Techno pioneer Richie Hawtin is the subject of a brilliant podcast by Telekom Electronic Beats, which you can listen to on Gigwise below. The regular podcast focuses on club culture, technology and generally profiling great artists.
The career-spanning interview with Hawtin starts with a look back to when was a teen in the late 80s in Detroit, after integrating into the then underground electronic music scene; and shifts forward to where he's at today. He's developed a new creative tool to have more understanding and appreciation for what he and fellow truly artistic DJ's do on stage with the launch of a new app called Closer.
Having been at the top of his game for nearly 30 years, the way he speaks offers tangible advice for budding artists regularly. What's also great is an untamed, eagle-eyed enthusiasm for electronic music that's infectious and makes you want to be as passionate as he is.
Having the podcast recorded in Berlin - a city with a bond for Detroit Techno and where Hawtin has based his Minus record label - is apt. The interviewer comes across as a fan with intimate knowledge and gets some lengthy, interesting answers from Hawtin that have turned us here at Gigwise onto his work with more of a keen interest than ever before. The interview comes as he's in the midst of performing at some of the world's most prestigious festivals, such as Sónar and Sziget, which suit his status as one of the world's best and most unique DJ’s.
So whether you're already a fan or still on the fence, we can recommend digging into this podcast and then spending time trawling through music he's put out under his own moniker as well as alter egos like F.U.S.E and Plastikman.
Hawtin was an outsider at school
Seeing Hawtin front magazines and rock the big stages, it can be difficult to imagine, but Hawtin grew up a complete outsider and was generally heckled for having an interest in music. "Growing up in Canada, it quickly became small. People would call you a 'fag' - anything out of the ordinary, you stood out. As an outsider in Windsor, you looked to the other side of the border to meet people."
A sense of community helped foster his love of techno
Not fitting in in school in neighbouring Windsor, the vibe over in Detroit, which was the murder capital of America at the time, was perfect for him: "Because the scene was so small at that point, everybody was welcoming. If you've found this place, you must know what's going on [...] somehow you were written with this unwritten family. And that's before he had even proven himself as a artist and was gaining inspiration from the DJ's on the scene there.
Film school was scrapped for Techno Boulevard
After being an enthusiast to begin with, Hawtin soon become close to the movers and shakers in early adulthood and found inspiration in a place he says they used to call Techno Boulevard [techno labels Transmat, Metroplex and KMS were located at the address of 1486-1492 Gratiot]. It was having the likes of Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Juan Atkins around that made him feel that the scene had a certain magic and he didn't know how long it would be around for. Film school would always be there. Of course, film school never happened.
Music is architecture
After gaining the support of those on Techno Boulevard and establishing his own label in 1990, Hawtin has gone from strength to strength as the spearhead of the sub-genre, minimal techno.
"Music is architecture to me, at least my perspective of sitting with equipment and trying to build my own personal sonic landscape. My music is restrained, or minimal, it's nearly visual. Being introduced to painters and being able to look at something and walk around an installation and think about that as music and frequency, has inspired my career."
Hawtin's all about taking risks and being in the moment
Evidently a creative mind, Hawtin says he has as much gear on stage as possible because "I think a good DJ is someone who gets there and is as spontaneous as possible." To name a bit: digital decks with Traktor and three or four loops of records playing, modular synths and an interface to Ableton. There are certainly a lot of choices there to make things people have never heard before.
He's created an app to give transparency to what he does on stage
In a world where certain commercial names give DJ's a bad name by miming and having everything pre-recorded, Hawtin is the antithesis of that and wants to show what is going on on stage through the app Closer, where you can download a show he's done on tour that is filmed with cameras placed in the best vantage points available.
"The app is a way to watch the shows, and actually look deeper into what’s happening an ability to change different camera angles and see different pieces of kit. You can listen to specific channels of the mix, deconstruct the mix and understand the way it sounds. Is this one record, two records, is this a modular on top, is this hi hats? You can get in there and get more clarity." An inspiring thought.
The app will be released early September 2019.
He's always thinking about the future
He's envisioning a world where incoming faster bandwidth can mean having access to the Closer app live during a show, so you could go to the bar and flick your phone on and just listen to the modular synth for a bit should you feel. And being able to be on stage and connect with an artist in another part of the world who is live jamming some music in their studio and bring that into the mix too. “Why does it always have to be pre-recorded music?” he asks. Fair point and it will likely change and we'll be keen to see what influence he plays. People like Hawtin are cultural treasure.
You can stream the Podcast starring Richie Hawtin on a number of alternative platforms below: