w/Bruno Pronsato and
Thurs Sept 1, Showbox, 8 pm, $18 adv, 21+.
Everyone wants a piece of Richie Hawtin (AKA Plastikman). The Berlin-based Canadian techno superstar instantly lends credibility and luster to any event he graces, be it a frothy Ibiza bacchanal, a geeky Final Scratch demonstration in New York City, or a Decibel-benefit club gig in Seattle. Want to book Hawtin? He might be free in September... 2006.
How did Hawtin ascend to such a revered brand-name DJ/producer? How did his life become this blur of pressing time demands? How has he earned the profound respect of several thousand serious electronic-music heads, producers, and DJs 16 years into his career, when most of his contemporaries have faded into obscurity? And, most importantly, where does he find the time to spend those crucial, focused hours in the lab, refining his tonal explorations and beat-making schematics? Further, how does he maintain the excellent quality control of his minimal-techno labels Plus 8 and M-nus? All factors point to Hawtin being an organizational genius.
His music certainly suggests so. The best minimalist techno producers can speak volumes using half the alphabet. Hawtin has been doing this since the early '90s with rugged techno unit F.U.S.E. Starting his solo Plastikman project in 1993, Hawtin has, over five albums, translated myriad strains of Detroit and Berlin techno into a spacious sonic universe that evokes both the icy coolness of zipping down the Motor City's grim highways and the vertiginous horror-thrill of cruising through deep space's infinite void. Hear 1993's Sheet One and 1994's Musik for evidence of Hawtin's rarely rivaled ability to create illusory vast depths and relentlessly hypnotic rhythms.
As inspirational as Plastikman's productions have been, Hawtin's won even more raves for the DJ sets and warehouse parties he threw in the '90s around Detroit and Windsor. Two Detroit-via-Seattle musicians—Jerry Abstract and Sean Horton—who experienced many of those events attest to their life-changing powers.
"I've been to all of Hawtin's shows that were in Detroit, Windsor, and Toronto from 1993–1999," Abstract recalls, "and all of them are incredible. [Hawtin's parties] always had the best venues, the best sound system, and the best acts, [and] he'd always be experimenting with some kind of sensory fuckery at his events."
Horton cites as pivotal a legendary party called Spastik, where Hawtin played his live debut as Plastikman. "It was my first full-on warehouse party experience, so my head was just spinning. That party completely changed my life."
Hawtin's music has changed many others' lives; he's one of the few underground producers to nudge avant-garde techno beyond specialist circles. "Hawtin was the main reason why hordes of suburban kids flocked to Detroit during the '90s," says Horton. "[Hawtin] takes every aspect of his art seriously, and his label M-nus illustrates this passion and attention to detail beautifully."
"He has a very technological philosophy to techno music," Abstract says. "He's constantly experimenting, inventing, and pushing the limits of techno music and the human experience. Hawtin takes risks with the majority of his projects and succeeds in gaining his audiences' full attention."
Ever the innovator, Hawtin is touring in anticipation of his new mix disc, DE9: Transitions (due Nov 1). The concept (there's always a concept with Hawtin) here is a focus on those crucial links in DJ sets where one track segues into another. A website description alludes to a "musical 'transition' in time and amplitude, depth of space and perception, opening up the DJ mix for the first time into a fully encompassing, surround-sound (5.1) environment."
All of which wouldn't mean much if Hawtin didn't have an acute ear for minimal techno's most creative players. He reportedly is threading bits from close to 100 tracks for this molecular musaic. The result—like Decks, EFX & 909 and DE9: Closer to the Edit—is sure to be an astounding feat of editing and a monomaniacal trawl through Hawtin's stellar wax collection and evocation of master-builder sensibilities. Prepare to be awed.