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On Monday, a bombshell lawsuit brought by two women against the popular EDM artist Bassnectar alleges that he sexually abused them when they were underage, solicited nude photos of them as minors, and sex-trafficked them.
The allegations are brought by Rachel Ramsbottom and Alexis Bowling, who claim the producer-DJ, real name Lorin Ashton, was well aware that they were under the age of 18 when they began messaging over Twitter in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
Their complaint, filed in Tennessee, paints a disturbing picture of the musician who allegedly “groomed and ultimately exploited” the young fans, acting as a mentor or father-like figure to them, dictating what they could do, having them send naked photos of themselves, and handing them wads of cash—up to $1,600—after the alleged encounters.
“It was abundantly clear that Bassnectar was targeting and engaging in commercial sex acts with minors and utilizing his shows and organizations to accomplish the exploitation of young girls for his own sexual gratification,” the suit filed by Philadelphia-based law firm Laffey, Bucci & Kent states.
The lawsuit came as a shock to many, but the claims of manipulation and grooming of minors were not news to some. In fact, similar allegations had reached a fever pitch last June, with women coming forward with various accounts about their experiences.
On Thursday afternoon, a damning report came from Vice, which over the course of a months-long investigation spoke to Ramsbottom, Bowling, and seven other women who described Ashton’s disturbing pattern of seeking out fans who were in their teens or early twenties and having secretive relationships with them.
Attorney Alexandria MacMaster, one of the lawyers representing Ramsbottom and Bowling, told The Daily Beast she believes there are several other victims out there, and that their office has received multiple calls from potential new victims, although she declined comment as to whether the firm had taken on any new clients.
In her opinion, “[W]e’re most likely not looking at just two women here, we’re looking at probably quite a few more than that who have become victims,” she says.
It almost seems Ashton knew what was coming. In July, he announced he was stepping away from music for an unspecified amount of time. “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 on Twitter. “I am stepping back from my career and I am stepping down from my position of power and privilege in this community because I want to take responsibility and accountability.”
His team later tried to distance Ashton from his original statement, saying “fatigue from 20 years of touring and making music as well as a desire to explore other creative avenues were the main instigators” of his decision. They alluded to the allegations, calling them “coordinated attacks.”
Ashton has categorically denied the recent accusations against him as well, with his lawyer telling Rolling Stone, “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.”
Ashton’s legal representation did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
While the lawsuit against Ashton has now placed him under a different kind of spotlight, nine months ago the news of his hiatus went largely unnoticed in the press, as well as the misconduct claims that were swirling around online.
The movement against Ashton last summer was largely credited to Instagram account evidenceagainstbassnectar that began compiling the women’s stories, several of whom came forward to Vice.
Behind the account is Dave Montana Billings, who admits many people are surprised to learn that a man ran the page. “A lot of people have also voiced that it’s disappointing that no other men would stand up, because there’s definitely men that were aware that this was going on,” he told The Daily Beast. “This just kind of organically happened, and I just happen to be a man.”
Billings first started a Facebook page called Weird Drunken Uncle where fans could vent about the main fan page of the Bassnectar community. “There was always a divide in the community. There was the hardcore fans that tried to control what they refer to as the ethos or the vibe of the community,” he explained. “If you weren’t extremely positive, or if you had any kind of critique, they would ostracize you from the community. So that created another half of fans that needed a place to have a voice... that became a place for those people to come and talk and to have a voice without being bullied by other fans or even Lorin himself, which has happened frequently.”
Billings says that throughout the years he had long heard murmurs of Ashton’s alleged abuse, particularly from women who came to him. But when a mutual friend of Ramsbottom shared her story with him, he knew he needed to do something. “I had all the faith in the world that would open the door for other people,” he added.
And it worked. Billings says he’s still processing the impact his account had, but stresses the importance of the women being brave enough to come forward in the first place. “Obviously it feels good,” he says. “It’s been a burden that I’ve carried for quite some time, so that feels good to get it out and taken care of the right way. I’m happy that I’ve been able to help others.”
The Instagram account was also included in the legal complaint, as MacMaster explained it was intentionally done to give the judge the full context of the claims and highlight how far back and widespread the alleged abuse is.
“That account shed light into what was going on and gave us a larger understanding of just how significant the problem is,” MacMaster says. “So that’s why it’s included, because we want the court to understand… that this is a person who’s in a position of power, this is a person who has fame backing him up and has this huge following. And that there was even an account created for people to just document and open up about what he has done to them by taking advantage of them.”
Ramsbottom’s accusations were a focal point of the anonymous submissions, providing emails allegedly sent by Ashton calling her last name “really sexy” and talking about her schoolwork—the same claims filed in her lawsuit. She also shared several audio clips of Ashton allegedly discussing his relationship with Ramsbottom, once saying “it was so inappropriate.” (Ashton’s team told Vice the recordings were “doctored and incomplete.”)
Other women detailed how Ashton “manipulated them,” with one claiming how he “tried to ‘save’ me with controlling advice about eating, sleeping, not partying... not pursuing music journalism, not hanging out with any male friends whatsoever, where I ‘should’ work. This was all before we ever met in person.”
Another woman, who says she worked as a Bassnectar Ambassador from 2013 to 2015, claims she witnessed one of Ashton’s staffers pull two young fans aside, asked them their ages and when learning one was under the age of 18, “asked them if they wanted to go backstage after the show for ‘a more intimate experience.’”
