Bassnectar aka Lorin Ashton is simply a genius nomad of electronic music, always combining different genres and producing a wide clusterfuck of enraging beats that are not only heavy in nature, but rooted with such emotion that its practically impossible to see him live and not let your the music take control of your body. He will be performing at the Electronic Zoo Festival next week (September 5th) and has been on an incredibly non-top tour across the US including coming to House of Blues in Orlando, Fl on the 18th of September. (See tour dates below).
More importantly however, The Music Ninja along with Chris from dailybeatz.com got the chance to speak with Bassnectar about his upcoming EP, the state of electronic music and much more: (Read Below or click here to read the entire interview)
I’m doing terrific. Good to talk to you.
So first of all how was your weekend?
Wow, it was a blur. Where was I? I was in Chicago, and it was great! House of Blues, round 2, it was bonkers. I’m finishing up my EP….well, I’ve been finishing up my EP for like 8 months.
Yeah, it’s got to be hard to continue producing when you’re touring so much.
Yeah man, that’s actually one of the challenges right now.
That must be insane. So, a lot has changed over the last 15 years in the world of electronic music since you started Bassnectar. What’s the one thing that’s surprised you the most over the last few years?
Uh, I mean, a lot of things surprise me.
It’s funny you mention that because actually the first time I saw you was at Lollapalooza last year coincidentally.
Yeah, and that was an exciting set because it’s such an outreach-potential type excursion where you know you’ve got 1,000 people there who know your music and love it, but you’ve got another 9,000 if not 20,000 of them just passing by who may have never heard of you before so you’re kinda roping them in.
Just kind of along the same note, you’ve played at all kinds of festivals this summer….I also caught you at Coachella this year which was such a blast.
That was fun as hell, yeah.
Yeah, that Sahara Tent is just unreal. But were there any of those festivals that kind of stood out above the rest?
You know, I don’t really pick favorites because there’s just so many nuances about every different experience, but certainly Coachella was one that stood out because, like you said, the Sahara Tent, the production in there is so extreme. You know, the sound system and all the lights and stuff and the crowd was just so ready for it and such an awesome mix of , you know, new and classic types of listeners. And then on the other side of the spectrum would probably be the All Good Festival which is kind of like a hippy festival in the mountains of West Virginia where they do two stages right next to each other that kind of alternate and while one stage is playing, the other stage is striking and setting up, so there’s no down time, and there’s also only one musical act happening at a time, and I was the only DJ of the whole festival. For the most part it was like, string bands and shit. I actually played right after Further, the Grateful Dead band and it was at like 1 in the morning. And their capacity there is about 17,000 but they oversold to about 25,000 and it’s a big half bowl because it’s a mountainside. So you’re looking at about 10,000 people on the floor and what should have been about 7,000 people spread out across your face in this big kind of amphitheatre looking thing but it was so overpacked it was just absolutely bonkers. And again this is where the surprise comes in. How do 25,000 fans of the Grateful Dead go from listening to “tinkle-tinkle-tinkle-tinkle” to crush face music, you know? And they did! It wasn’t like people were leaving or being like, “Oh, this is techno” or “This is noisy” because people just love music.
So when you’re composing your tracks, do you keep in mind the events and venues that you’ll be playing in the future? Like if you’re playing at a festival do you have anything that you know will hit for massive crowds?
Well, those are kind of different questions and both good questions. I definitely don’t have a specific system for making songs because I make so many different styles for so many different kinds of uses, but I definitely do envision what the listening experience will be like. So if I’m working on some kind of bestial bass line explosion track, I am imagining what it would be like to be in a room packed shoulder to shoulder at a really hot temperature and have this shit drop on 20 double bass bins and how that would feel. And then of course if I’m working on something more melodic or something that’s more of a listening song, then I’m actively trying to pull that force or that energy back and make space for a bit more diversity in the energy of the song. So, it’s really fun to customize the personality of a tune. Although recently, especially this last year, almost everything I’m making is for live concerts. Because, who knows who’s buying music or who’s listening to it? I haven’t even checked on the sales of Cozza Frenzy much less Timestretch [EP]. I have no idea how that shit’s done, I just know that our shows are ridiculously packed, and that’s kind of the forum I’m engaging my fanbase on. It isn’t so much on my album as the show, and so the music is like new personalities that I can wheel out and unleash on those people. And they kind of transform over time and recombine with old personalities or with records from my record collection or whatever, to kind of get more freeform with it.
