Bass is the place: Q&A with Lorin Ashton
BY RYAN SNYDER firstname.lastname@example.org
Whatever clout conventional rock stars once possessed now belongs to the top tier of electronic dance music producers, so a recent spate of critical wisdom goes. In that case, might be fair to say that Lorin Ashton, the tressed beat merchant behind the Bassnectar moniker, is closer in his genealogy to the jazz titans of the ’50s and ’60s. There’s no Point A to Point B with his music as there is within the established rock context; it’s Point E to B with a stop at Roman numeral. A devoted bass head could experience an entire live show and pick out only a handful or recognizable tracks out of the dozens he weaves throughout hours of music. That wouldn’t necessarily be for a lack of listening, either, because Ashton’s sets are an exercise in controlled anarchy; a reckless dance party fueled by bass and piloted by a man whose most trustworthy instruments are his eyes and ears. He’s kicking off a new tour in Greensboro next week with a fresh batch of home-cooked beats to share that abide by a single rule: There are no rules.
Y!W: You have a little bit of downtime between Europe and here. Do anything interesting with that time?
LA: It would be extremely misleading to call it downtime since I’m not DJ-ing any shows, but I’ve been working about 12 hours a day, seven days a week prepping Freestyle Mixtape and preparing the new video content. There’s been a lot of insanity in the labs.
Y!W: Is the new tape really as open-ended as the name implies? LA: It’s a chance for me to kind of say fuck off to the harnesses of genres and people’s expectations. It’s got a response to everyone saying, “What is dubstep?” and wondering, “What is Trap?” and “Is this drumstep?” I just put together a mix that I love that forms a unique reflection of sound for myself to share with the people I’m about to go see on tour. Then I’m picking five of those songs and put them onto the Freestyle EP for release in early October on Amorphous.
Y!W: Is Amorphous still as tenuous as you’ve suggested in the past?
LA: Even more so. I keep trying the get it together to release my friends’ music. The amount of people coming at me with cool music to potentially release is growing, but the amount of free time I actually have on hand to work on that kind of stuff is diminishing. I guess I’m too busy to do everything, so I need to let go of some things. Running a label is one of the things I don’t have time to do even though I feel like it would be really fun.
Y!W: The next tour carries the subtext “cities I missed last time around,” which Greensboro gets often. Are you tweaking your show any?
LA: The live set is consistently changing partly by injecting new content and as a recording artist, I create music just for my live show. I’m not creating albums for a studio album. I’m making songs that I really want to play live. There’s less of, “I’m ready to make this statement with my whole record,” and more of, “These are the songs I’m ready to release.” The set is kind of comprised of a limitless amount of routines, which is a combination of three to six songs that I can mix well together, but that I can also improvise inside of a period of five to 10 minutes. I can play them in different order, pick them up from different points, play different versions of songs and then switch from routine to routine. There’s a lot of pre-preparation about four or five years ago, probably eight months of work, to prepare this template that is like a playground for me.
Y!W: That sort of precludes you from the rock star label that gets tossed around in regards to EDM producers.
LA: I’m definitely obsessed with the road less traveled. I have no interest in being what people expect me to be, or what a DJ or rock star is. I’m an anti-rock star, an anti-hipster, just a fuckin’ nerd. If there’s anything I could compare myself to, and this is solely for the point of explaining this, not that I sit around thinking about myself in those terms, but it’d be a collage artist. There are no rules to the flow, it’s just about making creative combinations and that’s how I approach my shows.
Y!W: Your influences are a frequent subject of debate, but there wasn’t a lot of second-guessing “Pennywise Tribute.”
LA: Aside from anyone in America’s experience with the “Pennywise Tribute,” that track got me through Europe. That track was better than Ellie Goulding’s “Lights.” When I played that, the crowd blew up into a fucking mosh pit. I’m getting goose bumps just talking about it. The way people responded to it was just mind-numbing. The first half wasn’t intended to sound like an electronic remix, I just wanted it to sound like aggro-punk rock, but heavier than normal.
Y!W: What’s going to be special about the Greensboro tour kickoff?
LA: The kickoff show is always very raw, and the closing show is always quite polished. I’m definitely going to be trying out about 45 minutes worth of music I’ve never played, some of it I’ve never heard on a sound system, so it will be pretty interesting.
Bassnectar will perform at the Greensboro Special Events Center on Sept. 27.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan