Interview: Plastikman


A man of many DJ aliases, Richie Hawtin had a momentous 2010 when he triumphantly returned to the live stage as Plastikman. The shows encompassed Plastikman’s most classic materials, originally released between 1993 and 2003, reworked in a truly amazing live performance accompanied by a mind-bending sound-and-light show. This epic revival only proved that Richie’s classic guise was as innovative and relevant as ever in today’s scene. We spoke to Richie following the release of Plastikman Arkives, a comprehensive box set that pulls together all 17 years of Plastikman’s career with remasters and a trove of rarities, unreleased sessions and new material.

Text + Interview: The Piscean

What encouraged you to revive Plastikman?
The fan base of Richie Hawtin and Minus [Records] is at its largest ever, with many of the fans being quite new to electronic music in general. It’s my belief that many of them will find a lot of interesting material in the Arkives release, and will learn more about the foundation and history of one of their favourite DJs. As I’ve been in the scene for over 20 years, I do believe it’s part of my job to teach, inspire and, of course, entertain!

How do you think this new generation will respond to your work from the early 90s and 2000s?
I believe that Plastikman has been very inspiring for many DJs and musicians who are popular today so I hope that the newer fans will find a connection to some of these earlier works, which are still being played in clubs today. After going back and listening to my archives, I realised how fresh many of the tracks still sound and people are still playing things like ‘Spastik’, ‘Helikopter’, ‘Plasticene’ and the new Plastikman single ‘Slinky’ (recorded in 1995). Electronic music is and always has been about moving forward; fresh, exciting sounds; and new rhythms. But learning a little bit more about the foundation can be very exciting and inspiring to those who were not lucky enough to be around when it was actually happening.

What were some of the challenges, if any, in making all those Plastikman records sound relevant now?
I have not changed or updated anything in the Arkives release; what you hear is how those tracks sounded 17 years ago, 10 years ago or whatever. For some reason, after 20 years of DJing I still find myself relevant, people love to hear my DJ sets and I have the largest fan base I’ve ever had, so I feel that I’m on the right path and will continue to stick to what feels right. The one place that changes were made to the old tracks is in the Plastikman Live show. So as I was creating the live show, I always tried to keep in mind how these tracks would be experienced, trying to bring a raw, physical sound with the most minimalistic approach possible.

Do you think that to understand a certain type of music, it’s vital to go back to the root of scene?
No, I do not. Music should be something you feel and instantly know that you like it or not, or at least quickly feel some type of connection to it. For some people that is enough. But some people get so involved in a type of music that they want to know more: the history, the foundation and how it developed. So I want to make sure that information is out there for those people.

Some people have commented that Richie Hawtin is more minimal compared to Plastikman…
I think it’s the opposite. The minimal sound of Richie Hawtin started with the 1st Plastikman album Sheet One and slowly developed over the years. Without Sheet One, Consumed, Closer and others, Minus and everything that it has inspired wouldn’t exist. As a DJ, I have the luxury of playing many different types of music; some minimal, some more techno, some groovier and more. Although I do believe it’s all based upon a minimal aesthetic, where does it all come from and where did it develop? The answer is Plastikman.

What are the main defining characteristics between Richie Hawtin and Plastikman?
Richie Hawtin is the DJ extrovert who’s comfortable in front of thousands of people partying, entertaining, and enjoying the moment and even the limelight. Plastikman is the introvert, the studio nerd who’s more comfortable with technology than people. But of course, these 2 personalities are mixed together and you’re never sure who you’ll meet in a dark alley.

DJs and producers who are starting out are spoilt with high-tech music software these days. Would you say they should learn how to spin vinyl records 1st to understand the true art of DJing?
I don’t feel that you need to spin vinyl just to be a good DJ or performer in this era. However, people need to remember that even with all the amazing technology out there, it takes time-hours, and years of practice and dedication-before you can be a master of anything. Yes, new producers may have quick hits and an easier start, but it’s not about the short-term; it’s about the long-term slow burn of how you can be creatively relevant now and in 20 years time. That’s something I’ve always strived for.

We’ve noticed that electro producers are going the way of techno. Why is techno suddenly so fashionable?
Techno has always been a great element found in all electronic music scenes. Most of the scenes came from techno in the beginning, so perhaps it’s just people returning to the heart of electronic music.

What were some of the highlights for you in 2010, besides the revival of Plastikman?
Plastikman has been the highlight for me in 2010! Seeing people experiencing Plastikman Live for the 1st time has been inspiring and exhilarating. Apart from that, being able to release the 1st Magda and Marc Houle albums on Minus has been a very special moment and as a DJ, there have been some amazing events all around the world, especially this year’s Detroit Electronic Music Festival where I not only did Plastikman Live, but also DJed at 3 other parties with all my old friends from Detroit!

Noice! What are your major plans for 2011?
2011 will start with a Plastikman tour of Australia in March and then quickly switch over to DJ mode with some new DJ technology announcements later in the month. In the summer, I plan to start working on the next DE9 [another Hawtin alias] project and then will bring Plastikman Live 1.5 to a full world tour in autumn. J

Plastikman Arkives will be released on 28 February. Get yourself sorted at www.plastikman.com/arkives.