It may seem like a distant fever dream to get the chance to collaborate with your favorite artist, but for musician Chris James, all it took was a couple of tweets.
Back in March, Deadmau5 — a.k.a. Joel Zimmerman — was working on a new song inspired by the Ray Bradbury story “The Veldt.” In the tale, a pair of children become so enamored of their digital nursery — one that creates a virtual reality based on what the inhabitants imagine — that they sacrifice their parents to the beasts that reside in an imagined African veldt in order to stay there forever. Zimmerman was livetweeting and streaming the writing process, and James, a fan of the Bradbury story, whipped up some lyrics and sent them along to the musician via Twitter.
Zimmerman liked the words that James had penned, and he incorporated them into the song, which is now available on The Veldt EP. The pair were nominated for an O Music Award for Most Extreme Fan Outreach, so we decided to reach out to James and find out more about the collaboration. Check out our Q&A below:
So you got to collaborate with Deadmau5 because of Twitter. How did that happen?
I was really moved by the short story called ‘The Veldt’ by Ray Bradbury about this house full of technology and how these kids fall in love with it basically and they choose the technology over their parents. That’s just a crazy concept and I heard Joel’s composition and I was super drawn to it and it just came out naturally. It was just one of those things where inspiration struck and I just went with it and knew it was a great idea to send it to him.
So after you saw the tweet that he was working on the song, how long did it take you to answer with the lyrics?
I heard the song and it took me about an hour. I just got in my makeshift studio and started plowing away at the vocals and then it came out.
Had you read the story before Deadmau5 tweeted that he was writing a song about it?
I read it before. It was cool because I don’t get a lot of time to read and I had come across that short story and it’s such a cool story. So it was great when he put the title on there, I already knew it. So I reread the story and started writing the lyrics. I wanted to explain the feelings that the children had.
Had you read any other Ray Bradbury stories? Sadly, he just died.
Yeah, that’s horrible, horrible news. The first time I perform that song live I’m going to dedicate it to him. But I’m going to — when I get more time I’m going to brush up on more of his novels.
Were you pretty surprised when Deadmau5 answered you? What chance did you think you had that he would listen to your lyrics?
Slim to none. I’m very fortunate to have musicians in my family that are stars as well and I know how hard it is to get to them if I was a fan. My chances were slim to none. I stayed up at a very, very late hour knowing that there wouldn’t be that many viewers at that time — and I did it on purpose. I was like, ‘I’m going to tweet him twice, hopefully he gets annoyed by it and clicks it.’ I didn’t want to let a good vocal go to waste. I knew he would like it if he listened to it. I was actually watching his stream live when he decided to click on it and I got to see his reaction firsthand. I’m excited the fans were rooting for him to click on the link because if not it probably would have never happened.
You said you had some musicians in your family?
I’m related to Ryan Daly, he’s in a band called Parade of Lights and he’s done very, very well in the music industry. He’s such an inspiration to me. We learned the craft together. Music and film are the only two things that I’m good at.
So are you a full-time musician?
Yes, I am. I’ve been doing music my whole life. I started playing drums when I was eight as well as singing, and then ever since then I’ve just been writing. I was writing songs for other people, then I was in a band for a while called The Year. I found my love for dance music randomly and Joel — I enjoyed all of Joel’s compositions because he’s definitely unique in his own way. I like people who remain themselves, and I think tapping into that honest vein is the best thing you can do, because everyone will know through your music if you’re being honest. If you’re trying to force something, I think everyone will see through that.
How has this collaboration affected your career?
It has definitely put some wheels on my career. I was very comfortable with writing songs for other people. Being in the studio so much with other artists, they would tell me, ‘Chris, you have to sing. You have to do more music. People have to hear what you do. You should take a break from writing for other people and do this yourself.’ So that’s what happened that night. I’m writing my new EP. I’m starting my career as a DJ and producer and bringing something new to the table and doing vocals on all of my own productions.