Obviously you’re ingrained in it yourself, but you’re a huge advocate of the whole independent music scene, so how do you yourself find new music to listen to?
Well, it goes in cycles where sometimes for months, if not for a year or more, things are really dry and there’s just not a lot of newness or new sounds to my ears, and there’s a lot of imitation. And then things just kind of build up where there’s a serious vacuum of originality, and then all of a sudden something just pops and it’s like a fucking flood and then you can’t even keep up with it. It totally goes in a cycle, so it’s pulsing, contracting and changing all the time. So, right now I feel like we’re in that dubstep heyday where you’ll hear one song and it stands out, like, you’ll hear “Sweet Shop” by Doctor P and you’ll be like, “Oh cool, I love that high pitched shit,” and then next thing you know, you hear like 8 billion tracks with it and soon enough that high pitched shit is gonna sound the same way any old genre sounds. And, you know, vice-versa.
I’ve been loving the resurgence of drum and bass. You know, since the 1990s, I’ve been in love with a genre that didn’t exist, which was drum and bass at a half-time speed – where the only thing half-time is the snare and everything else is running at 175 [BPM] or 177 or whatever, so I’m hearing the beat much more slowly, but that momentum is still implied because the bass line is all furious and all the sounds are bonkers, but there’s no need, in my opinion, when you’re engaging with a tempo, to only work with one time signature or only one rhythm structure. So, since before I could even produce, I was making drum and bass that was around 90 BPM or 85 BPM et cetera and I of course lacked the production skills but even since 1998 I’ve been trying to email or write letters or contact drum and bass producers and ask them to do these special releases, and I’ve never had a single person reply. I’ve even gone to the drum and bass forums like, 3 years ago and sent them copies of my tunes and been like, I’m not claiming I can do this right, but can someone please step up and do it? And no one did and I took drum and bass songs in Abelton and physically cut them up and moved the snares around, and that worked really well and that started a couple of years ago. You can hear some of that stuff on that Kiss FM podcast and on that IDJ podcast, and that’s the most interesting genre to me. It’s like “Basshead” or “Here We Go”, you know, where it isn’t dubstep because it’s much faster, it’s at like a hip-hop speed. But it isn’t hip-hop because it’s got all this crazy mayhem and double-time energy bass line stuff in it, but it isn’t drum and bass because it’s like half time. And I’m not really interested in naming that genre, but that’s definitely the thing that’s been the most fun to make.
I don’t really listen to music very much. If I’m listening to something, I’ll be in a café and I’ll hear, like, a Romanian traditional folk song and be like, “Wow, that sounds great!”
You mentioned in an interview I read that you think drum and bass is actually sort of limiting itself because it’s just one specific BPM and now more and more you see all kinds of genres changing and evolving which is really exciting to see.
Yeah, it’s cool. I remember when I started DJing with CDJs, the amount of vinyl purists who not only refused to use CDJs but who would insult the people who were using them – I remember one time, some UK DJ came over, this was probably in 2001, and he had an MC with him, and when I was coming on, called me out to the room. And, I was from San Francisco, but he was telling them that I wasn’t a real DJ because I didn’t use real vinyl, and we were just laughing because I was able to destroy that crowd because with a CD, at that time, you could not only play anything you’d made, as opposed to record pressing it, but you could of course change the speed without changing the pitch. So I knew very early on, probably as early as 1998, to stop DJing sets of music of a certain style, and was really into drastically changing the tempo, because in electronic music, tempo is pretty much the singular diversifying ingredient. Of course, there are many others, but, you know, house is house because its in the 125 BPM range. Dubstep is dubstep because it’s at 70 or 140, et cetera. So, as soon as the tempo goes out the window and people are comfortable moving at every speed, then of course you can use any style or any sound to kind of enforce that.
So while you’ve been changing things up, what have been some of the challenges of having your own music label with Amorphous Music?
Well, it would be highly deceitful and a pathetically dishonest claim of me to actually pretend like it’s a functioning label.
Oh, come on now, you’re selling yourself short.
