In "Richie Hawtin's Transitions Part 1", we talked to Richie Hawtin about "DE9: Transitions" and the philosophy behind it, transitions between DJing and producing, and transitions in his own life
Read on for the second half of the interview where Hawtin talks about his number 12 ranking in this year's DJ Mag Top 100, the current transitional nature of minimal techno, the new breed of minimal artists, future plans for his label M_nus, and the importance of pushing forward.
RA: One of the things we talked about last time was the danger of the British press hyping a new sound only to tear it down. But maybe a flipside to that is the recently announced DJ Mag Top 100. You yourself came in at number 12, Villalobos came in at 47, and Magda came in at 100.
R: Yep, and also Sven’s in there, he moved up quite a lot. It’s still something that’s filled with more of the trance guys, but the techno guys are there, and they seem to be moving up! You know, after 10 or 15 years, I have to attribute at least part of my success, especially with the early Plastikman days, to the British Press. They definitely love to build things up and tear them down, but you know, if you can use it in the right way, if you understand how it works, and continue to do what you believe in, and don’t worry when they tear you down or when they don’t want to talk to you, then the British press can be a really positive thing. It’s a double-edge sword. The British press and the Top 100 has sometimes too much power in the techno dance world, but at the same time if you understand how the system works, you can use it to further your cause. You know, the British press spreads everywhere.
RA: So, do you think that maybe minimal music, especially minimal techno, is becoming much more popular and accepted? Is there more interest now?
R: Yeah, I think there’s definitely more interest than ever before. We did a number of interviews with the British press and other press for the Minimize to Maximize compilation we released on M_nus [Richie’s label, pronounced “Minus”], there’s further interest into what Sven and Villalobos are doing, and Magda is becoming a name that people are starting to recognize. So, sure it’s part of the hype right now and I don’t know what will happen when the hype is over, but I’ve always been a strong believer in … [pauses] I appreciate the press wherever it happens. If you can build the momentum up, and try to take the wave to as high a peak as possible, when it comes crashing down you’re gonna be left with more people than at the last low point. That’s the way the industry works, all entertainment; people go through phases, they go through hype, people’s tastes change, and there’s always a cycle of people coming in and out of the scene. So you always have to be out there re-educating, because there’s people leaving who don’t come back, there’s always people who continue to support the scene, and there’s always new people coming in looking for something to support and they don’t know what yet. It’s a constant struggle to get as many people as possible to hear what you’re doing, to turn them on to what you’re doing without compromising.
RA: Within the minimal scene itself there seems to be a lot of exciting new producers doing things that are quite varied in what’s roughly termed as “Minimalism” at the moment. For example there’s Matthew Jonson, Matthew Dear, the Wighnomy Brothers, and Dominik Eulberg. Where do you think minimal techno is going now, and in the near future? We’ve been talking about transitions: is minimal making its own transition?
R: The whole tag of “Minimal Techno” right now is a tag which people use to talk about the transition between House and Techno. Minimal techno seems to be defined as everything in-between. You know, as a DJ I love to play records that are more house-y. On the other side you have house producers who are playing harder than ever, and some of the techno people playing softer than ever. So whether the term “minimal” will be around and be hyped in a year, I’m not sure, but I think the people doing this type of music will be part of what’s hyped in a year, possibly maybe with a new tag attached to it. Because things are coming back and mixing, and people are finding a balance between all of these sounds that have existed the last couple of years. I mean, you see James Holden, who was originally a trance guy, playing really cool, more electronic techno sets, and you have techno people getting into a little bit more of a trance sound. You can’t say Sven 10 years ago wasn’t full on trance. And there’s some records back then that we all loved. So, again, it’s kinda like going through the arc, through the history of what’s been good at different points, and finding a way to combine it and come out with something, which at this point is called minimal. But it’s really music that takes so many sources and finds a balance between all these things. For me, minimal music is a balance of sound and structure. But for many people right now it’s a balance of sounds from many genres that we’ve come to know and love, and know and hate! [Laughs]
RA: It seems like a really exciting time at the moment.
R: Yeah, for me it’s a very exciting time. I’m down in South America [at the South American Music Conference] one week ago, and in one room it’s Tiesto and Ferry Corsten and the gang, and in the other room there’s me and Misstress Barbara, and we’re hanging out and having really nice times with Ferry and those guys and sharing where we came from, and mixing much more than we used to. Erick Morillo and those guys come to the Cocoon Parties on Ibiza, and we go to see them, and with this DC10 thing, it’s a whole mix of people. It’s all over the place! Sure, everyone’s still into their own side of things, but because of the interaction and also the longevity of people who have seen it all happen and because of the mix of new people who don’t know what happened, anything goes! Anything goes again. It’s really cool.
RA: Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that generational transition in techno. You were in Detroit in the early ‘90s, as you said earlier being inspired and hopefully inspiring. Now it’s 2005, and you’re still being inspired and inspiring alongside relatively new producers such as Matthew Jonson and Matthew Dear. What do you see as being some major differences between the scene then and now? Or is it just cycling backwards and forwards?
R: Well, there’s always these seven-year cycles, and I think right now it’s at a really interesting cycle. It’s a combination of new people coming up and going forth very fast, without worrying about the past, because sometimes the past and history bogs you down. For a while John Acquaviva and I felt very bogged down after many years of Plus 8; retaining and re-issuing and thinking about what we had done was taking more time than what we wanted to do next. I think this energy of the new breed is very similar to the energy we had in the early days, and I think their energy, although we have a different perspective because we were there back then, has given us a moment to stop and remember how it felt for us the first time. And that’s allowing all of us to have a similar type of feeling again. Whether we’ve been into it for one year, or 10 or 15 years. It seems that along with this opening of boundaries, of mixing of genres, there seems to be a mixing of people, of knowledge, and all that boils down to people seeming to have reconnected to their passion and having fun and pushing forward once more in a very strong way.
