If you’ve been asking yourself why you’re starting to see more and more Warped Tour artists pop up in the EDM scene, you can probably thank electronic artist Kayzo.
Working with the likes of All Time Low, Blessthefall, Memphis May Fire, Our Last Night, Of Mice & Men and more for his new album Unleashed, the up-and-coming producer is slowly but surely bringing his love of pop-punk and metalcore into the world of EDM.
“I started to listen to these songs with these melodies and these harmonies and there was this connection that I felt from that world to the world where I’m currently working,” Kayzo explains. “There was an ‘Aha’ moment or a light bulb and I was like, ‘Wow! This could be really, really interesting bringing my past that I grew up on into the electronic music in my life today.”
Crediting his Papa Roach remix of “Last Resort” as the launching pad for his EDM-meets-metal idea and the key for working with other well-known artists, Kayzo has now collaborated with big-name acts like Underoath, Sum 41 and the late We Came As Romans vocalist Kyle Pavone.
Getting a chance to talk with the budding EDM superstar, we were able to dive into his thoughts on A Day To Remember and Mashmello working together plus why it took so long for metalcore and EDM to collaborate even though Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore of From First To Last) is one of the biggest DJs in the world.
To check out our chat with the forward-thinking musician, be sure to look below. Afterward, make sure to grab a copy of Unleashed here.
We recently got to catch your buddy DJ Diesel, aka Shaquille O'Neal, out at Lollapolooza. How did that relationship start between you guys?
KAYZO: He’s a really big advocate of innovation within electronic music. I saw him in Miami at Ultra [Music Festival] and from then the friendship started. He’s just like a really, really cool guy and he’ll come to me and be like, “Can you maybe show me around electronic music?” and he’s been doing it for such a long time now actually.
That’s pretty cool. So his EDM career is legit?
That’s awesome. And obviously, that video went viral of him moshing. Are mosh pits pretty common at EDM concerts?
Yeah, I would say so. I probably see, especially during my shows, pretty much like three-to-four a night. I’d say they have sort of become a staple in electronic shows and festivals.
Going back to Shaq, that’s sort of an interesting transition into your new record Unleashed. Considering he’s not someone you’d expect to get into EDM, you’re similarly stepping into the metalcore world which some people might not expect to translate into electronic music. What influenced you to pursue artists like Blessthefall, Memphis May Fire and Of Mice & Men?
I was really happy I got a chance to work with those guys on the album. I kinda grew up listening to rock and pop-punk and all that stuff so it wasn’t a thing I stumbled upon more or less, it was just kind of what I grew up listening to. So for me, it was just more of a natural transition. I would say 2016 was when I first started to think about doing this. There’s a point in time I’ll never forget: I was driving home and I was just thinking like I should play electronic and dance and all that stuff. And I’m driving home, and I’m just kinda thinking about it, I was listening to something in my car and I was like, “God, everything sounds exactly the same and I’m kind of going around in spirals right now.” And so, I was like, "What am I going to do?” Like, “How am I going to be inspired?” So I kinda just went through old music of mine in the car and I found a bunch of old bands like old Sum 41, old Bring Me the Horizon, old A Day to Remember and old All Time Low.
It was kinda like a light bulb went off. I started to listen to these songs with these melodies and these harmonies and there was this connection that I felt from that world to the world where I’m currently working. There was an “Aha” moment or a light bulb and I was like, “Wow! This could be really, really interesting bringing my past that I grew up on into the electronic music in my life today.”
Yeah, that was the first moment. And obviously, there was different experimenting sonically with the music and writing-wise with other artists. So there’s been a lot of different challenges. But just being able to put aside everything that is going on in electronic music in the past few years is cool and sticking to my guns being like, “Well, this is what I really want to do. This is what I’m passionate about. I’m gonna do it no matter if people like it or not. People are going to catch on, they’re gonna understand it eventually.” So I just want to continue to do it. And so, by doing that, I was able to kind of continue building relationships with other artists in the rock scene and little by little I was able to recruit higher profile artists which then brought other high profile artists into the mix. We would do collabs with like Underoath or like the “Last Resort” remix for Papa Roach, those are the cosigns that helped me kinda get my foot in the door with other bands like Blessthefall, All Time Low, Our Last Night and other bands like that. So it’s been a long road, to say the least. But a very, very inspiring and rewarding journey to get to this album.
Assuming you’re probably one of the first EDM artists to take on the metalcore and pop-punk scene as much as you have, are you surprised with Skrillex being one of the biggest DJs in the world, it’s taken this long for collaborations like this to happen?
