Kaskade Masters Time, Space and Big-Room Electronica
On New Year's Eve, San Clemente electronic musician and DJ Kaskade has to be on two stages on the same day—at the Anaheim Convention Center for Insomniac Events' White Wonderland, and then hours later at the Marquee in Las Vegas, where he's a resident DJ alongside giants such as Benny Benassi and Fatboy Slim. Of course, he has a plan. And yes, it involves a helicopter. And a motorbike. And—if things get tight—a humble little bicycle.
"I'm having a meeting today with Vegas security to make sure I can get from the airport to the hotel in time," he says now. "At first, I was like, 'I can just run! It's not that far!' I'll have the car standing by because the helicopter is easy to nix, and the motorbike will follow the car, and I'll have the bike in the trunk of the car. I'm ready!"
For Kaskade—born Ryan Raddon—such James Bond-style logistics are nothing new. In 2007, he set a personal record of three cities in one night, chartering a private jet to make sure LA, San Francisco and Vegas each got a fair share of New Year's revelry. He later reached out to promoters in Asia, wondering if he could somehow work in a strategic shot across the international dateline to go for an untouchable four-city New Year's run. And just this summer, an impromptu performance on a flatbed truck in Hollywood—to celebrate the premiere of a documentary on the legendary Electric Daisy Carnival festivals—drew so many people the LAPD had to make a special guest appearance. One of his fans told The New York Times last month that Kaskade was "actually God," and although that's . . . a tough compliment to live up to, he's certainly a guy who puts supernatural effort into everything he does.
Such as his new album, Fire and Ice—which is actually two complete albums at once, with the uptempo hot songs and the chilled-out slow-mo remixes the title would suggest spread across two CDs, and which atomized four or five deadlines for his label Ultra before he was even halfway done. With 200 or even 300 live sets per year, it's hard to find time for anything, says Kaskade—much less a full album with its own complete set of remixes. But the fire-and-ice concept was something he had been waiting to do since he finished his 2004 album, In the Moment. Even now, he says, it's the more nuanced downtempo songs that fascinate him the most. But he can't always fit them into a set of the big-room pop-electronica movers he saves for the 2 a.m. sweet spot. His bold decision? Do both at once. The result? An ambitious and finely machined album that almost didn't make it.
"I almost killed myself getting Fire and Ice out," he says. "I was halfway there, and I was like, 'I know this can work! I'm so close!' I've always felt a lot of freedom in what I'm doing, but even more so now. I'm further along in my career, and dance music is pop music now, and people are loving it . . . so I might as well indulge this idea I have."
He's a selfish guy when it comes to music, he says, but what he means by selfish is more what you'd call "driven," with a dose of "particular." As a kid in Salt Lake City, he produced, financed and sold his first 12-inch all by himself, part of an early dance-music scene he calls "punk rock's bastard child." ("They'd record a band on a four-track in their garage; we were in the basement making beats with laptops and samplers. They'd press 7-inches; we'd press 12-inches!") And what that particular sense of direction delivers on Fire and Ice are the two sides of Kaskade at full power—the pop savant who lives for a beautiful melody, the production geek who tests out every moving part in a song. Try twisty-turny track "Turn It Down" (with breathy twin vocals from Sweden's Rebecca and Fiona), which dissolves into a glitchy, spaced-out downer with an unexpected dubstep drop-out in the middle. As with the helicopter, the motorbike and the bicycle, it's three different things that get him where he needs to go.
This article appeared in print as "Burning Up: Kaskade may not be a deity, but he's definitely a master of time, space—and big-room electronica."
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