Artist, DJ, conceptualist and ambassador, more than anyone else in modern electronic music, Richie Hawtin has relentlessly proved himself to be a true innovator. The one-man mogul behind acclaimed Techno imprints Plus 8 & Minus sends signals out all over the world from his HQ in an old fire station in Windsor, Ontario - just across the border from Detroit Techno City. The signals are constantly evolving, his Plastikman persona gave Techno a unique face with a series of four ruthlessly minimal albums of skeletal beauty, while breathtaking festival live sets at Glastonbury and Tribal Gathering helped invent stadium Techno. His "Decks, EFX & 909" album released on novamute in 1999 expanded the concept of a DJ mix album beyond the imagination of most DJs. As a pioneering DJ and party promoter he was banned from entering America for 18 months. Yet this jet-setting international futurist is as at home exhibiting alongside acclaimed modern sculptor Anish Kapoor as he is headlining a bush rave with Josh Wink somewhere in Western Australia.
More of a decade into his career, it's no surprise that the every-youthful Hawtin is up to something new. This time, he's reconstructing the DJ mix album even further with "DE9: Closer To The Edit", the groundbreaking new album set for release on the novamute label in September 2001.
His first mix album, for the Mixmag Live series, saw him use extra effects and drum machines as long ago as 1993, "Decks, EFX & 909" cut laser-style between tracks and now, "DE9: Closer To The Edit", sees Hawtin use his sampler to tear the skin and the flesh from the tracks until there's just a skeleton left, which he reassembles into a kind of Frankenstein's robot. The result is a mix album like you've never heard before.
Hawtin describes this unique process "I recorded, sampled, cut and spliced over 100 tracks down into their most basic components. I ended up with over 300 loops, ranging in different lengths. I started to recreate and reinterpret each track and then put the pieces back together, as if an audio jigsaw puzzle - using effects and edits as the glue between each piece".
A classic like Carl Craig's '4 My Peepz' (under his Paperclip People guise) breathes in and out in less than a minute, like a lonely spirit lost on the hard drive.
"I don't like mix CDs, everyone's being lazy, so I gotta do something different," says Hawtin. "Some people think it's about me using some extra equipment - a drum machine and some effects -but it's a whole philosophy really. 'Let's take it to the extreme, to somewhere that's it never been before' "
Hawtin believes the whole DJ thing is stuck in a groove. So beyond "DE9…" he is championing a new DJ system developed in Holland called Final Scratch, with Plus 8 partner John Acquaviva. Dance and Electronic music is the most technology-based genre of all, but to Hawtin's frustration it's still rooted in a music delivery system developed in the 19th Century: the gramophone record. Even though more and more DJs play tracks burnt onto CD, vinyl still rules because it's easier and instinctive to control. Final Scratch links up to the normal two-turntables-and-mixer set up, but lets you play tracks stored on a laptop using a special piece of vinyl as a 'mouse', or controller. You can access literally thousands of tracks, and scratch, cut, slow and mix them just like normal records using this special piece of vinyl. It's nothing short of revolutionary. As Hawtin enthuses: "It feels and acts like a regular record." He's already using Final Scratch to play unreleased tracks by Josh Wink and Speedy J, and special re-edits of some of Hawtin's classics and personal faves.