Oh, yes, America. The freaks are living (and dancing) among us.
Ever since EDM went massive in 2011, kids with glowsticks have been controlling popular music charts, invading the nation's arenas and stadiums like little ecstatic fireflies, and flooding the Internet with YouTube videos of themselves raving alone at home, moshing to dubstep, and/or humping trees.
We are now sweating through the second summer of this madness. And along with electronic dance music ringleaders like Deadmau5, Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia, and Avicii, a man named Kaskade is laying down the soundtrack for the freak parade.
We recently spoke with the 30-year-old DJ-producer about his 2012 megatour, headlining "our generation's Woodstock," and whether too much success and too much money can be toxic for an EDM freak like him.
New Times: After two years of electronic dance music's pop dominance, do you see any signs of its popularity slipping, or is it just gonna keep cruising?
Kaskade: We've barely even cracked into the radio. So we're really just getting started. This is probably the beginning of a much longer story.
Where do you see the EDM story going?
It's hard to say. I never even envisioned it going to this place. I was never one of those guys who was good at reading the crystal ball. I always thought it could get bigger, but I've enjoyed dance music so much as a nightclub thing that seeing it go into these arenas and stadiums is kinda tricky. I think a lot is riding on how these big shows go this summer and how they're perceived.
At the moment, I'm in the middle of my tour. And I have to say [laughs]... as long as people's tours are going as well as mine, I think EDM is just going to continue to grow on this larger scale. Right now, it's just a few guys who can do these huge tours successfully. But with growth and increasing interest in the music, these concert-type experiences will become more regular.
You mention your Freaks of Nature megatour. Has it been mass mayhem in every city?
It's all been a bit of a blur. But I just can't believe it. In New York, I was like, "Oh, my gosh, there's 7,000 people here!" And the next night was Baltimore. It was the same thing. But these cities are only 75 or 100 miles apart from each other. And doing shows in both cities for 7,000 is just unbelievable.
Even when I went to Ohio, the shows were smaller, but there were still thousands of people. And it's so strange, because the last time I went to Ohio was four or five years ago and I played a club that held about 600. It's crazy. Just the intensity of this summer is blowing me away.
Yeah, this whole party is peaking. You recently played Electric Daisy Carnival and you called it "our generation's Woodstock." How does it feel to be a central figure in what could be a historic moment?
Oh, man, it's cool. It's huge for me. There are so many festivals all over the world and I've played most of them. But Electric Daisy Carnival is kinda my hometown festival. Between EDC and Coachella, those were the festivals that I was going to years ago as a fan. And to see them bringing in like 340,000 people over three or four days is mind-boggling. It's so rewarding to live through this moment.
With the arena-size raves and massive music fests, do you think EDM was always destined for an enormous stage?
No. I'm out on the road enough to see that dance music on this scale presents a lot of challenges. Over the years, I've been used to playing my music in nightclubs — you know, these big concrete boxes. That's such a different experience from the arena or stadium setting. And it should be.
The Freaks of Nature show is more of a concert. I've released several albums, so I'm out there showcasing the music that I've written and produced over the last 12 years — just like if you went to see U2 or whatever. It's less a DJ show. I'm not playing other people's music. You know, Bono is not gonna get up and sing a Bruce Springsteen song. [Laughs.]
If it's a full-blown concert event, what kind of live experience, visuals, and atmosphere are you unleashing on the audience?
For me, this is an opportunity to put on a show that's congruent with the message of the music. A lot of the time when I play at nightclubs, I'm confined to the gimmicks or screens or whatever that they've got at that particular venue. And sometimes it can be frustrating to deal with flashing lights and a stripper dancing on a pole. It's like, "Whoa, I'm not that guy! I'm the peace, love, unity, harmony guy!" [Laughs.]
Do you think too much success and too much money can be toxic for EDM?
Nah, not really. There are guys who are selling out and doing stuff that I never would've done artistically, but they would've gone the more pop route anyway. And that's never interested me. I'm not signed to a major label, and I've never had a song on the radio, but I can come play a huge outdoor venue in Miami and sell tickets.
There are just separate paths. Different artists in this community have chosen different ways to make dance music. And that's cool. It just shows the maturity of the sound. You know, compare me to somebody like Lady Gaga or even David Guetta and my stuff is way more underground than what they're doing. But the great thing is there's room for everybody. And I don't have to write a pop tune or feature Lil Wayne.
Even though electronic dance music has continued to win fans and kill charts, there has been some backlash against its rise. Say, Dave Grohl's allegedly anti-technology Grammy speech or Deadmau5's frequent rants against the most commercial aspects of the genre. Do you think there's any basis for that kind of griping?
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Any time something is on top, there are going to be people ripping it down. You know, I'm sure guys strumming guitars feel a little frustration, like, "What's all this computerized junk?" So with dance music on the charts and the spotlight shining on us, the backlash is inevitable.
But I don't think it's going to be anything like what happened in the late '70s and early '80s when it was like, "Kill disco!" and there were people at Comiskey Park blowing up 10,000 party records and Chicago was rioting. [Laughs.] I just expect some subtle grumblings, like, "Oh, it happened so fast."
Ultimately, pop culture is so fickle. Somebody is gonna come out with a song featuring some girl strumming a guitar and that's gonna become the flavor of the week. And everybody will be like, "Ahh, people want to hear that song. Let's all copy it." But with electronic music, we've been here so long, literally postdisco, that we're going to keep doing it whether or not anyone is paying attention.
I love house music. It's what I've been doing my entire life. And I'll never stop. The trends will come and go.