Interview with Bassnectar

00:00 October 14, 2013
By: David Vicari
Bassnectar [Courtesy of Greg Roques]

Lorin Ashton of Bassnectar was originally inspired by metal and rock bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Nirvana. Today, he has shown his diversity by sampling artists of all varieties, entertaining crowds of all sizes, plus collaborating with artists from Lupe Fiasco, Perry Farrell, Ellie Goulding, Gogol Bordello, Sound Tribe, Sector 9, Datsik, ill.Gates, Mimi Page, and Jantsen. Not only has the self proclaimed "artistic obsessive" Bay-area native been making music for some of the nations craziest parties, but he has somehow managed to spend some time "unplugged," focusing on making deeply connected music, answering fan questions, giving back to the community and talking to Where Y'at. There is no doubt this down-to-earth mixologist will be making waves at Voodoo Fest, his last stop on the Immersive Music Tour. Catch his acclaimed live show on Sunday, November 3rd at 7:30 on the Le Plur Stage.

WYAT: How did you get your start in electronic music?

Bassnectar: I was really into underground death metal music in high school. It was intense, and it usually played around 2 or 3 am. I would record it and then replay it before I went to bed at night, experimenting with the sounds before I fell asleep. Then when I was 18 and 19, I started going to raves.

WYAT: In 2012 you released Vava Voom which was awesome. What was it like working with Lupe Fiasco?

BN: Lupe is a strange and unique artist. It was very interesting getting to know him. We have some things in common, like we share the same birthday, but we are different folks with different backgrounds. It took forever to get going on the album because we had so much material. We spent a lot of time deciding which stuff to work on and which to leave out.

WYAT: What have you been up to lately?

BN: The Immersive Music Tour is the third tour that I have done this year. We started our 2013 spring tour in my hometown, the Bay area, and have been on and off the road ever since. I've started to pull away from making albums and instead producing material for shows and sets. Like right now, we have been on the road for six weeks straight. New Orleans is our last stop in the Immersive Music Tour.

WYAT: Have you been to New Orleans before?

BN: Yes, a few times. I did Jazzfest a few years ago, and I've played at House of Blues. I also met one of my best friends in New Orleans. She works on a radio show and she interviewed me. We're still really good friends today. I've been to some graveyards there too. I feel like every time I've been to one, it's misting and there's an eerie low fog. It's unreal. I actually have a song called "Voodoo" on the Divergent Spectrum LP which sampled an MC that talked about Voodoo. When I found out I was going to get to perform at Voodoo Fest, I thought that would be a perfect track perform.

WYAT: What did you think of Jazzfest?

BN: It was cool. I was mixing for an after party at a smaller venue—sweltering, sweltering hot, but off the hook.

WYAT: Can you talk about some of your sound sources?

BN: I use open source, so I'll sample everything from Jimi Hendrix to Eazy E, myself ten years ago, or one of my buddy's bands.

WYAT: What types of things inspired your samples on your 2013 release Immersive Music Mixtape? Were you focusing on any themes?

BN: The mixtape is two halves, so this is part one. I haven't completed the second half yet; I've been focusing on making the music deeper than normal. I may not play either of the mixtapes live—things get too berserk live. The theme for the tour is to pull back from that and sonically take it deeper. I want people to be able to lose themselves in it.

WYAT: Recently you had a fairly intimate performance at Surrender in Las Vegas—What was that like in contrast to your typical 100,000 person crowd? Do you have a preference on performance size?

BN: It was the third one I've done this year. You would think it would be this cheesy thing at a ritzy casino, and I think they do have those nights with DJs. But don't get me wrong: those nights have had some of the most nutso people. The venue really gets taken over. I love performing either way. I'll challenge myself to bring the energy of a stadium to an intimate venue and explore how to reach a deeper connection with people at large festivals.

WYAT: You're very involved in the community, especially with regard to privacy, democracy, and media reform. Can you tell me more about that?

BN: In high school I was forced to do over one hundred hours of community service. I thought it was lame at first, but I ended up really enjoying it. I volunteered at a school for blind kids, I think that was my Freshman year, and then I worked with older people at a convalescent care facility as well. In college, I almost studied psychology and sociology because I wanted to help people. Instead, I ended up studying education and electronic music and then developing kind of my own major which was called Community Studies. As a part of that, I spent some time teaching music to prison inmates and doing something called Music Therapy. It was a really great experience, and it was fun; it wasn't a chore. I didn't feel self-congratulatory or anything, but I realized I wanted to utilize my creativity to make a difference.

As I progress in my music career, I want to take time to carry that out. I want to give back and catalyze my fan base to have a greater impact. A part of that is the Dollar Per Bass Head campaign. I will donate a dollar from every ticket sold for the rest of my life to go towards charities that my fans vote on each year. I do have a couple pet causes that I care about—one is human access to non-corporate media, which can be a contradiction these days because it rarely exists. I'm also a fan of the EFF which stands for Electronic Frontier Foundation. They do a lot with privacy, specifically on the internet. Their motto is "Privacy for individuals and transparency for institutions." So, knowing what big companies are up to rather than the other way around. More than ever the public is being denied of basic rights.

WYAT: You've been touring so consistently; how do you balance the energy you put into your performances, producing new music, and your community involvement?

BN: For the last ten years, I haven't had more than a week off. It's kind of an artistic obsession. This year I have had more time to take breaks. Just unplugging everything—my phone, the internet, and going out to the lakes and rivers near my house in California. That has really kept me inspired so that I can put out more music.

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