Born Richard Michael Hawtin on June 4, 1970, in Banbury, England; son of Brenda and Michael (a robotics technician) Hawtin. Education: Attended the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Addresses: Record company--Minus, Inc., 731 Walker Rd., Windsor, Ontario N8Y 2N2, Canada, phone: (519) 258-1331, fax: (519) 258-6248, website: http://www.m-nus.com. Management--AM Only, 611 Broadway, Ste. 907A, New York, NY 10012, phone: (212) 253-5552, fax: (212) 254-0101, website: http://www.amonly.com.
Revered as one of the most influential and recognizable faces in techno, Richie Hawtin understood the symbiotic relationship between music and technology and embraced both from a very young age.
Born in Banbury, England, on June 4, 1970, Richard Michael Hawtin grew up fully immersed in technology as his father, a robotics technician, was always fiddling with electronic gear at home. When Hawtin was nine, he and his family emigrated to LaSalle, Ontario, Canada, where his dad took a job with General Motors in nearby Windsor. The elder Hawtin had a passion for music and he exposed both of his children to experimental rock and electronic sounds of the 1970s and 1980s--from Kraftwerk to Pink Floyd to Brian Eno. His adventurous tastes had a significant influence on his son's musical endeavors.
While Hawtin's high school peers preferred the hard rock anthems pumped from powerhouse radio stations across the river in Detroit, Michigan, he found solace in the electronic dance music of New Order, Depeche Mode, and Skinny Puppy. He also paid close attention to a new and emerging form of radio programming--the late-night mix show. Jeff "the Wizard" Mills and Charles "the Electrifyin' Mojo" Johnson held court on stations like WJLB, WDRQ, and WGPR when top 40 listeners went to sleep and Detroit's airwaves were left open for more original programming. Mills's and Johnson's mixes--combining Alexander Robotnik and the B-52's with local techno producers like Juan Atkins and Derrick May--had quite an impact on Hawtin and he began deejaying at local parties and teen night clubs in Windsor.
Began Crossing the Border
When he was 16, Hawtin began venturing across the border to Detroit to attend warehouse parties and clubs including the Music Institute, where he experienced the likes of May, Kevin Saunderson, Alton Miller, and other techno luminaries. He also began hanging out at the Shelter, a club in the basement of St. Andrew's Hall that featured gothic and industrial music. By the time he was 17, Hawtin was a resident deejay, collecting the handsome sum of $20 per night--just enough to cover his gas and border tolls to and from the club.
While Hawtin didn't make a lot of money playing the Shelter, his experience there would soon prove its own reward as he met Detroit's Kenny Larkin and fellow Ontarians John Acquaviva and Dan Bell. Hawtin and Acquaviva soon began tinkering with cheap keyboards and computers, drumming up their own rudimentary techno tracks. They tried shopping their songs to Detroit labels, including those of May and Atkins, but were ultimately turned away as those deejays didn't even have time for their own record labels since their overseas tour schedules were so overwhelming. As a result, in 1990 Hawtin and Acquaviva decided to start their own company, which they called Plus 8 Records after the eight-percent pitch adjustment on a turntable.
Elements of Tone, Plus 8's first 12-inch release, was a collaboration between Hawtin and Acquaviva, who recorded as States of Mind. Kenny Larkin's We Shall Overcome was recorded soon afterward. The label's third release, originally titled The Future Sound of Detroit--got Plus 8 noticed in a way that its proprietors hadn't quite planned.
"The Future Sound of Detroit"
Plus 8's claim that they were going to author the future sound of Detroit from a small Canadian city didn't sit too well with members of Detroit's predominantly black techno community. "To us, it was our future sound of Detroit," Hawtin told Saturday Night's Margie Borschke. "[Detroit] was where I DJ'd, where I drew my inspiration from, and where it really started to happen for me. [We took] the sound of Detroit and mutated it into our own form." Dan Sicko, author of Techno Rebels, claims the incident left Detroit's techno community suspicious of Plus 8 for years afterward. The controversy, however, bred one of the label's first big successes: When the questionable record was officially released as Technarchy, a collaboration by Hawtin and Bell under the name Cybersonik, it sold around 20,000 copies worldwide and established Plus 8 as a serious player on the international techno scene.
