The New York Times may have called him the “new face of electronic dance music” in a 2011 profile, but Ryan Raddon, known as Kaskade, has been in the trenches of the EDM scene as an original recording artist and in-demand DJ for more than a decade.
The GRAMMY-nominated artist, who is gearing up to release his eighth studio album, Atmosphere on September 10th, has scored twelve Top 10 hits on Billboard’s Hot Dance Airplay Chart; created chart-topping remixes for everyone from Lady Gaga to Beyoncé; appeared at all the major summer festivals, including Lollapolooza and Coachella; and performed nearly 200 headlining shows a year for the last 10 years. In the process he’s become known as an EDM innovator opening the doors for the likes of Deadmau5, Tiesto, Skrillex and more, and laying the groundwork for a titanic musical and cultural shift: a post-rock electronic music revolution that has captured the imagination of a new generation of fans across North America.
With a catalog of original songs that celebrate love, friendship, and the music itself, Kaskade is also one of the most beloved dance artists in the world, inviting fans into his daily life via Twitter, constantly sharing new music via Soundcloud, and crafting live shows with the fan experience in mind. He was the fan-voted winner of the 2011 “America’s Best DJ” title, presented by Pioneer Pro DJ and DJ Times. The former skateboarder has been known to show up at gigs in flip-flops, but that no way indicates how seriously he takes his music: “The first thing I think about when I make music is the melody and the lyrics,” he says. “Production styles come and go, but good songs can stand the test of time.” His 2011 double-album Fire & Ice debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart, and earned him his first GRAMMY nomination.
While he cut his teeth in nightclubs, today Kaskade’s live show is arena-sized; a jaw-dropping spectacle that finds him performing in front of massive LED screens broadcasting evocative images synced with the music in meaning and tone, while strobelights scan the crowd. “I’m trying to create an environment where you can lose yourself in these really big, grand, euphoric moments,” he says. “And to do that, there has to be a certain intensity. We’re barraged with so much information in modern-day culture. I want people to forget their worries and cares and be able to come together and celebrate life by hearing these songs that they love, with words that have touched them in a certain way. That’s what I’m trying to do at each and every show.”
Kaskade’s belief in the power of dance music to uplift thousands at once has had a significant effect on the U.S. scene. His groundbreaking double residency in Las Vegas at the Encore Beach Club (which had not even been built when he signed on) and Marquee elevated the city’s status as a premiere club-going destination on par with London, Berlin, and Ibiza. His ability to attract thousands of people to mid-week shows in the middle of the country, as well as on the coasts, is another testament to his popularity. Last year, he became the first DJ to ever perform at Los Angeles’ iconic Staples Center, which he also sold out
After conquering Las Vegas, arenas, a demanding 55-date solo tour (2012’s Freaks of Nature), and even going back to the nightclub culture that birthed him on the very special Redux Tour (on which he revisited the 200-capacity rooms he had played as a developing DJ), Kaskade is back with his eighth and most personal album yet, ATMOSPHERE. Resisting the trend of enlisting pop stars for one-off in-studio features — straining for potential radio hits — the DJ and producer instead turned to friends, previous artistic partners and like-minded creators in his inner-circle to help bring the record to life. And, yet, while the album very much tracks his career, he continues to make career firsts.
For instance, the DJ and producer adds singing to his repertoire, as he sings for the first time on the title cut, a musical autobiography that tracks his career to this point: “All my life I’ve been a star / Holding a light up in the dark / While I tried to keep clear / Of all the waves in your atmosphere.”
“ATMOSPHERE is very much a reflection on what I’ve already done,” he says. “I didn’t feel the need to reach outward. This is just me quietly making the record I wanted to make. Or maybe not so quietly.”
“The song, itself, is very personal,” he says. “It’s about being true and honest about who you are and having that work out, and not feeling the effects of the things around you. For me, that’s the story of my music career. But it might mean something different to someone else.” Kaskade invited fans to participate in the video shoot. From their effusive singing-alongs, in a makeshift photo booth, it’s clear they found their own bits of truth in the self-affirming song.
Indeed, the 13-track collection has its grand festival moments like emotive opener “Last Chance,” or anthemic party celebration “Feelin The Night.” But it also has unexpected, vulnerable passages that showcase Kaskade as an artist in an entirely new way.
The minimalist “Floating,” featuring one of Kaskade’s favorite vocalists Haley, uses only voice and pads to paint its picture. “I just thought about being in water, looking up at the stars,” says Kaskade. “That’s what I wanted to convey.” The longing love song “Something Something” (with two-piece band Zip Zip Through The Night) swells its heart to full with strings, ambling drums and vocals in perfect harmony.
A series of instrumentals capture the solitude of airline travel, as well as the vibe of the places Kaskade was traveling between: “SFO to ORD,” for example, is an uncanny intersection of San Francisco and Chicago’s house music heritages, both of which are important to Kaskade’s evolution (he was once a resident of both cities).
Brave, true, and arrestingly beautiful, ATMOSPHERE is Kaskade’s most vivid self-portrait to date; a manifestation of the places, people, sounds, and ideas that have shaped him to this point, and point to a future inevitably filled with more special moments, from the intimate to the epic.