Kaskade released his sixth CD, Dynasty, just last Tuesday. It’s a fabulous CD that features collaborations with Dragonette, Tiësto and the vocals of Haley. Kaskade has respect for and abilities in all aspects of a song, which is very rare, and something I really love about electronic music its willingness to try pretty much anything. I got to talk to Kaskade recently about his collaborations, his approach to remixes and his experience in running his own record store. He’ll be in Seattle this Friday May 21st at Showbox SoDO – check it out!
Why did you pick the name Dynasty for your CD?
I wrote the song Dynasty that’s on the album and I think that song kind of summed it up, everything that is going on right now. The song kind of talks about it, but there are a couple of different meanings. I think one of the things that inspired me to write the song Dynasty was when I was playing Electric Daisy Carnival last year, standing in front of a crowd of 90,000 people. I was really awestruck by what’s happened in the underground. Electronic music has always been this small, independent thing. We’re not on the radio, we don’t have marketing, we’re not on major labels – it’s a very grass-roots thing. That experience really inspired me to write the song Dynasty. I think it mirrors my career a little bit. I started out as a very small DJ in San Francisco, playing lounges and now I’m being booked in these things. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.
I read in an interview with you where you mention that you used to go dancing a lot.
I grew up in Chicago – back then the teen scene was huge in Chicago. This was with the explosion of house music in the mid-80s. That was kind of my heyday.
What do you dance to now?
Typically what I’m playing. If it doesn’t inspire me it’s not making my show.
You sing, would you ever sing on your albums?
I sing a lot on my songs but I always get better singers to replace my voice. As a songwriter and producer I want the best voice on the song. It’s really easy to be critical of yourself.
How did you find producer and writer, Finn Bjarnson?
Finn and I met in 2001. He was an engineer on one of my early Kaskade songs that I had written. He’s just a really good guy and knows what he’s doing. He hit me up with a song idea and the rest is history. He’s kind of my mentor as a songwriter.
What’s the inspiration/story behind the song Angel on My Shoulder? It’s a beautiful song.
It is a beautiful song – I actually didn’t write that one. I wrote the music, Tamra Keenan wrote the lyrics and the melody. She flew to San Francisco and recorded it with me three years ago. It’s a song about addiction. I haven’t worked with that many other songwriters. Typically it’s me writing something and collaborating with Finn. It’s a different process when you’re working with an actual songwriter. It can be a song about addiction to anything. I’m sure she was singing about something personal.
I’m a big fan of Dragonette. How did the song Fire in Your New Shoes, with Dragonette vocalist Martina Sorbara come about?
Somebody sent me a Dragonette song and I thought, this girl’s voice is amazing. It was probably about a year ago. I had her voice in the back of my mind, and that’s how it works – I write all these songs and then I look for a voice that I think will work best with it. I had the music bed for Fire in Your New Shoes and it was more indie sounding. [I wondered if] Martina would be hip to collaborate on this so I shot it over to her and she was like, this is really cool. She sent it back and I thought it was amazing. It was really down to the wire because my album was due. I’m really proud of that song.
Are there favorite singers out there that you haven’t worked with yet?
I have a lot of favorite singers, but topping the list would probably be Sade. She has such a sexy voice and vibe. I think I could do something cool with that. I really wouldn’t have to do anything. She could just sing a capella and I would love it.
You had a record store a while ago.
A long time ago.
Was that a good experience?
It was awesome. It was pretty much exactly like High Fidelity. You sit around in a record store and play these old tunes, and people walk in and you argue over a record’s worth or what’s the best album of the moment. You just hang out and talk music all day with a bunch of music freaks.
In another interview I read you touched on moving from sound design to songwriter – how has that changed?
Dance music is so much about sound design, everyone’s worried about the rhythm. When I moved to San Francisco I came from Chicago, where all that sound design and cutting up old disco records – that’s kind of where it all started and got me into it. I’m really inspired by that sound still. To this day I buy a lot of that music. When I moved to San Francisco I knew, that if I’m gonna do my own thing, and create my own sound, I’m gonna have to do more than just sound. I fancied myself a bit of a poet; I needed to try my hand at songwriting and try to expand.
What’s one of your remixes that you’re really proud of?
The Britney Spears stuff. I really love those songs. The Justin Timberlake one that I did. The Seal song. Keenan track Here I Am – the Devil Wears Prada thing. I have a lot of remixes that I really love. It’s always a cool situation when I love the song but I don’t necessarily like the way it was produced. I think that’s the best opportunity because I can make it my own and do it in the way that I would have done it originally – if this was my vocal, if this was something that I had, what would I do with it?
How is it playing Vegas?
Vegas is crazy. It’s more of a party scene. I’m starting a residency this summer at the Wynn. It’s an interesting time for dance music, it’s coming out of the underground. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’ve never done anything like this and I think it’s probably going to be the craziest pool party this country’s ever seen.
How did you and Tiësto decide what song you’d work together on?
He called me up, saying “Hi, this is Tiësto”. I was like, really? I grew up knowing that this was the guy who played in stadiums to a 100,000 people. I had Only You, the song that we worked on together, already written and recorded the vocals. I had a simple chord progression and I had no idea how I should produce it, which direction I should go. He asked me particularly about Haley’s voice. I sent it to him and the next day he said we had to work together on it.