Kaskade Blasts onto Billboard 200 with 'Fire & Ice'
Not one person packed into New York's sold-out Roseland Ballroom on Oct. 29 would describe Kaskade as quiet. He's well-known for writing some of the loveliest melodies in dance music, replete with acoustic guitar strums and sweet-voiced nymphs. However, the 40-year-old DJ/producer does things differently live.
When Kaskade dropped fan favorite singalong "Be Still" from 2006's "Love Mysterious," it was over a walloping bass beat that made it more of a command than a soothing suggestion. "Eyes," the first single off his latest album, "Fire & Ice" (Ultra), had its lullaby-like vocal by Mindy Gledhill launch into a shower of power synths.
But despite his boisterous big-room DJ sets during the last decade, Kaskade (born Ryan Raddon) has been quietly establishing himself as one of dance music's true institutions. Successful even before electronica's explosive past few years, he continues to gain momentum with each subsequent release and tour-without the benefit of big hits or fanfare.
"Fire & Ice," his seventh album and first double-album, was released digitally on Oct. 25 and posted his strongest first week thus far. It debuted atop Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart and at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 with 20,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. A physical release will follow Nov. 8.
"Crossing the country on the Identity tour this summer really helped with the momentum," manager Stephanie LaFera says. "We made a point to start letting fans hear the new music in the shows and in his tour videos on YouTube. By the time the release date was here, people were ready for it."
Kaskade is one of dance's true road warriors, regularly playing more than 100 DJ shows per year. In 2011, he headlined the 19-date Identity Festival, playing for 140,000-plus fans at venues like San Diego's Cricket Wireless Amphitheater and the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, N.Y. He has the only double-residency in Las Vegas: Wynn's Encore Beach Club and Cosmopolitan's Marquee. His two-night, Halloween-themed stint at Roseland was a sellout.
LaFera -- who was a one-woman show before launching Atom Empire, the electronic music arm of Troy Carter's Atom Factory, last month -- utilized other new-media tools to set Fire ablaze. SiriusXM's dance-dedicated BPM channel did a Kaskade station takeover during release week, with significant on-air exposure and tagging plus a playback of the entire album. "Most stations wouldn't do that. It's pretty huge," LaFera says. "They're the one radio resource that we as a dance act really have."
An iTunes preorder program let fans stream snippets of every track for two weeks prior to release. Vevo provided main-page exposure during release week for the video to second single "Turn It Down." The clip shows Swedish singers Rebecca & Fiona dancing to the beat, while a trio of figure skaters spin and twirl. It garnered more than 600,000 plays in five days.
Spotify will offer users exclusive content-probably a remix-and a Kaskade playlist. These aren't songs he'd play while DJ'ing, LaFera says, but "more of what he listens to as a music consumer."
Perhaps the most seductive and unique elements of Kaskade's music are the lyrics. Nine of Fire & Ice's 10 tracks (disc two contains remixes of the same set) are full vocals, a rarity for a dance artist. At Roseland, the crowd seemed to sing as much as it danced.
"I want the words to reflect things that I'm feeling or situations that I have gone through . . . things that anyone can relate to," he says. "Dance music can be fun, but it can also say something and be more than just party music."