Published Mar 03, 2011Best known for his work under the name Plastikman and his genre-defining record labels Plus 8 and M_nus, Ontario-based electronic music vet Richie Hawtin has made a career of championing early Detroit techno and interpreting it through his own experimental bent. Our recent Timeline piece on Hawtin took a detailed look at his life, all the way from his birth in England in 1970 through his current status as a techno hero. Even if you've never heard of him before today, you will be a Hawtin expert by the end of the article.
Check out our Richie Hawtin Timeline here, and read five things we learned from the piece below.
1. His dad was a robotics technician with a taste for Krautrock
The son of a robotics technician with an interest in the kosmiche bands and early electronic music of the decade, Richie (as he becomes known in his family) spends his early years in the UK with a soundtrack of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and more in his home.
2. Hawtin discovered Detroit techno at a school called "Sandwich Secondary High School"
In LaSalle, Ontario, a young Richie attends Sandwich Secondary High School and discovers the radio station signals that come in from neighbouring Detroit. By the mid-'80s, those frequencies are transmitting a new sound percolating up from the American city's clubs: techno. The new form of music -- a colder, more avant-garde approach to the house music percolating in the gay clubs of cities like Chicago and New York -- has a profound effect on Hawtin.
3. Hawtin stands as one of IDM's earliest experimenters
The F.U.S.E. single "Approach and Identify" takes a more subtly complex approach to Detroit techno's drum patterns, blending in ambient textures that hearken back to the early electronic music in his father's collection. This more "intelligent" design is increasingly developed among the rest of the Plus 8 roster, and by 1991 the imprint has developed a reputation for a more clinical approach to techno, one that fits in well with what fledgling UK artists such as Aphex Twin and Autechre are releasing in England.
4. His Sheet One CD was designed to look like a tab of acid
Arriving with a CD cover made to look like a sheet of acid, Sheet One is stamped with the now-iconic dancing squiggly-man logo. The implication of hallucination and mind-morphing animation, coupled with Hawtin's shaved head and black-rimmed glasses, all join together to present a potent image of the futuristic music within.
5. He revolutionized DJing with a series of mixes in the late '90s
With 1998 overflowing in music from Hawtin's studio, in 1999 the Canadian producer turns his attention to his other passion: the art of DJing. Hawtin has been quietly working on a new hybrid form of spinning records, and that year he releases the Decks, EFX, and 909 mix on M_nus. The compilation proposes nothing less than a revolution in DJing. Pursuing the idea of extreme reduction to its logical conclusions, Hawtin strips bare 38 tracks -- the shortest is down to nine seconds; the longest registers at just under three minutes -- and then uses those components as a mixed foundation he then rebuilds with various effects and a Roland TR-909.