Imagine Zedd, the 27-year-old Grammy-award winning electro producer in demand by stars Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, packed up inside a cube in the dark. On the other side of lightweight walls, he can hear the rumble of a sold out Staple-Center crowd, but the 21,000 onlookers aren't there because they love "Clarity." They're there because, like Zedd, they love video games, and this is the world championship of League of Legends.
"Arguably the biggest video game in the world," Zedd says. "It's almost like the half time show of video games, if you can imagine."
Like the Super Bowl, League of Legends went all out. There was an orchestra, pyrotechnics, and some of the illest 360 projection mapping ever displayed for a five minute production. It's a huge step up for the boy who broke through with a Legend of Zelda remix, and even with all his experience and accolades, it was unlike anything he'd ever done before.
That's Zedd's m.o. these days. He's ready to step outside his comfort zone and see what greatness he can find. His last album True Colors was a hit that peaked No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart. The True Colors tour featured some mind-blowing visuals of its own. The album even spawned a documentary, but Zedd has since turned his attention to working with new artists. There might be a lot more music on the radio in 2017 that sounds kinda like Zedd. Of course, there will be a lot of pop, but also some hip-hop, and some genres the hit-maker has never quite tackled before.
"I really like that, because usually when you're not really familiar with a genre, it's like a fresh start," Zedd says. "You think differently than people who have done it a lot. If I make a song in 128 bpm, I've made so many, it's really hard not to repeat yourself. You start thinking 'what haven't I done yet?' But if you make something completely new, you're kind of naive, and it ends up being something really different."
He's excited about the work to come. Some of the biggest experiments are the tracks he's most proud of, but it's too early to share any news with fans. Part of a superstar producer's job is to keep good secrets. Maybe that's something he's teaching his friends Grey, an up-and-coming duo Zedd's made no secret of taking under his wing.
"They're super talented," he says. "One of the most creative artists in electronic music."
He met Grey when Skrillex forwarded a remix the pair did of his track "Beautiful Now." He reached out to see what other songs they'd created, and the original stuff only impressed him more. In September, they released the rhythm-heavy heater "Adrenaline" and followed that up a few weeks later with Hailee Steinfeld's international hit "Starving."
IGNITE (LIVE FROM STAPLES CENTER) pic.twitter.com/zQqpLTOeL1
- Zedd (@Zedd) November 2, 2016
"I don't really collaborating with producers that much, because to me, it's always a compromise, a matter of taste," Zedd says. "I like working by myself, but I have been working with them a lot, and I get a lot of inspiration form the way they do things."
Zedd's made Grey his proteges in a way. He's been sending some work with other artists their way, too, and Grey just moved into the house next to Zedd's, so expect a lot more collaboration in the future.
"I've been building my sample pack over the course of the last five or six years," Zedd says. "Every good sound I've created, I've saved as a preset or as a sound so I can reuse it, and they're the only producers in the world I've ever given my sample library to."
Surely, it won't be long until Zedd and Grey share a stage, but the only stage on Zedd's mind today is the magical center of the light cathedral that is Omnia, the crown jewel of Hakkasan Group's Las Vegas empire. Zedd is the new resident DJ at all Hakkasan properties, and tickets are available online, with shows at all Hakkasan Group's Vegas properties including Jewel at Aria, Hakkasan Nightclub, and Wet Republic at MGM Grand, but Omnia is the real powerhouse. When it first opened, before Zedd had any inkling of a forthcoming deal, he knew it was the kind of place he wanted to play.
"I was really blown away by the production," Zedd says. "Everything was super clean and slick, and for somebody who puts a lot of emphasis on the visual aspect of a show, obviously seeing all the elements that were at Omnia was inspiring."
Zedd's no stranger to Vegas. He calls it his second home because he spends as much time in that desert oasis as he does anywhere else. Whether he's couped up in a cube at the Staples Center or standing victorious in front of sold-out crowds for his own tour, Zedd takes his role as an entertainer quite seriously. Vegas is and always has been an entertainment mecca. As far back as the days of the Rat Pack and Elvis Presley, it's been a playground for adults looking to escape the mundane. Zedd is a worthy heir to that long line of showstoppers, and armed with Omnia's shape-shifting chandelier, he's got more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
"I forgot what magician it was, but somebody in Vegas said the DJs took their business away, which is really crazy to think about," Zedd says. "Maybe it is kind of magic. I do agree."