With Unleashed, Kayzo continues an exploration of the electronic-rock crossover realm that began with “Feel the Power,” featuring Micah Martin, off his 2018 album, Overload. “I think that was one of my earlier attempts to combine guitars and different types of vocalists,” he tells Billboard Dance. “It was more of an experimentation at first that… has continued to evolve and grow.”
Below, Kayzo talks about Unleashed and his ongoing mission to bridge rock and electronic music.
What did you grow up listening to?
My earliest memories of music was [when] my dad would listen to Led Zeppelin in the car. When I got to be about 13 I started to branch out to my own musical background and tastes. My first album I ever bought was Sum 41's [2001 debut] All Killer No Filler when I was like 11.
So I grew up listening to rock and pop-punk and any sort of metal at the time. Aside from that, I grew up listening to Southern hip-hop, like Young Jeezy, [and] trap hip-hop—Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, all the Houston guys because that's where I grew up.
How did you first discover electronic music?
I moved to Salt Lake City [where I played] a high level of hockey. All the kids on my team were from all over the world. In our locker room, we had a big stereo system, and someone would always take over and play music. A lot of it was like rap or rock or whatever. But then when the kids from Europe would get a hold of the aux chord, they would put on electronic music and some bass music: old dubstep, UKF stuff from like 2009 and 2010, old Doctor P, old Flux [Pavilion] or Bassnectar.
At the time, I didn't know really much about it, so I was kind of interested. From there, I started to investigate and gather my own knowledge and formed my own taste of electronic music, and used it as a form of getting hyped and pumped up [for hockey]. I kind of grew a palate for bass music especially.
When and how did you first start combining rock and EDM into your own music?
Once I started getting in the routine—making music, putting it out, traveling, playing shows—I started to feel a little bit uninspired with the repetition of it… I had to take a step back and get re-inspired. I started going back into my library and listening to old bands that I listened to growing up. I started listening to old Bring Me The Horizon and old Sum 41, and a bunch of metal. I started hearing this correlation with the writing and the melodies in their songwriting and structure, even their arrangement.
One of the earliest songs I made was called "Feel the Power.” That was one of my earlier attempts to combine guitars and different types of vocalists. At first it was more of an experimentation that, from that point until now, has continued to evolve and grow. I just always want to push the boundaries of what I can do and what can be done with this crossover of the two worlds.
Your previous album, Overload, also mixed rock with electronic elements. What’s the difference between what you did on that LP and what you're doing on Unleashed?
"Feel the Power" is one of the first songs that ended up on Overload that kind of sparked the format for that album. At the time, my manager, my team and myself included didn't really have a foot in [the band world] to hit up any of [the] bands that I was a fan of to work with. A lot of the production [on Overload] felt more like a half-and-half and less of a blend of the two [genres]. Basically, Overload was a testing ground for what I could do at the time with the resources that I had.
That time between writing Overload and finishing Unleashed, a lot happened in terms of recognition from the band world. One of the major reasons I was able to tap into a larger network of artists in the rock world was because of my  remix of Papa Roach's "Last Resort.” From there, continuing to push that sound opened up a lot of doors between album one and two for me to sit in the studio, work with legitimate bands and some of [the] people I looked up to and I still look up to today.
What was the production process like for Unleashed? Did you work with bands in the studio?
That was another major upgrade between Overload and Unleashed. A lot of the writers I would write with on Overload, I did it over the Internet. [With Unleashed,] we finally got to get in with [the bands in the studio] and sit down and work with them and let them see under the hood of how I work. That was a really exciting and important piece to this album—making it feel like I was actually working in a studio with the bands, like a band jam. We got to work together and make our decisions in real time.
The electronic scene is going through a wave of electronic-rock crossovers, with REZZ working with Underoath, Marshmello collaborating with A Day to Remember and Martin Garrix teaming up with Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump. How much of this crossover trend has to do with nostalgia? Does it feel like younger artists, yourself included, are reviving the sounds of their youth?
I think there are hints of that, but I don't want to say that's the only reason. Aside from us tapping back into our nostalgia, we want to always try something new and expand. Now more than ever, I think the stigma of never crossing boundaries is kind of done with.
There's just a need for creatives to try new things, and at the rapid pace of how music is working, we're always trying something different. I think that's why you're seeing so much versatility and writing now from all different scopes. We’re all always just trying to feed a creative hunger that can never really be fed. I think that's what's fueling the industry right now. It's in a good place.
Do you plan to continue this path of cross-genre collaborative music?
Each album, each body of work, for me is just the next stepping stone on a larger journey of stepping outside the box even more. I think that's what's important to do as a creator -- to leave behind that type of legacy, leave all these different artifacts of songs and albums that all sound different and all evolve and help push art forward in a way.
So yeah, I'm going to continue working with different types of artists. I don't like to overthink it and get too stressed about it. Whatever happens organically is what's always done well and [has] been important to me. It's all more of an organic flow of, “What comes next?”.