Bass-lovers around the world have noticed a shift in the energy of bass-driven music in the past year, and no other crew has been at the forefront of that revolution quite like Insomniac’s rough and rugged rag-tag crew known as Bassrush.
From its roots in the underground warehouse scene in Los Angeles to hosting events at world-class venues like the Hollywood Palladium, Exchange LA and the Vanguard, Bassrush has become synonymous with dirty beats, chest-rattling basslines, and vibes so thick you can’t help but get down.
As we turn the page on nearly a decade and a half of Bassrush history, founder and bass visionary Pasquale Rotella charges ahead with an all-star crew by his side, determined to elevate the brand to the next level. With 2015 already ushering in a new look and continued expansion at an impressive rate, we can’t help but pause before we jump headfirst into the next chapter of the Bassrush saga and take a look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.
So, starting at the beginning and working our way through to the future, climb up in the bassbins and enjoy the ride as we touch down with all the key players in the ongoing saga of the Bassrush family before unleashing the heat on the dancefloor once again!
For the new-school heads who are used to our signature massive and festival-sized events—if we were to toss them in a time machine and head back to the pre-Bassrush days in the early 1990s, what would stand out the most as being different?
Pasquale Rotella: Everything is different—production, venues, the DJ, the way you market things, the size of the crowd. Everything is completely different than it used to be, with the exception of the very core of what we do: dancing, music and good energy. People coming together and making memories they can hang on to the rest of their lives—that has always been what we do and will never change.
Jump to 2002: Insomniac is growing up, and then comes along the birth of Bassrush. The first Bassrush party had selectors like DJ Trance, R.A.W., Barry Weaver, Fester and Mindbender [Pasquale’s old-school DJ moniker]. The flyer featured the mantra “Back to the Basics,” alongside the tagline “creating the future while not forgetting the past.” Take us back to that first party and how that set the stage for what Bassrush would become.
Pasquale: At the time, I was personally missing the music from the early 1990s, and I wanted to do a party that centered on that era. It wasn’t a drum & bass party, but we had D&B music there, if that makes sense. It was an old-school party, which included drum & bass, and I wanted it to be the kind of thing we used to have—with blacklight painting and all the DJs playing classic sets. It was in Downtown L.A., on the 9th floor of an abandoned warehouse, and it was sick! A lot of old-school heads I didn’t even know paid attention to the scene anymore came out of the woodwork.
I thought that it was going to be more of a one-off, but I felt like the name “Bassrush” lent itself to drum & bass in a big way. So I had visions of it turning into more of that, but really maybe doing it once a year. But it was so successful, and I liked the name so much, that we just had to keep doing more with it.
We were joking earlier that Bassrush often feels like the rebellious little brother to the sparkly, popular big sister Insomniac. Is that an accurate comparison?
Pasquale: Bassrush definitely is its own thing and has its own culture. It has its own vibes; it’s a different swagger. Bassrush heads just roll differently than other heads. There’s a little bit of B-boy to a basshead, and when I think of drum & bass in particular, I think of graffiti and B-boy culture, but still with that energy and positivity at the same time.
Alongside the evolution of the brand has been the explosion of other bass music forms, like dubstep and trap. Especially in the early days, D&B and dubstep seemed to exist as separate scenes, and no one would have faulted you if Bassrush had kept the two genres apart.
Pasquale: Separating them was never an option. All of that music starts from old-school techno first, and then branches off into drum & bass, and then all these other genres. I think it would just unnecessarily fragment the scene.
That’s a huge cultural statement; outside of Bassrush, drum & bass heads seem to stay over here, while dubstep/trap heads stay over there. Bassrush seems to have managed to unite them under the “bass music” umbrella, and it’s kind of a beautiful thing.
Pasquale: I think it’s better that way. There’s an element of surprise there, and I personally think it’s more exciting for you to hear different kinds of music melting together in a night, or even within a DJ set. I think it makes it more fun and exciting, and I would hope that people feel the same.
The same way that Insomniac went through a period of growth and expansion, Bassrush seems poised and ready to do the same. We’ve just relaunched the site, and in many ways, it feels like we are relaunching the brand. Talk a bit about this critical moment for Bassrush, as it seems to be coming into its own.
Pasquale: I love it. I love the music that Bassrush represents. I love the scene, and I’ve been doing it for so long without making a dime, that it hasn’t been easy. That’s why I give props to people like the Junglist Platoon. They’ve been sticking with it forever, and it’s people like that who help the scene stay alive. But even with the success of Insomniac, it all comes down to this: I have an itch. I need to have this in my life, I just love it, I need to see it flourish and exist. My vision for it is very different than anything that’s out there, and that’s why relaunching it and bringing in a Bassrush team, that lives and breathes Bassrush every day, is going take it to that level that I think it’s going to go to.
