We’re backstage at Toronto club Rebel, where more than 2,000 hyper fans have gathered to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Mau5trap records. Label boss Deadmau5 has just finished his set, but the night is far from over. In fact, the buzz is still building, more and more people now surging towards the front railing. Isabelle Rezazadeh, 5’6” and full of restless, athletic energy, wearing tight black jeans and a large, dark grey windbreaker over a white T-shirt with a blinking eyeball pattern, tightens her black baseball cap, fixes her straight brown hair so it lies perfectly on the sides of her face and
dons a pair of oversized electronic goggles. One click and swirling lights of red obscure her dark hazel eyes. And with that, Isabelle Rezazadeh becomes Rezz.
“When I put those goggles on I become this cartoon-like superhero,” she says. “They make me feel as though I’m literally at one with my music. I’m not necessarily a shy person, but before the goggles I felt as though the crowd didn’t fully know me, and they didn’t know or understand what I was trying to portray. Now that things are rolling there’s a major difference in
my stage presence versus when I started. It’s like I’m a completely different person.”
Three years since she first started making music, Rezz is now into one of dance music’s most exciting new producers, with cosigns from industry-leading and legendary artists, and releases on OWSLA’s NEST imprint and Mau5trap. Her debut album, ‘Mass Manipulation’, dropped this month, full of her trademark jagged, asymmetrical but eminently danceable tracks with names like ‘Diluted Brains’ and ‘Synaesthesia’, her sound and aesthetic more reminiscent of the likes of Hudson Mohawke or Zomby than Deadmau5, though somehow still retaining the drama of her mentor’s productions. This year so far she’s played Ultra Music Festival, Ever After Music Festival, Shambhala Music Festival, and most recently, Electric Forest. Her world tour starts this month.
She may only be 22 years old, but Isabelle was a late starter. Growing up in Niagara Falls (the city, not the tourist attraction), Isabelle didn’t develop an early passion for dance music or aspire to become a DJ as a teenager. There’s
no club scene in the small city located on the border of the United States and Canada. Her interests were more focused on hanging out with friends and playing sports, which she excelled at. Becoming a doctor or even playing professional basketball were real possibilities during her formative years. But one evening when she was wandering through the many corridors of YouTube, she stumbled on a pair of intriguing videos. One was of Tiësto performing at the Athens Olympic opening ceremony in 2004, and the other was an Afrojack festival DJ set. She quickly found herself fascinated by the new and exciting sonic textures reaching her ears for the first time.
“When I was watching the video of Tiësto at the Olympics, what really grabbed my attention was how crisp the sounds were in comparison to other music,” Rezz recalls. “Music I’d been exposed to before, like rock for example, sounded more grungy and distorted. These new sounds were so crisp. I immediately connected to that.”
This might be surprising given that there’s a gritty and rough-edged feel to her own productions. But exposure to these videos got her out of the bedroom and onto the dancefloor, where she heard her idol and mentor Deadmau5 for the first time.
“I was 18 years old when I saw Deadmau5 play at HARD Day of the Dead in Los Angeles,” she remembers. “When I got home from the festival I was so curious. Then one day I was chilling at home and Joel was live-streaming while he was making music. I was watching the stream and he was making a beat that was simple but catchy and rhythmic.
I suddenly realised that any sound you choose, if it’s high enough quality, can sound super rad. At that moment I closed the stream and opened Ableton, and told myself, ‘I’m going to try this.’ I remember that moment so vividly. I haven’t looked back since.”
"I want my performances to hit people so hard they're in shock"
Isabelle produces and masters all of her own material, something that’s becoming increasingly uncommon. Her early interest in sports, and the competitive drive she developed, pushed her to learn the production technology inside and out. “I always was very competitive, and I would push myself to win everything I competed in,” she says. “Whatever I was doing I wanted to be the best at.”
Rezz has only been producing for just over three years and has already caught the attention of some major tastemakers. Skrillex tweeted her and asked her to send him some of her music, which led to her debut release on NEST. A year later, her first EP on Mau5trap was released. But while she’s clearly proud that some exalted peers have shown an interest in her work, taking her music out of the studio has now become her main drive.
“Seeing the crowds’ enthusiasm and the fans reaction when they see me is always a humbling and really awesome experience,” she says. “Even when I walk by them going into a venue, some are freaking out, girls are crying, people are telling me that I’m the best producer in the world and that I make their lives complete. I have all their drawings hanging up on my wall. I think the way fans react is what made me realise how my career is progressing. It has nothing to do with the number of plays, it has nothing to do with any of that. It’s the way the fans have been interacting with me that make a lasting impression. It’s something I never dreamed of.”
This month she begins her ‘Mass Manipulation’ world tour, starting off in Canada, zig-zagging across the US and heading as far afield as Mumbai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and then on to Europe at the beginning of 2018.
“I want to make people feel the way I felt when I first saw Deadmau5, when I saw Skrillex, when I saw Pretty Lights and when I saw Bassnectar,” she says, her own eyes sparkling now. “You leave their shows and feel different: you feel inspired, you feel more than just the impact of a song. I want my performances to hit people so hard they’re not able to speak because they’re so in shock. I just want to make a huge mark on people’s lives and deliver an experience they will never forget.”
It’s ambitious. But given how far Rezz has come in such a short space of time, don’t bet against it.
Rezz's album 'Mass Manipulation' is out now on Mau5trap
This feature is taken from the September issue of Mixmag
Harrison Williams is Mixmag's East Coast Editor, follow him on Twitter