Dancing deep into the mesmeric
VAIL ” “The music I make is wildly eclectic and at times [it] is heaving and massive and throbbing with bass and big beats and sometimes it is deep and melodic and emotional,” says DJ Lorin Bassnectar, who will perform tonight at Samana for the lounge’s one-year anniversary party.
As he is preparing to leave Northern California, deejay, producer and underground beat maestro Bassnectar is expanding on throwing parties, his skills on the snow and how to change the world. Bassnectar is a busy man with big ideas and has a keen ear for a bass line that has a nasty-but-nice tendency to whip up, lash your soul to within an inch of its corporeal existence and then settle in to drive a tune of solid grinding breaks that’ll have you writing into Webster’s Dictionary with a new definition of the word “funk.”
Raised in San Francisco, Bassnectar gorged himself on various music styles from a young age. Styles he would later look to draw from when he began to morph percussion and instrumentation to his own musically diabolical ends.
“I’m interested in eclectic hybrids,” he said. “I want to make music, just straight music. It may be electronically produced and it may be influenced by 1990s electronic music, but it’s also influenced by death metal, hip-hop, rock, classical, folk and opera. As long as music is touching, captivating, commanding and addictive then I’m interested in it.”
Politically aware and socially active
Bassnectar’s (real name Lorin Ashton) public persona, evident through his musical output, Web site and interviews in the press, is revealed as deeper and more complex than your average beat-freak party animal. Politically aware and socially active, some of his tunes have clear messages woven throughout them. I question him as to whether political music actually makes a difference or whether it’s simply another angle to make a good song.
“The point isn’t necessarily if it makes a difference. For me it’s an impulse, it’s an unbreakable reflex,” Bassnectar said. “A lot of the music I create is essentially an expression of compassion and empathy. And some of it is just fun, dirty beats. Social action isn’t a fad, an angle or a choice for me. It’s a way of life and a component of my being and one of the external manifestations of that is music.
I hypothetically hand Bassnectar a magic wand and ask him if he could whisk away the current government to a desert island, what he would do to make them act differently.
“My biggest problem with them is that they lack empathy and are too greedy,” he said. “This is exponentially problematic according to their power and sway in the world. Since their political influence is huge, it is a huge problem because they are not trying to create loving, healthy opportunities for the inhabitants of Earth, but rather [they are] sneaky, violent, corrupt and aggressive. [They are] spending their time selfishly amassing wealth for a small amount of people and acting as if they are public servants. I don’t think I could necessarily open their minds to that. They appear pretty closed people on all levels.”
Setting trends even Madonna notices
Bassnectar has been a scene stalwart for over a decade now, from organizing parties in his hometown to touring the globe. Nominally known as a break-beat deejay and artist, I ask him about the origins of the breaks scene in San Francisco and his part in its nascence.
“Well I suppose it wasn’t in existence. It was drum ‘n’ bass, trance, house and downtempo,” he said. “Other than one or two deejays, nobody really played ‘breaks’ per se. I just started playing jungle records at 33 RPM and speeding up hip hop, making my own tunes and finding rare tracks with cool parts. Then Uberzone came along and then kaboom. Now it’s way over done. For the past two years I have been way more turned on by mid-tempo beats. Combining dancehall, hip hop, drum ‘n’ bass and breaks.”
No stranger to life on the road, Bassnectar has been across the great face of North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. An odyssey that has brought attention from international press to dance fans to promoters in our humble valley. At one point, Madonna heard him play and was so entranced she put out feelers for him to play at one of her parties. I ask him if he ever did.
“”Funny. Yeah, that was in 2000. I was producing music for Perry Farrell and he brought her to check me out. Afterwards she wanted to hire me to play one of her upcoming parties, but one thing led to the next and it never happened. I’m honestly not sure why but it might have had something to do with the fact that she didn’t want my girlfriend to go. Weird times,” he said.
spins heavy beats
Bassnectar has played Vail twice before, and I ask him whether he’s been out on the mountain.
“No. Honestly, I’m a total ninny, a poser, a dog paddler, a scaredy cat, a pansy. I play tons of ski towns and get loads of free passes but I will just sit out and play in the snow. I’d rather they give me huge bassbins along the run and I will shake the f**kin’ snow as folks get their ride on,” He said.
Clearly no Grizzly Adams, Bassnectar still has plenty of stories to tell from his time playing here.
“I have two standout memories. The first an ex-marine visiting from Texas who threatened to beat me up because I had a t-shirt on that read: “International Terrorist” with a picture of George W. Bush on it. The second was him coming up and giving me a high five after the dance floor was packed, and he had freaked some girl onstage for over an hour to my beats.”
As the interview begins to wind down and Lorin Ashton prepares to pack up and leave the West Coast for his next round of live gigs and shows, I ask him where he’s taking his music and what we can expect tonight in Samana.
“Well in terms of where I’m taking my music on a general level, I want to use it as a platform for social change. Specifically, I want to get deeper and deeper into combining insanely powerful beats and bass with ultra mesmerizing musical emotion,” he said. “My goal in Vail is to simply drop deep, rich, fat beats and make people happy.”
With such a positive life outlook it seems Bassnectar’s visit to Vail is going to be huge. Tempting though it is to call in the emergency clean up crews early, it might be better to leave things be and venture out and witness the maelstrom that is surely just about to occur, first hand.