Artist of the Month: Rezz

Beatport links with Canada’s iconic electronic music act Rezz to discuss her love of all things horror, the pitfalls of fighting insomnia on tour, expressing her punk roots on her latest It’s Not A Phase EP and more.

16 min
Aug 7, 2023
Logan Sasser

How many artists can see their face tattooed on the back of a fan’s hand? I’d be willing to bet, not many. But that’s exactly the sort of zealous communion Rezz’s fanbase, dubbed “The Cult of Rezz,” presents to their beloved leader: a glorious — albeit slightly excessive — offering of devotion reserved for their hypnotist leader. Either that or passing down the Rezz name to a firstborn child. Regardless, names and tattoos are two of the only things in life that stay with you forever. But if you’ve ever witnessed a proper Rezz set, you might understand why her fans are so devoted. Like names and tattoos, Rezz makes music that sticks with you forever.

“I always hoped that people would feel passionate towards my project, whether that’s good or bad,” Isabelle Rezazadeh, the woman underneath Rezz’s iconic LED rave goggles, recalled during a recent interview with Beatport. “I’d rather be loved and hated than for people to feel indifferent. I guess everyone wants a chance to be understood, you know?”

At its core, much of Rezz’s music is curiously simple, and the shade that occasionally gets thrown her way for her “repetitive” production is misdirected; those people miss the point. Her music is designed to be repetitive, much like the basic principles of dubstep, house music, techno, and drum and bass — that’s what gives Rezz her signature hypnotic reputation. “Hypnotic music doesn’t have to play at a slower BPM, but that’s what works for me,” Rezazadeh says. “Hypnotic music is simple, bold, and repetitive. But not too repetitive.”

Despite Rezazadeh’s soft rebrand on her new goth-rock-inspired EP, It’s Not a Phase, which sees Rezz embracing her emo roots and punk rock impulses, her mesmerizing, mild-tempo dance aesthetics aren’t going anywhere.

Check out Rezz’s ‘Artist of the Month’ Chart on Beatport.
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The moment she made her first 100 BPM track, she knew that sound would follow her forever. That was ten years ago, but Rezazadeh remembers it with pristine clarity. It was a wedding day of sorts — the day Rezazadeh said her vows and committed her life to the music, till death do them part.

“That moment was almost spiritual for me. It felt like magic. There’s a difference between liking a certain sound and feeling like that sound is a part of you. The moment I made my first 100 BPM song, I knew that it was a part of me. It’s a feeling that’s difficult to explain.”

Rezz’s music is merely a puzzle piece in the grand, hypnotizing spectacle on display during a proper Rezz performance. Everything, from the sound design and the song selection to the horror-themed visuals and bloody red strobe lights, creates a cohesive experience wrapped in a spiderweb of possessed extravagance and infernal ambiance. It’s spooky, it’s dark, but more than anything, it’s anesthetic. Traditionally unsettling images of death, pentagrams, and demons provide a calm sense of adorned purpose that suggests maybe hell isn’t so bad after all.

Rezazadeh has felt drawn to horror culture and design her entire life. In fact, one of her earliest memories is an acute fondness for her older brother’s ominous decorations that covered his bedroom walls. Even as a toddler, Rezazadeh recognized her affinity toward the darker side of art and culture. “When I was four years old, I was obsessed with my brother’s room,” Rezazadeh says. “His entire room was blood red, and he had all these crazy, scary action figures and swords hanging on the wall. That room had a massive influence on me. To this day, my favorite color is still red. I even have swords hanging on my wall now.”

Rezazadeh’s mom also practiced a relatively loose parenting style, which meant Rezazadeh and her sister could dive into classic horror films like The Ring and The Grudge while most kids their age were still watching Spongebob and the occasional PG-13 action movie. But, Rezazadeh says that “Horror movies didn’t really scare me when I was a kid. They actually made me excited.” As Rezazadeh grew up, that proclivity for horror culture naturally integrated into her creative aspirations, spawning projects like the Nightmare on Rezz Street mix series and influencing her hellishly embellished live performances.

And so, cruel imagery and forbidding themes of the underworld were engraved in Rezazadeh’s creative psyche at a young age. To this day, that’s an essential element of her brand and music, which, traditionally, leans into the distorted, thumping bass music she’s known for across the world. But her new EP, It’s Not A Phase, is something entirely different. “It’s Not A Phase was a fun excuse to switch up my style and take a moment away from the electronic music I’ve made most of my career,” Rezazadeh says. She’s even trying out a new, emo-inspired hairdo to embody her altered creative spirit. Talk about commitment.

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The new project, a seven-track exploration of punk aesthetics and musical angst, represents the genesis of Rezazadeh’s first love: punk rock. “I love electronic dance music more than anything, but punk rock music… it feels like my core. I can’t really explain it, but it feels like childhood to me.”

Bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Green Day are why Rezazadeh fell in love with music in the first place — raw emotion, defiantly loud progressions, and rebellious tendencies made a powerful statement that spoke to Rezazadeh in a way no other music could during her pre-teenage years. Now, almost 20 years later, she’s making music with punk and progressive rock idols, including Silverstein, Polyphia’s Tim Henson, and Crystal Castles’ Alice Glass, all of which make a welcomed appearance on It’s Not A Phase. Although Rezazadeh insists that she always knew she would have a flourishing artistic career, she never thought she’d be working with the pioneers of a genre through which she discovered her undying love for music.

