Kayzo talks about his Unleashed XL tour and what it means to headline The Forum in Los Angeles [Interview]

Kayzo’s humble beginnings as a student of Icon Collective in Southern California seem like a lifetime ago, now that he’s just announced his Unleashed XL tour for 2023, ending with a headlining performance at the iconic Forum in Los Angeles. Since he started the project in 2012, he’s hit every marker of growth and has steadily grown as an artist and person, leading to this truly monumental occasion.

The Unleashed XL tour is on sale now. We caught up with Kayzo over the phone this week to talk about his biggest headline show to-date, reigniting the Unleashed tour after COVID, and what it took make this all happen.

So I’ve known you for I think about seven years now, since that first interview in the pizza shop in North Hollywood.

Oh, my God, dude. Yeah, that is such a throwback. I forgot all about that setting until now.

I was at your first Doghouse takeover at Avalon in 2016. I think I was at your first EDC too when you went back to back with Protohype and Lookas in 2015.

Oh, yeah, the bassPOD, we opened it up at doors.

Now you’re headlining one of the most iconic venues in Los Angeles, The Forum. When that offer came through, what was going through your head, especially looking back at where you’ve come from?

You said it best. It’s one of the most iconic venues in Los Angeles and one of the most iconic historical venues around just judging by its history. It’s been 5 years, going on six next year, from my last headline play in LA which was at the Palladium.

Photo via Yoder

Was it really that long?

Yeah, dude, isn’t that crazy? Yeah, it was like 2017 when I did the Palladium. And so, obviously, with COVID our plans that we had at that time got pushed back, so it’s been five years since the last LA show, you know, LA being kind of sentimental for me. It’s important to me because it’s where everything started musically for me back in 2012 so making sure that we put on the biggest, best Kayzo show that we can possibly do in Los Angeles is kind of like top priority, right? It’s kind of like, you set the tone with it. It’s like a mile marker and kind of performance in Los Angeles, always for me. So when we were kind of figuring out where we wanted to play, what our target was, and what our goal was for the show, The Forum always stuck out to me because, you know, I’ve been to other shows at the Forum. Non-dance music shows specifically. And I remember the last rock show I saw there. It was Bring Me The Horizon in 2019, and I saw Fever 333, and I forgot who played in the middle. But it was the first metal and rock show that I saw at The Forum. And there’s just an energy in there that was –

That show was with Thrice. [laughs]

Yeah. Okay. It was with Thrice. Yeah, show was incredible. And, for me, it’s just, you know, growing up, listening to you know all types of different rock, metal, pop punk, alternative, kind of hardcore stuff, post hardcore, and also coming from a sports background, through hockey, that type of sports/arena style venue, those types of venues in general, I always kind of gravitate towards because it’s a good representation of my life with sports and my life with music now, since they typically house those types of events. So, the energy in those types of arenas, especially The Forum, like when I saw that show, I kind of knew right then and there that was like– I remember, I was with my manager at that show. I was like, “Dude, we will play this venue one day. We need to play here,” like there’s something about this place that just sets it apart from any other venue that I’ve been to in LA for music at that time. And so when that offer came in, it was kind of surreal because I knew it was possible to do The Forum. I just didn’t know when, and I just didn’t know how it would come about. And so when that option became available, it was super full circle for me. I started to remember all the shows I’ve been to there and just having that conversation with my manager like, “We’re going to do a show there.”

I’m so excited for the show and it’s been something that we’ve been working on for months, and we’re still working on, in terms of making it perfect for everybody by the time May rolls around.

So you’re now the third EDM artist in the past year to announce or play at the Forum. You know, Subtronics and RL Grime. And you mentioned that you haven’t seen any EDM acts there. The only ones I have seen in the past five years were Armin van Buuren and The Chainsmokers. What do you think is happening that artists, particularly, it seems, bass artists, are now playing The Forum? Are they opening up to it or is bass getting to that crossover area where The Forum is now like, “Yeah, we can do this.”

Right. It’s a good question, I think a little bit of both. I think certain acts like you mentioned at least in the last couple of months, and I was at the RL Grime show too, which was great, really, really dope show. It’s a venue where an artist that really takes pride in the vision and the storytelling behind the brand and the showmanship of the show, it’s a good place to show off that story outside of the typical club and even normal venue. It’s just a bigger stage, and it’s a different type of viewing experience than other venues that you can go see. So I think The Forum, obviously they’re coming around to see more dance music in there. Dance music is at a good place for those like large scale shows. The shows that they put on there, whether they’re electronic specific music, or with myself who does a combination of rock and electronic that’ll bring, like without giving away too much of who we have and what we’re doing, like we’re bringing an entire live experience outside of just DJing to this show and to the tour that I just announced even outside of LA for my set. That kind of resembles what I did in 2019 with Unleashed but on a larger scale in a different format, and also, you know, there’s going to be support bands and different live elements to the show that kind of bring it full circle, make it feel not less like a rave, but it brings the the storytelling and the backstory of where I come from musically, what I enjoy outside of dance music to the table.

