RICHIE HAWTIN with CARL COX , UBERZONE , K-SWING , FERRY CORSTEN , TIMO MASS and others at the Guvernment (132 Queens Quay East), Sunday (October 9). $30-$40 advance, more at the door. www.theguvernment.com Rating: NNNNN
Richie Hawtin (sometimes known as Plastikman) is easily Canada's biggest techno export. In fact, most would describe him as one of the best known techno DJs in the world.
Most DJs who get to the superstar level end up compromising their vision for greater mainstream acceptance, but Hawtin has become more difficult and weird over the years.
His sound has always been about stark mindfuck minimalism, and often comes across as if he's deliberately trying to give the druggies in the crowd bad trips -- not really what we think about when it comes to mega-clubs and magazine covers.
To be fair, the hardcore techno geeks delight in criticizing him on Internet message boards, trying to outdo each other with tales of parties from the old days and how much better he supposedly was then.
Hawtin isn't too concerned with the old days, and instead is obsessed with new technology and its potential effect on the future of the music -- which, after all, is supposed to be future music.
"It depends on each gig, but these days I'm playing with Final Scratch, Ableton and still some actual records," Hawtin explains from a train travelling through Germany.
"DJ culture hasn't moved fast enough into digital technology. I can buy some of my music online and download it directly onto my computer, but the best way to get the new stuff is still to buy vinyl, so I end up carting it around with me on tour until I can get a chance to encode it digitally."
For those who haven't been keeping track of developments in the technogeek world, Final Scratch is a way of using the turntable to control digital audio files on a laptop. Ableton Live software was originally designed for live electronic performance and loop manipulation, but has since developed into a very handy real-time production tool, as well as a way of mixing tracks together without having to worry about beat matching.
Ableton in particular has become a big part of Hawtin's most recent work, DE9: Transitions, which continues the reinvention of the DJ mix that he started with Decks, EFX & 909 and developed further with DE9: Closer To The Edit.
This time around, he's used Ableton and ProTools to rework more than a hundred tracks into a continuous 5.1 surround sound mix, a first in the DJ mix world.
"There are always people who would prefer to live with what they already know. Beat matching is something you spend a lot of time learning over the years, but I'm interested in what can happen when you set that aside and start thinking about how the rest of the elements relate, and how the whole thing comes together."