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Interview: EDM Star Bassnectar Plays Homecoming San Jose Show

In Clubs, Music

“From 2001 to 2005, it was just a graveyard. I would spend most of my time on the fringe in small local communities doing very underground stuff. San Francisco was going off of course, but throughout the rest of the country it was all people I’d met at Burning Man, and throwing together a 250-person show at someone’s art gallery in Brooklyn or whatever it is, DIY type of shows,” he says. “That’s why the Cupertino Public Library was so inspirational to me.”

Around 2004, he began getting into touring festivals. It’s a bit ironic to him, since he was never a fan of the Grateful Dead’s music, but he loves the model they pioneered. In 2010, he started his own Bass Center Festivals, and after the first two sold out well in advance, he brought a third to the Bay Area last fall.

He’s also used his Dead-like “Bass head” following to advance charitable work, and still promotes the “Dollar Per Bass Head” program on his website, through which he donates $1 for every person who attends a Bassnectar show to a nonprofit organization. No one who’s heard his political-sampling streak will be surprised by the importance he places on activism. But for him, there’s a larger issue of community, and it goes a long way toward explaining his ever-increasing popularity live.

“I think when people are at a Bassnectar show, there is an atmosphere of abandon that is also supported by an atmosphere of community,” he says.

“I don’t do drugs, I’m a very health-conscious person. I’ve got a very positive, humanistic type of personality. I’m trying to create an atmosphere where people are safe to go fucking buck wild and crazy for a couple hours. I guess I lead by example.”

Bias Against the Bay

South Bay DJ Andrew Moyco, a.k.a. Audio Dru, was one of the first to promote dubstep locally, and has been following Ashton’s work closely since the Bassnectar sound began incorporating it heavily. He thinks that despite Bassnectar’s popularity, he still falls victim to a bias against Bay Area DJs in the media, who are more likely to fawn over acts like Britain’s Doctor P, or L.A.’s Skrillex.

“He’s influenced a lot of people,” says Moyco of Ashton. “And he’s way better than Skrillex.”

But Ashton is happy taking his music straight to the people. “I feel like I’ve focused my music career more on—I don’t like the word fans, so I would just say enthusiasts—but more on the people than on the other DJs,” he says. “I haven’t spent a lot of time making music for DJs, which I think is something that a lot of the UK producers did. For a while, it was basically like vinyl culture was a very exclusive trading of VIP dubs and stuff. That’s cool, and I was definitely on the receiving end of that, I was very influenced by that. But when I make music, I want something that can penetrate through the psyche of a larger, wider spectrum of human. A broader age range, a more diverse musical background, a more eclectic personality.”

Bassnectar performs at San Jose State Event Center in San Jose on Saturday, May 5, at 7:30pm.

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