No, but seriously, everything I do is a collaborative effort, but, you know, Underground Communication was leaning heavily on Om Records’ infrastructure as was Cozza Frenzy. Timestretch I guess was just Amorphous Music but that was just kind of like my tour manager and different people helping out. You know, I always wanted to have like a state of the art label with an office and a team. Kind of like how Diplo has Mad Decent. If I had a team like that, the label I would create would be so flabberghasting, but there’s just no time in my life for it, and there isn’t really even demand in the market for new labels. I think it’s more an artistic manifestation of your musical interests when you make a label. It’s not so much a clientele requesting more music from you because I think everyone in the world is oversaturated with music, and that’s kind of a byproduct of so many people learning how to produce and it becoming easier with the software, but it also has lead to people having music chasing them down as opposed to chasing music down. So, Amorphous Music at this point is just kind of like this half-assed outlet for my releases, and I disrespect it but lovingly and kind of in jest, but I’d hate to give the impression that it’s an amazing label, because I’ve never had a release come out on time or do anything proper, but I’ve had a lot of luck with the live shows because I’m a pretty energetic person and I come from a pretty energetic underground music scene and I have a lot of energy to share live. But in terms of releases, I feel like I’ve dropped the ball pretty much consistently.
And I can’t really picture you sitting at a desk in an office anyway, so…
Well I’m sitting at one right now. Actually, when I’m not touring I work about 12-15 hours a day and I’d say at least half of that of course is music, but the other half of that is just an aggressive amount of blogging, writing, brainstorming, artwork, emailing, calls, just so much. And most of it is about the live show. But, I’m pretty much obsessed with work, you know, it’s fucking beautiful outside and I’ve spent the entire day in here working on mastering.
Alright..so, you’re pretty active on Facebook and Twitter and those things. How has that changed the way you’ve been able to interact with your fans?
Well, probably the same was as anyone. I’ve found that with the internet and social networking sites, some people seem to have viewed them as new things, and I view them as an old thing done better. When I was 16, we called it “mail”. I was in a death metal band, actually several, and in the underground death metal scene, each scene was so small within a city or even within a state, that we didn’t have thousands of people, we had maybe 4 people in each city that loved death metal, or maybe one in every high school.
I think because I come from a really DIY underground spirit, people like to get behind it and help out. So people like Lia, Daysha, et cetera, kind of just gravitate towards it because they see it as this way to interact with the community via music. So, I certainly couldn’t do all of this myself. I don’t even own or control a Facebook account for myself, and I’ve only checked the Bassnectar account once. Lia’s the one who runs it and when she needs me to say something, I’ll just email her what I want to say. But we’re trying to make the website the best way to interact with people because I feel like on Facebook, there will be some interesting comment and I’ll want to write back but I’ll take a half hour to write back to it, and then the same question will get asked like 500 times, so we’re just looking for a way to functionally communicate. And I feel like the social networking at this point is really sensationalized and very based around leisure time and entertainment. I look forward to when it will be based more around content and thought exchange and the exchange of ideas, and I believe it’s moving there, and I know it’s there in some cases now, but I think for the most part it’s what are you doing, how are you feeling, who are you dating, what are you eating, and I think it can move to what are you thinking about, how do you feel about this, what do you think about this statement, how do you feel about that, and that will be interesting when that does end up happening more.
Yeah, I really have to say that Lia [your management] has done a great job of updating us with all the latest, and I really appreciate you sending us a couple of exclusive tracks as well.
Oh, hell yeah. Lia’s magical, and you’ve done well for us, and frankly, it excites me because it becomes a collaboration just like I was saying as a record label, you find someone enthusiastic like yourself to broadcast the message out, and give them some content to work with, it’s just exciting.
Now I’m really interested in your whole creative process, what you start with and how it evolves into something else.
