Bassnectar. Conscious Beats: The Bass God

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Bassnectar. Conscious Beats: The Bass God


After more than 10 years of making music as Bassnectar, Lorin Ashton is just as energised as when he first started.

After more than 10 years of making music as Bassnectar, Lorin Ashton is just as energised as when he first started. The Santa Cruz-based producer has been touring non-stop these last few months and he’s on his way to Melbourne to play at the massive City Of Lost Children this month.

Ashton’s music is this massive melting pot of bass styles and flavors with his creative hand at the centre. Through his self-run Amorphous Music label and Bassnectar Labs studio, he has remixed or collaborated with the likes of KRS-One, Perry Farrel, Fever Ray, Spearhead, STS9, Buckethead, Tappa Zuki, and Zumbi of Zion I; as well as various remix projects with producers such as Z-trip, Diplo, BT, 6Blocc, DJ Vadim, and RJD2. He has also played some huge sets at festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, ACL, Bonnaroo and Ultra Music Festival.

Nowadays he’s riding high on the bass music wave and his two EPs in 2010 were well received. Added to that is the popularity of Dubstep in America, and around the world, which has fueled great interest in his music. Speaking whilst he is on the road in the Southern states of America, Ashton can hardly believe where he finds himself now. "A few years ago, if someone had told me that I would be playing in Tennessee and Arkansas, I wouldn’t have believed them! I didn’t think there was an audience down here – I thought they would be too closed minded. However, despite how I feel about mainstream culture, freak youth culture who just want to go crazy is everywhere. The tour has sold out in advance."

Ashton started the Bassnectar project in the late nineties and his first releases came out around 2002. Since then he has been reinventing his sound regularly and working hard to maintain his own, frequently changing stylistic interests. However, he isn’t that concerned about his audience coming along for the ride. "I find it’s really only relevant to who’s listening. I have such an influx of new listeners all the time that it’s safe to continue doing what I love. I think it’s an issue for me when we’re on the road and we’re getting 2000 people per night."

That amount of fans changes the game somewhat. They are more familiar with his material and previous DJ sets. "There are people going to a few shows so I need to keep it fresh for them," reflects Ashton. "I have a large enough catalogue of my own stuff to do that and of course I combine it with other stuff." Ashton is looking forward to this tour because it will give him a chance to relax a little. "In Australia I will stick to the most banging sound of the second – no matter how old! However, in the states I don’t have the luxury. It’s like a constant journey."

Ashton recently made his remix of Walk Like An Egyptian available for free download. He commented: "I cannot pretend that I understand the intricacies of Egypt’s current political but I do know it is amazing to witness humans coming together to organize and rise up against injustice." On the occasion of the turmoil in Egypt it was a fitting gesture and reflects his social conscience and desire to give back. The track was originally made in 2002 and played throughout 2003. "It’s indicative of the style that i was aggressively pushing at the time."

Finding a sound is something that Ashton frequently considers: "I will come up with an idea and if it hasn’t been exploited before, then I go into overdrive. In 1999 I was pushing a hybrid of drum & bass & hip hop – 80 to 90 BPM bass music. Then I moved up in BPM. Now glitch hop is catching on – it’s old for me but super playful all the same!"

With five albums under his belt and a multitude of singles and EPs over the years (including last year’s Timestretch and Wildstyle EPs), Ashton is constantly working on new tunes. His touring schedule throws things out a little but it doesn’t phase him too much. "I’m still working on hundreds of songs," he explains. "I take bits and mutate them, mash them, create collisions with them. I’m kind of an executive producer of my own studio," he says with a laugh.

The central theme of the Bassnectar sound has been diversity and movement: "I’m so into the notion of timeless music. You can revisit any era and style. I mean there’s no way Elvis would have made his stuff without some of the music that came before him!" Ashton is amazed at how busy things are right now but he uses it to drive himself forward. "Demand outweighs the supply on a painful level. It’s time to step up and not relax – it’s full time. The biggest change from last year is size of venues I am playing at due to the demand. We are playing larger rooms and doing more of our own events."

Planning and bringing shows to his American audiences are fueling Ashton’s passion right now. "That’s more exciting than making my own music. I started out making events happen with my band and bringing people together so I have a well rounded experience. We’re renting an island to do Bass Island this summer and expecting ten thousand people. I love building crazy ass shit from the ground up!"

But doesn’t he like to sit back and just be the artist once in a while? "It’s a bit of both really – in house is controlled but the beautiful thing about being in house is that I can delegate to people and share. I have a great team around me." Touring around the world gives Ashton a chance to get back to smaller shows.

The size of his production in America isn’t possible overseas but he doesn’t mind so much. "Going international it is impossible to take the full show on the road but it’s not disappointing. I miss the old days like 1998 where I was playing a room with five hundred people or a beach with three hundred. Touring overseas makes it possible to go back in time. I get to play to enthusiastic rooms and smaller shows. There’s more music out there to choose from now. I think we’re a long way from doing the big tours in other countries."

It comes down to a simple philosophy: "Ultimately I want to play for enthusiastic people and catalyze experience. I don’t have a ‘conquer the world’ mentality."

Bassnectar [USA] plays the City Of Lost Children alongside Digital Mystikz [UK], State of Mind [NZ], Consequence [NZ], Triage [USA] and more on Saturday March 26 at Brown Alley.