It's been a big summer for Ryan Raddon, the DJ/producer otherwise known as Kaskade. In addition to preparing an as-yet-untitled double-disc set to be released in October, he's serving as the ringmaster on the Identity Festival, a traveling electronic music tour that hits Jiffy Lube Live on Thursday.
Kaskade has been EDM-famous for years, issuing a series of well-regarded discs and remixes and just generally living the life of a high-profile DJ with the expected Las Vegas residencies and Ibiza gigs.
But Raddon broke into mainstream consciousness in a way he didn't intend late last month, when he issued a tweet ("ME+BIG SPEAKERS+MUSIC=BLOCK PARTY!!!") inviting fans to a rolling block party he was DJ'ing outside the Hollywood premiere of "Electric Daisy Carnival Experience" a concert documentary in which he co-starred.
The overflow of fans brought an unruly mob of thousands, police in riot gear and a lot of bad press. Kaskade, on the phone from Identity’s first tour stop and in an email follow-up interview, talked about it all:
You had a big hand in curating the Identity Festival.
They came to me early on, and I loved the idea, just the fact that it was such a huge idea, big in scope and size. I'm like, “I'm sold. I want to be in, but I want to make sure we get cool people involved, and I don't 100% trust you guys. Here's a list of the top 50 guys in my mind. Let's try to get as many of them involved as possible.” This is Live Nation's first foray into electronic music and I just wanted to make sure they understood the scene, the genre and where we were coming from. It's just the controller I am, I guess.
Do you think people will actually come out for something [large-scale] like this? Or do you think they prefer smaller pool parties or raves?
I think there's enough room for both. This is already a massive success, and I'm sure we're going to see copycats. But I think the pool party people in Vegas, that's [an older crowd], they have a lot more money to spend and they don't want to deal with younger kids, they might not want to come out to [Identity Festival]. But that's what's cool about electronic music. You've got 14 year-old kids who wants to come out, this is the perfect opportunity for them. There's not a lot of underage events in EDM, and that's a shame.
You've got [a million] things going on. How do you prioritize what you do versus what you turn down?
That's an interesting thing. I guess I don’t sleep very much. I just go with the stuff that really means a lot to me. It's difficult. It's the challenge of popularity, I guess ... It's a great problem to have.
You grew up Mormon and went to BYU. Is it hard to reconcile going to clubs and doing what you do for a living with your faith?
It was never a tough reconciliation. I think people look at dance music and see it as kind of a bad thing, and bad people hang out in nightclubs, but it never felt that way for me. Growing up in Chicago, music was the thing that saved me, that kept me on the straight and narrow. It was like, I don't need drugs and alcohol, I've got music as my high. I think it kept me out of that, plus it kept me away from all the riff raff, though I think people see it as the exact opposite. I guess it's all a matter of perception, but for me it was the age-old cliché of last night a DJ saved my life. Music was there for me.
How did your family react when they realized you were going to keep doing this for a living?
They were in denial for a long time. Like, “Wait, what?” I DJ'd for years, I DJ'd in high school, and I think my parents thought it was a passing thing. And then when I was in my second year of college, I was like, “Yeah, you guys don't need to send me money anymore. My DJ gigs are good enough, I'm selling music, I think I'm gonna have a record deal. I can pay my tuition."
Do they have a concept of how well known you are now?
Judging from the incident in Hollywood, no. I'm getting a better grasp of that [myself]. It's an interesting rise to popularity. I'm like, “Wow, people really do like this.” I'm still shocked when the club sells out.
It sounds like you didn't have any idea about what your tweets could do. But I guess you know now.
Yeah, absolutely. I never anticipated — I know people pay attention to social media, but it's all just kind of noise out there.
Do you think anything good came out of what happened?
I don't know. It's still so close to it. I think maybe when a little more time passes, we'll be able to tell.
From an email follow-up: I think it’s still so fresh in my mind, and I’m still trying to evaluate what happened. Ultimately I had wanted to do something good to give back for my fans and the scene, but it’s regrettable that it ended the way it did. It’s a shame that the actions of a few individuals caused so many problems and marred what was supposed to be a celebration of EDM.