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festivalZOO Interview: Richie Hawtin at Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas


Richie Hawtin

FestivalZOO was able to meet up with the one and only Richie Hawtin right before his set at Electric Daisy Carnival - Las Vegas 2011. The day before Richie had performed a live audio and visual performance as Plastikman and had been the talk of the festival for everyone fortunate enough to catch him.
Richie Hawtin was one of the few techno and underground acts booked at EDC and you could sense that he wanted to show off something special and fly the techno flag high in the Las Vegas desert. You can really feel the excitement and passion that Richie has for educating the electronic music scene through his music. Please enjoy the interview below as you get to know Richie and his perspective on dance music festivals including Electric Daisy Carnival - Las Vegas, his alter-ego Plastikman and much, much more.


How was Sonar?

I am losing my voice a bit… Sonar was incredible. I have been going there 15 years now, maybe even more, and it is like a pilgrimage every 3rd week of June. I go with my parents, I go with my friends, and the last couple of years we have been doing really special events.
This year we did a special free party at the fruit market which was a big explosion and we did a m-nus party at Elrow and I also played Sonar. It’s the middle of summer, it’s Barcelona, it’s full of cool people, great music. You can’t go wrong.

Thanks for taking your time and talk to us today. We are big fans and yesterday we were less lucky trying to meet some of the artists for interviews.

What is happening right is the scene is exploding. I had a really good conversation with someone the other day about this, and they said for a long time there was no real reason to go into electronic music except for the love of the music. For loving it and just wanting to do it. And now the last couple of years, it has become something that is cool and its become like “I want to be a rock star, I want to be a DJ.” So there is a different mentality and a slight change in attitude of the people that are becoming popular. It’s not just people who are in it for the fun of it who don’t care if we are big or not. Some people get into it to try to become a rock star. We have become popular. I am much bigger now than I was 20 years ago but it has been a gradual thing. I believe that people from that era are down to earth and cool. I want to promote that. This is a great scene, I want it to grow, but I don’t want it to turn out like hip hop or rock music where they are pushing us up here and the crowd down there. It should be as close as possible. There is a stage and there is a crowd so there is a bit of a gap but I would like that to be as small as possible.

What do you think about EDC and your experience here?

That is a hard one. We are really happy to be here. We have a crew of ten people. We flew everybody over. We had a lot of problems getting everything working yesterday. We did our thing. There was a lot of energy. Really happy to see a lot of people out there that are really hard core fans. First we really want to keep our hardcore fans happy, but we are a little disappointed that after all that effort we didn’t get more people saying “we don’t know who Plastikman is but let’s go watch him”. Instead they were going over to the normal shit. In that way we feel a bit let down. But we are really happy, we did a good show here. I also had a meeting with some film makers and they have never seen the show and they were blown away so I know that we gave a show and we did initiate some people.

Plastikman behind the cage

You are touring now both with Plastikman and as Richie Hawtin. Here at EDC you are playing as both. Can you explain your thinking of your two different performances?

I am trying to keep both active right now - Richie Hawtin as DJing more in front of the crowd and Plastikman a little more cerebral and disconnected in a way. I really want to explore the live arena where I can play my own tracks and manipulate the lighting, sound, the visuals, and make it a synchronized experience. The DJ experience is also fun and similar in some ways, but it is a bit more fun and light hearted.

It seems like a live Plastikman set would be more appropriate for a festival experience where everyone is focused on the stage while a DJ set could be more appropriate for a club setting?

What we want to do at a festival, there is a lot of money behind it and a lot of production, and I honestly don’t believe in it. I went to the main stage last night and they put a lot of money into this and there is a lot of love and they are trying to do a great job, but I don’t see sometimes after all this effort, I don’t see so much connection between the sound, the lighting, the visuals, and the design. It seems like they are all disconnected. It’s kind of like one thing over there, another thing over there, and another over there. Once in a while, if you are lucky, it all comes together and everyone is “f*ck that’s amazing!” Our mission with Plastikman is to make that kind of moment happen all throughout the show, so it is an immersing experience. We want to take it to a larger audience, to a larger stage and we know we are on to something, and I think there are a lot of people that can learn from it.

Plastikman as seen from the crowd

Do you prefer to play as Plastikman?

That’s hard to say. Sometimes behind the cage it is hard to connect to people personally, but when it works it is incredible because I know there is so much energy for the people on the dance floor. Playing records in front of people and jumping up and down is also fun. It would be really hard to pick one over the other.

You have any new projects or artist on your label M-Nus that you are excited about at the moment?

I am always excited for Gaiser. He is playing right now at the stage behind us. He is the bomb. I was really fortunate to bring him. People were saying “maybe nobody knows Gaiser,” but we said it does not matter - when he starts, it won’t matter, people will get excited. Also, on M-Nnus, we got a great new Mathew Jonson record (Learning To Fly) coming out, we got a Loco Dice record (Knibbie Never Comes Alone) coming, and we got a new Marc Houle EP. There is a lot of new, interesting stuff coming this year.

