These last years have seen a steep upward trajectory in the career of Lorin Ashton a.k.a. Bassnectar. Originally from Santa Cruz, CA this DJ/ Producer has taken his career from small, gritty clubs to large arenas and music festivals that most electronic music artists only dream of. For anyone that has witnessed a Bassnectar performance: bass that makes the breath flutter out of your chest, the press of adoring fans and, of course, Ashton’s signature long locks taking over the DJ booth as he head bangs to the beat, you know that Ashton is always meticulously cultivating what fans adoringly refer to as the “Bassnectar experience” and an experience it is, with Ashton at its nebulous. Most Bassnectar tours have become a platform to showcase all the best in production, sound, light and, of course, the best of Bassnectar himself.
Headlining the Worlds of Imagination: Forbidden Gardens Tour, which will be making a stop in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton Nov. 8, 10 and 12 respectively, will be the next step in the evolving experience that Ashton brings to fans at every performance. “We’re always looking to one-up,” Ashton says over the phone en route to Charleston. He has been on tour for six weeks and has three southern shows planned before he moves on.
With an artist who is usually razor-focused on so many encompassing aspects of performance, The Worlds of Imagination Tour becomes the perfect playground for the expansive idea behind “Bassnectar.” Labelled as an “extra sensory experience,” the tour will feature live dancers and circus performers and will become, for one night, a playground for your imagination. On the aural side of the tour, Ashton is supported by the biggest DJs in the current EDM scene: Bro Safari, Torro Torro, Brillz and Calgary’s own Mark Instinct.
“The system we’ve got fully synchs our visuals with our audio.” Ashton explains that this can usually be done with relative ease but only for pre-recorded sets. His set will be live, adding a plethora of factors that will need to be taken into consideration. “With raw live sets, it’s basically impossible [to coordinate visuals with audio]. We’ve kind of nerded out with our custom set-up.” For Ashton, who is a trained audio engineer and admitted control freak, the attention is in the details: the tour has a whopping staff of 25 who are dedicated to sound and lights. “We fill two tour buses,” Ashton admits with laughter in his voice.
Exceptional show production must be paired with exceptional musical production, and by trading new and interesting music and working on collaborations, Ashton will bring the bass that most fans have come to expect “My music is very collaborative,” Ashton says. “I have had the chance to follow many old-school artists as well as up-and comers.” Through these relationships Ashton forges unlikely but synchronous musical collaborations, or on the other end of the spectrum, acquires what might be seen as seemingly ordinary advice, such as a series of neck stretches from Slayer’s engineer, before he performs his signature, metal-inspired, head-banging moves. He then goes on to mention what was a “great” opportunity with Primus, something many might think of as an unlikely collaborative remix. “It was fucking awesome because Primus was a big inspiration for me when I was younger.”
With the rise of EDM culture Ashton is now well acquainted with the vast sweeping views from the top. Headlining festivals like Lollapalooza and moving up on Billboard music charts, Ashton knows that over a career that has spanned 20 years, he remains at his core the same. Although he has benefited from the injection of big business into dance music culture, there is still a part of him who feels strongly about the corporate machine. However, his experience in the music business has allowed Ashton to realize that he must often use the tools at hand to get his music to his fans en masse.
“For example,” he states. “Ticketmaster is fucking horrible, but they have contracts with nearly every venue so I have to work with them if I want to get shows. If I could work without them I would, but it’s more important that my impact reaches the fans.” He is still and always will be an advocate for free press, true media and Internet neutrality. “I am always rooting for the underdog,” Ashton admits, “and I’m deeply against corporate entities that take advantage of the little guy. In today’s ‘information age’ you have got to fight back with information,” citing Wikileaks as a great example of this premise.
“[That is why] Shambhala is one of the most special venues in North America because it has no corporate involvement.” Ashton adds, “It’s totally free and it holds a very special place in my heart. I played there for something like 12 years and I’m sure that I’ll be back.”
But while waiting for Ashton’s impeding return to a sunlight-dappled beach in the Kootenays, Ashton is cultivating a musical encounter, free of boundaries and hierarchies, supported by the best that the industry has to offer: “I grew up in the free party scene where a lot of people came together to put on shows. It was never about rock stars, it was always about creating a community and giving back to the fans.”
Ashton concludes: “I just want to create the most immersive environment possible and give the fans a really positive experience; a deep and pleasurable experience that doesn’t really require anything. An experience where it’s easy to have a great time and to meet new friends if you show up and are open to it.” And with that we can see how the Bassnectar experience becomes an experience that fans old and new treasure for life.
The Worlds Of Imagination: Forbidden Garden Tour featuring Bassnectar, Bro Safari, CRNKN, Torro Torro & Mark Instinct will take over the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on Friday, November 8th, 2013.
By Donatella Connelly and Melissa Syme-Lapper
Photos: Mel D-Cole (top), Peter Samuels (right)