomer already having dropped 16 singles in a mere four years: “Alien” (with Raito), “Fourth Impact” (with K?d), “I,” “Silent Hill,” “Relax,” “Diluted Brains,” “Premonition” (with Knodis), “Drugs!” (with 13), “Witching Hour,” “Hex” (with 1788-L), “Flying Octopus”, “Mixed Signals” (with Blanke), “Dark Age,” ”Falling” (featuring Underoath), “Kiss of Death” (with Deathpact) and “Criminals” (with Malaa).
That’s hardly the limit of Rezz’s bevy of friends. In late October, at the Houston Raceway, she rubbed elbows with Armin Van Buuren, Steve Aoki, AC Slater and the Crystal Method as part of the second edition of Freaky Deaky Texas.
In other words, if it’s EDM, Rezz is there.
Rezz is currently headlining a massive Beyond the Senses tour that saw her play the famed Red Rocks in Colorado, despite having no radio hits to her name. Recent appearances have included headlining spots at festivals including Bumbershoot, VooDoo and the Imagine Festival, as well as famed the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, where she unveiled a brand-new stage production. The tour is set to stretch at least until Dec. 21 in Seattle, with already-sold-out shows in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and San Francisco along the way.
On top of it all, Rezz—like most EDM success stories—is amassing rampant global appeal. Over the summer, she hit Germany’s New Horizons Festival, Creamfields in England and South West Four in London. Beyond the Senses debuted at #1 on not only the Apple Music and iTunes electronic charts in the US but in Canada as well. Next year, she will make her first appearances in South America at Lollapalooza with performances at the festival’s stops in Chile and Argentina in March, and Brazil in April.
The music industry may be virtually unrecognizable from its form a few years ago, but some of its traits—like overnight success—have undeniably stayed the same.
Rezz’s debut EP, Insurrection, dropped in 2015 on Skrillex’s OWSLA/Nest HQ label, after which Deadmau5 released her EPs The Silence is Deafening and Something Wrong Here, and LPs Mass Manipulation and Certain Kind of Magic, between 2016 and 2018 on his Mau5trap label.
During her recent tour, we caught up with Rezz about her head-spinning headlining shows, staying fiscally prudent as her star soars—and how she has conquered the fears that come with overnight success.
Music Connection: How is the tour going so far? Have you experienced a best and worst show yet?
Rezz: It just started over the weekend. My first show was at Red Rocks. It was absolutely amazing. The venue itself is so beautiful and there was a crazy amount of people there. Before walking onstage, seeing the view was indescribable. Everything went perfectly.
MC: Was that your biggest headlining show to date?
Rezz: I’ve played in front of 60,000 people, so it’s not the biggest, but yes, it was the biggest headlining show. Red Rocks was the one that I was freaking out about. I actually am glad we started the tour with it, because it was high-pressure show. Sixty percent of the crowd traveled from another city to see that show. That’s what you call a high-pressure show.
MC: How did Red Rocks feel different from your other major performances?
Rezz: [It appeared like] every single person knew the words to every single song. I met literally 1,000 fans before the show, but the most interesting interactions happened afterward when they said how I changed their lives. There were parents with their kids … people from all ages. They said they were going through points in their lives when they didn’t want to be alive anymore, and my music saved them. That was never my intention, but obviously that’s amazing.
MC: Have these high-profile performances altered how you approach your live performance or even songwriting?
Rezz: It hasn’t really changed my approach, because I always do whatever I want to do.
MC: In that case, how do you manage to collaborate with Skrillex, Deadmau5 and the like?
Rezz: It depends. If I’m collaborating with a vocalist, I’ll send them a really short idea, or they’ll send me an idea, and we’ll go from there. But if it’s my own song, I look for a moment that inspires me.
MC: Do you use any traditional instruments or mostly laptops to make your music?
Rezz: Yeah, mostly computers, I actually don’t use any hardware. I make some samples myself. When I have a bunch of random synthesizers, I can mess around. The whole point is I try to collect as many quality ones as I can on my computer. I don’t even use a studio.
