KASKADE with JEREMY JIVE and ALVARO GONZALES at Footwork (425 Adelaide West), Saturday (December 16). $20. 416-913-3488. Rating: NNNNN
If he weren't an all-star house producer, Ryan Raddon probably wouldn't be in the clubs too often.
Raddon, who records and spins under the name Kaskade, is a devoted family man in his early 30s who practises a clean lifestyle as prescribed by the Mormon faith. His moniker probably could be DJ Settle Down.
"I've been DJing since the mid-80s, so it's kind of funny that my career's taken off now," says Raddon, speaking lucidly during an early-morning interview. "The timing is odd. It probably would have been a lot better when I was 21. But that's cool. No complaints."
He grew up in suburban Chicago, where he frequented all-ages dance parties and loitered obsessively around maverick house retailer Gramaphone. Raddon shipped out for two years on a spiritual mission to Japan, then relocated to Salt Lake City for college.
Though he was no longer an outsider because of religion there, SLC's house music scene was as barren as its surrounding salt plains. So Raddon built the temple, so to speak. He put house on the campus air waves, released some singles through a local record store and convinced a club to give him its deadest night, which he then proceeded to jam for the next five years.
After overcrowding got the bar boarded up and Raddon's wife finished school, they moved to San Francisco, where he started interning for Chris Smith's then hot deep house label, Om Records. He went from stapler-refiller and demo-culler to bankable name on the artist roster.
However, when you hit play on Kaskade's newest vocal house joint, Love Mysterious (Ultra), the locale most identifiably pumping through the sub-speakers is where it all began for Raddon: Chicago.
"The movement coming out of Chicago was such a powerful thing," Raddon recalls of his teen years. "If you were hip, you were plugged into what was going on because it was so big. To see that going on and be a part of it definitely formed my musical identity and made a huge impression on me."
Raddon's third studio album is his most accessible to audiences outside of the club culture. Moving further from his early plodding deep house epics, he's cut shorter tracks with tighter production, paid heavy attention to the vocal melodies and upped the use of live instrumentation.
"I didn't set out to do that, but it's just naturally happening," says Raddon about moving toward a pop sound. "When I was making the first record (It's You, It's Me, on Om), I thought, 'This is dumb. Nobody wants to listen to five minutes of beats and two minutes of song.'
"This is all stuff I've been thinking about a lot for the last six years: how to present dance music outside of a DJ mix compilation. Now it's become much more about the song than the programming, where before I was more about the DJ edit than the tune itself.
"One of the cool things about working with musicians, especially really good ones, is they're always going to add their take to it. Same with the vocalist - even though I have [the melody] already dialled in my head, it always comes out a little different. That's what's cool about adding the human element: there's also some chance in there."