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Bassnectar finds high trends in low places 

If Lorin Ashton hears it and likes it, chances are good he can also use it.

"I can hear something Jimi Hendrix played, something Beethoven played and something N.W.A. played, and use all of it in my set," says the electronic musician and deejay.

And, regardless of origin, it will all come out bass-heavy. Those are the sounds that drew Ashton, better known as Bassnectar, to the music he brings to body-vibrating levels onstage.

"When I heard Metallica, it was the heavy guitar riffs that got me," he recalls. "When I heard death metal, it was the heaviness along with the scariness. The same with hip-hop, the window-rattling bass. There's a physical element."

Delivering that sonic assault wasn't possible 20 years ago, live or on record, Ashton says.

"Music up to the '80s and even the '90s wasn't equipped for bass," he says. "I just did some remixes for Primus — Les Claypool is known as one of the great bass players — but there was no sub-bass on those [initial] recordings. They didn't have the speaker systems to handle that. So I could re-add frequencies that it didn't have, making everything heavier."

The Bassnectar experience isn't just musical. Along with his custom sound rig, Ashton brings with him a system that matches a video clip to every sound and song in his musical library.

"It's an entire show," he says. "I try to immerse people in the sound and the visuals, carry them along for a couple hours. It has to be more than just the sound."

Ashton, who is now 36, has been absorbed with music of the heavier varieties for more than 20 years.

"It wasn't just the music. It was also the scene. Me and my friends put together our own shows, our own fanzines, our own tapes. It was by the people, for the people. That's what I still do today."

Back in the '90s, Ashton began spinning records at house parties and outdoor raves and, eventually, in the Nevada desert at the week-long Burning Man celebration, where he would play up to seven sets a night.

In 2002, he rechristened himself Bassnectar, and began touring clubs, theaters, and now arenas. He also has a new album coming out next month, which will include "Now," his recently released single featuring Rye Rye.

Live sets, meanwhile, remain fluid. "My approach is to be as free as possible, kind of like a collage artist," he explains. "Sometimes they'll cut out pictures in magazines and books. Sometimes they create something themselves. Sometimes they cover it in glitter and paint. That's kind of what I do. I'll sample an old cassette I like, I'll take a record and remix it. I'll blend all kinds of things together."

Ashton also mixes it up when it comes to collaborations, partnering with artists ranging from Lupe Fiasco to Ellie Goulding.

"It's gotten crazier every single year," he says. "I'm happy to be here. Right now, if I had one goal, it would be to enjoy what's going on. I'm feeling very happy and joyful. That's my goal, to enjoy everything."

scene@csindy.com

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