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Interview: "Plastikman" Richie Hawtin

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This year's Movement 2010 Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend in Detroit's Hart Plaza, was all about Richie Hawtin. Under his PLASTIKMAN alias, Hawtin has pushed the boundaries of techno as an art form, while his live performances have set the bar for the genre. From his early productions to his DE9 (Decks, Effects, and a 909) live performances, there are few in the realm of electronic dance music who can claim to be as forward-thinking an artist.

Richie raised the stakes once again by resurrecting the PLASTIKMAN moniker and scheduling a 15-date tour of what is best described as the most intricate and technically advanced interactive concert experience touring today. Elaborate stage sets, a mountain of technological whizz-bang goodies, and the additional perk of fan-controlled multimedia elements hearkens back to stage extravaganzas like U2's technically marvelous "Zoo TV" tour and the more recent Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk live shows. Debuting at Coachella this spring, the PLASTIKMAN live show played to rave reviews. The anticipation of seeing the show in the city that birthed techno had fans clamoring for the $60 3-day festival tickets.

Richie was kind enough to sit down and grant NUVO this exclusive interview the morning after his Movement 2010 appearance.

RK: I don’t have the words to describe what the atmosphere was like out there last night, and it seems that your show and your sound keeps evolving. That goes back to the early days of “Decks EFX and a 909”. You’ve always embraced new technology and incorporated it into the live sets and production. Do you feel like the technology is finally catching up to your imagination, or does the technology spur your imagination to pursue some of the crazy things that you have been doing?

RH: You know, technology inspires me, it scares me, it does everything. We couldn’t do the show without a lot of crazy computer systems and networking. When we had the idea for the show and were sort of working on it, and exploring some of the ideas that were possible, some of the things just came out by (the team) plugging things in and seeing what other surprises were there. But that’s always the thing — it’s like man and machine, you can never plan. You put them together and you see what happens. You have a kind of scope or framework and then you work within that system to find the magic. (laughs)

RK: This show, in particular, is not just about artist control. Let’s talk a little bit about the SYNK app for the iPhone and how that allows the fans to actually “become” part of the PLASTIKMAN live show.

RH: Oh yeah. Last night we had one moment during “Logikal Nonsense,” which is a play on one of the tracks from early PLASTIKMAN records where I took voices and re-sequenced them to make a logical nonsense. At that moment, the iPhone (apps) flip open and you have all these words and people can actually trigger those. Lat night we had a LOT of people triggering (laughs). Usually it’s pretty muted, but lat night it was like a wall of noise…

RK: It was chaos…

RH: (laughs) Yeah, it was cool because I really felt like… Sure, it’s a bit of an experiment, and can become a bit of a sound wall, but it’s interesting because I’m behind this cage. Sometimes I feel a little bit disconnected, but at that moment I felt REALLY connected to everybody (laughs).

RK: There were moments last night , particularly when the “Spastik” snares came in, I made sure I turned around and the entirety of Hart Plaza was vibrating. And it was one of those singular moments that I, as a fan, will always remember.

RH: That’s one of the main reasons that I do what I do. Whether it’s DE9 or a party, “Spastik” back in the day or last night, (my goal) is to create — this is becoming one of my favorite words right now — a “singularity” that people will remember that moment when they were in Hart Plaza in 2010, and that I was a part of that. Whether it’s me on stage or just that sonic moment, hopefully that will be one of those singularities that they remember for the rest of their lives. Even if they don’t remember it, it becomes part of what defines them, makes them who they are and sends them on their way.

RK: All of the fans I’ve talked to, whether they’re speaking of a Richie Hawtin performance or a PLASTIKMAN performance, always talk about the collective experience. When talking about the events it’s always about sharing that moment with other people.

RH: I kind of go back-and-forth on that. I want everybody to have their own personal experience. I nearly want everybody to close their eyes and just go into themselves. At the same time, one of the reasons we do this type of show is not only to give the experience but to make people come together and have that physical reunion or gathering. So many wonderful things are available to everybody — on the internet, everybody can download and experience it and that’s one thing. Bringing people together, doing something that drives people to fly over from Europe or drive in from Dayton, Ohio or Cincinnati and all gather in this strange group of people is always, always magical.

RK: It was an indescribable moment, to be part of that, and that’s not the end for you this weekend by a long shot.

RH: (laughs) No. I was supposed to have a relaxing weekend, but now I have to play tonight at the Beatport stage and then the boat later — probably with some friends — but it’s a wonderful surprise.

RK: With such a full plate and knowing your connection to Detroit and what this festival has come to mean to the city, and not just the fans here but the fans all over the world, what does it mean to be part of that heritage and to be a multiple alumnus here (at the Movement Festival)?

RH: I feel like I’m part of the team here, especially now since Paxahau (promotions) took over, because Paxahau is made up of old friends that met together on a dance floor in front of speakers fifteen, sixteen years ago at HARD and HARDEST and some of the parties. I guess I can say this - back then, it was like the PLASTIKMAN gang. We’ve all grown up together, gone off and done our own separate things, but in the same moment found ourselves reconnected, still doing and supporting the music that we love.

RK: Obviously this isn’t the end of the PLASTIKMAN tour for you. You’re taking it overseas this summer, and I’m sure you’ve got a lot of music that’s going to be coming out. What do you have coming down the pipeline?

RH: We’re doing fifteen shows this year. Each show we’re modifying and adding songs or mutating what’s there… This time next year, it will be a whole different beast. It’s cool — it’s like a giant work-in-progress. At the same time I’m playing with ideas for the next PLASTIKMAN release. I’m working with Minus (Records) and my other artists Magda and Mark Houle, so there’s a ton of creative stuff going on right now.

RK: That’s excellent. Once again, fantastic show. The evolution of it will be interesting to watch. You can watch videos on the internet — it doesn’t do it justice. For everybody that listens, GET OUT AND SEE THIS SHOW.

RH: Yeah, please! (laughs). We’re recording some of the shows but we’re actually trying to be tight on what is going out on the internet. Not to…

RK: Be greedy…

RH: No, not to keep anything away from people but this show was created as a physical experience.

Richie Hawtin's PLASTIKMAN tour heads overseas to Barcelona, Spain for the Sonar Music Festival June 17-19, with additional European dates to follow. With luck, PLASTIKMAN live will return stateside in late 2010.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer for Hit The Decks on X103, Sundays at 10pm. Catch the replay on Mondays at 6pm on PURE RADIO.

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