HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Richie Hawtin

His life began in Oxfordshire, England but has taken him through the techno nirvana of Detroit and most recently finds him seeking refuge in the almost equally musically influential Berlin. During this cross continent journey he has released a couple of full length albums, numerous mix CDs, more singles than you can poke a stick at and has played some of the most historic sets to some of the largest crowds. He has been at the fore front of musical technology being the first man, woman or beast to DJ with the help of two Apple iPods and has pioneered the world of digital music with his artistic utilization of programs like Ableton Live.

But more importantly than all of these accolades his appearance is what sets him apart. He is of course Richie Hawtin and who can forget the chrome dome and black glasses combo he once sported and more recently the angular fringe that sweeps across his forehead. With the recent release of his album-cum-mix CD "DE9: Transitions" and his tour of Japan, we had thousands of questions that just had to be asked of the man, the myth and the legend, Richie Hawtin.

* If you would like to view the video interview...Click here !

> Interview : Mark Oxley _ Introduction : Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)


HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : "DE9: Transitions" was made possible by advances in technology that means it is not necessary to worry about beat matching. What are your thoughts on this technology being abused perhaps, in a sense used simply to make life easier rather than to be more constructive, do you have any thoughts on that ?

Richie : Yeah, I am an optimist, I hope that we use technologies ability to automate tasks, to give us time to do other tasks, but always there is a problem or a danger that people will allow technology to do more and themselves to do less. Or to allow people to be able to create things that otherwise they wouldn't be able to, you know. We are at an interesting point right now, especially with music, the software programs out there allow almost anyone to make a mix CD or beat-match or to make electronic music. I guess I think about it, [but] I don't worry so much because I have always found electronic music challenging for myself, it always pushes to better myself as a musician, as an artist and to go further into the unknown. And in a way it may also be why I continue to be involved in this. You can't rest on your laurels, as we get older we all seem to want to rest on our laurels, and say hey 'I did this, give me the respect I deserve, blah blah blah' but you know when you are involved in anything that is tied so closely to technology you have to be aware that you are only so good as your last release or the last piece of technology you learnt.

HRFQ : Do you consider yourself on the frontier, or do you allow it to make life easier for you ?

Richie : I don't know if I am leading edge, but I think I am pretty cutting edge, I am always looking to find out what is out there, to help me - you know - automate certain tasks in the studio or in my life. But whenever something is taken away from me or whenever I am unable to take my attention off of one detail I usually end up finding five other details to take up more time! So it is a constant battle you know. I have never found a technology that has taken away so much time that I have free time! When that happens then maybe I will relax !

HRFQ : Good answer. Well part of the concept of DE9: Transitions is musical transitions in our lives that may go unnoticed until they are fully complete. With this in mind what is the most surprising or dramatic musical transition you have been through in your life ?

Richie : Well, musical ? I guess the biggest transition in my life was getting from listening to Michael Jackson 'Thriller' to getting into electro and break-dancing. If I hadn't made that transition, I may not be here now, because that was when I first got away from the typical radio pop music and got into something that was a little bit more - I wouldn't say submersive, or experimental but - one step away from the norm.

HRFQ : You could've been the new Justin Timberlake !

Richie : I could! I'd rather be one of the nerd guys than him! That is just not my calling. I tried to make a pop song once, it just wasn't going to happen.

HRFQ : Is there stuff you used to listen to at the time which you just don't have ears for anymore, you can't sit there listening to it ?

Richie : I am sure there is definitely music like that. Early on when I started to DJ, it was the beginning of Plus 8 Records, I was running with John Acquaviva, and we were having great success with the label, great critical and acclaimed success, but not necessarily monetary success, you know. So at that time we were releasing quite a lot of underground records I was still playing weekly at a night club in Windsor, - and Detroit, but the Windsor gig was....well when I look back at some of the records I used to play, [they] were not completely commercial, but very commercial compared to what I am into now. But it was an ends to a means. It allowed me to buy the records that I enjoyed playing and allowed me and John to run Plus 8, and leave Plus 8 as label that put out music which had more critical than financial success and we allowed our other day jobs and DJ gigs to let us have that freedom.

Richie Hawtin Interview

HRFQ : Decks and Effects 909 was produced using a mixer and effects and therefore susceptible to more mistakes. Now with programs like Ableton you are able to control every single aspect of the music with very little risk of error. Which method of making music is more exciting ?

Richie : Well you know, you have to find a way to stumble upon happy mistakes, and accidents even in this day of over perfection. For sure Ableton has allowed me to make a CD Like this - Transitions - but I come from a time in the late eighties and early nineties, even when we did use a computer - Cu Base - we used to let everything run and we used a lot of like, physical hand movements, faders and mutes, to capture the moment, and I try to find a way to incorporate that in all my studio music or pieces. Not always in that way but it is something - I don't know how else I can say it - something I am very very conscious of. Because I made a couple of tracks in the mid nineties where I laid everything out on the computer, and I sequenced everything down to a tee. And then some of my most disliked pieces and most of the music that I have a problem with, usually comes down to the fact that the people, although they have come up with good sounds and ideas, have over perfected it. They have stared too long at a computer and lost that original inspiration. That intangible thing which makes something special. So there is not a right way or a wrong way to do something, or a right way or a wrong way to use any of these programs, you just have to keep remembering that people love that interaction between man and machine, but if it has to be a little bit one sided then it always has to tip towards man. And if it tips towards the machine then you lose that part of the humanity.

HRFQ : With that in mind, do you think there will ever be point where all mixes will be 100% unnoticeable ? Is this desirable ?

Richie : I think for sure we will get to a point where mixes are un-noticable and the idea of morphing between one sound and the next will become so fluid that as humans without external apparatus to hear those, we will not be able to hear the transitions. Is it something that i look forward to? Yes. I look forward to listening to something that fluid, but like anything I wouldn't want to listen to only something like that. I look forward to an experience that is so fluid that it feels like reality. I think that if we want to stretch that idea even further then - I as a DJ create experiences for people, to further the experience we have to make that more like reality, and then that starts to go towards the very very distant future of things like you see on Star Trek, like Hollo-Decks, I don't want to experience a Hollo-Deck that recreates reality. I want to experience a Hollo=Deck or an experience on the dance floor that is something which is completely a figment of somebody's imagination, something that hasn't existed before, something that isn't real, but feels completely real. That is what excites me. That is what I try to do in my music and if I was born a hundred or two hundred years from now then if I wasn't doing music I would be programming very real - unreal situations on a Hollo-Deck on the Starship Enterprise. ha ha.

HRFQ : Fantastic. Brilliant ha ha.

Richie : I have had too much time on planes recently to think.

To Be Continued

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