Basel 2013 saw Miami flooded with out-of-town artists, critics, collectors, celebrities, and all manner of high-brow, well-to-doers looking for the best culturally themed parties around. Thankfully for minimal house fans, Richie Hawtin is a big art freak.
Hawtin, AKA Plastikman and the head of Minus Records, made sure to take some time out of his schedule to catch the great galleries and see the sights, but he also made sure to give back to fans. He performed at Story on Friday night, but only after giving his most dedicated fanbase a secret pop-up show in the Mana Wynwood parking lot.
It's a new thing that he's been up to with Red Bull, and we here at Crossfade caught up with him just after the two-hour performance to discuss art, educating the masses, and a new Plastikman album.
Crossfade: What was your impression of the party just now? Can Red Bull throw a party?
Richie Hawtin: Yeah, totally. We're doing all these kind of pop up parties around the world where we announce it in 24 to 48 hours before, create an excitement. The idea is just to give back something because the club culture is so big. People are going to festivals and parties, and sometimes they're really expensive. It's just nice to get out in a different location and let everyone just kind of come and gather, be relaxed, hear some cool music and just remember that, somehow, this scene started in that kind of small way.
You just wrapped up your tour that CNTRL: Beyond EDM.
That was more towards the end of last year, which was an educational tour through North America, the east coast, which was trying to take the new-found momentum of electronic music, or" EDM," and educate people a little bit about the history, that this wasn't new fad, that it's actually been here for a long time.
Because so much of the audience right now is young. They cling on to that term "EDM" like it's shiny, new present.
At least it's "electronic dance music. With that term, you can kind of break it down and take people back. I don't necessarily think that everybody needs to know the history, honestly. I think some people live in the past and feel it's really important that everybody knows the records that shaped the music five years, ten years, 20 years ago, but that's not really our mission. Our mission is more to open up the definition of EDM and allow the new kids to know that there's many different forms of electronic dance music and that they shouldn't just follow what's popular; that they should kind of find their own pathway. If they do that, they can actually find an incredible, diverse, rich tapestry of beautiful music.
The term EDM simplifies it.
You need simplification to bring the masses in, and I'm happy that the masses are getting more in tune with the music that we all believe in. I don't think our music is for the masses. Not everybody is going to dig deeper, but some of them will. You want to give the people who are interested in digging deeper a shovel and let them take their own pathway.
In 2009, in response to critics saying "dance is over," you were quoted as saying the scene was in a state of increasing quality. Moving into 2014, do you still feel that way?
I actually think it keeps getting more and more vibrant than ever. There's two sides of every story. A lot of people are saying there's too many people coming in too soon, they don't understand the history blahblahblah. But not knowing the history is actually good sometimes, because it creates the possibility that people can make music without any boundaries. That, I think is, what's happening. People are coming in and taking their own interpretation of electronic music and trying to expand on it without the boundaries of, say, music knowledge, music fundamentals, or techno and house history. Some of those people are actually retreading some things that happened before. Then there's other people who are just following their path and coming up with completely new ideas. This freedom that's within the music is quite inspiring.
Are you inspired by working with fresh artists, like on your Minus label?
I like both. It's quite challenging to take someone who is an established artist and try to take them to the next level.
Set in their ways?
Yeah, it is like that. But to work with someone who's very open, a little bit wet behind the ears and just sucking that information in can be even more inspiring.
Anything you're releasing soon that you're really excited about?
We have a lot of records already prepared for next year; new artists, established artist. I'm just finishing some music for a new Plastikman album which hasn't happened for a long time. The album's pretty much done. Were just preparing it now.
In terms of your aliases, do you just kind of go with what you feel like at the time. Do you even know when you're starting on a piece who it is?
You know that you're in a certain mood, but then you just follow that mood and see what's coming out. I have two pseudonyms. You've got Richie Hawtin, you've got Plastikman. The deeper I go into myself, the more Plastikman it becomes. It's kind of the introvert of me, and the extrovert is the guy who's standing on stage or standing in a parking lot playing music for people.
What other plans do you have for Basel?
I only came in yesterday. I did Art Miami, Art Basel, Pulse. I tried to do as much as possible today. The reason I'm here to do a gig is to be here to see art, y'know? It's not just that I needed a gig.
I always see people discussing if music is "art" or if it shouldn't be taken in that serious manner. We're here for Art Basel. What's your opinion?
I don't really think it's that different. In this day and age "everybody is creative," to what extent I don't know, but certain people follow that creativity and get to a point where they want to allow that creativity to pour out of them. Some of them allow it to pour out in photos, paintings, and some of us music. It's very similar. It's taking an emotion and an idea, a concept, wrapping that together and allowing yourself to come out and let people judge you. It's pretty naked. I don't know which is harder.
Making a painting's like making an album. It can take you a day, six months or three years. Once you feel it's ready, you put it out to the public, and you can't change it anymore. It's judged for how it is, which is incredible. DJing is the creative process in front of the people, and that can be even more intimate and challenging and scary. It's very easy to just rock the people, but if you want to try to take them somewhere, you've got to put yourself on the edge. Putting yourself on the edge is when the magic happens, but putting yourself on the edge doesn't mean the magic happens. You have to find a connection to the people.
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At least you have the capability of getting them back in that moment.
There is a feedback there, and that's what's great about music. When you work for months on an album or a piece of art, you get that feedback, but there's a lag. When you're on a dance floor or a concert - well, a concert is different because most concerts are people just playing the tracks that people expect. DJing is actually much more challenging, because you're trying to give people something completely new. You're trying to take them away from that moment. You're trying to do something different all the time, and in that, I think a great DJ can be as creative as any great artist.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.