“I am very shy from the attention more so than I anticipated,” he admits. “Growing and increasing with time, the more adulation or positive feedback I get, the more reclusive I feel, which is really not something I anticipated.”
But just as he finds comfort in his “second home” of the stage, Ashton embraces his strange spotlight and uses it to fuel his inspiration. His forthcoming EP Reflective, out Friday, June 16, is an homage to the exchange of ideas and emotions that exists between artist, fan, collaborator and muse.
“I project or broadcast something, it hits them, and their responses bounce back to me,” he says. “It goes in an echo chamber, and I really want to not only celebrate that aspect in the Bassnectar community, but also just in music in general through collaboration, remixing, participation of crowds and through my own experience as a human. I'm being influenced by music and then reflecting it back to the world.”
This concept of the ever-evolving conversation between himself, his art and the world is one Ashton has muddled over since the Bassnectar project began in the mid-'90s. He originally saw the project as a mouthpiece for political and sociological change, for the exchange and discussion of important ideas less represented in the mainstream discussion, but as the creation grew and evolved, and as social media emerged as a major part of a musician's offstage presence, those ideas changed too.
“[Social media is] like being stuck in a traffic jam,” he says. “Everyone is screaming and acting like an asshole, even though if you were hanging out with them on their font porch, they'd be totally different. Or it's like you're at a bar, and everyone is being really superficial and shallow, finding the lowest common denominator to visit about. It's not that there's anything wrong with that, but neither of those two atmospheres are very effective for intelligent discussions, debates, researching and learning.”
Maybe he gave up on the literal, but Bassnectar still stands for positivity, acceptance and social consciousness. “I just want to catalyze human connectedness, health and happiness in a general way across platforms and let people run with it as they see fit,” he says. “You're never gonna save the world. You're never gonna achieve all of your dreams at once the way that you dream them, so I kind of let go of the specifics.”
If Ashton is proud of any of his achievements, his greatest feat is undoubtedly the positive influence his horde of Bassheads have on their environment. He's proud of his fans and their engagement outside of the shows. Every time he sees them treat each other kindly on and offline -- whenever they hang around after festivals to help clean up the grounds or take time to volunteer in their communities. He can't be responsible for anyone's actions good or bad, but knowing his music helps inspire such positivity is more than enough.
“We've been catalyzing this informal campaign called 'random acts of kindness,'” he says. “It's inspired by that movie Amelie, where this girl is basically a full-time secret angel mischievously making miracles happen for other people. [We're aiming to] inspire it within our community as the best way to spend your time; what to do socially that's even more fun than parties, even more fun than drugs. What's even more fun than whatever is delighting other people. It can be therapeutic if you're in a low place emotionally, and it can be elevating if you're already in a high place.”
The Reflective EP takes this stronger-together concept and filters it back into the art itself. It started as an idea for a radio broadcast, a DJ mix series of sorts that could give Ashton the chance to share collaborations and remixes as well as tunes from artists he's had on replay, both from up-and-coming names to often overlooked talent, legends, friends and more.
As with most things in life, the idea took on a life of its own, and in the end, a collection of songs turned into two EPs, the first of which is expected later this month. None of its six tracks are meant to be game-changers. He doesn't expect they'll win Grammys or top charts all summer long. They're just “rad tunes,” and that's enough.
“Each tune will find its home in my sets for years to come,” he says. “It's just fun to make noises, and it's fun to sculpt them into the exact shape that you want in that moment, especially doing so collaboratively … I have such an incredibly amazing opportunity with the shows I'm playing. As a child I never dreamed of having an audience like this, and as an artist, it's not just the size. It's not even just the enthusiasm. It's the dedicated attentiveness. It's exhausting, because I'm working 15 hours a day, every goddamn day, because I'm creating material so that every single set is completely different. It's pulverizing. It takes so much time, but I'm not the guy hitting play on a CD player, standing up on a table with my arms up, letting three minutes run while I soak in all the glory. I really have fun mashing up music. The EP is almost equipment for that.”
Now, he shares the first glimpse of the tunes to come. “Underground” is both funky and jarring, an affront on the senses as much as it inspires movement. It's a collaboration with G Jones, and it's essentially Ashton's mantra, his statement of purpose and promise as an artist to his fans and himself.
“It's becoming more and more of a novelty for something to be authentic,” he says. “I think authenticity for me is just what's more heartfelt, doing what you feel the most even if it doesn't make sense to other people or even if their perception of it is different from your perception of it. It's really whatever you feel the most. … I've got no interest in the mainstream, no interest in followers or likes and no interest in following the rules. When this shit becomes unpopular, I'll still be dong it if I'm feeling it. Whoever wants to go and follow the path into the next big thing and next big trend, go for it and enjoy yourself. I'm gonna stay in the underground.”
The second is “Horizon,” a remix of his longtime friend Dorfex Bos that closes out the Reflective EP and, at 50 bpm, plays defiantly slow.
“It just feels like a big wave,” he says, “literally what it would feel like if you laid in the sand, took a deep breath, and then let a massive wave crash down on you in slow motion.”
Both tracks are released with hypnotizing visualizers to emphasize each unique sonic atmosphere. Get caught up in the sounds and the feelings below, and look out for the full Reflective EP Friday, June 16. Most importantly, make sure that the spirit you're sharing with the world is your best spirit whenever possible, and never, ever let the trolls get you down.
REFLECTIVE TRACK LIST
1. Bassnectar - Arps Of Revolución
2. Bassnectar & Gnar Gnar - I’m Up ft. Born I Music
3. Bassnectar - Was Will Be ft. Mimi Page
4. Bassnectar - Infrared ft. Macntaj
5. Bassnectar & G Jones - Underground
6. Bassnectar & Dorfex Bos - Horizons
BASSNECTAR TOUR DATES
June 24th - Electric Forest - Rothbury, MI
July 2nd - Electric Forest - Rothbury, MI
July 7th-9th - Freestyle Sessions: Colorado - Broomfield, CO
July 13th-15th - Camp Bisco - Scranton, PA
August 6th - HARD Summer - Los Angeles, CA
August 17th-23rd - Oregon Eclipse - Big Summit Prairie, OR
Sept 1st-3rd - Bass Center X - Hampton, VA
Sept 9th - Dancefestopia - Kansas City, MO
Sept 15th-17th - The Meadows - New York, NY