A 21-year-old who identified herself as Lauren claims that after meeting Ashton following a concert in May of 2015, they began messaging each other frequently. “When I told him how old I was, he was surprised, and said I looked younger,” she wrote. “He treated me in a way that I’ve come to understand is the textbook definition of ‘sexual grooming.’ Building trust, making promises, and secrecy are all markers that I experienced.”
The accusations also included claims of manipulation in the professional sense. In a Twitter thread, pioneer musician Jordana LeSesne, best known by her stage name 1.8.7, claims Ashton heavily sampled from her track "5 A.M. Rinse” in 2010, but she had to chase him down for compensation. “What followed was 5 years of frustration for me trying to reach him,” she wrote. “When he finally got in touch, he swore he had been looking for me ‘for years’ despite my Facebook page having been around since 2007 and my website predating both featuring contact details.”
LeSesne claims that eventually Ashton’s team offered her $5,625 as compensation and promised her royalties, which she never received. She alleges Ashton would continue to email her afterwards discussing the possibility of collaborating in the future, but that also never materialized. “He seemed to want to continue exploiting me asking for vocals in exchange for a remix/collab in which *I* did most of the work,” she wrote.
Singer-songwriter Mimi Page alleges that Ashton “stole” her creative credit and royalties on the song “Butterfly” in 2012. “You manipulated me into believing that music didn’t make money anymore because of music piracy,” she wrote. “You told me that touring was the main source of income for artists and buying me out of 100% of my share of the master royalties of ‘Butterfly’ would be in my best interest.”
Page claims that Ashton gave her a $3,000 “buyout” for the royalties and while she “created the majority of the creative content” of the song, he took all the credit.
“While I did get my 33% cut of my writing and publishing, I watched you absorb 100% of every sale and stream,” Page claims. “I saw how many sales ‘Butterfly’ sold in the mechanical royalty statements from Amorphous Music, your own record label. Had you given me an equal share of my writing and publishing and literally any percentage of the master royalty of ‘Butterfly,’ it would have drastically changed my life.”
Ashton was also sued in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by artist Max Hattler in 2016, who claimed that despite declining Ashton’s request to use some of his artwork in his live performances, his team used his pieces anyway, even using modified versions of the art in his marketing materials. The suit was eventually settled out of court.
Currently, Ramsbottom and Bowling are the only women so far to file suit against Ashton.
MacMaster says she’s extremely proud of their bravery in not only coming forward but boldly putting their names out into the public space, at “the risk of being ostracized, victim-shamed, blamed, and not believed by people who don’t want to accept that the celebrity was capable of doing these things.”
“By putting themselves on paper and legal filings, they are certainly taking a huge step and a huge risk,” she adds. “I certainly have the utmost respect for both of them to come forward like that.”
The women’s stories are separated by less than a year, with Ramsbottom’s alleged relationship ending with Ashton in November of 2013 and Bowling’s beginning around April 2014. They both describe how Ashton quickly handed over his personal email and phone number after meeting on social media.
Ramsbottom claims in her suit that Ashton presented himself as a mentor-type figure, discussing school with her, reading her assignments, and even asking her to “write a paper that would take about 4-5 hours” to complete, according to the suit.
She also claims in her suit that Ashton became controlling and several of his messages had sexual undertones, saying her last name “blows [him] away” and was “really sexy”; making her break up with her boyfriend; and engaging in phone sex with her.
In May of 2013, Ramsbottom claims in her suit that she met Ashton in person at a hotel in Memphis. He allegedly refused to wear a condom for the alleged encounter and gave her $1,000 in mixed bills when she left. A few weeks later, Ramsbottom allegedly met up with Ashton again at a hotel in Nashville, where he “kept [her] in the hotel room for approximately four days” and “required [her] to hide when room service arrived and became angry when [she] answered the phone,” the complaint alleges.
Bowling’s claims echo Ramsbottom, who says she met Ashton over Twitter and in April of 2014 he offered her tickets to come to his show in Las Vegas. However, because she was under the age of 18, the venue wouldn’t let her inside.
When she informed Ashton to see if he could get her inside, he couldn’t and instructed her to meet him near his hotel, the suit claims. “Bassnectar met Alexis near his hotel where he took her into the bushes and hid for approximately six hours, kissing and touching Alexis. Afterwards, Bassnectar paid Alexis $300 in cash and instructed her to download the Wickr messaging app so they could stay in touch.”
Over the course of the next two years, Bowling claims in her suit that Ashton would fly her out to come see him, or visit her in Kentucky, once paying her $1,600 in cash after sex.
“Following the death of her Father, Bassnectar told Alexis that he could offer guidance and advice to Alexis like a father and do all the things a father would do for her,” the suit claims. “Bassnectar dictated and controlled every aspect of Alexis’s life, telling her what she could or could not do, who she could hang out with, what she could wear, etc.”
Both women claim in their suit that Ashton contacted them over the summer to try and “further manipulate and silence” the young women from speaking out about their experiences.
The lawsuit also goes a step further to implicate other entities associated with Ashton, including Bassnectar Touring, Amorphous Music, Redlight Management, C3 Presents, and Interactive Giving Fund, of sex trafficking.
“It was a running joke among those associated with Bassnectar that he would have to find a date at a high school dance,” the lawsuit claims. “As a result of Bassnectar’s trafficking of minor girls and solicitation and possession of child pornography, the remaining defendants knew or, in the very least, should have known Bassnectar was trafficking minor girls for commercial sex and other illegal activity.”
MacMaster says that while there’s a long way to go with the lawsuit, the “goal here is for him to be held accountable and to prevent this from ever happening in the future to anyone else.”
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