The Grammy awards are Sunday January 26 and among the nominations for best Electronic/Dance Album and best Electronic Song are works by Kaskade and a former UVU student.
Born in Chicago, Kaskade—whose real name is Ryan Raddon—went to Brigham Young University and later the University of Utah where he met his wife and moved with her to San Francisco. He had been practicing DJing in his dorm rooms and at local parties, but the city that is home to the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz was home to some wicked record spinning at the time and led to his success.
After selecting Kaskade for his stage name, he released his first single, “What I say” in 2001. In the new base of Deep House music and rising to prominence along with names like Deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner, Kaskade went on to have over 12 top ten singles on the Billboard Charts, headlining festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza. With his most recent album, Atmosphere, released in September of 2013, he has two more Grammy nominations. And the co-writer of the Grammy nominated song and title track? A Provo music scene veteran and teacher at UVU.
McKay Stevens has been writing music since he got his first synthesizer at age five and performing in bands since he was in high school. One of the key founding members of the Provo scene and a music veteran, even he is a little blown away by the song that was his brain child. “Sometimes it feels totally surreal,” Stevens said. “I just keep asking myself, am I gonna wake up from this dream sometime?”
A philosophy professor at UVU and UVU alumni, McKay has had some great experience with Utah Valley music. He met another big name in local music, Joshua James, at UVU and worked with him.
When asked about the connection that UVU and music has, he told me, “I think it has a lot to do with UVU. The university brings in talented people from all over and with all different backgrounds together. People ask why all these good bands from are Utah Valley? Because of UVU.”
Mckay and another Provo vet, his buddy Nate Pyfer, were sitting around one night working on some music and Nate started to play a chord progression. McKay started to sing and write down some lyrics, coming right out of his own life experience. Knowing that Kaskade had been working on a new album and that one of Kaskade’s main co-producers Finn Bjarnson had been to a few shows of Nate and McKay, they decided to throw it out to them.
Finn loved it, and showed it to Kaskade. Over some Skype sessions and late night emails the song “Atmosphere” was born. “After that, Ryan invited us to a few of his shows, and it was crazy,” Stevens said. “To watch the crowd screaming these words at the top of their lungs, and to think it all started in a small basement in Utah.
So go on, give some hometown love for a few great artists and listen to the Grammy-nominated album and song. And if you listen closely to “Atmosphere,” that first piano part and the “oohs” are directly from that first raw track written in a Utah basement by two friends.