ITM’s Honour Roll #6: Richie Hawtin

When inthemix was granted 30 minutes on the phone to Richie Hawtin, we knew our sixth Honour Roll instalment was in the bag. From his formative experiments of the early ‘90s to his current standing as a techno icon, Hawtin has always been driven by what’s next. It’s what makes him one of the most fascinating (and yes, at times divisive) figures in electronic music.

The last 12 months have seen Hawtin reinvent Plastikman, the most prolific of his production alter-egos, for a 15-stop live tour. Developed alongside visual architects Derivative, the “highly concentrated one-hour experience” presents a very different side to the man from what we’ve seen in recent years.

The timing seems right for Plastikman Live. The feverish hype around Hawtin’s Minus imprint and the ‘minimal’ movement at large has levelled, leaving the label boss energised to try something new. He has relished the return to the “weirder” side of his personality, behind the screen with his machines. That said, business is still booming for Hawtin the superstar DJ. It’s little surprise to hear he sometimes asks himself, “Who the fuck am I today?”

As focused and thoughtful in conversation as he appears to be onstage, Hawtin is also an easy-going interviewee, willing to talk at length about his career. We delved into DJing, Detroit and the latest chapter of Plastikman with the dance music futurist.

Have we caught you at a busy moment?

I haven’t been doing anything for the last two months, so I’m just getting back into the talking habit. After Tokyo it slowed down, and then we’re gearing up again for the next show in March which is down with you guys.

I usually take January and February, even March, completely off but I’m starting a bit early this year. I like the Future Music Festival. I was down there two years ago and it was good.

Given the gap between the Tokyo and Future Music Festival shows, have you had a chance to reassess the Plastikman Live set-up?

I wish I could say yes, but not really. It’s next to impossible to revisit the show right now. Because there’s so much equipment, it goes from one show to the next, so after Tokyo the stuff went straight to Australia. When I get there, I’ll have a couple of days to boot everything up and check.

From the last show last year until the first show in Australia, we’re kind of locked into the way it was created. After Australia, everything will come back to Berlin and we’ll dismantle, rebuild, and then start to think about going to 1.2 or 1.5, or whatever the next revision will be.

After 15 shows in 2010, you’re comfortable with where it got to?

Yeah, there are definitely things we’d love to change, but our hands are tied. It’s such a complex show; even the simplest things can cascade into problems. You really need to have the option of a week to fix anything you break by making a change!

There are places like Australia and elsewhere who haven’t seen it at all yet, so we don’t want to change too much. There’s a lot of life left in it yet.

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