Plastikman Live: The journey so far

Richie Hawtin could’ve easily spent 2010 cashing big cheques for two-hour DJ sets at festivals. Instead, the techno game-changer decided to go out on a limb. Having last appeared live under his Plastikman alias at Canada’s Mutek Festival in 2004, Hawtin felt the time and technology was right to have another run.

Starting at Germany’s hallowed Time Warp in March, the Plastikman Live tour made 15 stops across the year, culminating in Tokyo on 4 December. Tweaked and refined along the way, it’s now ready for The Likes Of You tent at Future Music Festival.

Plastikman is where past and present meet for Richie Hawtin. As our reviewer for the recent Kompilation retrospective so neatly put it, the production alias recalls a time “before Cubes, comb-overs, and caricatures”. Following the Dimension Intrusion album as F.U.S.E. in 1993, the Canadian wunderkind put his 303 to gripping effect on the first Plastikman long-player Sheet One. Throughout the ‘90s he explored austere electronica right through to loopy acid, with the evergreen Spastik as his pièce de résistance.

Hawtin inside his Plastikman ‘cocoon’. “Plastikman has always been about me being alienated from the world, making weird sounds,” he says.

Despite keeping the albums coming until 2003, Plastikman live was dormant from 1995 until its reincarnation at Mutek. That performance saw Hawtin reworking his catalogue on hardware and to-the-minute technology, calling on the expertise of visual architects Derivative to create an immersive spectacle. Then it all went quiet again, as Hawtin the DJ, label boss and technological maven took centre stage.

In 2008, Hawtin and his M_nus crew toured together under the ‘Contakt’ banner, with the travails and triumphs of the roadshow filmed for an often engaging, sometimes amusingly self-serious DVD. ‘The Cube’ aside, Contakt pioneered new technology in collaborative performance and showcased the talents of visual artist Ali Demirel.

All hands on deck – the Minus troupe at work on the Contakt tour in 2008, the technological precursor to Plastikman Live.

“Contakt was our first step into this audiovisual, multimedia experience,” says Hawtin in a recent interview with Tokyo’s Womb club. “After the show I asked myself, ‘How can we go forward? What’s next?’” That question was answered with the announcement of Plastikman Live 2010. The tour has been filmed right from the first rehearsals, documenting how the set-up has developed.

“New technology is the thing that inspires me,” says Hawtin in the Womb interview. “Other musicians see something on the street or have a feeling that inspires them to pick up the guitar or drum machine. I get inspired by seeing a new drum machine.”

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