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November 19, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Lorin Ashton, the DJ better known as Bassnectar, rages just as hard as his freak show audience. Geared in everything from tie-dye to Cheshire cat ears, Ashton’s fans feed on the dirty bass in a party with similar energy to the raves Ashton grew up with in the ’90s.
Early in his adolescence, the San Jose native got into metal, but eventually he broadened his underground tastes and crossed into the rave scene. The influence from both was never lost — he hasn’t cut his long, dark head-banger hair for 10 years.
“I never really thought I would be a DJ or thought I had any interest in it,” Ashton says. “I always just wanted to make music.”
He incorporates what he considers pleasing music of every genre with heavy, heavy bass. Ashton’s atypical style isn’t based on what’s hip or cool according to mainstream culture; his concern is with people.
“I’m trying to explore communities, explore people and explore how sound affects people,” he says. “I’m also just trying to create a soundtrack for people to freak out in. It’s natural expression, and I think people tune in to that.”
Ashton says the name Bassnectar comes from an old rave-cult bumper sticker passed around in the ’90s that read, “Butterfly beings drink bassnectar.” The audience feeds on the bass, just as the name implies. The term “Womp” is a Bassnectar-coined term his fans use to describe the sensation of his bass. There’s so much wompage that Ashton and his crew pass out earplugs at every show. “We take hearing very seriously,” he says.
Although he doesn’t sing, Bassnectar has a voice to share. A focus of his latest tour is to give a voice to local organizations by spotlighting community groups from each place he plays. Some of these groups include Conscious Alliance and Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication. Both groups provide innovative ways to help those in need.
“I’m kind of trying to recreate authentic experiences I had a long time ago, and recently, as a way of giving back,” Ashton says.
His newest album, Cozza Frenzy, released in September, exemplifies Bassnectar’s fusion of sound. The 15 tracks range from melodic to hip-hop, demonic to angelic and smooth to funky. The only consistent ingredient is bass. On tour, Ashton extends the studio tracks, combines them with old favorites and adds loads of new material.
Despite not getting top 40 radio play, Bassnectar has managed to acquire more than 19,700 Facebook fans, 40,500 MySpace friends and 3,600 followers on Twitter. Maybe it’s his positive energy that attracts fans.
“I really, really, really try and focus on what is good in life because so much is, for all of us,” he says. “It’s easy to be like, what about this? And you’re sitting there with a handful of blessings complaining about the one blessing you don’t have. It’s not a healthy way to live.”
Despite his lack of leisure time, Ashton doesn’t plan to cut down on touring. As far as other expectations, he says, “I would appreciate as little expectation as possible.”
His new tour brings him to Columbia for the third year in a row. Catch him at The Blue Note tomorrow, and don’t forget your earplugs on the way in.
Where: The Blue Note
When: Friday, Nov. 20, 9 p.m.
Cost: $18 - 20