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Interview: EDM Star Bassnectar Plays Homecoming San Jose Show

In Clubs, Music
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“When I’m in the studio in my boxers making music at four in the morning, I will get up and rage. I would dance so hard to ‘Ping Pong’ when I was making it, I’d have to stop because my heart was bursting in my chest. I’m not performing, I’m not doing Janet Jackson dance moves or something, I’m just letting go.”

The finished “Ping Pong,” from his new album, Vava Voom, is likely to set off the same chestbursting pangs in the listener. Though Bassnectar songs are almost exclusively between 80 and 140 beats per minute, this one feels much faster, thanks to the use of an insane ping-pong ball sample—at times digitally enhanced—underneath the bass line all the way through. It’s one of many ingenious touches on an album that skillfully captures the fractured state of EDM, and maybe even attempts to unite it a little bit, drawing on dubstep, trance, drum ’n’ bass, hip-hop, and glitch to augment his trademark bass attack. The album’s “Pennywise Tribute”—which is a remix of Pennywise’s “Bro Hymn (Tribute)”— is straight up punk rock until the drum ’n’ bass elements kick in at the end.

The easiest tag for his sound is the catch-all “electronic,” but Ashton considers it meaningless.

“People talk about ‘electronic music,’ but to me everything is electronic music. We’re listening on electronic stereos, and we’re mastering with electronic instruments in electronic studios. Hip-hop is electronically produced and rock is electronically produced. It’s all electronic. Electronic music is just an enhancement, in the way that color TV is better than black and white,” he says.

But unlike most other artists who complain about the labels put on the their music, Ashton actually came up with a better one: “omnitempo maximalism.”

“It was finding something that essentially translated to no rules and no limitations,” he says. “’Omnitempo’ means I can play at any and every tempo, I’m not constricted by that. And maximalism just means turn it up—just tons of it. Combine everything with everything. Don’t hesitate, and don’t be burdened by other people’s rules.”

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