Kaskade is known for West Coast House, but he’s just as interested in pop vocals.
On Dynasty, the DJ/producer recruits several singers — an approach he’s taken since leaving Chicago to join the San Francisco Bay area’s neo-soul deep house scene.
“I’ve never done the whole ‘Put your hands in the air for a moment’ thing. I want to be more subtle,” he said. “(Martina Sorbara) was the only (vocal track) not done in real time. I coach the vocalists, especially for the lyrics that I’ve written. I’ll sit in the studio and give suggestions — I’m very specific.”
When choosing a singer, Kaskade (real name Ryan Raddon) has one simple rule — he has to immediately love her voice. After that he draws on sub-genres from electro to progressive to build productions that highlight each singer’s unique sound. Mindy Gledhill, whom he’s worked with for years, offers a smoky, soulful delivery, while first-time collaborator Sorbara (of Toronto electro-pop band Dragonette) sizzles with punk attitude.
“Becky (Jean Williams’ voice) almost has an indie sound to it, and a little bit of a twang,” explained Kaskade. “The song I did with Tiësto — Only You — made sense for her. We set up the track so it has that muddy sound, and let her vocals sit on top.”
Kaskade’s most proud of All That You Give — an interesting choice, since it’s the album’s least ‘House-y’ track. While it started as a club tune, after hearing Gledhill’s bittersweet vocals, he stripped it down to just guitar, strings, and a few understated beats.
“I think there’s a really cool tension in the song: there’s musical tension, and lyrically a lot of tension too. I had this idea to start with strings and build the tension around that,” he said. “I pulled it back, since it was so beautiful to hear Mindy singing ... The other stuff was kind of distracting.”
Kaskade also likes to go big — a fact evidenced by collaborations with superstar trance DJ Tiësto and Toronto’s Deadmau5. For example, Dynasty is an attempt to capture the epic feeling of playing out to 90,000 electronic music lovers at four a.m. at a long-running L.A. massive event.
“It was an insane moment. I just wanted to take that feeling back and build on it.”