Bassnectar: The DJ as Guidance Counselor
With hair flying across his face as he twists together gnarly basslines, Bassnectar is one of the most compelling figures making electronic dance music. He plays the Palladium today and just dropped his new EP, Freestyle. But the Berkeley-based DJ-producer, whose real name is Lorin Ashton, is less superstar than guiding light for a generation of fans coming of age at festivals and nightclubs.
Now 34, Bassnectar is a scene veteran with more than a decade of releases and gigs to his credit. He exudes thoughtfulness, and actually studied to be a guidance counselor. On his site, fans ask him about everything fromspirituality to colleges , and sometimes the questions are so heavy that he has hired a counselor to help with the responses.
He donates proceeds of ticket sales to various charities and frequently sparks conversations about social and political issues on Facebook and Twitter. Just last week, his Columbus Day post recommending Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States led to a feisty debate among his Facebook fans. We caught up with Bassnectar before a recent gig in Tulsa.
Do you feel like you have a responsibility to younger fans, and has that changed as you've become more popular?
I've always been been really interested in helping out youth of any age, but around that late-high school, early-college age is where I kind of planned to work when I wanted to be a guidance counselor. Then music exploded and ironically gave me a chance to make a larger impact than I think I would have if I were stuck in an office, and I don't have any restrictions on what I can say.
I'm really interested in promoting healthy, conscious lifestyles. It's fun to be able to tell them that I'm sober and that I really value my life and my nervous system. I think a lot of times they expect some kind of close-minded, Deadmau5-style "I'm a rock star DJ" type of comment and I'm not. I'm a nerd. I like to connect on a human level. It's more meaningful to me than accolades about my music or something.
You've written about your spiritual and philosophical beliefs on your website. Do you feel like you bring those beliefs to your music?
Music for me is all about pleasuring one of, if not more than one of, the senses in the human being's nervous system. Whether it's pleasuring yourself or pleasuring other people, it's all about tapping into what sounds and combination of sounds and styles elicit the best spots. That's something I'm pretty obsessed with. Whether I'm working or in pre-production mode making music or I'm performing, I take a lot of delight in having a chance to lead people on a musical journey and give them as inspiring and all-encompassing an experience as possible.