Um, there’s really, there’s seriously – and I’m not just avoiding the question – I don’t think I’ve ever done anything the same way, and for every track I’ve released, there are literally 5,200 other versions or tracks or spawns of it, it’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, that just never really got pursued. It might be like that for everyone, I don’t know, but a lot of the time it will start with a sound in my head that I’m humming and I turn that into a bass line, and then I pick a speed and I start a beat for it. Sometimes I just feel like drumming and so I’ll go and make like, 50 beats, and the next time I’m humming something, I’ll just hum it over one of my beats. Or sometimes I’ll be watching a movie, and the song just swells up in this emotional scene and I start humming over it and coming up with a remix over it or whatever. And a lot of the stuff I do is collaborative, where someone will send me a track that they’re working on that they’re stuck on, or a guitarist will send me a guitar riff or things like that and I just work with it. It’s not really important to me how a song gets done, it’s important to me that a song gets done and all and gets done to the best of its ability, so even in 50 years if I could just sit in a room with 20 talented musicians and just kind of DJ an album with them
Yeah, lately it’s been a free-for-all for anyone to come in and remix anybody’s work. Can you tell us a little about any artists that you’re currently collaborating with or that you’d love to work with in the future?
Yeah, the new EP’s got this band called Paper Machete and it’s my friend Dave who’s just got this amazing voice and his band is just full of extremely gifted guitarists and instrumentalists, and we’re actually working on his music, but I’m just doing remixes of it for my EP. And I have a fucking BANGIN’ remix of an AmpLive song called “Hot Right Now” which is NUTS. He used seven different vocalists on that so all these different vocalists are just blowing up my speakers. And Bil Bless is doing my mastering for me as usual. If I could have it any way, I would have Bil Bless master anything I ever do from now until I die. We have an amazing synergy and he understands exactly what I’m looking for, and we’ve been working together for four or five years now, but he lives in Texas and I live in California so instead of sitting down together, we’re able to do it where he sends it back to me and I tell him exactly what to change, and it comes back, and it’s just an awesome language that we have. So that’s really fun. And of course ill.Gates, I don’t know if you guys know Dylan, but we’re constantly working on music, and then there’s a lot of producers that I’m kind of working on collaborations with but mostly it’s just feedback loops where they’ll send me a track and I’ll tell them what I would do on it or what I’d change or what might sound good or I’d send them samples for it back and forth, and it’s not really so much to make end products as it is for us to have exclusive little jams to DJ with, you know? So like, Datsik or Excision or lots of the dubstep guys. Flux Pavillion is blowing my mind. I’m most excited about older styles of traditional music just because it sounds more fresh. Because you can only listen to a synthesizer and a drum machine for so long.
Awesome. Well here’s a wild final question for you. If your music was an animal, what would it be?
Again, I have terrible trouble making decisions, but I can see it being a really ugly mutant of many different kinds of animals, perhaps changing forms at different times like a ghost!
Sep 4 2010 – Apache Pass Event Center Austin, TX
Sep 14 2010 – Freebird Live Jacksonville Beach, FL
Sep 15 2010 – The Venue Gainesville, FL
Sep 16 2010 – The Moon Tallahasse, FL
Sep 17 2010 – Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater Miami Beach, FL
Sep 18 2010 – The House of Blues Lake Buena Vista, FL
Sep 21 2010 – Coastline Convention Center Wilmington, NC
Sep 22 2010 – Lincoln Theater Raleigh, NC
Sep 23 2010 – Neighborhood Theater Charlotte, NC
Sep 24 2010 – The Valarium Knoxville, TN
Sep 25 2010 – LIMELIGHT Nashville, TN
Sep 28 2010 – Soul Kitchen Mobile, AL
Sep 29 2010 – Varsity Theater Baton Rouge, LA
Sep 30 2010 – House Of Blues New Orleans, La
Oct 1 2010 – Warehouse Live Houston, TX
Oct 2 2010 – The Palladium Ballroom Dallas, Texas
Oct 8 2010 – House of Blues San Diego San Diego, CA
Oct 9 2010 – The Wiltern Los Angeles, CA
Oct 10 2010 – Grand Sierra Resort and Casino Reno, NV
Oct 23 2010 – 1st BANK Center Broomfield, CO
Oct 25 2010 – Liberty Hall Lawrence, KS
Oct 26 2010 – The Blue Note Columbia, MO
Oct 27 2010 – Bluebird Nightclub Bloomington, IN
Oct 28 2010 – The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI
Oct 29 2010 -The Rave Milwaukee, WI
Oct 30 2010 Riviera Theatre Chicago, IL
Oct 31 2010 – The Epic Minneapolis, Minnesota
Nov 3 2010 – 9:30 Club WASHINGTON, DC
Nov 4 2010 – Hat Factory Richmond, VA
Nov 5 2010 – Electric Factory Philadelphia, PA