I’m not surprised because I think he comes from the opposite end of the spectrum coming from the band world with From First To Last. Coming into the world of electronic music, I think as an artist, we always want to find something new to explore and I think for him, he had already been in that world for so long and [he’s] done that. Just speaking off what I think, I think when he got into electronic music and found his sound and motivation and got involved with such high caliber main stage artists and had the chance to work with other massive producers, I think he needed to kind of experiment with pop and work with [artists like] Justin Bieber.
So no, I’m not surprised it took this long because I don’t know if [Skrillex] is coming from the same place that I’m coming from. I get listening to rock music and being a fan of metal and pop-punk and whatnot but he’s [actually] in that industry and so I think for him, this was a way to do something new which maybe didn’t involve that. So I think that’s maybe why it’s taken longer. And there’s also not that many people overall in the entire scene that like this type of music, like rock music, and can relate to the energy.
What were your feelings when the A Day To Remember and Marshmello collab came out? Were you excited because it would open more people’s eyes to your music or were you bummed because you wanted to do it first?
I was really excited. I mean, I’m a good friend of his and I had known about that song for a really long time. He had shown it to me forever ago. We all kind of grew up listening to some of the same music and so for them to do that I think it’s awesome. I was really excited for them. And I mean also, like you said, I’m excited for the music itself to have another outlet on a mainstream platform … Working with a band like A Day to Remember and building that name and that sound into [Marshmello’s] world, I think further extends the opportunities for all of us.
Are there other artists you tried to get for Unleashed but couldn’t? How about some you aspire to collaborate with soon?
I wouldn’t say there were any that I didn’t get a chance to work with because they didn’t want to. I think I just had so many people in mind who I’d love to work with and such a limited amount of time with their schedules and mine and whatnot. But I definitely have a list and I’m always working on music, so I’ve already got a ton of bands and artists that I’ve already reached out to and plan on working with in the studio or wherever I can in the next few months to start writing material. I’ve got a pretty good list [of bands I want to] work with – obviously, bands like Bring Me the Horizon and those guys that I’m like super inspired by. I would love to eventually work with them. But I’ve got a lot of other bands that I’m excited to get in the studio with. I’m gonna start working with Atreyu, I’ve spoken with I Prevail, Wage War and a bunch of other bands like that. So there’s a lot more coming after this album. I’m pretty excited.
As you probably know, the metalcore and pop-punk world can be a little close-minded at times, unlike the EDM scene. Were any artists hesitant about working with you fearing they might be seen as selling out?
I don’t think so. I was fortunate to work with a bunch of really open-minded artists from the rock world that are either experimenting with electronic sounds in their own records or have been a fan of electronic music one way or another. So when I got in the studio with bands like, you know, Blessthefall, Our Last Night and Underoath, they were open [to collaborations]. I don’t think they were too worried about dealing with any backlash.
Did you ever want to play any metalcore or pop-punk growing up before you got into EDM?
I was such a big fan of it but at that time, I grew up playing hockey and I was in a sports background my whole life. I played hockey from age three to nineteen and that was the only thing I ever did because I wanted to play pro hockey so badly … so I didn’t get a chance. I put so much energy into hockey my entire upbringing but [being in a band] was always something I wanted to do for fun. I just never had the time.
If you could trade your musical career for a career in the NHL, would you?
Absolutely not. I love hockey. As much as I enjoyed playing it, it’s more of a passion of mine in terms of watching as a fan now. I really found my true passion and love when I decided to make music and kind of express myself in a different way. So I couldn’t trade this for anything.
Which collaboration on Unleashed do you think you’re the proudest of?
That’s tough. I’m proud of a lot of them for so many different reasons but I would say if I had to pick one I’d be most proud of it’d be the one I did called “LA Never Says Goodbye” with ARMNHMR and Kyle Pavone. It was such a devasting thing for [Kyle] to pass last year. Being able to have his last vocals, his last record and have it come out the way it did and give him the chance to have his voice heard and continue to be heard down the line and forever really, it’s just a really awesome thing to experience even in such a sad time. So I’m just really proud that song was able to come out and get the attention it deserves. Kyle put so much into that song, I think it’s going to resonate with people on so many different levels down the line, whether they’re sad or smiling or whatever. So I think being able to have Kyle still be a voice for something really makes me happy. So I would say that one.
That song has definitely connected with a lot of people.
Yeah, I was very fortunate to get to know him and work with him.