RA: Yeah, there really does seem to be a fresh new wave of producers coming through. Who are you excited by at the moment?
R: There’s a number of labels that are really exciting me. There’s a label from Germany, Moon Harbour, which is doing some really interesting things which are a little bit poppy, with that poppy German sound, but very minimal. Guido Schneider is a real up and coming star, he’s been doing a lot of things on Poker Flat. Dominik Eulberg is of course doing some really amazing things. There’s an interesting new guy from Berlin who’s just released a record, his first record on Perlon, called Matt John, and I think he’s gonna be a big name in the next year or two. And people on our level, on the techno level, know Matthew Dear and Matthew Jonson, but I think both of those guys are gonna break out even more. And of course Magda, and from our camp, we’ve just signed a new guy from Detroit called John Geyser, and Ryan Crosson. There’s a whole group of people who’ve been in the scene for ten years, just partying, some of them were actually helping us throw our parties back in the day, helping us decorate, or working the door, and now they’re producing. And for me, it’s really special seeing those guys come up, because I was part of their inspiration and now they’ve kind of bit me on the ass and are re-inspiring both me and the label. It’s the cycle, and it’s a really interesting time.
RA: The seven-year cycle, as you said.
R: Yeah, for me I got a little bit frustrated about five or six years ago. We were trying to push more into the Detroit and Windsor areas to try to nurture some of the new talent. Looking back now, I thought it was the right time, but it was too premature. We kind of stepped away, and now we’ve suddenly found all these artists who were working slowly and diligently on their own ideas at their own pace and are now starting to come forth. And when they talk about their inspirations and why they got into it, they always seem to have one cross-point with what we were doing back in the day.
RA: So definitely a lot of generational transitions.
R: Yeah, transitions and crossovers and moments of connection. Which, whether we notice them then or not, become stronger over time and now it’s all starting to make sense. So it’s very exciting, very inspiring right now. To be part of something and to see new kids coming up who were inspired by the parties we did and the releases we did is, in a way, fulfilling why John and I started Plus 8 back in 1990. We had to start the label for our own music, and we wanted to make sure that other people around us didn’t have that problem. Of course, we had success helping people like Daniel Bell, Speedy J, Kenny Larkin, all the guys in the early days, but then in the late 90s there was a bit of a dry spell. Now, suddenly, it’s all come back, and the reason we got into this is becoming relevant again.
RA: You mentioned your M_nus label, just before; do you have any future plans for the label? You said before you’ve signed some new people.
R: Well, we have a new Minimize to Maximize, volume two, coming out in March. We have new records, Magda’s first full-length, and we have this guy John Geyser. A new Matthew Dear just came out, Matthew Jonson is just finishing a new one, there’s a new Troy Pierce, and also a remix collection of things coming together. There’s a possibility of a new sub-label coming out next year. We’re also looking into continuing on with Transitions and trying to bring all the artists together and have everyone experiment a little bit more in 5.1 next year. So, lots of ideas.
RA: At the Mutek festival last year, you did a Plastikman live set. Do you have any plans to do more Plastikman live shows, maybe making a transition from a studio project to a live project?
R: I would love to be able to go back and continue on the exploration we started with the show, but right now there’s so many other things going on that I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. We had some great successes and some failures with the show, and we really wanted to continue, but it took us six months to get to that point. The problem is, to continue doing the label and to continue being part of what’s happening right now, it’s nearly impossible to do that show, because it needs day-to-day attention for about six months, off the road, out of the studio, only working on the show. And as wonderful as it was, I have a hard time putting too much more time into something that is both progressive and nostalgic. It’s hard for me to put so much time into old things. But, we’re already using part of the technology with my visual friend right now for some upcoming shows next year with DE9. So, some of the technology we used will filter down into what we do in the next year, and hopefully when – if – there’s a new Plastikman studio album, there’ll be some of what we learnt and what we did brought into that.
RA: I also ask because on this New Year’s Eve in Melbourne, Australia, you’re playing at a party, and there’s been a bit of confusion in the online community, because it says Richie Hawtin/Plastikman Live.
R: No, they’re supposed to have changed that. Sometimes promoters get overexcited with Abelton these days. “Oh, you can bring Abelton and do some of your old tracks live and play some classics!” But it doesn’t constitute what I refer to as a Plastikman live show. So, unfortunately, down there it will not be a live show. I’ll be maybe playing some old tracks ‘cos they want to have kind of a celebration of the last 10 or 15 years of electronic music, but it definitely won’t be a Plastikman live show.
RA: Closer to a DE9 performance then?
R: Yeah, exactly. The problem is it takes so much time and energy to go back and recreate some of those songs, and some of them are unrecreatable. And while the idea of it all sounds really fun, it gets really boring and tiresome for me, ‘cos it’s journeying back too far into my past. There’s so much happening right now; perhaps there’ll be a better time when my life slows down and the scene slows down to spend the right amount of time looking back and figuring out how to re-approach that stuff. But I don’t think the time is now.
RA: As you said before, there’s been so many transitions for you personally, making the move to Berlin and such, and connecting with new people and moving forward; it definitely sounds like a time to forge ahead instead of look behind.