Angel on His Shoulder

Kaskade puts his spin on electronic dance music at Encore Beach Club and Marquee

You’d have to have been living a life under a rock (and a pulseless, beatless life, at that) if you’ve never heard of Kaskade. There’s not a month that goes by that the DJ/producer (a.k.a. Ryan Raddon) isn’t mesmerizing crowds with his beautiful sounds, now regularly in Vegas at Encore Beach Club and also Marquee. Polishing his seventh studio album, due this fall, and headlining the touring Identity Festival (kicking off in August), Kaskade always makes time for Sin City.

Last summer your weekly residency “Kaskade Sundays” got Encore Beach Club off to a very successful start. Weren’t you also a part of its development?

I was here from the get-go. I came six or eight months before the initial opening and saw the plans and was in the talks—like, where we put the DJ booth, making it more of a focal point. They were like, “We have this crazy idea. It’s gonna be different from pool parties that are going on now.”

I know Mr. Wynn. When he gets an idea, he likes to take it all the way. I was like, “Man, he’s gonna do this right, and I really wanna be a part of it.” They were like, “Your music fits really well with what we’re doing. It’s a bit more blown up; it’s nice stuff to hear by the pool; it’s a great match.” I was like, “I completely agree. Make me as much a part of this as possible.”

That’s the cool thing about your music: It can also help lead someone who’s not in the scene into electronic music.

Yeah, I hear that from time to time. I think there are a lot of artists out there like me in [electronic dance music] that are doing stuff that’s musical. You don’t have to be like, “Oh, I don’t like techno, it all sounds the same.” It’s matured a lot. And now it’s people who have nothing to do with this music are starting to find it. Lady Gaga and Madonna are doing more dance-oriented stuff, and of course David Guetta. It’s becoming that much easier to find. And it’s more musical and more listenable than it was maybe 10 years ago. The artistry behind it had time to mature and develop, and it’s at a point right now where it’s willing to kind of break wide open. It’s ready.

It is perfect pool music. The majority of the vocalists you use aren’t big stars. Do you prefer working with lesser-known singers?

Yeah, I’m particular about the voices that I have on my record. I do a lot of songwriting myself, and a lot of more-known people aren’t cool to sing on something that they haven’t written or that they’re not a part of. I’ve just gone after people that I find interesting.

Do you sing as well? In the music video for your song “4 am” it shows you singing backup.

I do. I grew up singing in church and high school. It’s kind of odd because I’ve never sang on any of my own records besides a few little background vocals to support the main vocal, but I’ve never had the lead on anything. I keep toying with the idea but then I always have someone else sing it. It’s so easy to be critical of yourself.

Speaking of church choir, you’re a practicing Mormon. Is it tricky being an active member and a prominent DJ?

For the most part, not really. Sure I get in some precarious situations sometimes. I’m known for my music and shows. I think the electronic music scene in general used to be a lot about partying and a lot of negative press has been shown on that. But really, I make music; people come to hear me play it.

I once had a guy say to me, “You’re like a vegetarian working at McDonald’s,” and I’m like, “No, not really.” It’s not much of a conflict. I definitely look at some things a little bit differently. There’s some shows I’m not as inclined to play because it’s not about the music, it’s more about the party itself. Anything that’s ready to highlight the music, I’m behind.

With all of the traveling involved in your work, do you still attend church?

If I play anywhere west of Chicago, it’s easy for me to make it back for church. I get on the first flight and can make it to church, without any sleep I might add.

Do you feel like anyone in the church perceives you being a DJ negatively?

No, not really. I’ve never come across that. I’m sure it might be out there. No one’s said anything to my face like, “Whoa, dude, you’re crazy!” People just know me for me. It’s not like at church they’re like, “Hey, Brother Kaskade.” I’m sure most people don’t know what I do for a living, not that that would change their opinion of me.

The religion in particular is known to breed driven and goal-oriented members. Do you think it’s helped you with your success?

It’s really all that I know, so it’s hard to compare. I’m sure it’s helped me be a successful person, having a conviction and believing in something. I think that’s good for anyone, religious or not. Be a good person. That’s gonna help you. I believe in that kind of stuff, obviously, so I’m sure it’s helped me pursue my dreams.

On your Facebook the other day you said, “I think rap music has made more money on dance music than dance music has made on dance music.” That’s deep.

It was just a thought, “What do you guys think?” type of thing. It just seems like right now there’s so much R&B and hip-hop influence in dance music. And it’s interesting because two or three years ago there wasn’t really any. I think it’s exciting but it also brings to mind, why as a genre have we not been able to make it on our own? Are people just not interested in dance music? I don’t feel like we need to really stand on anybody else’s shoulders to get the shine that we deserve. There are enough great artists within our world that deserve popular recognition. Not that I’m against it. I think a lot of people took offense against that statement, but no, I was just like, “What do you guys think? Has rap music made more money off of dance music?” Because dance music is such an independent thing. There are only a handful of guys that have tons of marketing money pumped in ’em. You can count them on one hand: Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, David Guetta. There are only a few dudes on major labels. The rest of us are just on indie labels. But good thing for social networking, you know. I can reach out to the fans directly, to the people who like music.

Do you think that it’s because Americans aren’t as accepting of it?

I think in Europe dance music was really big 10-15 years ago, now it’s just not the case anymore. It’s a part of their culture, but I think there’s a reason why there are so many European DJs here week in and week out, especially in Vegas. It’s because the water’s warm now. Everyone wants to come over and hang out. Our moment is now. People in America are just discovering it. For whatever reason we were just a little slower to embrace it than they were. Not that that’s a bad thing. I think the time’s right, I think the time’s great. I’m just glad they found it at all.

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