The label--and Hawtin's performing career--grew so quickly that Hawtin dropped out of the University of Windsor's communications program to concentrate entirely on his musical endeavors. Soon the Plus 8 roster expanded to include Rotterdam's Jochem Paap (a.k.a. Speedy J,) Japan's Ken Ishii, and others from both sides of the Canadian/American border.
Hawtin began to work on solo material in his UTK studio, so named because it was located "under the kitchen" of his parents' house. He released his first solo efforts under the pseudonym F.U.S.E., an acronym for Further Underground Subsonic Experiments. His album Dimension Intrusion also featured the minimalist artwork of his younger brother Matthew. F.U.S.E eventually gave way to Plastikman, the moniker for which Hawtin would become most widely known.
Sheet One, the first full-length Plastikman album, came out in 1993 on Plus 8 and was licensed by NovaMute, a subsidiary of London's Mute label. Within a year Hawtin released the follow-up LP Musik, which further pushed his experiments with mutant acid house and the Roland TB-303 synthesizer. "That [TB-303] was the box that was used on every album," he is quoted in the NovaMute press release for Closer. "And over the last 10 years, each time I found I had something more to say under the name Plastikman, each time I had a new theme to explore, it was also around the same time that I'd come across a new piece of equipment, a new way of processing that box."
When Detroit's "Big Three" triad of deejays--May, Atkins, and Saunderson--began jet-setting to gigs in Europe in the early 1990s, they left a void on the local scene. Plus 8 happily stepped up to fill it. Not only did Hawtin and Plus 8 become known for redefining the genre in terms of its recorded output but they also reinvented the live experience with their parties in abandoned factories in Detroit and Windsor.
Rather than simply setting up a mixer and turntables, they created a new physical space for attendees, dressing the walls in special materials and reshaping the rooms' dimensions. Hawtin's tours, though rarely as elaborate as his hometown gigs, were also great successes, despite the fact that he was performing all of them without the proper work permits.
Forced to Stop Performing
In April of 1995, on his way to a gig in Brooklyn, Hawtin's luck finally ran out. Border officials at the held him for questioning and eventually got him to admit that he had been illegally performing in America. He was sent back to Canada and warned never to attempt to enter the country again. "It was a very strange time. Besides my family, I didn't have that many people in my life from Windsor. Everyone I'd been doing parties with was in Detroit. My girlfriend was there. My friends were there. Everything. Access to all these different things, all my inspirations--I was cut off from it all. My world got a lot smaller that day," he told Borschke.
After rethinking his game plan and recovering from the initial shock of his visa problems, Hawtin withdrew from the performance realm almost entirely and took a new approach to his studio work. The result was a 12-record collection called Concept. Each limited record was produced and released on a monthly schedule for one year and bore a time-coded title like "96:11:22:00." Hawtin also began work on his critically acclaimed Consumed album during this period. Finally, at the end of 1996, he was readmitted to the United States after securing a work visa.
Consumed, the first release on Hawtin's new experimentally minded imprint Minus, hit stores in 1998. The Consumed recording sessions also yielded 1999's Artifakts [bc] record--representing the period before Consumed. "Artifakt is about the exile," Hawtin explained to Borschke, "whereas Consumed is a product of that exile. It wouldn't have happened without [my] getting thrown out of the States."
The glowing reviews that Consumed earned from Rolling Stone and Spin upped Hawtin's profile even further. In 1999 he was invited by the French government to contribute to their millennium celebration "La Beauté," where he presented a sound installation alongside the works of visual artists Jeff Koons, James Turrell, and Anish Kapoor.
Hawtin's fascination with technology is evident in all of his work. His patented performance setup of "Decks, Efx & 909" (turntables, numerous electronic effects boxes, and a Roland TR-909 drum sequencer) was in full swing on his late 1990s tour dates and, under his own name, he recorded a mix disc titled Decks, Efx & 909.
To augment the DE9 schematic, Hawtin added Final Scratch, a program that he officially road tested for the N2IT software company. It allows a deejay to manipulate digital files on a computer by using a turntable. The technology also spawned a Richie Hawtin album, DE9: Closer to the Edit, which Spin called "the year's most intriguing deejay mix up," and listed as their number eleven album of the year for 2001.
