Richie Hawtin Announces Three City India Tour
The techno trailblazer on the past and future of electronic music
The first time I met Richie Hawtin in person was in 2011 at the Tomorrowland music Â festival in Belgium. We crossed paths more often last year, at the festival, again, at a game-changer ENTER night in Ibiza in August, and more recently, during the New York leg of his CNTRL tour in October. All three nights were just a small peek into the unwavering popularity of the seminal electronic music artist and his minimal techno alias, Plastikman, whose career stretches back into the late Eighties. Creating his labels, Plus 8 with fellow influential Canadian DJ-producer, John Acquaviva, and M-nus in 1998, have only served to further cement his status as one of the most influential artists in the world. M-nus is especially known for steadily launching releases that take over the dance music scene as soon as they are released. Hawtin reads the pulse of the scene, knowing just when and where the next beat is; and the next beat, according to him, is about to power through India.
We caught up with Richie who was in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for the BPM Festival. Considering he had named India as the dance music capital to DJ Mag in a recent interview, the conversation opened with why. More importantly, why visit now? “It was always that one festival in Goa calling, and it was always one gig and I really don’t want to go to India and go for one gig,” he says.
India, and later South Africa, as he revealed in our chat, are an extension of the juggernaut that Hawtin’s been rolling through 2012. Last summer was marked by the massively successful 12-week run in Space, Ibiza that was ENTER; Richie’s first residency. It’s spilled over into one-off shows in various countries, as the demand was so loud. It always has been. Chilling minimal, roomshaking, gut-wrenching techno combined with hypnotic visuals, light and an innate sense of what the audience in front of him wanted; a show in Warung, Brazil or Womb, Tokyo has the same outcome: cult mayhem.
The second half of the year was taken over by CNTRL, Hawtin’s transformative series of seminars and shows in colleges across North America aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of electronic music with the new generation of enthusiasts. “The kids and the new generation of electronic music fans are completely different from the fans of 10 or 20 years ago. That used to be such a tight-knit community. It used to be very inclusive and we kept it very close to our hearts. The kids now are a lot more open-minded about electronic music, and music in general. So for them, a Tiesto and a Hawtin and a Skrillex and a Basic Channel can co-exist very easily next to each other,” he explained.
If you consider his long career; every highlight reveals that progressive, dynamic thought that keeps Hawtin, not only relevant, but ahead of the game. Ask him about personal milestones and they read like an account of the definitive moments of techno’s history. “Wow, well of course, starting my own record company [Plus 8] with John Acquaviva back in 1990. Even before that, hearing Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May play at The Music Institute [the Detroitclub], listening to Jeff Mills on the radio,” he recounts. Releasing Sheet One [the first Plastikman album, in 1993] was another landmark. Adds Hawtin, “There was an incredible Plastikman live show in 1995 in Glastonbury. It was the moment where I had felt confident in my ability to rock a huge crowd. Starting M-nus in ”˜98, and closing the very first Detroit Electronic Music Festival [DEMF] in 2000. The DE9: Transitions [released in 2005] and “Consumed”  and up to present day, I’m very proud of CNTRL. It was a defining moment and I think what ENTER is, is the beginning of another defining moment.”
Hawtin is also one of the few artists who tries to keep the fourth wall between performer and viewer down. Whether it’s obliging fans with photographs, taking the microphone and addressing the audience, or getting into in-depth discussions with students, there’s an aura of approachability about him. “When I was a teenager, I was into artists like Prince and they were just so unreachable. And one of the things that struck me about electronic music very early on was that I could go up and talk to Kevin Saunderson or Derrick May and these guys who were superstars in our scene, but they were approachable. I don’t want to see that disappear. I don’t want the scene to go the hip-hop way where it’s all about money, fame and cars.”
A large offshoot of these experiences ranging through this last North American odyssey ”” Hawtin himself grew up in Windsor, Canada, across the river from Detroit”” has been the insight he’s obtained about the direction of electronic music. He’s at that rare crux of having the experience and knowledge from the formative years of the past, but has an openness and curiosity about the current and future generations. “I think the older generation ”” we grew up with house and techno and as it splintered into all these different things, I think it became harder and more complex for us to understand,” he reckons. “I can’t pretend to like all of it but I appreciate that this is the genre I’m involved in and I love that more and more people from around the world are getting into it.”
Richie Hawtin plays on February 21st at Royalty, Mumbai, on February 23rd at Blue Frog, Delhi and February 24th in Bengaluru.
This article appeared in the February 2013 issue of Rolling Stone India.