the law

DJ Bassnectar Accused of Sex Trafficking, Child Pornography in Lawsuit

Photo: C Flanigan/Getty Images

Two women have accused electronic DJ Bassnectar of sex trafficking, claiming in a new lawsuit that he had sexual relationships with them as minors and solicited explicit photos of them at the time. The complaint, obtained by Vulture, was filed in Tennessee on behalf of two women, Rachel Ramsbottom and Alexis Bowling, alleging the producer used “his power and influence to groom and ultimately sexually victimize underage girls.” Mitchell Schuster, the attorney representing Bassnectar, born Lorin Ashton, told Vulture in a statement, “These outrageous claims — which were clearly designed for the media, rather than for the courts — are completely without merit, and we eagerly look forward to proving so.”

Allegations that Ashton groomed and sexually abused underaged women first emerged in June 2020, on the Instagram account @evidenceagainstbassnectar. In July, Ashton said on social media he was “stepping back” from music “to take responsibility and accountability” amid the allegations. “The rumors you are hearing are untrue,” he added, “but I realize some of my past actions have caused pain, and I am deeply sorry.” Ashton DJ’d since the late 1990s, and first performed as Bassnectar in 2002. By the EDM boom of the early 2010s, he was a popular festival performer with a dedicated fanbase of “Bassheads.”

Both Ramsbottom and Bowling were underage fans of Bassnectar when Ashton reached out to them on Twitter, per the lawsuit. Ashton first direct-messaged Ramsbottom in September 2012 and knew she was underage, the suit claims, even discussing her high school coursework. In May 2013, he allegedly invited Ramsbottom to his Memphis hotel and had sex with her, paying her $1,000 afterward. Weeks later, per the lawsuit, Ramsbottom stayed in a Nashville hotel room with Ashton for four days, having sex with him multiple times. Ashton “required Rachel to hide when room service arrived and became angry when Rachel answered the phone,” according to the suit. During their relationship, Ramsbottom also sent sexually explicit photos to Ashton at his request, the suit adds.

Ashton first direct-messaged Bowling on Twitter for her 17th birthday, according to the lawsuit. Bowling met Ashton after a Las Vegas show in April 2014, when she was unable to enter the venue because she was under 18. She then met Ashton outside his hotel afterward, where they kissed for around six hours, per the suit — after which Ashton paid her $300. In July, Ashton visited Bowling in Kentucky, where she lived. He allegedly had sex with her at his hotel and paid her $1,600 afterward; the suit claims Ashton continued to meet her for sex in Kentucky through August. Additionally, Bowling also allegedly sent explicit photos to Ashton at his request.

Ashton was allegedly fascinated with the movie American Beauty — about an adult man infatuated with an underage girl — according to the suit, which claims he recommended it to both women. The suit alleges Ashton reached out to Ramsbottom in 2016, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and later offered to pay for her therapy in 2019. Ramsbottom spoke to him about his abuse in summer 2020, according to the suit. “Bassnectar admitted that he engaged with multiple women who were ‘too young,’ and acknowledged in his own words that there was an imbalance of power dynamic due to his age, the fan/celebrity dynamic, his male privilege, and his celebrity privilege,” according to the suit. Ashton also reached out to Bowling in summer 2020, “in an attempt to maintain Alexis’s loyalty and prevent her from speaking out against his unlawful conduct,” according to the suit.

The suit not only names Ashton as a defendant, but multiple of Ashton’s companies as Bassnectar, along with Red Light Management and C3 Presents. (Red Light and C3 have not responded to requests for comment.) “This lawsuit is about seeking justice not just against Bassnectar but against the corporations that cooperate in and help facilitate the abuses he is alleged to have committed,” Brian Kent, one of the attorneys representing Rambsbottom and Bowling, said in a statement announcing the filing on April 5. And Ashton’s relationships with underage girls were allegedly an open secret. “It was a running joke among those associated with Bassnectar,” the suit claims, “that he would have to find a date at a high school dance.”

Bassnectar Accused of Sex Trafficking, Child Porn in Lawsuit