MC: Fascinating. Have you ever actually been in a recording studio?
Rezz: Yes, I’ve been in a studio a couple of times, but it’s only been to test vocals out and use a track. I need help from my friends. I’ve been in Deadmau5’s studio—but I don’t prefer that. I prefer being in my own room, on my couch. I feel like the less I have to work with, the more I’m forced to work with what I have. I really like being minimalist.
MC: If you work mostly in isolation, how do you know when a song of yours is finished?
Rezz: When I finish a song, I don’t send it to anybody. I keep it for myself and test it on a bunch of different sound systems. I have a speaker that’s right around me, and I test it in my car … and in my other car.
MC: You’re 24 years old and were working at the Hard Rock Cafe a few years ago. When did the second car come into the picture?
Rezz: Like eight months ago. I got an Audi R8. My other car is an Audi.
I’m really good with money and saving, because my parents raised me that way. I don’t spoil myself too often. As soon as I started getting financial gain, I was really good. I bought a house, paid off my mortgage and bought a car. I don’t spend $20,000 on clothing or $10,000 at the casino because I can. But I am donating $50,000 [to help efforts to stop] the fires going on in the Amazon.
MC: That’s a surprisingly mature approach to finances for someone as young as yourself.
Rezz: When I was 21, 22, and even 23, my brain was very all over the place, and I was always bouncing off the wall and super stressed out. Everything was too good to be true. I still get nervous before shows, but for some reason lately, it’s not like that at all. I felt like I was more fearful before.
MC: So what changed?
Rezz: I know I’m going to look back and be like, “I should’ve calmed the fuck down.” I know that’d be the number one thing I’d do when I’m older. So I try to be in the moment and not live in the past or future. That’s what I’ve learned over the last four months. My nerves and anxiety have decreased. Fear and anxiety cancel out when you’re feeling grateful.
MC: Did Skrillex and Deadmau5 impart any especially useful advice?
Rezz: I asked Deadmau5 what his best advice would be to himself, he said he’d say to calm the fuck down. I’m not even old, but I can see how valuable that advice is. Everybody needs to calm down. Everybody needs to stop and be in the moment they’re in and not be caught up in the future. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s one of the keys to life, really.
MC: Do you generally feel calm going onstage?
Rezz: I have a whole team that programs lights and visuals. Because I’m so prepared, I’ve been having a much easier time living in the moment of my set. My brain was all over the place before. Even last year, I was a different person in regards to my perspective on what I do. I was so nervous and fearful and could barely enjoy the show.
When I was 20-ish, I was completely alone but wasn’t as anxious. The anxiety started to build as soon as I blew up. Twenty-two to 23 is when I started to feel the anxiety, when I had a team. Near the beginning, I had to overlook a lot of things to make sure everything was dialed in. But now my tour manager takes care of everything.
MC: If more than 60 percent of the people who attended your Red Rocks show came from other places, your fanbase must be fervent.
Rezz: I don’t think I ever could’ve anticipated the amount of loyalty and dedication they have to me. They call themselves the Cult of Rezz. They’re so passionate about me. They know every single song I’ve ever made.
MC: Is it because of their ardent support that you felt comfortable releasing Beyond the Senses on your own?
Rezz: We wanted to self-release because it showed I was at a level where I could do so and didn’t have to release on a label. We all agreed it was time for a switch-up.
MC: Are you planning more self-releases?
Rezz: I think so. I have a couple of tracks we’re trying to pitch to major labels. They will be an evolution of myself. I’m going to release singles throughout 2020. My first track is a collaboration with Malaa next month [named “Making Fire”].
MC: What are some of your dream collaborations?
Rezz: I already sent a track to Grimes. She said she’s down, so I’m going to wait for her to send me a vocal, which will be sick. Zed. I already started a song with Deadmau5, so I’m going to hit him up soon to get that done. My absolute dream would be Billie Eilish, but that’s super out of reach at the moment. But you never know what can happen.
Contact Grace Fleisher, firstname.lastname@example.org