Venues are dark. The fields that would normally hold thousands of weekend festival goers are empty. The subs are turned off. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and government mandated shutdowns, it seems that all dance floors are quiet this summer.
And yet some things are getting louder. Topping that list are the voices of sexual abuse victims, calls for accountability, and the deafening silence of one of EDM’s most powerful players. As each day passes, the reverberations gather strength, much like the notorious, echo-filtered drops of the accused artist who sits at the center of the most recent scandal.
On Friday, July 3, the Campbell native and UCSC alumnus Bassnectar (real name Lorin Ashton) — who made a name for himself playing pioneering sets at Burning Man — announced he would be “stepping back” from his musical career amid sexual misconduct allegations involving multiple young women. Ashton is 42 years old.
One jesting Facebook user referred to his exit as “the bass drop heard round the world,” and he isn’t wrong. The news has pitted “bassheads” — one of the scene’s most loyal squads — against themselves, as many condemn him, others run to his defense, and too many say nothing at all.
“The rumors you are hearing are untrue, but I realize some of my past actions have caused pain, and I am deeply sorry,” Ashton wrote in an Instagram post before stating he would be handing over his nonprofit, Be Interactive, to a “diverse team” that would continue to operate without his involvement. According to the organization’s website, Be Interactive is a 501c3 that inspires fans to make an impact through “radical kindness” and “creative volunteering.” Be Interactive’s Executive Director, Lia Holland, announced later that night that, as a survivor of childhood abuse, she would be resigning immediately.
Ashton’s announcement appears to have been prompted by the Instagram account @evidenceagainstbassnectar, which emerged a few days before the trailblazing dubstep DJ bowed out. The account has since amassed more than 17,000 followers and introduced fans to the tangled web of manipulation and exploitation that the “Speakerbox” producer has allegedly been weaving for his nearly two decades in the spotlight.
The feed’s first post is a throwback — a screenshot of a Tweet from @IntroVeraSocial, dated July 24, 2015, which reads, “Bassnectar is a pedophile. #yeahisaidit” With just three likes, it represents a statement that six years ago went unnoticed. But lately, fresh accounts have begun to surface.
Some pieces of “evidence” are more convincing than others. One accusation comes directly from a professional vocalist, Miranda Hughes, who sang on Bassnectar’s melodic 2013 single, “Take You Down.” She confirms that she once dated Ashton — and also accuses the producer of having sex with underage girls and talking her out of hiring an entertainment lawyer during their time together in an effort to assert his dominance.
Other posts read as recollections from young fans, who divulge details of sexual situations that unfolded between themselves and Ashton backstage or at his hotel room (the vast majority claiming to have been 16 or 17 at the time).
Among the most damning documentation is an audio file of an alleged conversation between Ashton and a victim named Rachel. She suggests that the relationship they had when she was only 17 years old amounted to, “quite literally, statutory rape.” The voice on the other end, who answers to “Lorin,” refers to his actions as “so inappropriate” and that he would “never, never, ever, ever do it again” before stating that he wants to be accountable to her for what happened between them.
The next 15 seconds are textbook gaslighting. He never denies her accusation, but instead deflects by saying, “if you think that it’s worth me going to live forever in a Tennessee jail to be raped or beaten to death…” before trailing off. Fellow West Coast producer Dylan Lane — better known as ill.Gates — has confirmed on social media that the voice belongs to his longtime friend, Ashton. He has since removed all of their collaborations from his SoundCloud profile page.
So why is it that these accusations, which have been circulating for so many years, are just now causing fans to demand answers from Bassnectar? Well for one, we finally have time to think about the pedestals on which we place our favorite artists. When the drops are hard and the volume is loud, the kids fail to see beyond what the music industry is selling them at face value.
In the era of COVID-19, the show can’t go on. Festival promoters are no longer left to make the hard decisions about whether it’s morally right to put an accused artist on their lineups. The “heroes” can no longer choose to hide behind a wall of sound. The listeners are finally calling the shots.
This isn’t the first time that bass artists have been “cancelled” for misconduct reported by female fans. In 2018, Los Angeles producer Datsik was dropped from the label he founded, Firepower Records, after being accused of rape. And while whispers of similar behavior from other artists made the rounds on social media, the kindling didn’t quite take… until now.
In early June, Hawaiian trap producer Graves made headlines for allegations of rape, in one case involving a girl who was just 15 at the time. Just days before Bassnectar embarked on his indefinite hiatus, Space Jesus admitted to unknowingly engaging in intercourse with a 17-year-old.
If the above instances were all part of the build-up, Ashton’s departure marks the final, heavy drop — a mighty blow to the idea that powerful producers can skirt the law and common decency behind a screen of smoke and lasers. The consequences of Bassnectar’s actions are now undulating through the electronic music community, not unlike the ripples depicted in his iconic “Bass Drop” logo (which coincidentally looks similar to an image associated with mental domination, but that’s a whole other story).
In the wake of the accusations against Ashton, a number of other Instagram “@evidenceagainst…” accounts have emerged — aimed at other EDM producers, including Snails.
In 2019, popular East Coast producer SQUNTO wrote in a now-deleted tweet: “What if one of the scene’s Biggest artists was a sexual predator but No one knows because they have an amazing legal team and rabid fans who are down to gangstalk victims who are trying to speak out?” While it was widely believed to reference Bassnectar due to the intentional capitalization of the B and N, the post did little to convince fans to dig deeper.
But today there are no diehard groupies to protect him, no club sets to drown out the cries of victims with scars. What we’re experiencing now, is a calm before the storm. It’s a rare opportunity for the dance community to rethink the way we worship our headliners, and how we enable their treatment of us.
This may be our only chance to ask these artists to explain themselves. And in the case of Lorin Ashton, he hasn’t said nearly enough.
Megan Venzin is a music writer, yoga instructor and the Commissioning Editor for DJ Mag North America.