by Kristie Bertucci // Photography by Finn Bjarnson
It’s been one hell of a year for Kaskade. Since the ball dropped, the world-renowned musician was voted DJ Times’ “America’s Best DJ of 2011,” caused a near riot on Hollywood Blvd. after more than 5,000 fans showed up to hear him play a mini-set and finally released his highly anticipated double-disc album, Fire & Ice. As one of the biggest and well-known international electronic DJs of our time, Kaskade (born Ryan Raddon) is modest about his accomplishments and still can’t believe he’s fortunate enough to have his passion for music be his career.
“It’s nice to know that people are feeling what I am doing and that it is connecting,” the 40-year-old DJ/producer explains. “It was not that long ago that I wondered if anyone was listening at all.”
Music was always a hobby for Kaskade, but never really a career goal. Growing up in Chicago, IL, he became interested in electronic music early in his life due in part to the burgeoning house music movement emerging in the city. With the chance to witness its birth, Kaskade became heavily involved in the scene, attending teen clubs and collecting records. While in college, music was still just a hobby for Kaskade, who would supplement income with side gigs. It was only after landing a residency at a nightclub that he realized the potential to turn it into a livelihood.
“I never took [it] very seriously just because it was such a small movement,” he says. “Maybe it’s my conservative Midwest upbringing, but I didn’t think I could make a living from my passion so just did it on the side with my small bedroom studio and was picking up gigs on the weekend or wherever I could. That one club gig allowed me to buy more professional studio gear and really enticed me to see how far I can take this and not have to get a real job.”
From a side-gig DJ to one of the heaviest hitters in the scene, Kaskade has racked up loads of accolades, top-notch collaborations and out-of-this world performances. For his eighth studio album, Kaskade has created the “biggest and boldest” record he’s ever done, spending the last 12 months in his Santa Monica-based studio to compile the effort. As a double-disc release, Fire & Ice goes beyond what one thinks the traditional electronic album should be and showcases the genre in a different light.
“This one has two different sides of my style and sound; the ‘Fire’ side being more dance-oriented, then the more chill ‘Ice’ version sounding more laidback and lounge-based. It took a lot of work to complete, because normally, I’d usually only have to do half the amount of songs for an album, but it was all worth it.”
Kaskade explains he wanted the new album to have music that could be played in a club, as well as tunes you could relax to at home. He also remixed all of his own tracks for the “Ice” version, instead of having fellow DJs take a crack at them. But it’s the collaborations that provide extra weight, with features ranging from Skrillex and Dan Black to Skylar Grey and Neon Trees.
“The first thing I think about when I make music is the melody and lyrics,” he reveals. “Production styles come and go, but good songs can really stand the test of time. The concept with this new album allowed me to present my music to people in a new way and show that my music and sounds can work at many different tempos and styles and not always have to fit into a club setting.”