“I was like, ‘I like your music.’ She was like, ‘I like your music.’ And I was like, ‘Hey. Let’s make some music together.'” Ryan Raddon a/k/a world-famous house music producer and DJ, Kaskade, talks excitedly about a collaboration that he did with the angelic-voiced Skylar Grey for his track “Room For Happiness” from Kaskade’s recent two-disc venture, Fire & Ice.
Born in Chicago, but a Los Angeles resident (“I love Los Angeles,” he exclaimed), Raddon found his footing in the San Francisco electronic dance world a few years before the EDM movement became a pervasive part of mainstream sound.
When many modern house DJs list their influences, Kaskade is a name at the top of that list. As one would expect, Raddon didn’t start by playing big clubs.
“I’ve had many shows in my living room…on my parent’s PA,” Raddon said laughing. “That definitely happened. And, I had quite a few shows that I did for free just at people’s house parties.”
Raddon, who has been working on his DJ’ing skills since he was a teenager, also completed a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Japan (where he learned fluent Japanese) at the age of 19.
“Really, the notion of having any place be my home is foreign to me. I’ve been on tour for ten years,” elaborated Raddon, emphasizing his jet-setter lifestyle and what seems like an inherent love for diversity.
This sense of adventure, Raddon’s desire for options and variance, might be what led him to create his conceptual new album, Fire & Ice. Besides Grey, Raddon collaborated with other dichotomous artists like Neon Trees and Skrillex and the album features two discs with different versions of the same song.
“Basically, the idea is have the same song–just two different mixes of it,” explained Raddon. “One’s more appropriate for my club mixes–what I do at night, my shows–and then the other one’s just a chill-out version, like what you’d put in your car maybe after the club. Or on your way to the club.”
Raddon said that he writes all his music and that he’s “kind of like a producer/artist.” This is different than when he first started and Raddon believes that “the power of the computer has changed the way people create music.”
“I think early on in my career, I kind of started out with sound design,” Raddon explained. “I started programming some beats and kind of get some ideas down, lay some chords down, and start there… I was so intrigued with EMPC tapping out beats, but as I got a little bit older and got tired of that style, I started thinking about the big moments in my life and writing about those experiences. That’s how I became a songwriter.”
Which is how Raddon came to work with so many different artists. In the example of Grey, Raddon heard her on the radio, connected her as a songwriter and artist, and had the opportunity to teach her about the beauty of dance music.
“I kind of exposed her to more of my music,” said Raddon. “And I was like, ‘Look. Dance music can be really cool too. It doesn’t have to be one particular style.'”
With the Coachella Sahara tent a/k/a the dance tent being one of the main festival attractions this year, the world of electronic dance is becoming as established as that of rock ‘n roll. Many DJs are now looked upon with the same prestige as rock stars; Raddon is one of those DJs.
Just like how he did with Grey, Raddon just enjoys “seeing new people discover new music” and sees the popularity of EDM as a “good thing.” For Raddon, this is his seventh album and he’s just appreciating the moment–whether he’s playing for five-thousand people or a hundred-thousand.
“I’m constantly having those moments where I’m like, ‘What is going on here?’ Playing EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival) at the Los Angeles Coliseum and standing in front of a hundred thousand people.”
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into it,” continued Raddon, talking on his tour visuals that follow him in semi-trucks. “But for me, it’s really about going to the show and kind of losing yourself…Hopefully, these songs mean something to you and I’ve penned some lyrics that actually resonate with you.”
“And that you show up to the show and you’re experiencing that with whatever, five-thousand other people. That you’re kind of taking that experience to another level,” concluded Raddon. “It’s about this big euphoric moment that everyone gets to experience together. You know, you go home a changed person.”
Excited for his “third times a charm” performance at this year’s Coachella (where he’s giving a sneak peek of his new tour, “Freaks Of Nature” before it starts it officially starts in May), Raddon himself had one of those moments at his his 2010 Coachella set when he dropped about two-thousand “huge three-feet” balloons for the “first time.”
“It was just one of those moments,” Raddon elucidated. “Any time I see a picture of that moment, in that tent, when the balloons were out, I think, ‘Ahh, that was a killer moment.'”
Considering Raddon thought his DJ career would just be a “real fun hobby” that he “did on the side,” his hobby is certainly “taking over his life.” Thankfully, he still considers it more of a hobby than a job.
“Like anybody else that’s got a job that they love–that’s just funny too to call this a job–I’m doing what I love so I make time for things that I love,” said Raddon passionately. “It’s a constant battle. I have to juggle things a lot. Sometimes there’s some crazy nights and many sleepless nights, but I make it work because I’m really doing what I love.”
“Yeah, it’s exhausting and exhilarating and exciting all at the same time,” explained the DJ.
Which seems like overly-optimistic words until Raddon challenged us to some powerful mental imagery.
“Anything I say to you is just going to sound trivial because there’s no way to describe that,” Raddon said modestly. “Just close your eyes for a moment and think of standing in front of a hundred thousand people singing along to a song that you wrote a year-and-a-half ago in a basement studio thinking that maybe you’d play it for a few people.”
“It’s amazing. It’s everything you think it is.”