The global media, DJs, radio stations, and music enthusiasts have an immense affection for him. He's been lauded as the "Best Up & Coming Artist of 2003" by URB MAGAZINE and described as crafting a "captivating debut" by BILLBOARD. Yet, he remains unaltered, modest, and unassuming, often seen in flip-flops. Kaskade, or Ryan Raddon as he's better known, is overflowing with love for his craft.
Returning from his yearlong "It's You, It's Me World Tour" in 2003, celebrating the monumental debut album of the same name, Kaskade comes back to his Om Records family with his latest addition to the beloved "San Francisco Sessions Series," titled "Soundtrack to the Soul." The past year has seen much written, said, and felt about this young artist and his music.
In the 1980s, growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Raddon was enchanted by the sounds of the new wave, frequenting Club Medusas where Francois Knuckles held a Friday night residency. There, he was exposed to a wide range of music, from Tears For Fears to The Cult, Ministry, and The Smiths. As house music began to take shape in the basements and warehouses of Chicago, Ryan deepened his understanding by attending parties and immersing himself in these innovative musical genres. He religiously tuned in to local radio shows like "The Hot Mix Five" and Northwestern University's WNUR, which featured Derrick Carter and Mark Farina. He frequented Gramaphone and built his vinyl collection, eventually taking to the decks in the late '80s.
Around 1992, he moved to Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, supporting his education through DJing. He initiated a successful weekly house night that lasted for five years and also owned and operated a local record shop called Mechanized Records. While others were also promoting house music in Salt Lake, Ryan was one of the city's pioneers, igniting a scene in the most unexpected of places. It was during this time that he began building a studio, releasing several records on the Mechanized imprint, and selling a breakthrough track to his favorite label, Om Records.
"DJing inspired me to make music," he says. "It was definitely a natural progression for me."
After exploring the Bay Area with his wife Naomi, Ryan was drawn to the vibrant music scene it offered, and they made the move in May 2000. Within months, he secured a position as an A&R assistant to Chris Smith at Om Records. "The label's influence is vast," he remarks. "It was a positive environment to be surrounded by creative individuals who are passionate about what they do." While continuing his DJing and production endeavors, Ryan shaped his alter ego, Kaskade, and honed his studio skills. He began anonymously submitting his tracks to Om Records, and the first single chosen under his Kaskade persona, "What I Say," was featured as the lead track on Mark Grant's acclaimed "Sound Design Volume 2" in 2001.
The past two years have been a whirlwind of success. Though Kaskade had made appearances on several of Om's highly-regarded compilations, nothing could have prepared him for the widespread acclaim that followed the release of his debut album, "It's You, It's Me." The former Lazy Dog duo, Jay Hannan and Ben Watt, extended their accolades after the then-unreleased track set their Sunday night London event on fire. Marques Wyatt also expressed his admiration, securing the rights for remixing a future single. In recent times, Kaskade has been a prominent figure on the international nightclub circuit, commanding the decks on numerous occasions. Additionally, Roger Sanchez has forged a friendship with Kaskade, licensing two of his tracks for his latest mix, "Release Yourself 2003." If further proof of his talent were needed, Jay Hannan has chosen Kaskade to debut his new label, Society Heights, with the standout track, "In this Life," from "Soundtrack to the Soul."
Whether it's the uplifting melodies, organic instrumentals, catchy vocals, or the diversity of his sound, Kaskade's music embodies life, love, and happiness. "I'm an optimistic guy," he says. "There's a lot of love in house music, and this is simply what comes out." He holds the same optimism for the dance music scene that has embraced him so warmly. "Dance music is ever-evolving and forward-thinking; it has gone through many transformations. It will be intriguing to see what the future holds." -Words by Carly Miller and Gunnar Hissam