Thursday, June 7, 2012 | 6:58 p.m.
This Q&A with techno veteran Richie Hawtin, who will make an appearance at this weekend's Electric Daisy Carnival at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, originally appeared in the the Sun's sister publication Las Vegas Weekly.
Tell us about the “Enter” stage you’re presenting Saturday night at the Speedway.
We want to get away from just having a stage and projecting music. We want it more surrounding, more inviting. Sometimes a great club experience is when you feel like you’re surrounded by sound and surrounded by lights, and a rock 'n' roll experience is a little bit different. …
Instead of using the normal EDC lighting and sound guys, we’re bringing our own guys from Europe, people that I’ve been working with for six, seven years. How do I describe it? It’s a more minimalistic approach. We’ll have visuals that work with the music. … A lot of what you see at other stages, it’s like flash flash bling bling, and it’s about a sensory overload for that split second. We have a slow burn. We want people to get into our stage and stay there for three, four, five, six, seven hours … We’re not about that quick burst. It’s about immersing yourself in the experience, immersing yourself in the music and immersing yourself in this kind of scene. If you just got into Calvin Harris or you just got into Afrojack, great. You’ve stepped through the door, but there’s so much more to learn. ...
I’m 42. I’ve been doing this music for a long time. I was with Deadmau5 last week, and his mom was at the house, and she’s like, “Is this the guy you used to talk about when you were a kid?” We want to give people that entrance into where this music has come from but also where this music is going. I think that those are the people we have on our stage. We have people who are really key to the foundation, to the history and to the future development of this sound.
You played two sets at EDC last year, one under your Plastikman alias. Why aren't you bringing Plastikman back this year?
Plastikman right now is on hiatus. We were touring for two years, and I felt that during those two years we had a show that was very progressive, totally different than what everybody else was doing. We thought it was time to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new. It’s just the attitude. I don’t think every project should go on forever. You need pauses, you can’t milk something. You also need to take things away from people and then bring it back later. So Plastikman will probably come back next year, and this year the focus is DJing, bringing some other artists here, doing the Enter stage and trying to help the US market develop in the best way possible.
Your name is pretty rare in Las Vegas compared to a lot of the other acts playing EDC. Do you have an aversion to the city?
I don’t have an aversion for Vegas; I think maybe Vegas has an aversion for me. I don’t mean that in a nasty way. I can see Vegas is becoming an important market for electronic music in America. Would I like to be here more? Yes. Do I think it’s the right time for me? Probably not. What’s being played in Vegas is commercial electronic music. You really don’t have anyone in the big clubs who is playing underground, let’s be honest about that. This Thursday I get to play at Drai’s. From what I know, that’s a great stepping point for me to come and do my thing.
What can fans look forward to with your Drai’s and EDC sets?
Both the sets hopefully will be different. The sets at EDC are one and a half hours, or one hour and 15 minutes, so it’s going to be full-on, a lot of energy. And what’s also going to be fun at EDC is that you’re going to see a lot of friends. … Right now, the Enter stage is a bunch of DJ friends, and we’re like, “You know what? We want as many people onstage as possible. We’re here to celebrate together, to celebrate playing our music. And the more we’re onstage celebrating and having fun, the more people are going to get into it.” It’s that energy back and forth, I think, that you’re going to see at EDC. You’re going to see a bunch of friends together who really want to party and celebrate with the new and old fans here.
At Drai’s you’re going to see me, with a longer set, being able to maybe go a bit little more left and right, deeper up and down, and get a longer story there.
It seems like Europe is constantly ahead of the U.S. when it comes to electronic dance music. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s just a cultural thing. Is Europe ahead of America in all music? No. Take hip-hop. Hip-hop has been way ahead in America than anywhere else in the world, because it culturally made sense here. ... I was never a big hip-hop fan, I don’t understand exactly where it came from, but it was bred from an American situation. And electronic music has its origins, a long time ago, in Germany with Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. It has its ’90s origins in America. You know, Chicago, Detroit and New York. But Europe took the lead of electronic dance music, because there’s a culture there of going out late at night.
Club culture has just been there for years and years, since the ’70s. America, it’s bar culture, concert culture. Go out till 2 a.m., go home. Pick up a girl, pick up a boy, whatever. People in Spain and Italy and Germany, they go out at midnight. Or they start partying at 3 or 4 a.m. and they want to hear music and just dance and freak out. So that’s why they’ve been ahead, it just made sense there. It’s made sense for a long, long, long time, and it’s just taken America a while to catch up.
I think music in America, and this emanates across the world, everybody wants to be a superstar. Everybody wants to actually cut themselves off from people. Everybody wants to be on a pedestal. And one of the reasons why electronic music is so (expletive) great, and why it’s seen 25 years of success, is that ... for the longest time the industry—the people in the industry, the people running the labels, the people running the booking agencies—they’re really down to earth. People were accessible. You go to a great club with a great DJ, traditionally the DJ is right there with the people. The best place for me to place is as close to the people as possible. So there wasn’t this big disconnect between fan and audience.
It’s a little bit disappointing how that’s happened in America. It’s really like the whole rock star, hip-hop mentality. You know, these unreachable people. ... It’s not a rock concert where you just make a bunch of visuals and have a bunch of people onstage and project to the audience, doing your songs. Electronic music, and clubbing, is about an energy transfer. You send some frequencies and energy to the people, they send it back to you, and then you actually change and modify. That’s why a great DJ can play totally different every night. It’s not a setlist. It’s a feeling.