SXSW Music: Richie Hawtin

First an explanation, then a demonstration of Play Differently

“There isn’t as much creativity as there should be out there,” said techno pioneer Richie Hawtin on Tuesday in a SXSW Interview, reflecting on the state of electronic music today. “We may be at a point where convenience outweighs creativity.”

Photo by Gary Miller

An endless push for individualism spans the late-Eighties-hatched career of the UK-born Canadian now residing in Berlin. Techno authority, the DJ, record label owner, producer, and perpetual innovator of music technology spoke about his forthcoming mixer, Play Differently. Hawtin admitted he would be “cagey” about the details of the equipment/instrument, since the release date is still murky, but delved into the existential aspects behind the new technology.

The dream for Play Differently began for the 45-year-old spinner some five years ago, but half that time has been consumed by working with Allen & Heath engineer Andy Rigby-Jones. "Prototypes," the tour Hawtin’s currently on, is less about showcasing the mixer and more about beta testing. He noted that Play Differently isn’t feature-heavy, instead emphasizing the physical, tactile aspects of a mixer by applying analog ideals to digital practicality.

“I wanna hear me coming out through the machines,” said Hawtin, suggesting that his new sound is smoother, warmer, fuller, although not necessarily from the mixer itself, but more the experience of using it. “I don't know if people can hear a difference, but they feel a difference.”

His two-hour set late Tuesday at Kingdom employed his new device and encapsulated the careful nuance that drives his electronica, producing a fuller reverberation on a pulsating heartbeat that anchored the set. Basslines layered atop one another, mixing with lightning bolts of cyborg vocal samples and shimmery sound effects. The crowd shouted “Richie!” throughout.

Whether that energy stemmed from Play Differently or simply from Hawtin’s celebrity/genius in a small capacity venue couldn’t be divined, but either way, there was a tangible electricity – a loudness – spilling from Kingdom out onto Fifth Street.

Photo by Jana Birchum

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Richie Hawtin, SXSW, SXSW Music 2016, Play Differently, Plastikman, Allen & Heath, Andy Rigby-Jones

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