Ritchie Hawtin’s Plastikman Arkives by Jason Beaulieu
Electronic music pioneer Ritchie Hawtin will be performing live tonight at the Stereo in Montreal to present his new multi-media show in realtion to his new album collection “Arkives 1993-2010”. The compilation is an exploration of Plastikman’s gigantic catalogue containing over 160 tracks. Arkives Reference can be pre-ordered now at this link: http://www.plastikman.com/arkives/. The compilation is not only an assembly of the Plastikman albums but also contains remixes, videos and a remix album especially commissioned for the project. Hawtin influences such as Green Velvet, Daniel Miller, Gareth Jones, Vince Clarke and many more can be found on this exclusive collection. I caught up with Mr. Hawtin on his way to yesterday’s Toronto gig...
JB: When did you feel like the time was right to release such a huge body of work?
RH: We had been thinking about re-releasing the early Plastikman albums for a few years, to introduce the new generation to the earlier material, and the more I thought about that, the more I felt that a simple rehash of the albums would be kind of boring. I had been working on the new live show for about two years and I went back and listened to the early stuff in order to update them for the new show. As I was listening to the old tapes I realised that I had a lot of unreleased material that was there, so it just started to develop into a larger idea.
JB: Where did the idea for the SYNK app (available on iTunes) come from? (Fans can interact directly with the live performance in real-time)
RH: It’s a way for the artist and the fans to interact with each other. In any great concert, there is always a dialogue going back and forth whether it’s the way the crowd is moving or the way they’re screaming, the heat of the room... There’s always an action and reaction. Plastikman Live is a giant LED circular “cage” with me in the middle controlling the light effects so I appear and disappear. I’m sort of introverted and isolated from the people, so the technology bridges the gap between the crowd and the performance. It’s a way to communicate!
JB: You say you are rather introverted, so when you write or perform music, when does a track become a Plastikman track or a Ritchie Hawtin track?
RH: In the early days, what happened is that “Hawtin” is the dj persona. Like the Decks EFX&909 albums, that’s me creating an experience based on other people’s music and samples. Whereas as Plastikman, it’s a direct connection between me and my machines. It’s more original.
JB: The Replikants CD in the Arkives collection has a plethora of artists remixing your music. How did you go about choosing these people?
RH: Plastikman had never been remixed before and I never felt the need for my songs to be remixed, so the idea was conceptually more than that. The idea was to invite specific people that have inspired my career and even directed my career, people who had given life to Plastikman. People like Green Velvet when he was using the name Cajmere in the late 90’s, Daniel Miller at Mute Records, Vince Clarke from Erasure...People who defined my sound even before I had created Plastikman! I invited them in order to close that circle and remix the songs and put their own stamp on them.
JB: Cliché question: Vinyl or computers?
RH: I’m not interested in using vinyl any more. It was a great tool for me in the 80’s and 90’s, but now I’m much more interested in how I can manipulate music and its form with things like faders, knobs, touch-screens and movements of my body. “Turntableism” is an art form in itself, but I choose to try new ideas and techniques at the moment.
JB: With all the difference possibilities with technology, do you find it hard to keep up? How far can one actually go?
RH: Technology keeps me fresh. As you get older, it’s easy to become alienated by new developments, like the way learning a new language gets harder as you get older. Technology pushes me to continue to evolve and grow. It’s the basis of my life, my creativity, my company and my record label. If I don’t stay on top of things, I’ll become a dinosaur very quickly, so it keeps me feeling energised, inspired and young!
JB: I’ve notice that some bands have returned to the analogue sounds of instruments like the Roland 303 or 808. How do you feel about that?
RH: I’m totally open to using analogue and digital, past and future all together. Your end goal is to create something that sounds like you...that has a connectivity and continuity with what you’ve done before, but hopefully something that sounds really fresh and new again. My Plastikman albums have a very firm foundation in using the Roland 303 machines. But with each album I find a way to modify that sound and affect it so that the palate is the same but the picture I paint is much different.
JB: Do you like playing in Montreal?
RH: Yes! I think Montreal has one of the most vibrant club scenes in North America. There’s a great “after hours” scene. It has a more European mindset and a strong connection to culture. It’s always a pleasure to come back!
JB: There seems to be a rise in “electronic” influences trickling into top 40 radio. I was wondering what you thought about that...
RH: Pop and radio have been dabbling with the sounds of the electronic community. But top 40 radio does horribly with everything! However, artists like Madonna were good at bringing the sounds of the Roland 909 and 808 to the mainstream. At the end of the day, I don’t think electronic music is for everybody. It’s something very special and specialised. But I’m happy to see more and more people like myself and others like Aphex Twin and Ricardo Villalobos finding their way to a pure electronic sound. But if people need that doorway in order to find us and see what we’re really doing, then I guess that’s a good thing...
JB: Thank you and have a good show in Montreal
RH: Thanks! See you there!
By Jason Beaulieu