"Thanks for coming out here, wherever this is," Kaskade said to Rolling Stone as we stood with him in a southern California parking lot in between takes on his new video, "Atmosphere."
On this day, a heavily industrial section of L.A. happened to be the most colorful section of the city, thanks to a thousand or more EDM kids who stood on a street corner waiting for their chance to be extras in a crowd scene.
They were witnessing a first – Kaskade singing lead publicly on his own song. "This is a new experience," said the EDM superstar. "Singing in the studio to myself into a microphone is very different than sitting in front of a room full of people that are producing a video. It's a little nerve-wracking."
Yet Kaskade knew that this particular song – the title track to a new album coming in September – was the right one for him to make his proper vocal debut. "I've sung scratch vocals on my tracks many times before the singer comes in, and then I ended up singing backup vocals on a couple of things just to fill it in – you can't even hear my voice, just to add another texture in there behind the primary vocalist," he said. "I've always toyed around with the right idea. I think I was waiting for the right song, and this song, when I wrote it I was like, 'This is so personal I should just sing it myself.
"It's not necessarily about being a singer – it's more about just catching the idea of the song. I'm not gonna go on American Idol or anything like that. But for me the time was right, and it was the right song for me to sing."
Having his voice be the first one people hear on the new album seems fitting, given his pared-down approach to Atmosphere. "That's one of my things about this upcoming album," he said. "Everybody's reaching out to all these pop stars and R&B acts and urban acts. I collaborated with Neon Trees on the last one, and Skylar Grey. I was like, 'I should just bring it back home.'
"It's funny – I didn't intend this, but on the first single I'm the guy singing, and I think that's the kind of the vibe of the entire record, actually. I kept it really close to home, worked with a lot of friends, people that I admire, not so much people with huge status. I wasn't really going for that."
He has not yet decided if he will recreate the song live. "The tour is a little ways off. It's in the fall, although tickets go on sale next week. I'm still figuring it out. I feel very comfortable doing what I do behind the decks – that's my natural habitat – but I also like to challenge myself. I'm gonna get in rehearsals and see if I like the way I sound live, see if I can pass my own test," he said with a laugh.
Kaskade's fall dates include stops at Miami's American Airlines Arena, Brooklyn's Barclays Center, Chicago's Navy Pier and three nights at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium. Before he gets to those, though he'll spend the summer at Las Vegas' Marquee for his Summer Lovin' residency and then do a special show at San Francisco's Outside Lands Festival.
"For me, San Francisco, it's always a little bit of a homecoming. That's really where I kind of got my start. I put all my first records out while I was living there. So a lot of hometown love there.
"Outside Lands, for me, is huge," he said. "It's like one of those Lollapalooza-Coachella moments. What's cool about these festivals is you get people from all over the place. At Lollapalooza in Chicago last year I'm sure I played in front of plenty of people that had maybe heard one or two songs. It's cool, because my social networks are just filled up for weeks afterwards with stuff like, 'Man, I had no idea. That was awesome!'"