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Looping The Sounds of Life to Push Electronic Music Past Its Boundaries
Lorin Ashton, better known as electronic music guru/producer Bassnectar, sat down with Performer to discuss his past musical history, his current love, and where he plans on steering his career in the future.
Before I sat down with him, I spent some time trying to formulate the questions that would get this guy talking. This creative hurricane, who has ‘superfans’ all over the country – people who follow him from show to show. I actually know one of these people myself (an old friend from high school) and I wanted to know what kind of magic Lorin Ashton bestowed upon these individuals to cause them to exhibit behavior not entirely dissimilar to the groupies that followed the Beatles around the world in the ’60s. Yet, as I conducted the interview, I found myself mesmerized by what I can only imagine is a similar presence that those superfans experience at one of his shows. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s get to the actual interview.
Performer: Tell me a bit about how you got into this part of your life.
Ashton: Music has always been a lifelong love of mine, and the transformation that comes with growing up with music. In high school, I was super into Nirvana and Metallica, and growing up on the West Coast, I picked up guitar and was a part of a number of different bands. I also loved organizing events around music as well. But what was really cool about growing up in that area and time was the underground death metal scene that was present in Cali. We would spend so much time getting involved with that kind of music. There was a librarian who would rent out her basement in Cupertino and let us come play down there, and even host shows sometimes. Then, I found myself on a 2am radio show with Stanford Radio. I even took electronic music classes in college. But I never thought of myself as a DJ. I just really liked putting on shows, I loved music, and I loved being involved in the music community.
Performer: So how did you decide to develop your electronic side if you have a bigger background in death metal?
Ashton: Well, I don’t really consider my music to be electronic music because I just like recording snippets of life – looping and playing with them. So, calling my music ‘electronic’ is like calling life ‘electronic.’ I’m so in love with music and life, so I don’t consider myself to have a specific sound, but instead, I just like to play with what I love.
Performer: Do you have a favorite piece of gear that you’ve enjoyed working with?
Ashton: I really like using the sampler. It records audio snippets and you can replay them at will, mess with the sound, play it back, loop it – really anything you could want to. Once I’ve done that, I like to transfer the sounds to my computer and use Ableton Live software to keep messing with it and to round out the sound. Ableton Live is like shooting the sampler full of steroids.
Performer: Do you have any career goals set for yourself?
Ashton: I don’t have a clear vision for the future. What got me to where I am now was just pure drive and ambition. Now that I’m here, I’m more interested in the depth of my music than the number of records I put out. It’s more about what is special and magical to people. What parts of life they consider beautiful – that’s become the question. Then it becomes, ‘How do you refine this notion to a single looped sound?’ Beyond that, I’m not looking for any fame or anything. I actually don’t like social networking or any of that.
Performer: And what about your superfans?
Ashton: I really have a high amount of enthusiasm for those people. I’m in awe of how they come together, and how they work together to make every show different and magical in its own way. I have complete respect for those people!
Performer: What is your favorite song to perform live?
Ashton: I can’t really pick a favorite. That’s like asking a father to pick his favorite child. I love that each of the songs turn out so different, and that makes them almost immeasurable compared to each other.
Performer: If you could pick one person, living or dead, to play a show with, who would it be?
Ashton: I don’t even think I’d need to play a show with them, but I’d love to be able to go to a show and see John Lennon or Kurt Cobain. They’d be amazing to see on their own, and I’d rather see them in action than get distracted by my own music.
So now you have it, folks. Maybe you can imagine why I felt so uplifted after this conversation with Lorin, even though it was unlike any interview I’ve ever held before. The only way I can explain this conversation is that Ashton constantly pointed back to the love he feels for life and music as reasons for why he does what he does, and what he wants to continue doing
Follow on Twitter @bassnectar