Richie Hawtin - Biography

The name Richie Hawtin is at this point almost synonymous with minimal techno. His work, especially under the Plastikman and F.U.S.E. monikers, is almost singlehandedly responsible for the mainstream recognition of this stripped down form of dance music. From his early days as a teenage DJ in Detroit to his current prominence as one of the most popular techno artists and in-demand DJs in the world, Hawtin has maintained a desire to experiment with his chosen genre and the tools he uses to produce and perform. In the process he has created some of the most vital electronic music of the last two decades.

Born in Banbury, Oxfordshire in England, Richard Michael Hawtin moved with his family to LaSalle, Ontario in Canada at age nine. LaSalle is right across the border and, more importantly in this case, right next to Detroit. There seem to be two giant influences on the young Hawtin: his father, a robotics technician at General Motors and a huge electronic music fan and the family’s proximity to the city that birthed techno. Under the alias of Richie Rich, Hawtin began to DJ house and techno in Detroit clubs at the tender age of seventeen.

Hawtin formed the Plus-8 label with fellow Canadian DJ John Acquaviva in 1990. This imprint released his first productions under the F.U.S.E. alias between ’90 and ’92. In 1993 the fledging Warp imprint released the first F.U.S.E. full-length Dimension Intrusion. The album presented new tracks alongside some material from the first singles on Plus-8. The music is deep, well crafted and utterly hypnotic and remains a touchstone for progressive techno producers with its unique blend of abstract ambient textures, haunting melodies, acid house grooves and clean, minimal aesthetic.

Evidently ’93 was Hawtin’s year. The first Plastikman releases made an undeniable splash as his reputation as an energetic rave DJ quickly grew. After a few singles the Mute label released the seminal Sheet One. This record is responsible, along with a few others, for introducing white American kids to techno and rave culture. After the genre’s birth in Detroit as a mostly African-American dance music to its wash overseas as club music in the UK and Europe, techno found footing through Hawtin’s early work as Plastikman and the party came back to the States. The music on Sheet One fuses acid house’s squelchy toughness with Hawtin’s sleek minimal style. Tracks like “Spastik” and “Gak” are outright classics and continue to rank among Hawtin’s best music.

‘94’s Musik and Recycled Plastik are both classic albums and furthered Hawtin’s status as an inventive producer. Along with Sheet One the early Plastikman records can be seen as injecting the minimal aesthetic into global rave culture. Minimalism continues to dominate the work of famous DJs such as Ricardo Villalobos and Sven Vath as well as many producers on labels such as Kompakt and Perlon.

During the mid ‘90s Hawtin continued to pursue the Plastikman project but also released material under a variety of names like Chrome, the harder Circuit Breaker, Jack Master, Spark, UP! and the extremely minimal Concept 1. In 1998 he founded the Minus label. Still in operation today the label serves as a launching pad for Hawtin’s various projects as well as the work of likeminded artists such as Thomas Brinkmann, Theorem, Marc Houle, Magda and Ambivalent. The label has also released Hawtin’s collaborations with techno star Sven Vath and ambient producer Pete Namlook.

With the inception of Minus and the closing of the ‘90s, the Plastikman releases edge closer to the ultimate minimal aesthetic. Hawtin pushed the project to the brink with Artifakts (BC) and the stunningly streamlined Consumed. Both of these albums were released in ’98 and both can lay claim to defining Hawtin’s ideas about reduction, subtraction and minimalism. Consumed in particular boasts seriously deep, focused and wholly absorbing music. Hawtin had long ago transcended his early acid house trappings in favor of a polyrhythmic, spiraling sound that ebbed and flowed with mesmerizing, organic ease.

In 2001 Hawtin started his DE9 series of mixes. These mixes, most notably DE9 | Closer To The Edit, continue to further the minimal agenda by bringing music Hawtin loves to the masses. 2003 brought the latest and most recent Plastikman full-length with Closer. An album of dark, deep ambient minimalism, Closer is comprised of stark tracks with swirling, melancholy melodies and rhythm tracks that whirr and click instead of pound. ’04 to ’07 brought the Nostalgik series of 12” releases containing early Plastikman material.

In 2006 Hawtin worked with choreographer Enzo Cosimi to create a piece for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. Also of note is the sixty-minute film by Slices magazine dedicated to Hawtin’s career as part of the “Pioneers of Electronic Music” series from 2007. The producer also played a key role in the development of the Final Scratch digital DJ software and continues to be a vocal proponent of audio software advancement.

Hawtin has consistently pushed the envelope over a multitude of projects for the last two decades. His work continues to define trends in electronic music rather than follow them, although he has stuck to the philosophy of minimalism and reduction. This focus has forced Hawtin to explore new ideas and create new sounds. Far from simply one of the world’s most in-demand party DJs, Richie Hawtin continues to create music of great depth, inspired innovation and measured quality.

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