“I was a freak in a different way than this [other] person was a freak,” says Grammy Award-nominated DJ Kaskade while discussing his commitment to religion potentially being at odds with his career in the house music world.
The 46-year-old artist, whose birth name is Ryan Gary Raddon, is no stranger to questions about Mormonism—a topic he is asked about during most interviews. "I understand the fascination," he says over the phone while taking a break from his Spring Fling tour, which will hit major cities across America through June.
In addition to commenting about his lifestyle, Kaskade remarks on the evolution of a DJ's job and the origin of his stage name. Check out a condensed version of the conversation below.
How did you come up with the name Kaskade?
Boredom. I was sitting around with a bunch of coworkers at lunchtime, […] throwing out a bunch of names and none of them were sticking. That night I was looking through nature […] pictures of a waterfall and I was like, What about the name Kaskade? That was it. I just felt like that worked.
In your own words, what is a DJ?
When I was growing up, a DJ was a personality on the radio. The contemporary DJ is somebody who writes and produces music. I think most of us prefer to be looked at as artists, singers, songwriters, producers. Yet, most of us are still thrown into the mold of DJ.
When did the role of a DJ change?
I think it was in the late 2000s. There were three or four things that came together: The music got more sophisticated and social media allowed people to connect with these characters and personalities. But it became so popular [because] people were just craving something new. I think urban music and hip hop music just dominated the airwaves for so long and there was this thing that was just creeping along in the nightclubs that really never got its shine or time on radio and people were just ready for something new. I think that’s really what led the explosion.
Speaking of social media: Do you find being an active user a burden?
It’s a love/hate. In the beginning, I really, really loved it. There were no barriers. I just really loved that. But then social media kind of came of age and people started to figure out more. It became a little bit burdensome because I feel like the people that really made strong brands on social media, that was what they were famous for: not for what they were doing but for whatever they were putting out on social media. Not a song that they wrote but a personality that they were on social media.
Do you find your commitment to religion to run against the demands of your job?
I think that if you scratch past the surface and think about it more and listen to my music, you’re like: This guy is not at odds with what he believes, he is writing about what he feels, what he thinks and what he believes in. This is all wrapped up in his music on some level. For me, writing and making this music was an expression of who I am and that reflects me so I never saw them as being at odds.
Is it difficult to renounce the lifestyle that DJs are known for?
Early on in my career it was a bit more difficult. I was always secure in who I was and who I am what I'm doing. That was never the issue. I think now people are much more respectful. I only had a handful of instances over the thousands of shows that I've played over the last 20 years where it's been really an uncomfortable situation. People are really quite respectful. [...] Being around people with different opinions and that have made different life choices has never bothered me. If anything, I think that's interesting. If we were all the same, how boring would life be?