Courtesy of Richie Hawtin
Hawtin will now bring his show to Montreal's MUTEK festival tonight, June 3. It's a homecoming of sorts as he first performed Plastikman Live here back in 2004. The techno superstar admits to Spinner that the gig seven years ago was a disappointment and explains how he intends to triumph tonight with the revamped show. Hawtin also shares his admiration for Trent Reznor and explains why he's not worried that "this planet's days are probably numbered."
The last time you played at Mutek as Plastikman was in 2004, take us back to that show.
At that moment, I don't think we saw any rewards because we worked really hard to envision the show and, although on one level we hit some of the targets, we didn't feel we accomplished really what we wanted to. So we were disappointed at the end of the show. But I think it taught me how important a great team was. And it was also the beginning of a great team that went on to do this new Plastikman show and I also forged part of the team that allowed me to do things like Contakt and other larger scale events.
We had a master plan for Mutek in 2004 and I think all the technologies that we needed were available, but the biggest challenge was trying to build conduits and connections between all of these separate technologies. What has happened now, over the last eight years, is there's more of a do-it-yourself attitude out there, and programers and software companies have built more of an open architecture so people can connect programs together that perhaps weren't made to connect together.
What I also learned from the first Mutek was that trying to do a multimedia performance is a whole other ball game from a normal DJ performance. This is why normal multimedia performances have a light guy, a sound guy, a video guy and a performer all working together. It's very hard to put all of that under the command of one person.
How did the response to the 2004 Plastikman Live performance at Mutek shape your attitude going forward?
One of the problems built into Mutek was that we wanted to make this a special one-time show and by doing this one-time show, we only had one time to hit the ball out of the park. So everybody, including ourselves, was expecting a masterpiece. But we never had a chance with Mutek to go back and perfect it -- "OK, let's fix the lights on the next one, and another song on the next one" -- and slowly get it to the point that we wanted.
With the Plastikman tour we try and find a balance between the amount of shows we were going to book so that the show was still special, so people could come out and experience something unique, but also get to the stage of [Germany's] Time Warp [festival] last year, which probably was a beta version of the show, and then over this year, we finalized 1.0 and now sitting here in Windsor again updating it to 1.2-1.5.
We'll see where it gets to by the time we get to Mutek. But these things need development, that's the big thing about it. There aren't so many of these shows, but I'm starting to see more now. I've seen the trailer for the Amon Tobin ['ISAM'] show and you've got Deadmau5 doing a little bit of control back and forth, but there's no on-the-shelf apparatus. No one else is going to tell you how to do it. You've got to do as many shows as possible to learn both the things that work and the things that don't work.
I'm curious to know more about your working style with your Plastikman team.
There are 10 of us on tour for every Plastikman show. So there's a large team that has to be there to make it happen. But the gestation period, for the original show and the Mutek show, really starts with myself and Ali Demirel and Jarrett Smith from Derivative, and we really go back and forth and talk about song selection and ideas and visuals and talk about how things can be controlled. You can't just start with the audio and finish the audio, and do the visuals and do it from the other side, you have to be synchronized and be symbiotic.
You create a sound that inspires a visual, and then with that visual you're like, "Hey, that circle is great,' and then you're like, "Let's add a square," and then you say, "I know what that should sound like," and you go step by step through it. Of course, you have a foundation, so you think, "let's do a song like 'Marbles' or a song like 'Spastik' and then you try to extrapolate that.
For this show, because of what had gone on with the last show, I didn't even start working on audio until nearly five months into the project. I was on tour in March 2009 in Australia and I saw a show that inspired me to start thinking about Plastikman. I made a call to Greg from Derivative and Jarrett and said, "Hey guys, are you prepared to go down that road again? How are the technologies? Do you think there's a more solid foundation of hooking all of this stuff up together?" And they were like, "Yeah, we think so."
What other artists have inspired you?
I think on a performance level with visuals, I'm very inspired by what Trent Reznor is doing. I think he's hitting the nail on the head with performance and promotion and marketing, and what he's doing with music and releasing. He's definitely on the cutting edge of what needs to be done in the music industry at every level and he's very hands on with both the business, creative and technology side. So I find a lot of inspiration in what he's doing. Radiohead, also. They're inspiring for similar things, you know, how to make it in the entertainment industry in 2011.
I think it's time to focus our attention on high-quality productions and shows and events that challenge people and entertain them, and not just continue to sit on our laurels with what we've done in the past. And I still feel a lot of musicians and people in the DJ scene are going out every weekend and just playing records. That's great but I try to change my set and add new technology and keep building upon that. With the advent of digital DJing and carrying computers around, which enables a lot more, it also allows people to be complacent and just show up and open their laptop and do two hours and walk away. For me, I've always wanted to challenge and inspire and move forward.
A lot of your work is about the future and it seems to be fairly utopian. How do you maintain your optimism for the future in a time when we are in such a state of environmental chaos on the earth?
I've always been an optimist. I don't find myself more depressed than in the previous years, but I definitely feel that there's more of a weight in looking toward the future than in previous times. The future is so complex, much more complex than it used to be. And it's not only the progression of technology and artificial intelligence, but also the future of the planet and our impact on it. But luckily I somehow have a belief that somewhere along the line, we find and continue to find a balance between man and machine and that will get us through what we need to get through.
I think the way the world is going, this planet's days are probably numbered. It just isn't sustainable what we're doing and the number of people that continue to populate the place. So I think we have to be really far-reaching and looking, and think about getting off this planet and moving to other places. We're talking in the very distant future and crossing that with the resync of technology and how we treat and behave toward each other. So I think a lot of things have to change, but the world has been through a lot of nightmares and has continued to grow and prosper and I have faith that we'll find a way through it.