Do you prefer playing a festival or a club?

I love playing as a DJ and connecting to 500 or 1000 people, but the Plastikman show right now, it connects better with a larger audience.

The idea with you behind the cage during the Plastikman show, what are you trying to project?

The idea is when I DJ I am there with the people. Plastikman is the alter ego - the internal person inside Richie Hawtin. You can’t see him by looking at Richie Hawtin so that is why we put the cage around me during the Plastikman show. So you are connected but I am really just a shadow.

You said you loved playing Sonar last weekend. Do you have a favorite event of the year you love playing at?

Sonar is one of the highlights. Another highlight for me is a festival called Time Warp, in the end of March beginning of April every year. That is for me, one of the best festivals in the world. Everybody comes out of the winter and gets ready to party. I started at 6AM, going until middle of the afternoon. It’s a big celebration of all the new music and all new tracks. That’s where we premiered Plastikman and a lot of our music - and it is a big party! If there is one international festival you want to travel to Time Warp in Manheim is my recommendation.

I feel that you really embrace new technology. How has that allowed you to evolve as an artist and producer?

For me this is what I do. All my ideas are made possible by technology. Ideas and ideas and ideas, that I have been writing down for years, I have been just waiting for the technology to become available. Plastikman 2.0 is in the drawing boards. We are hoping we can do it next year. We are ready but not sure if the software and hardware will be there just yet.

What is your one favorite piece of equipment if you had to chose one?

I would really have to be nostalgic answering this question. I would have to say the Roland TB-303. Roland 303 really defined me and defined my sound and introduced me to the world.

How did you get started in the industry?

Just hanging out. I was 15-16 hanging out in Detroit, going out dancing on the dance floor and listing to cool DJs - Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Blake Baxter and they inspired me playing records they were making. I just thought that’s what you were supposed to do. You play as a DJ and you make music to play. That was it.

What kind of music do you listen to besides electronic music?

You know what, I have my iPhone in my pocket but I rarely listen music. Most of the time I listen to nothing. I spend a lot of time on planes and I put my Bose noise-canceling headphones on not plugged in to anything. I used to listen to more music when I wasn’t living in Berlin and had a car. When I do listen to music, and is not listening because of work, I listen to ambient more, piano music, kind of chill. I work a lot, I love what I do, so my life is consumed by electronic music, so most of the time, I am listening to stuff that I am working with. My off time is very small and my off time is usually silent.

Richie at Amnesia

One of my favorite party moments was seeing you for the first time at Cocoon Ibiza. Do you have any special moment you like to share with us?

I have so many special moments. Talking about Ibiza, playing in the main room in Amnesia for the last 10 years. When the temperature is right, when the music is right, when the fog machine, the CO2, everything comes together, everyone is screaming, you lose yourself in the moment. It is a beautiful thing. Sometimes those couple of seconds go for a couple of days in Ibiza. As an artist we really like to hear that we are time travelers. Travelling DJs and entertainers making moments that do bridge on the idea of being time travelers. Your marking moments are the ones you hope that people go back and forth to the rest of their lives. You hope to make moments that people really cherish. You remember your first kiss, you remember your first born, you remember when the DJ dropped that one track and everything was just right.

You have been playing, DJing for 25 years now. What keeps you going?

There are a lot of young people in the scene, and that’s part of it - and I love what I do. There are days when I am really tired but I am surrounded by really great people that love what they do, that believe in the music and the scene, and believe in me, and it all works together and it’s not one thing.

I saw Ambivalent at Movement a few weeks ago and he really blew me away…

He was killing it. He has a great new EP coming out on Plus 8 called “Jackson.” It is going to be a bomb.

What are your influences?

I am listening to a lot of demos, downloading a lot from Beatport, promos, everything is an influence. I listen to Gaiser and I think “f*ck how did he do that with that flair?” Then you go and try to make that into your own ideas. You got to keep an open mind and experiment. In the world we live in there is a constant give and take.

When you play out, do you feel the need to play what other people expect you to play or do you play whatever you feel like playing?

I try (to play what I want) but at times there are tracks that I know will work, but whenever I do that I feel like maybe I am going to give them a bit of what they want. Then I am going to use that to take them where I want, to somewhere unexpected. I got to be honest to myself, you know. What I believe in and what I like.

Final question. What kind of party animal are you?

Party animal? I would be the animal that puts its head underground…the ostrich! So everyone would be having a party and I would be looking for something more underground.

In case you missed Electric Daisy Carnival - Las Vegas here is a clip from Richie Hawtin’s set on Saturday:


We hope you enjoyed the interview and if you’re in the Los Angeles area this weekend, be sure to catch Richie Hawtin at the Music Box in Hollywood. We recommend you that you don’t miss this show!! Tickets are available HERE.

For Richie Hawtin and Plastikman support and tour information go to,,

Live Audio Interview from backstage at EDC - Las Vegas:
Richie Hawtin Interview - EDC Las Vegas 2011 by ERNIE BUMPS

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  1. Greg W. says:

    great interview!

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