Bassnectar is the stage name used by DJ, producer, and remixer Lorin Ashton, one of the most long-standing and influential figures in California's electronic music community. Ashton's music is known for its eclecticism, embracing elements of extreme bass, dubstep, breakbeat, and other IDM styles, as well as shifting tempos, contrasting moods, and dynamics that go from gentle to bruising and back during the course of a set. A significant amount of Bassnectar's music also has a strong activist streak, and Ashton uses his work to promote social and political causes and to foster a sense of community.
Born in San Jose in 1978, Ashton was raised in a bohemian environment and claims to have been introduced to the power of bass by the rumbling of a minor earthquake he experienced as a child. As a teenager, he was exposed to world music by an uncle who brought him a set of hand drums and recordings of African and Latin music; at the same time, the youngster had become a serious thrash metal fan, and was also interested in grunge (particularly Nirvana) and hardcore rap (especially N.W.A.). Ashton taught himself to play guitar and formed an extreme metal band, becoming a fixture on the local grindcore scene until he attended his first rave in the fall of 1995. He was immediately won over by the sense of community in the rave scene as well as the music, and he began attending raves as often as he could, as well as helping to organize and promote events.
In 1996, Ashton started learning how to DJ, and coupled with his earlier experience in percussion, he recorded four-track demos with his band and studied electronic music at the University of California in Santa Cruz, soon mastering the basics of spinning and producing dance music. He started producing recordings for other acts in his spare time, and in 2001 he was invited to remix a track by Michael Franti & Spearhead for a single. Later that same year, the first Bassnectar album was released, Freakbeat for the Beatfreaks, which Ashton produced and released on his own label, Amorphous Music. While his first few albums earned him a buzz on the indie electronic scene, the fourth Bassnectar album, 2004's Diverse Systems of Throb, expanded his audience and influence; after that, Bassnectar began issuing a steady stream of albums, singles, and podcasts on which he has collaborated with artists including KRS-One, Ellie Goulding, Perry Farrell, Lupe Fiasco, Rye Rye, Buckethead, and Gogol Bordello, as well as producers Diplo, BT, DJ Vadim, and Rjd2. Divergent Spectrum, released in 2011, was his first album to reach the Billboard charts. One year later, Vava Voom broke into the Top 40, and his 2014 album Noise vs. Beauty reached number 21.
Bassnectar also became a popular live attraction, with Ashton spinning up to 150 nights at year at venues ranging from clubs and warehouses to festivals such as Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. He staged his first Bass Center festival in 2010, and the events (roughly twice yearly) grew in size and stature until Bass Center 8 filled Madison Square Garden in October, 2014. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi