By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 1995
As both a DJ and musician, Richie Hawtin has been one of the biggest driving forces behind electronic dance music in recent years. Never content repeating himself or sounding like anyone else, Hawtin’s music constantly pushes techno into uncharted territory. With his label, +8, he has given such artists as Vapourspace the exposure they deserve. Hawtin’s latest endeavor is “Muzik,”a new album of his own music released as Plastikman
Hawtin, who hails from Canada, started out listening to alternative electronic music before getting into DJing in late 1987. From that point on, he immersed himself in house and techno and was DJing very heavily. Then he started making his own music, something he’d never planned on.
“It was probably the furthest thing from my mind, even when I started to DJ,”he says. “I didn’t know I was going to make records. I was just really into the music and getting engulfed by it. I was hearing lots of good records. I was brought up in the Detroit scene, so I was playing lots and lots of Detroit records from guys just around the corner. I thought these guys can do it, so I’d like to try and see what happens, to do something for the dance floor. That’s basically how it started.”
Currently, Hawtin has two major musical ventures, Plastikman and Fuse. He tries to keep them as seperate entities, though he admits similarities are inevitable when it’s the same person under two names. Hawtin still DJs most weekends, and works on his own music in between.
In creating his music, Hawtin generally doesn’t have a complete idea for a track and just sit down and record it. He’s also not like such artists as Aphex Twin, who release virtually everything they ever record. Rather, he records everything that goes on in his studio, going back later to find the best parts. Hawtin will then take those, discard the bad stuff, and work new ideas around them.
“I heard a statistic that a musician is only brilliant 10% of the time, even the most brilliant minds in history,”he says. “That’s what they get recognized for. So even though this music is in some ways easy to create and you can do a lot of it in a short time, you shouldn’t release it all because you don’t do good stuff all the time. Some of them are steppingstones to a better idea.�
Hawtin’s DJing experience has helped define his music, as it has taught him what works on the dance floor and allows him to hear what everyone else is doing. He can then take this knowledge to his studio and try to do things that no one else is doing.
“It would be very easy for me to put all the formulas together and make a hit dance record,”says Hawtin. “But I generally try to take something like that and twist it a bit, so it’s a little different and catches people’s attention while still having ideas of what will work. This music is never going to get anywhere if people are doing the same thing and keep doing the formula. This music works I think because lots of people do try to keep pushing it forward.”
Off all the equipment he uses, Hawtin’s favorite pieces is still the Roland TB 303. Hawtin says that he’s always afraid of putting too much into a track, so he tries to strip them down to a bare minimum. He feels that a lot of the best music is minimalistic.
“To me, the space between the sounds and beats defines the music that it’s surrounding,”says Hawtin. “If there’s no space between everything, it just becomes noise.”
Next up for Hawtin is a new Fuse album, and in the future he will once again be collaborating with Pete Namlook. He’s also planning on touring as Plastikman soon, something he has never done before. Hawtin did a show in Detroit, but because it was only 10 minutes from his studio, he was able to bring all his equipment. While he admits limitations will make the tour more of ” a standard dance kind of show,”he promises there will be a “Plastikman flair to it. “See all interviews →