These artists are musical valets of sorts — opening the door to a world of previously unknown wonders, decorated with grunge-stained curtains and velvet melodies, parking It’s Not A Phase between diesel-powered classics like Paramore’s 2007 Riot! and modern electronic hybrids like 100 Gecs’s 2023 10,000 gecs.

Whatever your vehicle of choice, It’s Not A Phase provides a smooth ride down cobblestone roads of nostalgia and suspended bridges over caverns of uncharted territory. Each song stands thoroughly on its own, but when consumed in its entirety, It’s Not A Phase represents a cohesive expedition toward bright new horizons, where a sea of subtle electronic undertones meets a glowing sunrise of punk rock relativism.

It’s Not A Phase is a project 18 months in the making — a period in Rezazadeh’s life that’s been filled with entirely new experiences, for better or worse. At a quick glance, Rezazadeh appeared to be living her dream: making music that resonates deeply with a passionate fanbase, releasing her fourth full-length album, Spiral, embarking on her own national tour, selling out two back-to-back nights at Colorado’s iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, starting her own record label, HypnoVision Records… the list goes on.

But, behind the scenes, Rezazadeh was unraveling with severe bouts of anxiety and detrimental patterns of sleeplessness. “A few weeks before my Spiral Tour started, I started having some serious insomnia,” Rezazadeh says. “That’s definitely not something you want to experience right before the biggest tour of your career.”

As someone that’s personally experienced extended episodes of insomnia, I’ll be the first to tell you: It’s terrifying. Excruciating, even. The feeling of being trapped in your own body, unable to perform the most basic human function necessary for sanity and survival, is like being possessed by an evil spirit — one who wants to summon your demise at any cost.

“I thought, if I had to keep living like that, I was surely going to die,” Rezazadeh says. “It felt like the end of my world. I know that sounds dark to say, but I’m just being honest. It was my first experience with true human agony, and it changed my life forever.” These are the kinds of emotions Rezazadeh experienced throughout 2022, even as her career reached massive new heights.

Thankfully, Rezazadeh powered through, performing for her Spiral Tour in its entirety. Despite her intense anxiety and insomniac episodes, she doesn’t regret a single show, even the ones she performed in a sleepless daze following 72+ hours of semi-waking existence. Now officially on the other side of the dark, delusional tunnel that is insomnia, Rezazadeh is back to sleeping 10 hours a night, waking up every morning with intense gratitude for another full night of rest.

As terrible as that experience was, Rezazadeh says she became a more empathetic person as a result. That’s because, up until that point, she hadn’t really dealt with the sort of crippling anxiety and depression that plagues the human experience for much of the living population. “Those struggles gave me a much bigger perspective on the world, and a better understanding of other people’s problems. Everyone has their thing. Something that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you might be the end of the world for someone else. And that’s valid.”

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When Rezazadeh was 18, making music in her parent’s basement in Niagra Falls, Canada, she had a sort of uncanny ignorance about adulthood and unrelenting confidence that she would reach the pinnacle of stardom in the dance music world. Anxiety and failure were foreign concepts; depression and inevitable struggles seemed gracefully out of reach. “When I was 18, I felt invincible. I wish I could go back in time and ask my 18-year-old self how she did it. Sometimes I miss that crazy delusion. I guess ignorance really is bliss.”

If there’s anything Rezazadeh has learned throughout the past ten years, it’s that life is unpredictable and ever-evolving. But, no matter what she’s going through, one thing remains: music. As long as she can create music, everything will be alright.

Notice I said “create music,” not “perform music.” Although Rezazadeh has an immeasurable pride in her intricate live performances, often crafted and realigned over the course of six months or more, touring and performing feel like work. That’s because it is work. A lot of work. 14-hour shifts for weeks and sometimes months on end; an endless cycle of tour busses and hotel rooms; coordinating dozens, even hundreds, of people to create a seamless musical experience that aligns with Rezazadeh’s acute creative vision. It’s a lot for anyone to bear. Rezazadeh says the feeling she gets after a great performance is “unlike anything I’ve ever felt,” but that’s not necessarily what she’s chasing. “I do see touring as a job, but that’s not how I feel when I’m making music,” Rezazadeh says.

“When I’m playing a show for 10,000 people, and everyone is clearly having a great time, that’s an amazing feeling. But there’s something about making music that gives me a different high.” For Rezazadeh, creating music is a deeply personal endeavor, one that’s strictly concerned with her own relationship to herself and the art she creates. “Nobody can take that feeling away from me. Making music is something I’d do for free, forever. I can’t say the same about touring.”

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Thankfully, Rezazadeh is making massive strides toward her dream of “becoming a full-time producer.” Her touring schedule has slowed down immensely, mostly because she’s reached financial security after years of relentless performing schedules, and learned her limits after the catastrophic internal struggle that plagued Rezazadeh during the 2022 Spiral Tour. She’s finally at a stage in her career that allows for a comfortable life away from the road — a luxury that few artists are able to cherish for more than mere weeks at a time. For this, she’s grateful; for discovering her passion for making music, she’s eternally endowed.

“My true passion is creating music. That’s what fuels me — it feels like the biggest life hack ever. It’s like, no matter what happens, I can always take music with me. As long as I have that, everything will be fine.”

As Rezazadeh shifts her energy away from touring and toward creating music, she’s excited to finally reach her full potential, which she insists has been stunted by her touring career. The It’s Not A Phase EP is just the start of a re-energized musical journey, and we can’t wait to read the next chapter.

Logan Sasser is a freelance music journalist living in Denver. Find him on Instagram.