Retouch This

DJ LORIN, AKA BASSNECTAR, HAS TRANSLATED A DECADE OF PERSONAL EDITS INTO BIG SUCCESS
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Dance music can sometimes be a slightly boring affair for the uninitiated. Endless techno tracks seamlessly blended for five hours is great if you're on a personal journey through the chemically altered frontier, but it can get a little old for your average Joe Sober. DJ Lorin's sets, however, are a mind-blowing affair for everyone. The constant barrage of tempo changes, intestine-rattling bass and wide swath of genres keep your interest without sounding too ADD. Lorin explains, “I tend to refer to Bassnectar as ‘omnitempo maximalism,’ which means any or all speeds, time signatures, rhythms and every sound source possible. I seem to gravitate toward really heavy tempos, lots of play with double time and half time and using electronic methods to embellish and reinforce other styles of music — maybe ragtime or punk rock or the blues or batucada or polka or salsa or film scores or gangsta rap or beatboxing or Balkan gypsy music or ska.” His genre-defying mixes are a highly personalized blend of beats, edits and remixes that few other DJs can offer, easily separating him from the pack without the normal bucket-load of PR hype. I sat down with Lorin to find out how he gets such a bombastically personal sound.

How much of your set is material that you have created in some way?

Sometimes I play sets that are 100-percent only original tunes (not even mash-ups), and sometimes I play sets that are 100-percent only tracks I have touched in some way (originals, remixes, edits, mash-ups, etc.). Usually it is about 50-percent original, 25-percent mash-up/exclusive edit and 25-percent selected. Then again, with Ableton Live, lately it's just been an onslaught of unlimited sampled loops, bits, bobs, drops, vocals, womps, wanks, warmps, buzzers, geezers and endless snippets.

Have your edits had a big effect on your success?

Well, the fact that I have been editing/touching the majority of the music I play out is certainly a huge factor — even little things like a reorganized arrangement or adding a snare. Even though I used to take so much heat in '97 and '98 for DJing with CDs, the fact is, I was editing everything, even in small ways — normalizing, EQ, mastering, cleaning up, making interesting intros, deleting a stupid word or phrase, repeating something really good, adding an extra drum loop, sampling just a good element, etc. — so my sets were not only unique but also really able to feature the level of quality that I needed. And I could use any source material I wanted.

How important do you think it is for new DJs to personalize their sets with remixes and edits?

It's one-hundred-percent essential. But then again, I do not know how essential new DJs are — and that is a crummy thing to say, especially considering the fact that I am a very inclusive and community-oriented person. It's a loaded topic that deserves a lot of explanation in order to clearly establish the point, but I just think there is a level of saturation of both DJs and producers these days that its become very obligatory and unstimulating.

What program do you prefer to use for your edits and remixes?

I love [Sony] Sound Forge. I am so sad they don't make it for Mac. Please Sony, make it for Mac!

Do you remaster your edits? If so, what plug-ins do you like to use?

I love PSP Vintage Warmer (which I have heard some critiques on lately, but I love it anyway). I also love Waves L2 Ultramaximizer, and I use it on every single track.

If you're trying to make an older dub track sound more modern and fit in with a new drum 'n' bass instrumental, what are few ways you do that?

  1. Isolate parts of the original that sound “clean” (or bypass parts that are cluttered or are kind of “off” because they were played live and something went haywire).
  2. Maybe warp the parts I like in Ableton Live, so it's spot-on.
  3. EQ out the bass (subs definitely, kick most likely).
  4. Bug my friends to find me the a cappella.
  5. Offer lap dances, favors or even threats if they do not deliver.
  6. Write my own “muscle beat” (consisting of bright sharp hats, a swatting snare, a knocking kick and a ridiculous sub) or sometimes use a loop from a sadly uninventive “modern” song with an undeniably dope bass line or beat but no character.
  7. Wait until the original sample is in heat, then stimulate the remix elements and lock them in a cage together during the full moon. Place bets, drink a smoothie, then open up the cage and see what's gone down.

What is the most popular personal edit or remix that you have made?

In terms of what pops the crowd off the most lately — the go-to deadly Bassnectar weapons — I'd have to say my remixes of Metallica's “For Whom the Bass Tolls” and The Beatles' “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” But that kind of thing is so easy. I mean, c'mon. If you use music as great as Metallica or The Beatles, and you have even a half-ass ear for production, it's easy to crush.

What do you think of digital DJ technology?

It's awesome. In some senses, it changes the “sport.” Whereas one of the goals used to be beat matching, that is now pretty irrelevant. And it's sad if your sport was showing off how wonderfully you could beat-match because that has really become obsolete. Although I can beat-match as instantaneously as the next DJ, I don't give a rat's ass about doing it and making people watch me do it. I'm much more interested in creating and collecting awesome sounds, and layering, combining and broadcasting them as a means to conjure up an energetically cathartic experience for other humans.