Bassrush definitely is its own thing and has its own culture; it’s a different swagger. Bassrush heads just roll differently than other heads.
This is a good spot to bring in the rest of the crew, especially as we begin to look ahead to the future of the brand. Forrest, talk a bit about your own journey from trainspotter to Executive Producer at Insomniac and Bassrush, and how the brand and the music has evolved over the years.
Forrest Hunt: When I started out doing bookings for Bassrush, we didn’t have as many shows as we have now. We basically had Funktion Wednesdays, Nocturnal, EDC, Together as One, and that was kind of it back then. Nocturnal used to be bigger than EDC, and I remember drum & bass used to be in the dome at the Orange Show, which holds 1,200 people. Now drum & bass is in the biggest room, which holds over 6,000!
I’ve always loved drum & bass, but I think together with dubstep and trap, it all works. In addition to keeping them all under one roof, we’re starting to be able to move in a direction where we can expose people to new artists. This is where Tony [Merino, Brand Manager] and Derek [Finner, Director of Site Operations] come in. Tony has all the non-D&B stuff on lock, and Derek, who is also running his own label [Icarus Audio], is just a machine when it comes to finding new artists—people I’ve never even heard of.
In a way, that’s where the back-to-back DJ sets come in. When I saw these rave flyers back in the day, with Nicky Blackmarket going back-to-back with Jumpin Jack Frost or whatever, I just loved the concept; that’s why you’ll see some of those at EDC this year. Black Sun Empire b2b State of Mind, Trollphace b2b Getter—I just love that concept. Of course I see the posts, people complaining that Trollphace and Getter should have their own spot, and I get it. But come on, man, we’re also trying to book people you won’t usually hear playing out at these big events. There’s so much new good shit out there, that we want to expose people to it and only have a limited amount of time to do it in.
Tony and Nick [Nishanian, Marketing Manager], you were brought on this past year and have played an instrumental role in the direction where the brand has been headed. Talk a bit about your own journeys from loving the music to taking on the management and marketing aspects of the brand, respectively.
Tony Merino: I remember when I was 15, a friend of mine invited me to this “event.” I had no idea what to expect but ended up sneaking out and finding myself in San Bernardino at Nocturnal Wonderland 2004. Out of all the stages, I was attracted to the Bassrush stage the most; the vibe and energy in that room was so different from the rest of the festival, and I loved it! Before the night was even over, I knew that this was where I belonged.
After developing a reputation for being one of the most consistent street promoters in L.A., I eventually got into the production side of things and years later connected with Nick, who became my business partner. Together, we formed our own company called Future Events, and that was when things really took off. We were throwing bass music events at a time when many people were saying bass music was dead, yet we were selling out venues with 100 percent bass music lineups. We breathed and lived bass music, and it didn’t matter to us what was popular. We just booked stuff we liked. Being an independent promoter in Los Angeles is no easy feat, yet somehow we made it work. We realized we didn’t always need an A-class headliner to pack venues; we just needed to book raw, upcoming talent that kids haven’t seen a million times.
It’s an attitude that I think I’ve brought to Bassrush. Since I’ve been on board, Bassrush has been able to increase the amount of events it is pumping out. The brand presence has dramatically increased, taking the brand to new markets and currently finishing up the first-ever Bassrush USA tour, giving everyone a small taste of what Bassrush is about. Bassrush derives from drum & bass roots, and D&B will always be its first love. But as the brand continues to develop, we will also be making sure to nurture and grow all forms of bass music. Our passion for this sound is what ultimately keeps us on top of our game.
Nick Nishanian: The music is definitely everything. Without it, Bassrush is only a name without meaning. For me, Bassrush is all about exposing the latest sounds in bass. When I hear a new type of sound being tossed in the mix—think Snail’s vomitstep or UZ’s trap—it raises the hair on my skin because I immediately see this as an opportunity for brand growth. Kids are dying to uncover new sounds, and we are the ones that can deliver.
Looking ahead, where does Bassrush go from here?
Pasquale: We’re going to keep pushing forward and keep pushing the limits; that’s what it’s about.
Forrest: Production-wise, I don’t know where it can go from here. It’s crazy, because it’s not just the Bassrush stage; everyone is stepping up their game. To think it used to be a couple of projector screens and some dude with a laser pointer, to these dirty robots we’re getting ready to unleash at bassPOD this year—it’s fucking nuts.
Tony: Right now, Bassrush is strongest in Southern California and select markets across the nation where we hosts events or stages. The next step for us is to become a globally recognized brand. I would like to see us doing events and bringing the Bassrush Experience to many cities across the world. My hope is that even if an old-school Bassrush head came out to our events, they would be able to appreciate the beauty of how far the brand has grown since its inception to the powerhouse it has now become.
Check the new look, and keep it locked on Bassrush.com.