Bassnectar Talks New Album 'Reflective Pt. 3,' Shares 'Heavyweight Sound' & More

James Chang
Bassnectar

These days, dance music producers are accustomed to virtual collaboration. One musician writes a melody or a bassline and maybe a drum pattern, then sends the file over email or dropbox to a fellow artist. The collaborator adds their own flavor and ideas, sends it back, and the process repeats until both parties agree on a final product. It's like having a creative pen-pal, and it works well enough, but Bassnectar's process is a little more complex.     

Lorin Ashton, better known under his stage name Bassnectar, got his start at age 15 recording death metal demos in proper recording studios. He also wrote and recorded his 2014 album, Noise vs. Beauty, with a more traditional approach in Los Angeles. It taught him a lot about how to direct each stage and player of the process, and that's a level of control he's not willing to abandon. It can be tricky nailing down a good time for both a grime MC in the U.K. and a sound engineer in the States, especially when you're busy touring the road, but Bassnectar has found a system that works, a sonic switchboard operation of sorts.   

"You've got to match up the time zones, and then you're on What's App," he says. "I wear a headset mic ... and I'm on the phone with the vocalist on a speakerphone, then I'm on the headset mic to the engineer. I'm just talking to different people, going on (and off) mute, trying to map out how I want the sound. It's really fun. I'm super detail-oriented and obsessive compulsive with every little f---ing thing, so it's a chance to flex those instincts.   

Such was the process on "Heavyweight Sound," the lead single from his forthcoming Reflective Pt. 3 featuring co-production from Jantsen and grime rapper RD. It's a monster stomper Bassnectar calls the EP's "straight for the throat banger," and it's one of seven tracks on the full Reflective Pt. 3 package, which is out in full Aug. 24, but you can pre-order the EP today in a variety of merch bundles.

Reflective Pt. 3 comes just more than a year since the first installment. It's a series of releases all about collaboration, inspired in part by DJ mixes and compilation of the '90s that focused less on cohesive thoughts from one artist or another and instead highlighted different tracks, remixes or edits that a DJ or producer was feeling at the time. 

"It's like a gloves off, anything goes, no rules approach," Bassnectar says.

While he didn't originally intend to take the series this far, he know sees the Reflective concept as his main musical objective. The freedom to remix others, share other's remixes of his own track, or even to update his own back catalog is too tempting. In fact, one of those self-modernizations became one of his favorite moments on the forthcoming Pt. 3. 

The EP opens with an update of a rare fan-favorite called "FSOSF," or Future Sound of San Francisco. Originally released in 2007 on Underground Communication, he and his friend Maximillian composed it on a base of whale, dolphin and other underwater sounds. Then they used a program called Guitar Rig to write a bunch of counter melodies. The update is spacier with a more ambient intro and a half-time beat. The crashes hit harder and the vibe is more majestic, but the heart and soul of the song remain intact. 

"There's this vocal snippet that says, 'you have the power to change things,'" Bassnectar explains. "It's one of the things where it goes way beyond the meaning of the lyric as to the moment it was recorded in, how it sounds and the human who's smiling while he's saying it. It's just this magical little piece, and I got to just mess around with it. I made it completely different than it was before, and it still has that same character."

Having the power to make real societal change is something Bassnectar takes very seriously, so much so that he's organized an event in San Francisco called Be Interactive to launch a charitable non-profit he's organized by the same name. For years, Bassnectar and his team have collected $1 per ticket from his shows and events and put that money aside in a special account that will now be tapped for various charitable causes. Be Interactive will give activists and Bassnectar fans a venue to share their ideas to charitable campaigns and creative projects. Participants will then vote on their favorite ideas, and the winners will receive financial support as well as help from the Be Interactive team to bring those plans to life.

"In social media culture, we're all so unplugged from the real world, lost in this strange virtual terrain" he says. "So many people, when it comes to real world issues, just want to unplug everything and get away, and this is really about engaging, getting involved, stepping up and just being a part of the moment in a visceral way."

Be Interactive - San Francisco is the first official fund raiser for the non-profit. The Glitch Mob, Dead Prez, Ninth Child and more will join Bassnectar on the bill Sept. 29. The show sold out in just a week, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward charitable efforts. 

Fan can learn more about the Be Interactive non-profit and initiative by visiting Bassnectar online. That's also where fans can pre-order Reflective Pt. 3, out in full Aug. 24. For now, you can listen to "Heavyweight Sound" with Jantsen and RD below and use it as inspiration for how you might make a difference in your community.