This summer Detroit techno technocrat Richie Hawtin released his first Plastikman album since 2003's "Closer." The album, entitled "EX," is a live recording of a show he did at New York's Guggenheim Museum last year.
“Plastikman has always been about me tapping into my inspiration of the moment and channeling it through different pieces of equipment,” Hawtin told HuffPost Canada Music. “Every album has used different equipment, but there's always been the centerpiece –- which is the Roland TB-303 –- and that hasn't changed. The album should have continuity with the past, but hopefully it will be fresh and exciting to people.”
At Mutek this year, Hawtin introduced Montreal fans to two very different types of shows: the curated audiovisual multi-room experience ENTER, which he's currently running on the Spanish clubland of Ibiza, and the free, outdoor pop-up DotUP party.
Is it important for you to balance out big shows like ENTER with the smaller DotUP ones?
Twenty years ago, if you had said I was going to be playing in front of 5000 or 10,000 people on a main stage I would have said you were crazy. I was still nervous and introverted, just getting comfortable playing for 200 people in a club. I've grown to love all kinds of performances, venues and crowd sizes, but I couldn't say if I like one better than another.
It's why we push these smaller gigs -– as you get more success, it's easy to go bigger and bigger, and it's important to me that electronic music stays close to the people, like how there was no raising of people onto pedestals in the early days. It's what sucked me in in those early days. I loved going up to those artists and telling them I liked their records. We want to keep that ethos. We don't want it to become hip-hop.
But is that what your young fans are used to, seeing their DJs put on a pedestal?
Sometimes they freak out. They might feel they're getting too close. (Laughs)
I can't understand where all my younger fans are coming from, but if they're inspired by what I do and get into DJ-ing or using technology to tap into their creativity, I'm happy with that. Maybe they'll come to a DotUP show and talk to me, and they'll get a different way of thinking about electronic music. I didn't get into it to be rich and famous –- I wanted to be the guy in the corner playing music. I hope it gives them a different sense of why I'm involved in electronic music.
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Young DJs might not even have that opportunity to watch and learn from their heroes. Any advice on how they can transition to performing live?
Your best supporters are the people around you. Do a house party, plug your computer in and play for them, or rent a hall and do a dance party. Hopefully, you'll get some stragglers to join in. You have to start with a little network of people, even if it's a virtual one on Facebook, and the way to do that is to share what you do publicly and watch how people react. You need to step out of the bedroom and make the next step.
What do you think of the differences between old-school and new-school electronic music? Is there still an old school, or has the line blurred?
There's definitely still an old school. Right now there are a lot of kids coming into electronic music that weren't even born in the late '80s when incredible music was being made, and yet some of their records remind me of ones I've heard before. It's a weird situation because some of these kids aren't being retro, they're just doing what they think electronic music should sound like, and there's this continuity to the past.
I've been around since relatively the beginning of modern techno music, so I try to play as a DJ and create music that sounds like tomorrow. That’s what it sounded like when I heard Derrick May and Juan Atkins for the first time, and it’s what I thought the unwritten definition of Detroit techno was: music from tomorrow or the future. I still feel connected to that spirit.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility in teaching the kids about that spirit?
I think as you get older you always have more responsibilities, because we have a different perspective as people who have seen things come and go. We’ve been part of a technological, musical and cultural revolution in a certain way. It’s great to be able to pass that down. I don't want to be that guy who gives history lessons, but I'm happy to lead by example when there's an open ear.
But I also don’t want to waste too much time because thinking about the weight of the past can derail you.
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