Though I don’t personally listen to him, I know the name Kaskade. Like so many other great innovators in other forms of art, you know the name regardless of whether you’ve examined their works, and therein lies the magnificence of his brand. Since the release of his first album It’s You, It’s Me in 2003, Kaskade has risen to prominence in the dance music scene with stellar releases, collaborations, and a humble personality.
In the days before Coachella’s first weekend this year, LA Times caught up with Ryan Raddon at a hangar in Pacoima to talk about his legacy and how to stay relevant as electronic music’s demographic continues to skew younger and younger.
“I was here for the first ’90s boom,” he said, referencing electronic acts like the Prodigy and Moby that first broke in the U.S. in the late Clinton era. In the last decade, “a lot of young kids have seen this onslaught onto the scene. But they’re looking at it all wrong … They think it’s a sprint, but this is a marathon.”
Kaskade was part of the first wave of electronic artists to grace Coachella, making his debut in 2006. But Coachella is no stranger to dance music, having championed it since its 1999 inception, with acts like Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Moby. In an industry that now boasts a worth of over $6 billion, there’s a lot of pressure to remain relevant in a climate where bedroom producers and collectives are beginning to gain major steam.
Kaskade has recently left his longtime label Ultra to join Warner Bros., a certainly more pop-focused endeavor. Though, Ryan is using it primarily as a way to broaden his reach – he doesn’t believe in compromising his values for monetary gain.
“He is open to pushing boundaries and pursuing that kind of crossover success, but he’ll never pander or do something that isn’t true to his musical identity,” said Jeff Fenster, executive vice president of A&R at Warner Bros. “He’s not going to turn around and make something just to get on the radio. His audience expects integrity, and we support him not thinking just about the short term.”
The stage for Kaskade’s set at the Main Stage this year will likely be one for the record books. The LA Times’ description of the monumental stage, dwarfing a couple sound engineers sitting at a coffee table, is mind boggling, and instills a deep degree of #FOMO on my part.
LA Times mentions that festivals like the recent CRSSD in San Diego demonstrate a shifting trend toward the “edgier, darker dance sounds,” but I don’t really agree. There are a large host of acts with a brighter, poppier sound that are selling out venues and drawing crowds at festivals, like Cash Cash and Tritonal. Steve Aoki and his antics continue to draw crowds, even though his sound is anything but “edgy.”
Kaskade will likely continue to dominate the dance music scene until he chooses to stop. His continued support of various charities and humanitarian endeavors solidify his as one of the champions of current dance music, and that will likely not be sullied by an influx of new producers. His position atop the precipice of electronic music is secure.
This year at Coachella will only serve to reinforce that ideal.