T in the Park 2010: Richie Hawtin on the rebirth of Plastikman

Plastikman at T in the Park - Richie Hawtin interview

Bringing his cold, robotic brand of techno to T in the Park for a closing night set, electronic producer Richie Hawtin talks to Henry Northmore about creating ‘human emotional reactions’

Richie Hawtin is one of the true pioneers of electronica. Born in Oxfordshire, he moved to Ontario, Canada, at the age of nine, where his love of alternative music (the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order and Depeche Mode) grew until he heard a new style of music coming from just across the American border. And that music was the early Detroit techno of Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson (aka the Belleville Three).

‘I just knew it was called techno, then I heard it was called Detroit techno, and I figured out that half of my favourite records were being made just across the border from my house,’ explains Hawtin from his Berlin home. He quickly latched onto the emerging artform, first DJing then moving into production. ‘It was kind of like a siphon; you put a coin and it goes around it and it just gathers up speed and speed and speed and then it goes whoosh and it’s down. And that’s kind of what happened to me with music, then alternative electronic music and finally techno just sucked me in, I was in this spiral and suddenly I was there.’

One of the second wave of Detroit innovators, Hawtin formed the seminal record label Plus 8 with John Acquaviva and released a slew of tough, leftfield tracks under the guise of Concept 1, FUSE and various other aliases. However, it under was his Plastikman pseudonym that he released perhaps his most remarkable albums, such as Sheet One in 1993 or the minimalist brilliance of 1994’s Musik. ‘Plastikman has always been directly at the heart of who or what Richie Hawtin is. It’s a darker, deeper sound, it’s a little bit more fucked up,’ adds Hawtin. ‘I can see why people say it’s cold and robotic, but part of that is what’s beautiful about the music. But no matter how cold music is, if it’s done right and you connect to the people on the dancefloor, something happens to those people together as individuals, they have some kind of human emotional reaction.’

Now he’s bringing Plastikman back for 15 live shows during 2010, and one of those shows is T in the Park, headlining the Slam Tent on the Sunday night to bring the whole festival to a climactic close in a rush of harsh electronic beats. ‘I don’t hear people making music like the Plastikman records, but I still hear many people playing those Plastikman records. I felt that this sound that I have – this metallic, delayed, clanky, flange driven hypnotic groove – just wasn’t there and I just thought this could go so much further, so much deeper, if I stepped back into that Plastikman guise. If nobody else is doing it, I can’t sit around and complain about it, I should do it myself.’

This is a complete rebirth of Plastikman, promising new material and a new live show as Hawtin hammers out his addictive brand of abstract techno in front of a bank of LED screens and lighting. ‘I hope it’s a full-bodied experience,’ says Hawtin. ‘It’s intense, when you put Sheet One on, or Consumed [1998], these albums take you somewhere and spit you out at the other end. There’s a big team to make this happen – after the first note of the show and the curtains open, people are sucked in. When they walk away later, maybe they don’t know if they liked it or didn’t like it, they’re just like, “what the fuck was that?” And then I’m happy.’

Plastikman plays live at T in the Park, Sun 11 Jul.

T in the Park

From relatively humble beginnings, T in the Park has become the acknowledged behemoth of the Scottish festival scene and one of the UK's largest events. In 2015 the festival moved from its longstanding Balado location to the new grounds of Strathallan Castle in Perthshire. Bands appearing in 2016 include The Stone…

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