Of his hybrid live/deejay performance style, Hawtin told Billboard: "I'm into the type of deejay performance where I'll play some records that people will recognize, but with the technology I'm adding, I'm pushing it into an entirely different direction. I like it when it gets to the point where people have to ask you what you're doing."
The Return of Plastikman
In 2002 Hawtin left Windsor for New York where he began work on the first Plastikman album in five years--2003's Closer. He soon noticed, though, that the distractions of New York overwhelmed his recording schedule and, with a new set of experiences from which to take inspiration, he moved back to Windsor to finish the record in the city's quieter confines. Though occasional snippets of vocals permeated Plastikman's mostly instrumental records, Closer was the first to feature Hawtin's own voice on the recording.
"With this one, though, I definitely feel more vulnerable than I have before. I don't know if that's because of the vocals on there, or because the wall between me and the audience has, over the last 10 years, slowly come down and brought me closer and closer to them. But listening to what's on this album, sonically and vocally, it's as close thus far to how my mind really works," he said Novamute's press release for the album.
Hawtin's evolution as an artist continues to progress with each new technological advancement. "Unlike other artists who have quenched the global thirst for dance-music culture--a multibillion-dollar industry based on club nights, global festivals and record sales--Hawtin is one of that culture's true visionaries," proclaimed Malik Meer in Time International.
by Ken Taylor
Richie Hawtin's Career
Started deejaying in Windsor and Detroit, 1987; founded Plus 8 Records with John Acquaviva, 1990; produced Elements of Tone with John Acquaviva as States of Mind, 1990; produced Technarchy with Dan Bell as Cybersonik, 1990; produced Dimension Intrusion as F.U.S.E., 1993; produced Sheet One as Plastikman, 1993; produced Musik as Plastikman, 1994; founded Minus, Inc., record label, 1998; produced Consumed as Plastikman, 1998; produced Artifakts [bc] as Plastikman, 1998; produced "Orange," 1999; produced Decks, Efx & 909, 1999; produced DE9: Closer to the Edit, 2001; produced Closer as Plastikman, 2003.
Richie Hawtin's Awards
DE9: Closer to the Edit named number eleven album of the year by Spin, 2001; Consumed, Prix Ars Electronica Honorary Mention, 1999; named number 24 of the top 100 deejays of the year, DJ Magazine, 2002.
- Selected discography
- As Richie Hawtin
- "Orange," Minus, 1999.
- Decks, Efx & 909 NovaMute/Minus, 1999.
- DE9: Closer to the Edit NovaMute/Minus, 2001.
- As States of Mind
- "The Chant," Plus 8, 1990.
- Elements of Tone Plus 8, 1990.
- "You Like That?" Plus 8, 1990.
- "Destiny," Plus 8, 1991.
- As Cybersonik
- "Algorythm," Plus 8, 1990.
- Technarchy Plus 8, 1990.
- As F.U.S.E.
- "Approach and Identify," Plus 8, 1990.
- "Substance Abuse," Plus 8, 1991.
- Dimension Intrusion Plus 8/TVT, 1993.
- As Concept 1
- 96:CD Minus, 1998.
- 96:VR Minus, 1998.
- As From Within
- From Within I Fax/Plus 8, 1994.
- From Within II Fax/Plus 8, 1995.
- From Within III: Silent Intelligence Fax/Plus 8, 1997.
- As Plastikman
- Sheet One NovaMute/Plus 8, 1993.
- Musik NovaMute/Plus 8, 1994.
- Artifakts [bc] NovaMute/Minus, 1998.
- Closer NovaMute/Minus, 1998.
- Consumed NovaMute/Minus, 1998.
- Sicko, Dan, Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk, Billboard Books, 1999.
- Billboard, November 13, 1999, p. 32.
- Saturday Night, February, 1999, p. 71.
- Time International, March 24, 2003, p. 52.
- Minus, Inc., http://www.m-nus.com (September 26, 2003).
- "Richie Hawtin," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 21, 2003).
- Additional information was provided by Minus, Inc., publicity materials, 2003.