Kaskade takes dance-music stardom in stride
Staying ahead of the culture curve has helped Kaskade, one of the country’s top draws as a touring DJ, become one of the marquee attractions in electronic dance music.
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Staying ahead of the culture curve and remaining true to his underground musical upbringing has helped Ryan Raddon — better known as Kaskade, one of the country’s top draws as a touring DJ — become one of the marquee attractions in electronic dance music.
As some EDM DJs have become the “rock stars” of this generation, Kaskade says he’s a dance-music lifer, comfortable with the genre’s leap to stadium-size audiences.
“Over the last four to five years it’s experienced a big boom. It’s changed and become more pop-music accessible. People can better understand it,” he said. “The diehards were angry that it became more popular, but I welcome it. I encourage more creativity. I want it to be more open.”
Aside from his musical artistry, Kaskade has drawn praise for being a drug- and alcohol-free DJ. The New York Times recently crowned the Chicago native “the new face of electronic dance music,” a well-earned yet odd distinction if you consider that he’s been a popular fixture since 2003.
Kaskade headlines day one of the Electric Palms Music Festival tonight, along with Seven Lions and Pat Lok. Saturday’s festival lineup features trap producer RL Grime, Getter and Tokimonsta as the night’s main attractions.
ELECTRIC PALMS MUSIC FEST
>> Where: Pow! Wow! Harbor (Kewalo Basin Harbor)
>> When: 5-11 p.m. today and Saturday
>> Cost: $65-$125; 2-day tickets $110-$230. Ages 18+
>> Info: 323-908-0607, bampproject.com, seetickets.us
The DJ has presided over parties in Honolulu on several occasions.
“I remember playing a set at a local radio station. We played records, this was when vinyl was still crackin’. I also remember playing at the W in Waikiki and a few underground parties in Chinatown,” he said — then praised the memory of a North Shore appearance.
“I feel like if it’s Hawaii, we should be outside, you know? In the weather and in the beauty.”
His tastes in music as a youth were varied. Topping the list were house-music legend Frankie Knuckles, a pivotal figure in developing the Chicago school of dance music in the ’80s, Chicago DJ team The Hot Mix 5, U.K. synth-pop group Art of Noise, and Depeche Mode.
Far from an overnight success, Kaskade started DJing in 1995, in an era when cross-pollinating and blending sounds of different genres wasn’t the norm.
“Now as a producer, I can make any sound that I want to make. It’s all less specific,” he said.
“The underground has moved very quickly. It’s fast; no one can ever keep up. Whenever you thought one sound was very popular, the next week that sound would be unpopular. It was cool … then went out of style.”
The DJ, who now resides in Los Angeles, holds many distinctions that show his enduring global appeal. He was the first American DJ to secure a residency in Las Vegas, and became the first dance-music act to sell out both the Staples Center in L.A. and Barclays Center in New York City.
He’s become a global figure, making the Forbes top-10 list of highest-earning DJs every year since 2012, and ranks eighth this year.
In any given week, you’ll likely find Kaskade behind the decks in some part of the world. He plays close to 150 shows a year.
At 46, he remains committed to the art form. For those who may consider EDM artists purely a millennial movement, consider that elite DJs such as Tiesto, David Guetta and Armin van Buuren are all in their 40s, while mainstays like Steve Aoki and Diplo are in their late 30s.
“It’s an exciting time. Dance music is in an interesting place,” Kaskade said. “For me, any young guys that I can help out, I will. It’s about getting good music out and continuing to push the scene forward.”
He’s put out plenty of notable music, from spiritual gems like 2006 track “4 a.m.” and album “Love Mysterious” to his first No. 1 dance-music hit “Move for Me” (featuring Deadmau5) in 2008. Recent highlights include the rousing “We Don’t Stop” and romantic swooner “Disarm You” featuring singer Ilsey from 2015 album “Automatic,” and his latest remix of “Flame” by Tinashe, released this spring.
Lyrics and melody have always been the core aspects of music he mixes, Kaskade said. He has used this formula as the creative backbone to 14 Top 10 hits, nine studio albums and countless remixes.
Married and a father of three, he says he’s learned to balance the demands of fatherhood and life in the spotlight.
“Ultimately my wife and kids are the most important thing to me,” he said.
“My oldest is 13 and she’s starting to get a handle on things like, ‘Whoa, that’s a big deal what my daddy does,’” he said, chuckling. “She hit me up this year when the Coachella lineup was announced; she was like, ‘Dad can you get me tickets?’”