RICHIE HAWTIN at System Soundbar (117 Peter), Friday (January 30). $20 advance, more at the door. www.systemsoundbar.com Rating: NNNNN
If you caught Richie Hawtin last time he was in Toronto, you might have noticed that playing vinyl was only a small part of his DJ set. Crowded into the booth were two laptops, a real-time looping sampler, a bunch of effects, a sequencer and a high-end mixer modified by his dad to control all the high-tech gear.
What you heard was a seamless mix of audio files coming out of one laptop controlled by the Final Scratch turntable interface, layers of loops from the other (running Ableton Live software developed by German techno icons Monolake), programmed rhythms and melodies from the sequencer and loops grabbed in real time. While he was DJing, he mixed and processed all this into an amorphous throbbing soundscape.
Almost makes you wonder why he's still bothering to bring records at all.
"That's what I've been pushing toward. Technology allows one person to control far more than ever before. In a band, each member is in control of what their instrument is doing. In an electronic performance all of that is in the hands of one person.
"But I want to go beyond that. It's easy to improvise with technology now, but I need to be able to control a whole lot more aspects, from the sound to the smoke machines."
Smoke machines? Although tight-lipped about his plans for the full live tour, Hawtin lets it slip that it will likely include ways for him to "play" the lights, smoke and other non-musical aspects of the club experience to a degree never seen before.
He hasn't been writing much new music. Instead, he's been spending his time developing better interfaces and expanding on the possibilities of what he can do with a live performance.
It makes sense that one of the world's top techno DJs would be enamoured of technology and constantly try to push it forward, but for the past 10 years most techno types have been strangely afraid of progress. The Technics 1200 turntable is still the standard after more than 30 years, and most new techno-specific sequencers are still based on the primitive grid method Roland pioneered in the 80s.
For those hoping to get a better idea of what's actually happening behind his decks, Hawtin will be doing an in-store gig at HMV on the day of the party, a performance that he admits has him feeling nervous.
"I've done a couple of in-store things overseas, but not in North America. Paper Bag (who's distributing him in Canada) has done a great job creating inroads into the Canadian market, and I think it's important that Canadians know about their homegrown talent, rather than only getting to hear people like Paul Oakenfold."
Well, that settles the old rumours that Hawtin's tried to hide his Canadian heritage by emphasizing that he was born in England.
"I have British and Canadian passports, but my studio and family are in Windsor. I consider myself a world citizen, but Canada is what I would call home." firstname.lastname@example.org