23 Feb Kaskade: Building His Creative Legacy
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Kaskade: Building His Creative Legacy
By Danielle Ilag
*This interview is older and was in our Issue 66 magazine.
Ryan Raddon, better known as Kaskade, needs no introduction as you already know the heartfelt, timeless, and quintessential records he’s produced. Hailing from Chicago, which helped him shape everything, the California-based producer is one of the most influential DJs in the world.
He started his incursion in music by editing records and rearranging them, adding new drums, and cutting them up digitally. He’d put the intro on the outro and double up the mic. While he was in high school he started experimenting with DJing and would travel to the heart of Chicago every weekend to be exposed to proper, true house music.
Fast forward to life in quarantine from delivering a live-stream set from the Grand Canyons to learning how to fly a plane, Kaskade is all about new experiences and will continue to make and release music. Not only is he a producer, but he’s also a songwriter and artist.
Knowing his musical influence on people and the simple fact that audiophiles understand what he and his music is about is why he’s proud of his accomplishments thus far. His art is a reflection of who he is and he’s had such a positive influence on so many music listeners.
How did you come up with the pseudonym Kaskade? What does this name mean to you?
It’s a word that somehow through the mixture of syllables and consonants and hard sounds both feel good to hear and say. I’m not sure if that’s true for everyone but it’s true for me.
How would you describe your sound without using any genres?
Truthfully, I just wouldn’t. Describing sound is like describing taste or color. If someone wanted to understand it, I’d just ask them to press play instead.
What are your top 10 favorite songs to drop in a set?
As we all know a few personalities are living in my discography. Luckily they all get along on some level but some get tucked away for super rare occasions. This doesn’t mean they’re not favorites but just means you can only hear their voices in the right mood and time.
With that in mind, I’ll talk about festival sets. This list could easily change in the next 30 seconds so don’t take it to the bank. It also isn’t in any sort of meaningful order. Most of them are mashups I’ve created from my own library with other artists. (Without their permission so don’t @ me).
- Kaskade + Chemical Surf: “Pow Pow Pow”
- Kaskade + Mr. Tape: “Hand Hip”
- Kaskade X EDX: “Angel On My Shoulder Roadkill”
- Kaskade vs. Zonderling + Don Diablo: “Turn It Down Tunnel Vision”
- Lana Del Rey: “Young and Beautiful” (Kaskade Remix)
- Kaskade + ZZTTN vs. Moguai: “Something Something Champs”
- Sad Money + Kaskade (ft Sabrina Claudio: “Come Away”
- Kaskade vs. Nora En Pure: “Cold As Sphinx”
- Deadmau5 + Kaskade: “I Remember”
- Kaskade, CID x Axwell/Ingrosso: “US Dancing Alone”
What is it about collaborations that make them so important to you as an artist?
We all live in our own heads 24/7 and sometimes things start sounding and feeling one-dimensional. What’s cool is when your good ideas coalesce with someone else’s good ideas to make something great.
Tell me about your label Arkade. What genres of new talent does your label include to promote one-of-a-kind music?
When I started Arkade I had one type of music in mind: good music. So that can mean a lot of different things, but as I said earlier, describing sounds and genres is sort of meaningless. I’ll put anything out on Arkade that speaks to me.
What was your biggest struggle, to get to where you are today? How did you overcome this?
The struggle is just not knowing what the future holds. My journey is exactly the same as anyone else’s who has ever wondered if everything is going to work out. It comes down to believing that what you love doing is going to love you back, and then just going forward with no “Plan B” because you’re hellbent on making it work.
You have five tracks to show someone who Kaskade is as an artist. What tracks do you pick?
Wow well, that’s a truly terrifying question. You know I’ve been at this for a few decades, right?
I guess the smartest thing would be to show them my main journey, leaving Redux as a separate thing. So:
- “It’s You, It’s Me”
- “4 AM”
- “Move for Me”
- “We Don’t Stop”
Do you remember your first show ever? Describe what that experience was like for you.
LOL not really. I have to be honest it’s a little blurry just because those early days were chaotic. We were hustling people to get access to warehouses and setting up and tearing down before they figured out what we were up to.
It started small, I know that. 50 people in front of me but I judge how well I’m doing now based on the bar set back then. If their faces are smiling that same way, I’m set.
My all-time favorite album of yours is Dynasty. What was your inspiration for this album?
Well, thank you for that! Dynasty was made around 2009/2010 right when this wave of music was starting to swell all around us. I knew from the jump that we’d take over the world but this moment was when everyone else was starting to realize it. I wanted to create something that could reflect where we’d been and also predict where we were about to go.
For Monstercat, the pandemic has really accelerated the need to be involved in gaming. As games are created as a pillar for music discovery, how has this platform given you innovation and creativity for the tracks you’ve created for Rocket League?
It was a new challenge to create music that would be appropriate for playing once live shows get back full throttle, as well as for players in-game to enjoy. I think it ended up being a twist on what I’ve been doing in the past.
What can fans expect from your sets as they’re looking forward to seeing you play live this year?
That Grand Canyon set was such a vibe for me. It was special. Yes, I’ll be hosting sets at more locations and in fact already have…people just don’t know about them, yet. As far as live sets moving forward, (as always) the fans should expect to have their lives significantly changed for the better.
You did a Zoom listening party with a few hundred fans and talked about Arkade Destinations Living Room. Through this listening party, what did you learn from your fans and their feelings when they heard your art?
With Destinations, I knew there wasn’t going to be “hits” on there as it is a concept album. It lives as a whole, though of course you can pull pieces out and they’re fine on their own. The bulk of my fans that show up for these types of albums understand that there isn’t going to be a drop.
The drop is the whole album after it’s over. The feeling of it as a complete whole. There are always a few that are like, “uh Kaskade are you ok?” because they don’t know what to expect, but the rest of them are too busy chilling laying back with headphones on vibing to say anything.
You have a chapter giving advice in Tim Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans. What are some guiding principles that you follow in your life that you touch on in this book?
I’ve always lived by a hard work ethic. I think anything can come down to this: did you work hard enough to make it good enough?
How would you suggest a person interested in creating music who has no musical experience start?
Well, they’re going to have to get some musical experience. Listen. Listen more. Listen to something different. What do the songs you are pulled to have in common? Are you a lyricist, musician, or both? Before trying to create anything, always begin by trying to understand what you love and why. Then actually begin.
If you could work with any electronic music producer from the past or present right now who would it be and why?
If we are talking about any point in the past, I’d go work as an intern for Kraftwerk while they were making “Autobahn.” I wouldn’t want to actually work “with” them on it but just witness how it all came together. It’d be like witnessing the Big Bang, but for electronic music.
What are some hobbies you’ve picked up during quarantine?
Same as everyone else: Banana Bread, hating myself but practicing self-love, and trying to be the first person to exit every zoom call.
As we live in a world where so many people are demanding justice, in what ways can others be better and do more?
I’ve realized recently that the less advice I give on this and the more I listen, the better off everyone is. So I can’t tell anyone what to do or how to do it, but I guess, to begin with listening to the people around you, particularly the ones growing up right now, and figuring out what their take is on it and why.
After an exhausting year, what are some of your personal wins?
My set at the Grand Canyon was a career-high. I’ve worked hard to create ways to connect with my audience in new ways and some of them have pushed me to do things I wouldn’t ordinarily have time for. That has definitely been a win.
What kind of legacy would you like to leave as an artist?
If anyone of any age can find a song from my catalog that gets them through something, helps them celebrate something, or inspires them to get better, that’s the legacy I’m going for. I’m here and have always been here to create art that means something to someone.