Let's just be clear about this from the start: We're pretty excited about the Identity Festival, which comes to Dallas' Gexa Energy Pavilion on Sunday, August 28.
Earlier today we posted a Q&A with co-organizer Steve Aoki. As the week goes on, we'll be posting pleas from Identity artists on why attendees should be sure to check out their sets, as well as other insights. Right now, though, we're posting the conversation we recently had with internationally renowned producer and DJ Kaskade.
Like Aoki, he was involved with the festival from the get-go, helping pick the artists who'd perform.
We talked to Kaskade about a number of things -- how heavily he was involved in shaping Identity, his thoughts on the future of electronic dance music and why he thinks Dallas has always been a successful market for EDM artists like himself.
Read our conversation in full after the jump.
How are you feeling about the Identity Festival kicking off?
Excited, nervous, anxious. I was just talking to my wife about the dress rehearsals and how awesome they went. It's like a whole new world. I've never had a dress rehearsal before for any of my shows. The stage is so big for my show that I need a whole day to run through things.
What, specifically, is your involvement with the Identity Festival?
The guys putting it together came to me early on. I was one of the first people who committed. I was one of the first guys who was into the idea and was like, "I think this is groundbreaking." I'm a very controlling person and I think they were looking to my input, like, "If I do this I want it to be something cool, I don't want you guys to screw this up. So, you know, let's keep the dialog open here." So, when I talked to them I was like, "Look man, I think you guys should have this guy and this guy." I gave them 50, 60 names of what I thought were really cool artists, and electronic musicians that are doing cool and interesting things, and I was one of the guys who was speaking up and saying that it needs to be really diverse and represent a lot of different niches that are in EDM because it's been around for a long time now. And there's a lot of sounds out there and a lot of different styles and it's very diverse and I wanted this festival to represent that. This is going to be the first EDM festival that goes on the road and hits 20 cities. And it actually gets to represent what's happening in the underground and draws on some artists that are doing cool things.
Who are some of your favorite acts playing the festival?
I'm a big fan of Booka Shade, Rusko, Skrillex -- all the dub stuff that's happening. Dubstep, big fan. And Chuckie, he's a buddy of mine, I had him come play at the pool party in Vegas last year. I love a lot of acts. Booka Shade. Did I say them already? And, of course, Steve Aoki. He's one of the guys that really stepped up early on and was like, "Yeah, let's do this. Let's make it huge!" I was talking to him last night and saw his stage for the first time. It looks amazing. What Steve's doing is awesome. Pretty much everyone on the lineup, I'm excited to see. It's not like there's an "Oh yeah, I'll just skip that guy." There's a lot of great things going on with this.
From our understanding, the main aim was to put together a touring electronic music festival -- the first of its kind. Obviously, that means taking into consideration a varied lineup, considering the varied state of EDM subgenres. How did this factor into putting the festival together?
Yeah, for sure. Like, we're here in Indianapolis right now. In the last 15 years, I've probably only played four, maybe five shows here. It's like, "Cool man. Anyone's going to want to do this in like New York, Miami, Chicago, LA and San Francisco." Of course it could work in those cities. EDM's been working in those cities since the destruction of disco. But it's cool to go to a lot of these other cities, like Indianapolis, and all these other cities where its not so obvious. I mean 10 out of the 20 cities we're hitting, people are scratching their heads like "Can that work?" Well, y'know, I think that's important. This isn't just a movement that's happening on the coast, it's going on all over. I mean I'm talking to you in Dallas, and Dallas has been one of the scenes that's been really cool. For whatever reason, there was always that Dallas-Chicago connection from early on. I don't know why that happened, but you just had -- I forget the name of the club now, I played it way back, it's not there anymore. It's gone through 20 different configurations, since it was what it was 15 years ago. But there was that half-indoor, half-outdoor, warehouse space...
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I love Lizard Lounge! That's been there forever and it's kind of one of those places that everyone's played. But there's another place that, I played -- aw, man there's too many clubs! I can't keep them all straight!
How has the EDM scene changed since you started DJing?
Well, now it's normal that will.i.am will just call me out of the blue and be like, "Hey, man. Where are you? I've got some ideas. You've got to send me some beats." And I'm like, "Wait. What?" I just have to check myself every once in a while when one of these pop acts hit me up and are like, "What do you have going on? Can we get in the studio?" Man, I mean, five years ago I never would have ever, ever, in my wildest imagination. I don't know, maybe I'm not a dreamer, but I consider myself one. I just never was dreaming that big. I think Americans that are in the scene were cool with the fact that we're in the underground, that we do what we love, that we've found our place in the music landscape here in America and that we know what it is, that it's not on top of the hill, but in this little valley, in this nook over here, and we're cool with that. We'd travel over to Europe and be like "Wow, you guys get a lot more attention over here! That's fun!" I don't think the American EDM artists were really striving for that -- or we just didn't think it would click over here. I mean, it took a guy like David Guetta to really kick down the door and say that this can be a lot bigger than anyone could ever imagine. You know what? Actually, [it took] Lady Gaga to draw super heavily on EDM influences, too. She made this pop record that you can't ignore, like "Wow, this sounds like one of my songs. It's interesting, and that melody is super similar to something I would have done." And that's why I think, at this point, there's no stopping it. It's just huge and you can't ignore it. What's changed is venue size. I'd play a big venue that's like 500 people. Now it's like venues that are, like, whatever, 30,000. It's totally changed.
How about the kids in the scene?
The kids now, what's cool about them -- and this is something I really like -- I think when I was coming up, people got into like, "Yo, I like deep house, that's my thing, I love this little tiny thing." Now, that's not the case. MTV plays you know five to 10 rock to hip-hop and some folk songs, and that's kinda what's cool. EDM reflects that now. Like, you can love Steve Aoki and you can love Kaskade too. Two totally different sounds, but we're in the same genre. I feel like the kids don't care as much anymore. They're like, "I love both of these!" And they can. I feel like, before, we got really stuck on the genres, now it's like we're more accepting. They're not so worried about some little micro-genre . They're just like, "I like this song, I don't care what it is. It's drum and bass? It's dubstep? I don't care. This is awesome." It's cool because I think we were lacking that a little before and it was kind of holding us back.
Would you say the scene is less pretentious?
Yeah, less pretentious and definitely more fun. People aren't taking it so seriously now, and they're just enjoying it for what it is. They're like, "Cool, man. Let's just have a good time."
Where do you see EDM music going in the future?
I think it's going to continue on its path of world domination. It's weird, now that I've kind of seen where it can go, I definitely think it's going to go all the way. And, when I say that, I mean I think it's going to be completely synonymous with pop music and pop culture. I think it'll just be there alongside it. I think more EDM artists are going to be collaborating and producing with pop artists. It's just going to be all over the place instead of like one or two songs here or there. I think there's going to be more festivals that represent this. I think a lot of people are watching the Identity Festival closely, and already with the ticket sales that we're seeing before it's even started, I think this is going to spawn like, who knows, 20 different spin-offs and things that are similar to it, or festivals in cities that didn't think they could pull it off. Y'know, I just played this Kanrocksas in Kansas City one week ago. On the main stage was Eminem, and I'm in this huge dance tent, and here I am in Kansas City in the middle of a corn field rocking out like I'm in Dallas and I'm in some warehouse under a freeway. It's like the same thing. I think there's going to be more and more of that. And it's going to continue to grow and expand.