I think they see this as a good opportunity for artists to take bigger risks. And try different things out that are not just the normal, standard, big LA show. So I think The Forum gives us a platform to take bigger risks. And I think they’re excited about showcasing that with the newer generation and the newer styles of music like electronic music and not just being so band-centric and you know, “We only do bands, we do live music,” they’re now kind of shifting and diverting towards also having more electronic music in there. So it’s kind of just coming with the times. Just like any other major city venue, festival. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10+ years, the representation of dance music artists or stages at major crossover festivals are pretty much standard at this point. So I think you’re starting to see that bleed over into the hard ticket touring aspect of things with artists, you know, electronic music doesn’t have to just necessarily be in a club or a venue that houses just electronic music. Now you can take it to The Forum or, you know, you see acts play at SoFi Stadium or Allegiant in Vegas like with Illenium. If there’s a story to be told, and there’s an audience for it, I think these venues are way more welcoming to it now.

Absolutely yeah. You sort of already touched on my next two questions a little bit, but I’ll just keep it moving. Previously, you mentioned the RL Grime show at the Forum, and I remember seeing you there the night before Escape. And I kind of mentioned to you like, “Oh, you’ve got a big announcement at Escape, huh?” I obviously had no idea it was going to be about the Forum at the time. I don’t know if you remember this.

Yeah we were at the bar talking about it.

Were you trying to, like, hide a smirk the whole time, like you knew?

Yeah. I mean, it was just kind of like I was trying to keep it under wraps just only because like, not that I was afraid of anyone saying anything. I just was excited; we had already filmed this really, really, really cool promo video that I premiered at Escape to soft announce the show to everyone in LA that was at my Escape set. So I just wanted like that to be like, outside of the promoters that booked the show and my managers, I wanted even like friends and people that I keep in touch with in the industry to be completely surprised and also blown up, like, let that be a huge moment, so I was trying really hard to just keep it under wraps until that moment happened at Escape. You know what I mean? But I was definitely excited to be there for that show and kind of just get a good insight of like, what’s to come and what the capabilities are from a production and showmanship standpoint at a venue like that, and it was really, really exciting to see what can be done in that venue.

We were also talking about your Unleashed tour. I was looking up before this, you know, for the for your last album, you announced that tour. I think it was like January or February, 2020. And that was like just a couple of months before the pandemic, and now you’re doing the Unleashed XL, even bigger than before. So, I mean, like you’ve come out of the pandemic, you know, absolutely leveled up. How does it feel to, for lack of a better phrase, overcome that adversity and come out the other side on a much bigger stage?

Yeah, that was kind of a bummer back then. I remember announcing the Unleashed tour that we were supposed to do. We announced at the beginning of 2020 and then, like, literally, like two months later, like a month after announcing or whatever it was, had to pull it all down. I just had such big aspirations for that tour because I had just got done doing the Unleashed, big one-off only shows in San Francisco and Chicago and New York, Houston, where we were testing the idea because we were playing Coachella in 2019. So we wanted to bring a live aspect to Coachella, and that’s what kind of sparked the idea of Unleashed to begin with, with some of the shows. So, we announced that big tour. We were so excited coming off Coachella and those shows and then the pandemic happens. And, you know, I never knew if I was going to get another opportunity to do the Unleashed show or something like it. You know what I mean? Didn’t know what came out was what was going to come out the other side during the whole experience with COVID.

And then coming out of it and then getting the opportunities to continue to grind and work hard on my craft, and continue to push this sound and this narrative that I am doing with my music with rock and electronic, getting the chance to, bring back Unleashed and do Unleashed XL because you know bigger, better production and kind of a different story. I’m just like super, super fortunate and grateful for it. Because that original tour idea was such an important piece to my storytelling and I didn’t know if I was ever going to tell it. And now I get to bring it back to life in a different, innovative way for 2023. It’s like full circle, and it comes with a lot of other growth, personal growth, creative growth, growth in my relationships and you know my girlfriend, family, and everything from the pandemic. I wish I would have been able to do the tour back then. But I’m almost happier that I’ve been able to kind of go through a lot more personal and creative growth and I think I’ve been able to kind of put myself in a much better and different headspace that I think will only benefit the tour and the show and all my fans that come to these shows. I’m excited that we finally get to tell it and we get to bring it all around the US and Canada and then end it off in LA at the Forum.

The lineup for the tour just got announced as well. It’s really amazing to see who’s gonna be supporting and playing with you on this run. The Forum support is still TBA. But you know, you already kind of touched on this, with a lot of your LA shows we can expect something really special. I know you can’t really get into too many specifics, but is there anything you can maybe, like, tease?

For sure. We have one date still to announce in the tour that’s like kind of spray painted out right now, and then we have those TBA supports, not because we don’t know what we’re doing, but because we are kind of just like waiting to announce those at a later date, because, yeah, they’re they’re going to be bigger than a normal show. Obviously, venues like The Forum are huge, right? So we want to really come out the gate swinging and bring something special. And also like I alluded to earlier, shows like the Forum and some of these bigger shows like we’re bringing a live aspect to them. So like we have bands, and bands as in plural, on these shows, So, I don’t want to give away too much of like, who and what, like the specifics because we’ve got some time until then, but like I will say there’s going to be a huge live aspect to that show specifically that will separate it from anything that I’ve done in LA and also anything that I’ve done in the past so far with any other Unleashed show. Stay tuned for that one. It’s going to have some things that people have been asking for outside of the band. I get hit up on social media all the time, and some of those requests are finally going to come to fruition at the Forum so I think people will be pleasantly surprised and excited for what we have planned.