A few years ago, Kaskade made history when he became the first EDM artist to land a Las Vegas residency, and then to headline — and sell out — Staples Center. Now the 45-year-old DJ (a.k.a. Ryan Raddon) will add another first to his list when on Saturday he becomes the only musician to play a full concert at the Los Angeles Convention Center (yes, that monster DTLA venue synonymous with car shows).
Since the Convention Center's 20,000 tickets sold out in under five minutes, he's scheduled more performances in L.A. over the next few days: a show at the Hollywood Palladium on Friday and DJing an after party at Exchange LA on Saturday. Speaking with us from the Kaskade pop-up shop in West Hollywood, the producer talked about his weekend takeover of L.A., his frequent-flier status and the omnipresence of EDM.
You're based in L.A. but you don't play here as often as you used to. Why not?
The way electronic music is now, I tour like Coldplay, U2 or anybody else. I play 150 to 200 shows a year. It's a big world out there. I go down to South America, and they're like, "You only play here once a year!" And I'm like, "Dude, I only play L.A. once a year and that's where I live." My mail goes to L.A.
Could you have ever imagined when you started in clubs two decades ago that EDM would become this huge stadium genre?
Not at all. I always saw it and heard it as club music. I thought it could appeal to more people, that good songs would connect, but I never assumed it would happen on this level. But to be playing these huge festivals and amphitheaters — it's crazy.
Being from L.A., I always think of the Convention Center as a place where my dad took me to boat shows. Curious to see how you fit into that setting.
We didn't factor that curiosity thing, but I'm hearing that a lot. We knew we would do well since I sold out Staples Center and that was my last big show here, but that sentiment like, "Wow, I really want to see him in that setting!," that I didn't anticipate. It's part of this Kaskade, L.A.-takeover idea.
So why the L.A. blitz?
It started out as a single idea, to play the Convention Center. They've never had a concert or event like this there, so that was a cool idea. Then when it sold out so quickly it kind of tornadoed into more stuff. We added the Exchange LA thing and the Palladium show.
And the Palladium show Friday is a more stripped-down affair than the Convention Center, right?
It's more relaxed, its for my B sides and stuff from my catalogue that's not quite as popular. But Saturday, it's like the full assault. One's like an acoustic version of electronic music, to use a rock 'n' roll analogy.
Why take your music down back to its roots at this point?
These huge concerts have become something entirely different than how I grew up playing clubs. Those [early] shows were very fluid — if I wanted to play two hours, great, if I wanted to play six, great. The Palladium show is kind of a throwback to that idea, where it's more loose and not about the production. As electronic music became huge, it's become so much more about the production and less about the music. I have to have these moments where I can take it back to what it used to be for a lot of people.
And why the pop-up shop?
It's a retail space with L.A.-specific Kaskade merchandise. Local DJs will also be playing. I've got no shortage of friends who are making music to play. It comes along with anything I do. My kids have a swim meet and I have a team of DJs that follow me in.
Do you still have a Vegas residency?
Yeah, I'm just about to start the summer. It'll be something like 15 to 20 shows. It's a lot. Vegas is the perfect city to host my shows.
Right, because it's now all about dance shows — it's EDM city.
It's crazy. You land there and the first 10 billboards you see out of the airport are like Kaskade, Calvin Harris, David Guetta. It's like, what? Where am I? Seems like yesterday it was Siegfried & Roy, now it's electronic music. One more thing that factors into that "I can't have ever imagined this would happen" category.
You are Mormon, so a lot is made of that straight-edged guy in a hedonistic scene juxtaposition. Does that make you crazy?
Yes! I've had people straight-up tell me in the beginning of my career, you will never see success in this [EDM] world. Never. Over lunch one guy tried to convince me I should never make dance music because I didn't do drugs, and didn't get high in the studio, whacked out of my head at shows, so I couldn't create something people would understand in this world. OK, I take offense to that idea, and I also think you're completely wrong.
And that still happens?
I hear it all day long. I don't know how to respond to it, but I'm doing my thing and it seems to be working out. Obviously there's a way to create art and still have faith.
It's ridiculous — as if there's only one to approach anything as an artist.
I mean, art is adversity. You're writing about emotion, trying to capture it. The fact that I'm considered [different], that only gives me more to write about. When this guy is challenging me, he's giving me material for a song.
You tour nonstop. How many hours do you think you've spent on a plane this year alone?
Impossible to guess. I do know I've achieved something business travelers like to talk about — the Trifecta. I have the highest possible status on United, American and Delta. I can't go any higher. When I pull up at LAX, these guys come out and blow little trumpets and roll out a red carpet. "He's back!"
Are you ever planning on taking a break?
I take breaks. I'm just laughing I said that because my wife is sitting like 20 feet away and if she heard me say that she'd throw her phone at my head. I love what I do, so it's hard to turn everything off and do something else, but yes, we have planned something this summer where I'll be completely unplugged.
Will you find a way to fit a few cars or boats in the Convention Center as a sort of salute to the venue's usual fare?
I'm going to tell you something I haven't told anyone. We've rolled a truck in there and turned it into a [merchandise] store. It's like a U-Haul that's wrapped with my face and logo on it. We cut out a window on the side so it looks kind of like a food truck. You'll feel right at home. Go stand by the truck. It's almost like a boat.