Bassnectar has been a dance music staple for the last decade, spinning up to 150 nights a year on sold out tours and releasing a steady stream of albums. Last year, he put out the full-length Vava Voom and Freestyle EP, curated his seventh annual Bass Center festival, and toured North America. This year he's finally taking a well-deserved break. Before his set during the first weekend of Coachella, the producer talked to Hive about retiring from releasing albums, the new multimedia show that’s accompanying his live set, and remixing Primus for the upcoming reissue of Sailing the Seas of Cheese.
The last time you were here was in 2010. How has your live set changed since then?
It’s constantly evolving but I feel really comfortable. I’m working with music I love and blending it in new, creative ways -- reinventing classics I haven’t tried in years. It’s really exciting to have a bank of classics because a lot of the music coming out right now sounds really similar and a lot of the music from back in the day doesn’t really have the same thickness or fullness or intensity because they didn’t have the production tips. I remember side rooms in the late-‘90s at raves and entire sets would pass with music that’s forgotten; [it’s] in some lost record crate somewhere. Giving life back to those sounds is cool too. It’s kind of like a time capsule. For every 2013 show, we are unleashing a new synchronized video and musical show. It’s not fully developed. It’s something I’ve been working on for years and it will probably be at least another half year before it’s done. It’s a process of mapping out custom cut video to every single clip, sound, song, or loop that I play. Usually a DJ show consists of a VJ who’s trying to play along and trigger the video and doing a good job but it’s improvisational and it’s not synced. Or, it’s someone who’s standing up on their table with their arms in the sky while their CD plays and everything’s synced but it’s like, “What are you doing?” And I don’t do that. I want to be able to play with full flexibility but also know that, when I’m playing, the music and video are synced together. We’re working with a lot of film students.
How’d you get in touch with them?
I just put out a call online. When I was in college, I did a lot of independent studies and, if I was an intern, I never felt like I was getting ripped off if I did free work. I was grateful for the chance. So I know that there’s a lot of kids out there who are searching for a way to plug in with an exciting project and see a quick result.
EDM has obviously gotten so much larger since the last time you were here. What do you attribute it’s popularity to?
I don’t really feel qualified to speak on behalf of EDM. “EDM” to me refers to the standard European guy standing behind a CD player with his hands in the sky. I don’t have a relationship to that. That doesn’t turn me on musically at all. It seems like a very poser-y thing to do. It sounds like you’re at the gym. And it’s basically pop music in a very self-congratulatory way. I’m an outsider to that scene. I don’t play disco, house music, or DJ on CDs. I feel more like a live band and I like to protect my ability to be creative and flexible and not fit into a mold with standards and rules. Everyone likes multiple things. So to get into the rave, rave, rave isn’t my thing. It’s gotten huge though. I think the sky’s the limit for electronic music because it allows you a lot more options. You can make rock or metal or ska or hip-hop using those devices. It doesn’t need to sound like computers or European disco. Human beings are going to continue merging old news into new ideas and trying new things, especially the younger generation; the kids who are in high school right now.
"I’m not a partying guy. Humans like to go buck wild but it’s a fine line to ride. Our nervous systems are incredibly fragile and precious and you can accidentally do irreparable damage as I’ve seen a lot of my friends do."
Did you see Spring Breakers?
No, they asked us to sample some of my music in that.
In the movie, dubstep is associated with hedonism.
Hedonism is something that I’ve always felt afraid of. Music for me has always been a very euphoric and emotional trigger and it brings people together, and I love that, but when it goes into hedonism I’m just not that guy. I’m not a partying guy. Humans like to go buck wild but it’s a fine line to ride. Our nervous systems are incredibly fragile and precious and you can accidentally do irreparable damage as I’ve seen a lot of my friends do. I value a clear mind and a healthy body.
You worked with Angel Haze on the last EP. Do you have plans to collaborate with her again?
I have been working on a lot of music but it’s been for my shows. I haven’t created an album in the romantic way that an artist traditionally makes one by secluding themselves in the studio and not leaving for six months and they emerge with an album that has a theme. I basically am on the road full-time and scrambling to keep up with my mind. I have all of these ideas and I’m collaborating with all of these people and I’ll remember a record I played in 2003 and go remix it and edit it and get it playable. I’m delighted with my tours and I’m making music for the people at those events. If I end up with 12 killer finished pieces, I’ll release them -- and that’s what I did with Vava Voom and Divergent Spectrum and Freestyle. I was like, “Ok, I got a collection here.” They’re more like collections than albums. I was flirting with the idea of never releasing anything again because the most fun I have is touring and making music for the tour. I don’t think that will happen but it hasn’t been on my mind. The other thing, is that in the mainstream, music is becoming a mockery of itself. It’s so phony and marketed. I just want to get deep into music and so I love working with collaborators who no one has ever heard of. Right now, I’m working on all kinds of shit like remixes.
What remixes are you working on?
I just finished a really fun remix for Primus. They’re reissuing Sailing the Seas of Cheese and I got to remix “Here Come the Bastards.” Primus was so strange and weird to me when I was in sixth grade in 1982 and Les Claypool has always been this symbol of independence in music to me because he doesn’t follow anyone path and he’s a very unique and expressive person.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="700"] Bassnectar backstage at Coachella 2013. GIF by Christopher Kitahara for MTV Hive[/caption]