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On the roof with producer/DJ Kaskade

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DJ/producer Kaskade at the Ultra Records party on top of the Gansevoort South Hotel in Miami during WMC 2009.
Photo: Deanna Rilling

Wednesday, March 25, 7:00 p.m. Miami, Florida

Eighteen stories above Miami Beach at Hotel Gansevoort South’s rooftop pool, familiar faces abound at Ultra Record’s private event during the 24th annual Winter Music Conference. Among them is producer/DJ Kaskade. As Deadmau5 chills nearby in a lounge chair—mau5head and all—Kaskade gives an exclusive interview to Las Vegas Weekly about his new album, collaborating with other artists and where the heck the name Kaskade came from.

Going back a bit, when you went to University of Utah you had a record store. What was that like, and how was business?

It was cool. It was kind of like that movie with John Cusak, or better yet, the book High Fidelity. You’d sit around all day and talk about music, learn how to be a music snob and talk about weird club mixes that aren’t in. So it doesn’t matter that no one’s coming in. You and five friends sit and geek out about records and old 12-inches that you can’t find and weird imports. It was interesting because I was born and raised in Chicago. To go to Utah was definitely a 180.

What is your take on the decline of vinyl, and what are you using right now?

I’m using CDs, but I don’t know how much longer. I’ve always been a little slow on the take ‘cause to me, it doesn’t really matter. All this stuff, it’s just a tool to enhance the performance. The art of DJing is sharing music with one another ... The technology’s definitely taking it into a new direction to where it’s really becoming performance-based. Now, people are playing so much of their own music. The producers and writers of dance music are becoming the stars, not so much the DJs. People book me because of the songs I write, not because of the sets that I play, per se… I’m sure I’m going to be moving to a laptop really soon, but I was one of the last guys to let the vinyl go. I was crying. In my room, I still have thousands of records. I still pull them out and play them all the time.

One topic subject to much speculation is the origin of the name “Kaskade.” Where did the name come from?

(Laughing) Nowhere in particular. I was actually sitting around at lunch break with a bunch of co-workers saying, “What do you think of this? What do you think of that?” I was reading a nature book the night before and I was like, “Hey, man. I saw this picture of a waterfall and it said ‘cascade.’ What do you guys think of that?” I had thrown them out all these names and they were like, “Yeah, that sucks. That sucks,” and finally one kid was like, “No. ‘Cascade.’ I think that’ll work. Go with that.” And then I just spelled it different to be different. So there’s no cool story like my teenage dog was named Kaskade and got hit by a car.

The Grand just came out on March 24. How do you think a mix album differs from your artist albums?

Mix CDs are interesting. I’m known more for my artist albums and less for my mix CDs. But mix CDs are cool because if somebody comes to see me live, I want [a mix album] to be a picture of what they’re going to get – an audio picture.

For your productions, especially for The Grand, what type of software do you use?

I did that whole thing inside of Pro Tools. I mean, I write and produce all my music in Pro Tools. That’s the sequencer I use. I started out more doing sound design and less songwriting years ago, so it makes a lot of sense.

What’s one of your favorites from the album?

The Plumb remix [of “In My Arms”] is really cool… the song itself is very poignant. I heard she’s talking about her kids in that song. I didn’t even know any of that until later, but it’s very cool. It’s very heartfelt and she’s got a beautiful voice. When you do a remix you never know how it’s going to turn out, but that one really worked.

“In My Arms” is categorized as a contemporary Christian music track. How did you come across this track to remix that might not seem to pair with dance music?

I didn’t know [the song was a Christian track] until somebody posted it on an iTunes review until recently… Sometimes I listen to a song and it’s like, “This isn’t going to work,” and sometimes, “I don’t know. Let me try.” And other times, “This will definitely work.” You never know until you sit down and really do it.

Do you feel it’s better to not know anything about the original song?

Totally. Like for Seal, the “Amazing” track I remixed—it’s not on [The Grand]—but that one, they wouldn’t actually let me hear the original song because they were having so many problems with leaks, but they were like, “Here’s the vocal. That’s all you get.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” But it was kind of cool. I’ve done that with a few songs… I hear the vocal and really that’s the core of whatever any song is – the words and the melody.

How did you and Deadmau5 end up working with each other?

Deadmau5 chills at Ultra's rooftop pool party in Miami during WMC 2009.

When I hit him up, he had never done a vocal track at that point in his career—or one hadn’t been released—and I was loving his music. … I had recorded some vocals over an instrumental track that he’d done a year earlier and I sent it to him. … Literally, it was that night he sent me “I Remember,” and two days later I recorded something on it and sent it back to him. It happened really quick. It was all over Instant Messenger; we were just throwing ideas back and forth. … Those two tracks came together really quick, a lot of fun when it happens like that.

You write a lot of the lyrics for your tracks, but where do you find the vocalists you want to work with?

All over the place. People approach me or I hear their music out. For the next record, I’m going to approach Plumb because her voice is awesome and I should do something with her. I’m always hitting people up; I’m always on MySpace listening to people’s vocals. But typically, the people I’ve used up until now are just mainly friends of friends.

What kind of advice would you offer to up-and-coming DJs who want to take it to the next level?

Oftentimes, new guys are so worried about getting shows and getting out there, but if you’re hustling to get shows, you’re working the wrong way around. People should be hustling to get to you. You need to stand back and really hone your craft. Get in the studio. Write music. Work on your live show, so when you do go out and you do get booked, you’re making an impression on people that they’ll remember and they want to have you back.

What’s coming up in the next year after touring?

I’ll hopefully be working in the studio trying to do my next artist album and get that out either late this year, early next year… I help write and produce a band called Late Night Alumni. We had an album come out four years ago on Ministry of Sound out of the U.K., and we’ve got our second album coming out sometime this year.

Kaskade is scheduled to be in Las Vegas on May 6 at Body English and again on May 25 at Wet Republic. For complete tour dates, visit Kaskade on MySpace.

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