Richie Hawtin Interview
Minus' boss on the renaissance of techno, the joys of recycling and his season in Ibiza.
Minimal techno pioneer, Minus boss, digital music champion and headliner of clubs all over the world, Richie Hawtin is the name on everyone's lips right now. Ahead of closing Amnesia for the end of season parties in Ibiza, Richie Hawtin and the Minus crew returned to The End for an all night party on 29th September '07. We grabbed a quick interview with Richie during some rare time off on the White Isle a couple of weeks before the event.
Endclub.com: Hey, Richie, how's Ibiza?
Richie Hawtin: So far so good, we got here yesterday. We're just relaxing before next week...
You've got the Minus party on Monday, right?
The party's on Monday at Amnesia, we've got Matthew Dear, Gaiser, Magda, Marc Houle, me and Troy Pierce, so yeah, very exciting.
What's new with Minus - any exciting projects coming up?
Well we've got new singles from Marc Houle, Gaiser and JPLS through September and October. The Expansion/Contraction CD is out in November with tracks from Plastikman, Heartthrob, Marc Houle and Troy Pierce amongst others. We're releasing a remix that Dubfire from Deep Dish has done of Plastikman's 'Spastik', plus Guido Schnieder's remix of 'Panikattack'. We're reissuing 'Concepts' which has been remastered, and is backed by the Thomas Brinkmann 'Variations' remixes. And we're releasing a Marco Corola 12" called 'Re_Solution' on 2M via Minus.
You played Metamorphose earlier in the year - how is Minus being received in Japan?
It's being really well received in Japan. Japan's an amazing place and I think there's a certain feeling over there towards music that has helped people there develop an affinity with what we do. I mean Japan, culturally, is so different to the West that you can never really be on entirely the same wavelength, but I think they get us and what we do, and we love it there.
Is the cover art a big part of the Minus identity? And how is this translating to digital music sales - when all you have to represent a release is a jpeg rather than a 12" sleeve or CD cover?
The cover art is a very big part of our identity yeah, it's about a visual association with the music you are listening to and I think that's really important. In the past there's been the Minus splash covers, and now moving forward with digital downloads in mind, we're looking into new ways to provide that visual association with the music. We're working on a concept for moving visual image covers that are digitally attached to tracks, the visual would then appear on your iPod when you're listening. Ideally we'd want that for every release, and we're not there yet, but that is the target. As yeah, it is something we do attach a lot of value to.
Techno seems to have had a real renaissance in recent years - what would you put that down to?
I think generally, it's that people are just returning to what they know. Originally, house and techno were really connected, it was only in the mid 90s that they really began to go in different directions, with house getting more commercial, and I think in recent years they've got closer again, people can connect with the music again and remember all the things they used to love about it. I also feel that there is a certain integrity within the techno community. Even though there has been commercial success of both house and techno artists over the years, I truly believe that there are more people associated with the techno side of things that have remained focused on their original ideas and inspiration and have continued to build upon that and push forward.
How do you feel about critics that say we're due a backlash against minimal?
Honestly, I think anything that's ever been popular has eventually undergone some kind of backlash. With Minus and Plus 8, and as DJs, we just stick to what we believe in, stay true to where we came from, and try and make music with artistic integrity and hope that the people feel this.
From an A&R point of view, how important is it for you to be based in Berlin?
I don't think Berlin as a location is really relevant to me from an A&R point of view, I think the most important thing to Minus in terms of A&R is the fact that I DJ all over the world, travelling is far more important in that sense I think. As a DJ being based in Berlin is good, but I've had an apartment there on and off since 2000, I've always loved the city, it's always felt very similar to Detroit for me, so I've always had an affinity with the place.
It's well documented that you had significant input into the original design of 'Final Scratch'. But as the Scratch system has continued to develop, what has your level of involvement been, and what do you think have been the most exciting additions to its capabilities?
Well, I was there around the beginning, although John Acquaviva was there before me, and at the time I felt that the Scratch system was really important to help change people's mindset, really just in terms of what we could achieve with digital DJing and going beyond just using vinyl. What we were aiming for was what we called a bridge system, something that maintained a link with traditional vinyl turntables, physically touching the records and people's association with that, but allowed them to progress in terms of performance. My involvement has decreased since then, I think that as we move forward, the most exciting developments in these systems won't be additions but will be seeing what the system can do as it moves away from that vinyl association and connection and further away from the traditional model. It's not what is added to its capabilities but what is lost that interests me most.
It's really great to see a label taking a pro-active approach towards the environment, as you are with your new Environmental Awareness Initiative. Could you outline your goals for our readers?
We're trying to do what we can to make a difference whilst still entertaining people; the main thing is offsetting our carbon emissions. Everything we contribute to carbon emissions, the damage we do, we offset by buying credits from a company based in Berlin called Atmosfair that acts on our behalf. They do a variety of things with the money we give them, whether it's contributing to research into renewable energy sources, contributing to building wind farms, solar energy arrays and so on. We're also improving our manufacturing to be more environmentally friendly, we've cut out jewel cases for CDs and all our packaging is made from sustainable, recyclable materials. Anything we can do in the office we're doing also. There's been a few naysayers, one person in the industry got in touch and expressed some negativity about it, but you know, I want my children to be able to hear the music I've made and enjoy the world as I have, and, really, the worst thing that can happen is we'll make a difference...
Finally, are you looking forward to playing in London again?
I always look forward to playing in London, I'm originally from the UK, so it's where my roots are and there is a certain feeling of coming home when I come back. It's also where we had our original success with Plus 8 and most of the initial interest with my Plastikman project, so those early connection points still have deep roots that I do not want to forget.