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Bassnectar keeps grooves thumping
BOISE, Idaho – Wild-haired DJ and producer Bassnectar is a different animal than most of his electronic dance music brethren.
Born Lorin Ashton, the 34-year-old joyfully draws from disparate genres, connecting them with a passion for bass grooves. The organic approach has taken him from small parties to Burning Man to the large-scale festival circuit, where he incites massive throngs of dance at events such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Coachella.
Revered by an army of followers known as Bass Heads, Bassnectar sold more than 250,000 tickets in 2011 to his solo concerts -face-melting, gut-shaking blowouts of low-frequency sound and blinding light.
We caught up with him and talked about EDM, fostering a sense of community, and being able to give back to the world:
Q. Electronic dance music used to be an underground scene, but it’s never been more mainstream than it is right now. Is that a good thing?
A. It’s exciting to me to watch anything with momentum expand forward. You could ask yourself, “Is it a good thing that rock ‘n’ roll became mainstream or is it a good thing that hip-hop became mainstream?” While you’re asking yourself that, I would suggest that it’s a futile question, because it already is.
So I don’t see my relationship to that which I love being affected negatively by other people loving it, too. I make the comparison to strawberries. I (expletive) love strawberries. You can find me 10 billion people who love strawberries. It’s not going to make me enjoy my strawberries any less.
Q. A lot of new faces are in crowds lately. A lot of these fans maybe don’t have a lot of knowledge or experience with EDM. What would your advice for newbies be? There’s always going to be the old crowd that looks down on the newbie.
A. Yeah, for sure. I was a newbie, and I was fortunate enough to have old-timers around who were friendly and understanding. So if I’m an old-timer, I’d choose to be the same way – really welcoming and accommodating.
It changed my life to go from punk rock shows and death metal shows into electronic dance music in 1995. And my favorite thing about it was the friendly atmosphere mixed with the really intense music. Because I’ve always loved intense underground music. And to enjoy that within the context of a bunch of friendly people is so much better than a bunch of grumpy people. (Laughs) So it’s no new experience for me at this point to have a room of a good mix of old-timers and Bass Heads and the seasoned freaks, along with new people. I think that kind of chemistry is really exciting.
I would say if you’re coming for your first show, don’t expect too much and don’t worry about it, it’s going to be fun. And just let loose and have a good time and bring some new friends.
Q. Community is a big part of the Bassnectar experience, which would seem to have more in common with, say, the Grateful Dead than most EDM acts. Is that something you fostered purposely over time?
A. It’s definitely something that I have a lot of respect and appreciation for, having grown up in a commune and then lived my life in subcultures of the underground. I’m really used to and comfortable finding an identity within a scene and protecting the code of that scene and championing it and promoting it to my friends. I think that that happening in any way – where people are finding something that they love or a place where they feel like home, and making it their own – is really special.
At this point, it’s so far out of my hands that it’s just something that I kind of watch, as opposed to orchestrate. That’s also pretty cool-to work on something for years and then have it catch fire.
At this point, it’s one of the longest-standing underground music communities that I know of in the country. Certainly for bass music. … Most of the (EDM) acts that are touring and hot right now are one or two years old. And this all started in the mid-’90s for me, so it’s cool to see and to watch the growth over time.
By Michael Deeds
The Idaho Statesman