Q&A with Richie Hawtin: On touring, looking forwards and who Plastikman really is

By Mancunian Matters staff

Techno overlord Richie Hawtin’s long overdue return to the UK under his Plastikman guise is one of the most anticipated tours of the year, and Manchester is set to be first stop.

With a career spanning 20 years he is one of electronic music’s true ambassadors, revolutionising the sound and pushing the boundaries of live performance.  Currently on a world tour with his new Live.1.5 concept, the plastikman live experience is arguably one of the only live shows around where all aspects of the performance – music, lighting, audio, visuals and real time audience interaction via the SYNK app – are controlled by him alone. 

Amidst his busy touring schedule we managed to grab some time with the techno pioneer ahead of his UK dates which hits our shores in December.

Hey Richie, you’ve recently embarked on your Plastikman Live 1.5 Tour, can you tell us how this differs from your previous shows?

Plastikman Live 1.5 takes into everything we’ve learned with the 1.0 version of Plastikman during the last year of touring.  On a technical level computers have been replaced, updated.  Control surfaces like the Lemurs have been updated to iPad software and there’s been constant updates to the Griid and Kapture plugins (by my company Liine).  BUT of course, the main thing people will see/hear are new updates to the visuals and songs.  

Every song has been updated to sound better and look better…new connections have been made between new sounds in each song, and new visuals for the L.E.D cage.  We’ve also moved songs around into a different order and replaced 2 songs with totally new version helping to give the entire show more power and momentum and giving the entire experience a smoother overall feeling.  If you add all of these small subtle updates together, you end up with a show that is closer to my original vision than the earlier shows we did in the beginning! 

We’ve also updated the iPhone SYNK application (avail. free from iTunes) to 1.5… which now offers LIVE camera feeds from within the cage and a new live chat area for all the Plastikman fans at the concert…. the live video feed is also used more on the front of the cage than ever  before, strengthening the connection between the audience and myself!

What production will you be using on the show?

We spec out every last detail to make the PM Live show a reality… we need a specific type of L.E.D panel to build the cage around me… making sure that it is both high resolution AND transparent so that people can also see me sometime.  

To make the show happen we also need a series of very special components…fibre optik cables, LAN cables, DMX cables all going from the FOH (mix position) to the stage so that I can communicate with all the lighting/video computer systems and bring the show to life.

This is a very important thing to understand about PM Live… the entire experience is controlled by me from within the cage, my main computer system sends out signals to create SOUND, LIGHTING AND VISUALS,  the audience’s entire experience is controlled from within the cage.


What equipment do you use when you’re playing live?

The entire experience is controlled by a custom version of Ableton Live/Max4Live running on the fastest Macbook Pro 17″ (actually 2 of them, 1 for a backup).  This system is then connected to a series of RME and Marian audio cards sending 20 channels of analog audio to 2 Midas audio mixers (1 on stage and 1 at FOH).  

To handle all the control data (for lighting/visuals/iPhone) we have a Cisco router on stage for routing all of this information, DMX lighting translator hardware to send our Midi information into DMX to the lighting console.  

Three iPads running Griid, Kapture, Synk and TouchOSC allow me to interact with the Ableton computer, controlling modulation, sample/clip playback and recalls of special information, there’s also a set of analog faders and 2 custom midi boxes my Dad made to help me add/control effects like Reverb and Delays.  Nearly all of these items are duplicated so that we are running 2 full systems of the live show next to each other incase we have any problems! 


Who is Plastikman?

Plastikman is one of my alter-ego’s, I believe that we are all made up of dozens of different personalities and it’s the combination of these that make us who we are.  Plastikman and Richie Hawtin are the two strongest characters I have.


Can you sum up the difference between Plastikman and Richie Hawtin musically?

Richie Hawtin is the extrovert who is shaped by the people, music, environment around me. As Hawtin the DJ, I take all of these influences and try to perform, mixing music together in a special and unique way. 

Plastikman is of course also inspired by things around me, but is deeper to the heart of who Richie Hawtin is.  When I close all the doors and look deep into myself, at who I am, what I like, etc, this is when I’m at the closest to Plastikman.


How do you perform differently as Plastikman and Richie Hawtin?

As I said before, a Hawtin show is created by me (Hawtin) filtering other people’s music through my ears/mind and putting it back together in a way that is uniquely me… but remembering that the foundation of that is other peoples music.  

Plastikman is created by my own unique musical productions and is based specifically on how I think music should be made and sound.


Where do you find inspiration for your music? How did you go about making ‘Spastik’?

Inspiration comes in many forms.  For instance Sheet One was inspired by an intense period of Dj’ing in the Detroit area, a time which bought together many new friends, sounds and experiences. 

