Instead of helping him edit his accounts, Sarrantonio, now 27, decided to write and publish her own on Tumblr. Her story began in 2011, while she was still in high school, when she became a devout Basshead after Ashton sent a heartfelt letter to her friend group after one of their friends died. (Excerpts from his letter are in their yearbook.) According to Sarrantonio, they began DMing on Twitter when she was 19, and then, two years later, in May of 2015, she met Ashton backstage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Sarrantonio recalled being selected for a meet and greet after posting a selfie on Twitter. “Immediately I got this sense of, he’s treating me differently,” she said. “I believe he was targeting me.” According to Sarrantonio, when she DM’d Ashton on Twitter to thank him, he remembered her and gave her his email address. The relationship escalated quickly to long phone conversations and lengthy emails, she recalled, and he told her he was surprised to learn she was 21 because she looked younger. “A lot of the relationship consisted of him being my life coach,” she said, a sentiment echoed in various forms by all of the women VICE spoke with. “His advice was such parental advice.”
“I wasn’t under the age of consent, but I was still naive in many ways. He had so much status over me…I really trusted what he had to tell me.”
According to the lawsuit, “during this time, Bassnectar required Rachel to hide when room service arrived and became angry when Rachel answered the phone.”“It felt like he had me on lockdown,” she told VICE. Like Sarrantonio, Ramsbottom said they watched animal documentaries together and slept in separate beds. (A former Bassnectar employee of several years, Ezra—whose name has been changed because of fear of retribution in the music industry—confirmed that it was common knowledge on the team that they would book rooms with two beds for Ashton while traveling, one presumably for a woman he would have over.) Ramsbottom said Ashton came to see her again that summer in Tennessee, but she had started to become disillusioned by him, especially the rule that he was allowed to have other intimate relationships but she was not.
“I was living a double life of being a college kid and dating this superstar.”
According to Hughes, she began talking to Ashton over Twitter DMs when she was 20, in 2011. Before their relationship became serious in 2013, Hughes said she experienced the behaviors other women described: when she met up with him at Counterpoint Festival in 2012, she recalled him trying to convince her to break up with her boyfriend and giving her an oddly long hug. The similarities continued as their relationship progressed: she said he asked her to use a privacy messaging app and tried to convince her to delete her social media, which she now sees as an attempt to isolate her. She also remembers him recommending the movie American Beauty to her and them watching animal documentaries, specifically one about silverback gorillas.
“It seemed almost as if he had two different personalities.”
What was going on, according to several other musicians VICE spoke to working in the genre, was a pattern by Ashton of taking others’ work as his own without due credit, often from artists with significantly less power and little leverage or opportunity for recourse. The pattern spans from as early as the mid-2000s to as recently as spring of last year. In the case of electronic music and sampling, Lane said there is an ethical code among DJs that Ashton crossed. “The etiquette is if you dig and find some forgotten band from the 70s in some moley record sleeve in the back of the record shop and it’s a crusty nugget and you change it into something completely different, [that’s OK],” Lane said. Using elements other artists have created without credit is “more like stealing,” Lane said, especially when a famous artist like Bassnectar takes from an artist in the same genre with less prestige. In an interview with Lane, recorded in April of 2020 on his online music production mentoring community, Producer Dojo, Matthew Kratz (formerly a member of The Glitch Mob who goes by DJ name Kraddy) described working with Ashton on a song called “Snakecharmer,” released in 2005. He said in the interview that Ashton handed out CDs at Burning Man of “Snakecharmer” without Kraddy’s name on them. “That was a little bit not cool,” said Kratz. “It’s happened to me several times and Lorin’s still a friend and it’s water under the bridge,” he continued. Ashton’s team did not respond to a query from VICE about this story.
“It’s dance music and everybody does small samples. But this wasn’t a small sample, this was basically taking an entire segment of a song and claiming it’s yours. That was theft pure and simple. It was unbelievable to me.”