Lorin Ashton, better known to the world as DJ/producer/remixer extraordinaire Bassnectar, is a road warrior. The love-him-or-hate-him cult favorite is on tour nearly 150 nights out of the year, bringing his bass-heavy amalgamation of party-breaks, hip-hop, high-energy showmanship and social consciousness across the country.
Now on the fifth night of a thirteen-show/thirteen-city stretch, Ashton dials in. “I’m looking out at New York City right now,” he marvels.
As somewhat of a cult figure in San Francisco and at underground parties and festivals, Bassnectar’s 2005 album “Mesmerizing the Ultra” helped define his infectious sound, with instrumental concoctions both rowdy and, at times, ethereal. Bassnectar’s most recent album, 2007’s “Underground Communication” showcased a handful of MCs which displayed both Ashton’s first love in hip-hop and his yearning for the conscious, thought-provoking lyrics of yesteryear’s Grandmaster Flash and KRS-One.
“What I’m trying to do here is ridiculous,” he laughs.
What Ashton is modestly trying to do is to use his undeniable skills as both a DJ/producer and as a natural onstage showman to simply…change to world?
“Music is really only half of my focus, and the other half is social justice, political action and just making an impact on the world for, my opinion, the better,” he explains. “And I use music as a vessel…it’s a component of my being.”
NSA wiretapping, government-approved torture, illegal wars for money, election discrepancies and government corruption is just some of the topics that whiz by. Ashton’s rapid-fire delivery begins to mimic some of his guest MCs—at least in cadence.
“If something is going well, I’m inspired by it going well, and if something is going poorly, I’m inspired out of frustration to want to change it.”
And to Ashton’s credit, what he’s trying to do is simply provide the setting for the discussion. To counter the supposed downward trajectory of our rights and reputations as Americans, he’s done his best to put together well-rounded lineups and “bodies of awareness” in the form of info booths and volunteers.
“Sometimes I fail…Sometimes I look back at a night and say, ‘That was just a party.’ But in the end, if my failure is an amazing party where people get inspired by music, then that’s a pretty cool form of failure!” (Duke Shin)
Bassnectar, with Zion I and Eliot Lipp at Park West, 322 West Armitage, (773)929-1322, on April 19, 11pm. $18.