This group then inspired the Musik album and Recycled Plastik etc.  Spastik was directly inspired to an incredible night listening to Derrick May play at the Bankle Building in Detroit!  You never know when inspiration will hit, you just need to realize when you have it, grab it, record it and make sure you don’t miss these small fleeting moments of creativity!


You’ve mentored a vast amount of DJs via your Minus label, do you find that propelling the next generation of DJs has helped keep your creativity fresh?

One of the most important things to keep you going is renewed innovation and inspiration.  Running Minus allows a constant flow of new ideas, people, talent and young producers.

Through these new connections I’m able to help inspire the next generation who then also re-inspire me and show me new younger perspectives.  You must remember that Technology based music must constantly renew itself, progress and develop, just like the machines and software programs we use to create and perform.


You’ve been DJ’ing as Plastikman for twenty years, how has your sound progressed over the years?

My musical progression has been one of small development steps and continuity.  It’s as if 20 years ago I started to create my own sonic language to explain the ideas/thoughts/feelings deep inside of me, and I continue to develop that language, adding letters and symbols, making new words each time I work on creative ideas.  

This language is perhaps not understandable by everyone, but for those who feel connected, who understand how I put these sonic symbols together, a deep connection sustains and further strengthens our bonds.


Do you miss the 90’s scene; does anywhere globally still capture that?

What is the 90’s scene?  Early rave culture?  Detroit Techno?  Acid House?  Electronic Music continues to be a creative output of musical ideas that look beyond today.  This is where my focus is so I guess I’d rather think about 2020 than 1990.


Ambivalent and Magda are supporting the UK leg of the Tour, both of which you have given a platform to via Minus, can you tell us a bit about them?

Both Ambivalent and Magda are longtime friends and collaborators who I feel a deep musical connection to.  They are both forward thinking individuals who use their love of music and technology to delve into slightly different areas of electronic music.  

Having both of them on the Plastikman Tour allows us to offer a wider musical experience to all the attendees than any one of us can do alone.  


Detroit was the birthplace of techno yet Berlin seems to be the base for the sound these days, what’s so special about these two cities for that particular sound?

Detroit and Berlin both went through their own radical upheaval in their histories, Detroit with the race riots and subsequent white-flight and Berlin with the war and the wall.  Because of this, both cities ended up being isolated not only from their close neighbours but also internally as well.  

This created an interesting nesting ground for the citizens to look beyond these problems and escape through musical and creative ways.  


What have been your greatest achievements personally and professionally to date?

Creating and sustaining platforms like Plus 8, Minus and even Plastikman Live which brings together creative types and introduces their ideas to the world.


Did sorting your Plastikman Arkives bring back some good memories?

Arkives took us over 2 years to bring to fruition, it was a long, hard and intense road that was lined by many beautiful memories.  Part of the main process was not only listening to the music, but contacting old friends and colleagues, sharing stories and photos to bring us all back to that time in order to give the correct story for the book.  

I was happily reminded by many stories that I had since forgotten about, some of which reminded me of my mind set back then, when I was locked into my studio for days at a time, playing with my Roland 303’s, 808’s etc and being engulfed in music inspiration.  The entire journey was incredible.


Why did you decide to release the Arkives now?

Plastikman Live and Arkives are companion pieces.  With the renewed interest in electronic music from all over the world, I thought it was the perfect time to (re)educate the crowds with some of the things I had done in my earlier years that helped define what I’ve been doing more recently.   


Who inspires you in the industry? Who did you look up to when you started out?

Daniel Miller inspired John Aquaviva and I in the early days of Plus 8.  His attention to detail and his attitude and independent direction still sustain that belief and inspiration to us and many others still to this day.


Where did the idea come from to perform in a fruit and veg stall in Barcelona? Random yet amazing!

Very easy…and totally not random.  The best ideas are ones that make sense to you because they are part of your way of thinking of life, things that you already have a personal connection, this creates something that is real.  

And real is something that you cannot fake.  My friend Eva and I love the market, we’ve been meeting there for lunch for many years and always talked about doing ‘something’ there. 

The market is full of life, it’s a social gathering place, so to us it seemed natural to try and bring people together in the market for another reason, MUSIC!


Any plans to do a market stall tour in the future?

Yes, we’re just trying to figure out if Del Monte or Chiquita is sponsoring it!


Richie Hawtin presents Plastikman Live 1.5 world tour hits UK Shores in December and will see him performing in Manchester, London and Glasgow. Support on the tour comes from Magda and Ambivalent.  

Tickets on sale now / 0844 888 4401 /



Thursday 1st December @ Manchester Academy

Friday 2nd December @ O2 Academy Brixton

Saturday 3rd December @ Glasgow Barrowlands ***  SOLD OUT ***

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