Richie Hawtin Speaks: PLAYDifferently, Prototypes, & Innovation
If you were a club?
“A dirty warehouse in Detroit.” — Richie Hawtin
The forty-five year old Canadian technofile, a highly awarded performer nominated for DJ Awards Best Techno DJ seventeen times, of which he’s won three, a pioneer of the techno genre, artist skinny and dressed completely in black, stands bent forward over his computer on the stage, knee height, looking at his screen like the machine is in his debt. Co-founder of Plus-8 records in 1990; founder of M_nus records in 1998; the sound of X & Y — Saki Samurai — trading card immortality. Now forty-five, here at the Walrus, a Parisian record store with a capacity of about, 50 people. At the masthead of the Detroit techno scene, still golden haired, fringe pushed to the extreme right, immovable in the stillness and concentration of his stance. Hawtin’s accomplished a lot. And now he’s released a mixer. He’s on the Prototypes Tour showcasing the yet to be unveiled product at a gigs across North America and and Europe with confidants and label-buddies: Dubfire, Loco Dice and Chris Liebing just a few of the names who have used the product and given it the thumbs up on instagram and the like. Tonight he is on his own at Walrus, Rue de Dunkerque, standing in front of a prismatic W, for Walrus, the mixer is giving off this kaleidoscopic color thing painting the roof with blues, oranges and greens. His headphones are red, everything else is black and white. “I practice, always have, most of my ideas better in front of a crowd and so this is the perfect way not only to introduce the mixer and get people excited, but it’s the best way for me to get as good as possible in the shortest amount of time,” Hawtin says after the gig. I get him for a few minutes to try and get some details on his latest venture with Andy Rigby Jones: Play Differently. “It’s one of if not the only mixer out there on the market that has been designed from the ground up with a pure, real balance of engineer head and artistic creative head.”
If you were an instrument?
“I would be a Boolean Logic Module from a Surge Modular System — It’s all about decisions and changing your mind.” — Hawtin
What’s your philosophy towards performing and how has this influenced the development of your mixer?
I think my performance technique is very much hands on. I don’t do very much preperation. I’m not the guy who goes in and makes loops in ableton, or even corrects his beatmaps in Traktor, or makes markers in Traktor or anything like that. I don’t even sync Ableton and Traktor together. They’re kind of running, and I have a lot of buttons which I can make a hot point, make a loop that I can push and pull the tempo.
Basically what I’m doing is beat matching when I play — even though I’m using a computer. And, I love grabbing and making effects. I just go with the moment, and so you need really beautiful controls and things that feel good and sound good, and make sense. Certain knobs or faders are great for volume or EQ, and certain things aren’t. And so you need to make not only an instrument or a mixer that sounds good but you’ve got to make something that’s inspiring to you. And all that has been boiled down into this new mixer. It doesn’t have any bells and whistles, it’s just a great instrument that feels and sounds fucking awesome.
What do you want from this tour?
“Play Differently is as much about the mixer as it is my whole philosophy. I’m not necessarily asking people or telling people: ‘Just play different for the hell of it’, we are all different. Find what’s unique about yourself and fucking tap into that, and then magnify that. That’s the way you’re going to make a mark. And so this tour is about the mixer that enables, I hope, more people to tap into that. It’s as much about watching me play, but it’s not about copying me…”
If you were an audio effect?
“A modulated delay.” — Hawtin
Hawtin wants artists to Play Differently — the tag is reminiscent of the computer company with the fruit — a precept all creative types should follow. A collaboration with Andy Rigby Jones, an ex-lead engineer from renowned Allen&Heath, exactly how we’ll Play Differently remains to be seen, Hawtin and his crew have been tight lipped about the details and capabilities of the product — We do know the focus is on fostering creativity of the artist, interpret as you will, and we also know it’s a bare product, Hawtin says: “It’s not about the best craziest features. It’s about features that make sense together and that feel great and that work and deliver new potential and creativity” — Creativity is in the hands of the controller. Hawtin has been at the vanguard of pushing new technologies, radr.dj provides live tracklist updates, he even has an application for remixing samplepacks from the artists on his label — innovation is one of Rich’s trademarks, and so is disclosure, just not with this mixer, this time.
The Prototypes tour wraps up at Amsterdam’s Awakenings Festival. Hawtin will appear in the Y area with Marco Plex, The Martinez Brothers, Chris Liebing, Fabio Florida and Hito on June 26.
by Jacob Joseph
UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Richie Hawtin as American and Andy Rigby-Jones as “Alan Rigby Jones”. Both those have since been corrected.