Kaskade casually sits on the couch in his trailer prior to his live show at Austin City Limits. He’s surrounded by an Atmosphere baseball cap clad entourage in full-on relaxed mode. “My first tour was me and a crate of records – that’s it. Now it’s like a staff of 50 people. It’s totally different,” Kaskade said in reflection of his years as a producer and live performer. ACL was one of the last stops on Kaskade’s nationwide tour in support of his latest release, Atmosphere. We caught up with the dance music vet to discuss his evolution as a producer.
Life+Times: You’ve tasted every facet of the industry. You owned a record store, you did A&R – you’ve seen it all. What would you say is the most significant change you’ve seen within dance music throughout the years?
Kaskade: There’s a couple of things. I mean the first thing that you said – record store distribution has completely changed. Where it used to be hanging out at record stores and digging in the crates – that’s how everyone discovered the music because it [was] independent music and guys were pressing 12 inches and 45s, and limited run records out of their basements or whatever these little indie record stores that their cousin was running or their brother, whatever. It used to really be about hanging at the record store to be on top of what was happening. Every city had that or multiple places that they would go to. Now, it’s the total opposite. There’s an online community, but everyone’s sitting in their underwear, surfing in the middle of the night before they go to bed or whatever. It’s just totally different how you get and consume music. It’s changed so much since when I got into it. That and the other big change is just how popular dance music has gotten. I always thought it would be this back room, kind of side stage or like, “Cool. You got the stage that’s out in the parking lot.” Then, to come here and play right before Depeche Mode – it’s amazing to me. [I] was at the Barclays Center. It really is this big. I didn’t get into it for that, but I got into it because I loved it. It was my outlet as an artist to create this. It’s cool that it’s gotten so popular. It’s something that I love and I like to see other people appreciate it too.
L+T: Was it hard for you to adjust with the times – starting out with the vinyl and now you have the software?
Kaskade: That wasn’t so much of an adjustment. To me it was the same idea, putting bits of music together and creating this audio fabric for the night. That wasn’t that much of an adjustment so much as playing in front of larger crowds. It’s very different how you interact with people in a 300 person room as opposed to 30,000 or 50,000, or however many people will be in front of that stage tonight. I have video footage from me at my first festival in Australia that was in front of probably 40,000. Up to that point in my career, the biggest crowd I ever played for was in front of 800 people in San Francisco. I went from 800 to a 50,000 person stage. It’s not that I was scared, I feel very comfortable DJing, but I was just kind of up there in San Francisco – it’s very laid back. On this huge stage, you can’t even barely see me on stage standing there totally mellow. These huge drops are happening and I’m just doing my San Francisco thing, like, all mellow. I remember looking back at the video like, ‘Yeah, I gotta learn how to perform a little bit better in front of these audiences.’ Which inside, I’m jumping up and down and I had to, like, unleash the beast – let it free, jump around, have a good time with people. The performance aspect has changed more than anything else for me.
L+T: In 2003, you came out with It’s You, It’s Me and your latest album is Atmosphere. In this long journey, what would you say – if you even have one – was your favorite part of the journey? Producing music particularly.
Kaskade: All of it.
L+T: That’s not fair!
Kaskade: Yeah, all of it. The most rewarding part is probably the writing and producing the music, and then putting it out – and seeing the reaction. I mean, going and playing shows –stuff like tonight – is the cherry on top of the sundae. This is dessert. It’s really rewarding and fun. It’s a lot of fun. It’s exactly what you think it is – kind of that moment of releasing a song to the world and watching the reaction.
L+T: Now for my cheesy analogy. I compare artists that have been involved in the industry for years with married people. If you’ve been producing for more than ten years – or married for more than ten years – you have to figure out ways to keep it interesting. What helps you to accept new challenges and keep things fresh?
Kaskade: (Laughs) Well, luckily with electronic music, the beginning of my career and this part of my career – it’s almost the same thing. A big room back in 2001 was, like, a thousand people, that’s as big as it got. Even back then, EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival), the largest electronic music festival in the world was still something like 5,000 people.
L+T: That’s definitely not how it is now.
Kaskade: Yeah, now it’s like 130,000 people per day. You have to understand that the scale of it has changed so much, especially over the last six years. So the first six years of my career and this last six years of my career – they feel like two different things. They resemble each other. I’m out making music, performing, and selling it, and talking about it – that’s the same, but every other aspect has changed. Electronic music has gone through so many changes and it’s been so dynamic and become so popular. I haven’t felt stagnant or bored at a moment. No, it’s never been like that for me.
L+T: That’s great! For my ending question – do you feel that a DJ is a musician?
Kaskade: Yeah, definitely. What does “DJ” even mean these days? I think people still call me “DJ” because when I’m up there performing, that’s essentially what I’m doing – DJing. It’s raw and I’m mixing elements of music that I wrote. I think now to become a DJ or anyone of note you either have to have a sound particular to you or you have to have written and produced records particular to what you do. I’ve made my name by writing a lot of music and that’s what people know me by. They don’t necessarily come to see my shows to see my technical expertise of “Wow. Look at how he mixes and scratches that up.” They really don’t care about that. They come because they want to hear “Angel on My Shoulder” or “It’s You, It’s Me,” [and] “Atmosphere.” They want to hear the songs that they know me for.