It’s beginning to look a lot like a Kaskade Christmas. The man behind the iconic moniker, Ryan Raddon, has been a groundbreaking pioneer within the dance music world and has played a huge role in the music industry throughout his storied career.
Kaskade further solidified his position as an innovator when he recently dropped a full-length Christmas album via his own Arkade label, in partnership with Sony International. It features his own unique spin on holiday favorites such as “Deck The Halls” and “Silent Night,” as well as new original material and collaborations with Skylar Grey, Late Alumni Night, and more — a truly festive body of work.
The “House Music Ambassador” recently made his way over to Output in Brooklyn for the penultimate show of his 2017 Redux tour, which he states has been more exciting and unexpected than anything, and additionally announced a secret appearance in San Francisco on December 5. Ahead of his last two shows, we caught up with Raddon to dive into his Yuletide inspiration, his fondest memories from his current tour, and more.
Also, for those still stuck trying to figure out if it’s pronounced Re-ducks or Re-do, don’t worry. He advises fans that they can pronounce it however they’d like, and he promises he will absolutely not be mad if you say Re-ducks (though he still says Re-do).
This is your last Redux show of the tour, right?
Yes, this is it. Well hold on, besides what I’m doing Tuesday [December 5] in San Francisco that we haven’t announced, but that’s just gonna be super secret.
Have you had any memorable moments?
Yeah I mean look, they’ve all been incredible. This is super indulgent, but I love doing the Redux shows because they’re incredibly fun. Its like getting dessert every night.
Any favorites from the tour?
I think the biggest surprise of them all was Cincinnati. I haven’t been to Cincinnati in years, and when I got there I didn’t know what to expect ’cause it’s been such a long time since I’ve been there. I come to New York once or twice a year, [and have done so] at least for the last 20 years, so I’m familiar with the landscape. I know Output, and I’ve played there before. But Cincinnati — I’ve never played this club, and I hadn’t been there in 4 or 5 years and I go in there and I’m like, ‘What’s it gonna be like? Do these people know my music?’ People are screaming, ripping out their hair and I think, “okay, you’re into it, yeah. That’s why I’m here man I knew it!”. That was really fun, exciting, and unexpected more than anything.
The whole thing’s been amazing. I haven’t been to Sacramento in 5 years, for example, so that’s another one of those cities. I think with Redux I get to do that — go to some of these places that I’m not hitting, some of the smaller markets so I can go play a club and see what happens. Sacramento was super loud I was so surprised, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised cause they’re not that far from San Francisco. I lived there for 10 years; that’s kind of where I got my start and made my name but I just couldn’t believe they sang along to every single song I’m like, ‘you guys know my catalog better than I do, I think.’
Did your creative process differ when creating this EP vs. the process when you create other music? Redux seems more stripped down and made for the intimate club crowds, which is different from places you usually play.
Not really, actually. I think I probably put a little less thought into this because an EP’s shorter. It’s not as big of a cohesive idea like putting the Christmas record together, where it’s like, ‘alright, there’s all this Christmas songs I want it to listen from beginning to end. I want it to have more of an arc.’ An EP’s like, “Oh cool — here’s a collection of all these cool songs that I’ve been working on that kind of fit and have the similar mood.’ It doesn’t differ much I think its just less pressure, more fun. We’ll see what happens and make something cool.
We want to hear more about this Christmas album, since it’s finally socially acceptable to be talking about Christmas. Where did you get the idea of mixing dance music with Christmas music?
I don’t think of myself as just ‘a dance music producer.’ I make music, I write songs, I produce records. I’ve thought of myself like this for a while and I’ve loved Christmas music. Early on in my career I got an opportunity — I approached Om Records and said ‘Hey I think we should make a Christmas compilation,’ because nobody’s done it in this space and it’d be kind of an interesting thing to do. Everybody at the label said ‘that idea sucks,’ so I made a couple demos myself and said, ‘hey this is what it could sound like, oh this is actually pretty cool.’ I mean, downtempo electronic music already kind of is very vibey and I think matching that kind of vibe with chill, laidback Christmas tunes I think there’s some similar space that could be reached there when I was trying to achieve that. It’s been really interesting.
I was curious to see how it would be accepted, because I knew there would be some people like ‘what is he doing?’ Generally it’s been received really well, which is what I’ve been hoping for, but there have been a few head-scratchers that say, ‘You’re a jackass. You can’t do this, these songs are sacred and you ruined these,’ or ‘you’re not EDM bro.’ And I say, ‘yeah you’re right I’m not, bro.’ You got it man I had to make the Christmas album to get you to stop paying attention to me. The first few Christmas things I did were actually in 2003, and I think my remix of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas was in 2005. What happened is when Christmas would come around, I would remaster them or re-post them and people would start talking about them, so I think a lot of people caught on to that stuff just in the last few years.
Was there a challenge remaking these classis Christmas songs into something more modern?
I think the challenge was whittling it down to just these 13 songs. There’s a lot more Christmas music out there, or just holiday music even that’s really cool. I went to Spotify on this trip recently and they said ‘why didn’t you do this song?’ I just kind of went to the ones that I naturally gravitated to and I had an idea for. It’s one of those things where I was just Googling ‘top Christmas songs’ and I was listening to this stuff and trying to think, ‘how can I re-purpose this or re-imagine it?’
I went for the ones that just naturally I had ideas for kind of quickly. Not to say that the album came together quickly, because it didn’t; it was a lot of work, but I’m super happy with the way it turned out. It’s great it was a challenge and it’s been a passion project. I went to a lot of people to collaborate, and went to a lot of labels trying to get people excited about the project while I was doing it and people were like ‘yeah we’re good, that’s alright.’ But then when I finished it that’s when people said ‘oh my gosh! Why didn’t you call me?’ I said ‘I did! Remember that?’ I was making it in the peak of summer and I finished it in July and kind of polished it up by August, so people were really busy during the summer season.
For people who keep saying ‘it’s too early to start listening to Christmas music’ and now it’s finally acceptable, where do you imagine people listening to this album? At a holiday party with friends, sitting by the fire, at one of your shows?
All of those scenarios, really. I mean for me personally where I’m at in my life we put it on in our house while we’re making sugar cookies, decorating the tree, getting the lights up, that’s when we’ve been playing it. We had it a little earlier in my house so we played it a few times before that but certainly while we were getting ready for the holidays. That’s what traditional holiday music has always been to me; during December you have the Christmas playlist, and you put it on in your car and ride around and you don’t feel guilty.
A new year is coming up so what can we expect from you in the future?
More music. This year was kind of a big music year between the EP and the album. Actually, I’ve written a ton more music and it took me a minute to find a new label partner, Sony, and now that I’ve got that there’s a lot more music on the way. I built and finished a brand new studio over a year ago now in Santa Monica and since I have a home base and place in LA where people can come hang out and visit and work with me my output has been way higher than it was in all the previous years. So, lots of new music and I’ll continue to tour and play shows and be out and about.