Music

Why Rezz Traded Partying for Producing Dark, Deadmau5-Influenced Dancefloor Beats

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It’s not that often that the person with the 10:30 p.m. slot gets to play to a nearly-packed house. That, however, was the case for Isabelle Rezazadeh, otherwise known as Rezz, at the Los Angeles stop of the Ship2Ship tour. Outside, a frustratingly slow line inched towards her as she took to the decks. Meanwhile, the venue’s main room edged closer to capacity as it filled with ravers wearing sailor caps and the blue bathrobes that mark them as Shipfam, the crowd that attends the Holy Ship! music festival/cruise events. 

Ship2Ship, which lands at Brooklyn’s Output on February 4, links together the January and February cruises and features festival co-founder Destructo and Holy Ship! regular Justin Martin at the top of the bill. For an up-and-comer like Rezazadeh, scheduled to play the three-day February trek from Miami to Grand Bahama Island, Ship2Ship is a sweet tour to land.

On this night, Rezazadeh is still two months shy of her twenty-first birthday and a tad over two years into the production game. She has amassed enough material to play a set of only her own music, but chooses to rep fellow Canadians Zeds Dead and Deadmau5 in the mix as well. Deadmau5 has been a huge influence on her, and she released her latest EP, The Silence Is Deafening, on his label, but she sounds nothing like him. Instead, Rezazadeh’s tracks play as though she were reared on EBM stalwarts like Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 instead of EDM stars like Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz. Her beats stomp and her melodies are dark. When she slows it down and adds a vocal, like on the recent collaboration with vocalist Delaney Jane, “Lost,” the effect is something between trip-hop and darkwave. Add to that Rezazadeh’s mixing style, linking tracks together by ambience rather than beat, and her sound is more Nineties goth/industrial club than Saturday night on the PLUR circuit. 

As the flannel shirt-clad producer bounces behind the CDJs, long brown hair cascading from the bill of a baseball cap, there’s a sense that Rezazdeh is doing something different, at least for this scene. Some people clearly get it. Others chit-chat as they stake out a spot on a dance floor that will be impenetrable by the time Rezazadeh finishes her set.

Hailing from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Rezazadeh doesn’t have a background in music. She was into sports like track and field. Her athletic past is obvious when we meet backstage after her set. She talks fast, as though she’s running on a post-track meet endorphin high. She exudes confidence and seems to relish in discipline.

“I can’t just stay out every single night late and then barely have any sleep. I would be a very miserable person,” she says. “That’s how I’m going to be throughout my entire career. I can already see it.”

Rezazadeh already went through her party-hard phase. She spent the latter years of her teens frequently traveling an hour-and-a-half to Toronto whether or not she was old enough to get into the venue. She got to know others in the crowd. If she had to skip a big show, she felt like she was missing out on something major. At one point, she spent a four-month stretch hitting up dance music events — “I was pretty much wasting my life away,” she says — and, during that period, she had an epiphany. 

Rezazadeh had traveled from Canada to California where she hit up the HARD Day of the Dead festival in Los Angeles. There, she saw Deadmau5. It wasn’t the first time she saw him live, but this show made a different kind of impact. Rezazadeh now wanted to be a producer. She returned to Niagara Falls thinking, “What am I doing with my life? Literally, all I do is party.” She stopped hitting the scene and hunkered down over a computer as she learned how to make music. 

Production became her passion. “I was comparing myself to some other people I knew who were producers,” she says. “They would struggle to finish songs, but I noticed, for myself, that I would finish songs straight away.” Rezazadeh kept churning out songs while learning through online tutorials and asking others for advice. 

And, yet, she says that she felt as though many doubted her ability to edge into the dance music world. Rezazadeh recalls the reactions as a patronizing wish of “good luck.” An exception to the rule, though, was her mom. “I’m sure she had her doubts deep down in her mind,” she says., “but she never really exposed that to me and kind of just supported me the whole way.” 

Rezazadeh didn’t doubt her own skill, either. “I’ve always had a lot of confidence,” she says. “I was very sure of myself and my music from the beginning.” 

Despite that champion attitude, Rezazadeh did have concerns that the exhaustive Ship2Ship tour would take time away from her production work. “Plot twist: I’ve made time.”

Rezazadeh says she has a lot of music that hasn’t been released yet, but she wants to calm down on the originals for a bit and spend a few months releasing remixes, possibly including a couple Deadmau5 tracks and a remix of Gesaffelstein, the French producer with whom her style is often compared. For now, though, she has the road, and sea, ahead of her. 

Ship2Ship heads to Output on February 4 with sets from Destructo, Justin Martin, Rezz and Callie Reiff. For ticket information, click here.

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