He’s kind of like the Brandon Flowers of DJs, huh? SF Weekly:
After growing up in Chicago and passing through New York and Salt Lake City, Ryan Raddon—better known to his thousands of fans as Kaskade—came to San Francisco. It was here, among the city’s flourishing early-2000s house scene, that Raddon came into his own as a DJ/producer of electronic dance music.
Now, Kaskade, like many of his peers, is huge. He’s been named America’s Best DJ. He’s been featured in Rolling Stone. The L.A. stop of his Freaks of Nature tour at the Staples Center this Friday night (July 27) is sold out, as is his show the following night, July 28, at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. We recently spoke to the former S.F. resident about what it’s like to come back to the city, his thoughts on why dance music had to evolve to become popular in the U.S., stereotypes about drugs in the dance scene, and what he’s really doing onstage during a live show.
There’s been a discussion lately about what dance DJs and producers are doing onstage when they’re actually performing. What are you actually doing up there, and what do you think is reasonable to expect of an artist given the technology that exists today?
This is such a hot topic right now because there’s so much growth and so much tension on this, and it’s a lot easier to wonder what’s going on when there’s one dude onstage instead of a band onstage. I think the dialogue started because Deadmau5 really was trying to make a point in his Rolling Stone article, and I don’t think it came across right. But for me… look: I’m seven albums into my career. So I have my hand on a lot of music that people associate with me—these are words and melodies that I’ve written, in many cases. People have the lyrics tattooed on their body; that’s something that I thought of at four in the morning in a studio somewhere in San Francisco, you know? So everything came from me.
At my concerts, what I’m doing is I’m blending premade songs to weave and create like this fabric or environment. But these are all songs that I’ve all written and produced. This is my music, here it is, much like a rock band would go on tour and play their songs, except my instrument is a laptop and two CDJ1000s. So it’s creating and weaving these prerecorded tracks to create something that’s a longer, bigger piece of music.
There’s still a lot of educating going on, because look—people call me a DJ, and you also hire a DJ for your daughter’s 16th birthday. I’m always like man, we need a different word. I mean I respect and love the word DJ, it doesn’t bother me because I grew up loving and knowing what DJs did and respecting the art, but I think nowadays it’s so much different. I’m more of an artist and a songwriter than I am a DJ. That word seems a little bit—well, it doesn’t really describe what I do.