By Jacob Katel
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On a recent Tuesday night, house producer/DJ Ryan Raddon, a.k.a. Kaskade, is holed up in a Salt Lake City studio, ensconced in his latest high-profile project. But when he opens his mouth to describe it, his own muffled laughter cuts him off.
"Oh, it's new material, this and that." He relents, sighing: "One of the things I'm working on is a Britney Spears remix. I was thinking to myself, Am I embarrassed to say that?" Yep, it's an officially sanctioned reworking of her "comeback" single, "Gimme More" — you know, the one she performed to universal cringing at MTV's VMAs. But Brit-Brit's people are onto something: In recent years Kaskade has become a go-to guy for pop tarts who want a beat injection for real dance-floor action.
"I like a lot of pop music, so it's great to have the chance to put my twist on it and give it a different feel," he says. "It's really a loose collaboration with these artists — they're entrusting you with their words and their melody." Among those to be run through "the house machine," as he puts it: Most famous, Justin Timberlake — Kaskade's remix of his "LoveStoned" reached number 12 on the Billboard charts. Nelly Furtado, the Pussycat Dolls, and even Paris Hilton have gotten the treatment as well.
But make no mistake — Kaskade's work is definitely not the stuff of handbag disco fluff. Born and raised in Chicago, he caught the dance virus during the city's Eighties heyday. "Frankie Knuckles was still there, and the Warehouse" — the club credited as the birthplace of house music — "was still going on." But it was in San Francisco, where he moved after college, when he really found his groove. In 2000 he wound up doing A&R for the über-influential Om Records, which released his first single, "What I Say," the following year. For the next five years, Kaskade and his music would become closely associated with Om's trademark vibe: organic, funky, and shot through with jazz and live instrumentation. And then, last year, he split for Ultra Records.
"Om's a very small, boutique label that specializes in one particular sound, and Ultra's a much broader stage," he explains. "I used to always describe myself as organic-sounding house music, and I think it definitely still has that flavor to it, compared to what's popular at the moment. But recently the stuff's been getting a bit more epic-sounding." Dig it on his latest mix CD, Bring the Night, released in August, a 15-track collection of pulsing prime-time anthems. It might give the little extra push he needs to break through to Miami clubbers. "It seems like Miami and New York have been a little bit slower in catching onto the game. I guess I've been more of a West Coast thing," he says.
Fine, but a recent Saturday-night/Sunday-morning gig at Chicago's Smartbar was a packed-to-the-gills raveup of quality four-to-the-floor, funky to tribal to shimmering and back. Sweat flew, asses were grinding, and eventually layers of clothing began coming off. And that's something Miami can definitely get down with.