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[Q&A] Richie Hawtin on lecturing Berklee, playing Rise // tomorrow @ 1 PM

Despite the genre tag that's tailed him for much of his career, RICHIE HAWTIN rarely takes a minimalist approach to anything he does. The Berlin-based producer has a penchant for the grand-in-scale approach, especially when it comes to touring. In recent years past, there was the 2008 Contakt tour, in which Hawtin and his then label contemporaries centered an entire multi-continent tour around a glowing, interactive cube -- both extremely ambitious and intricate in scope. He then followed that with the 2010 return of Plastikman, his long retired alias under which he released some of the most influential techno of all-time. An enveloping A/V experience, that tour was met with near-universal acclaim and carried on for the better part of two years.

For this go-round, he's assuming the role of professor, recruiting a number of contemporaries for the 17-date outing entitled CNTRL: BEYOND EDM. Winding throughout the United States and Canada, each stop will be broken up into two portions: a day lecture at a local university that'll have Hawtin and friends preaching the virtues of technology in music, followed by a night portion where they'll play said music to a club of revelers. Tomorrow the tour hits Boston. At 1 pm, the lecture will get underway over at the Berklee Performance Center where Hawtin will be joined by LOCO DICE, JOHANNES KRAMER, and EAN GOLDEN. Then tomorrow evening, they move to Rise for sets from Hawtin, Dice, Golden, and PACO OSUNA. Since the focus is on college students, they'll have preferential admission to both portions. And for non-students, it seems that as long as you're willing to show up early and wait in line, admission shouldn't be too daunting of a task.

Last week, I spoke on the phone with Hawtin where he was preparing for the tour from his home in Berlin.

First off, I'd like to commend you for the ambition surrounding this tour. It seems almost important in a lot of ways, to me at least. Do you feel the same way?
I do, for many reasons. With the whole explosion of electronic music, or EDM, in America right now and with my involvement in electronic music for the last 20 years, I feel a little responsible that I should be educating and inspiring not only my longtime fans, but also the next generation of electronic and Hawtin fans.

Why the lecture portion? It seems like you could've got away with just the nighttime part, but that show itself seems almost like an afterthought in relation to the lecture.
Well there's so many different ways into getting people involved in electronic music and just doing the nighttime thing we could've easily gotten just the typical Hawtin or Loco Dice fans -- kind of the initiated. But adding the lectures in the day just gives another way to connect with the first-time listeners or new fans. It just widens the scope. I feel like this is a time right now where -- like 20 years ago, 10 years ago, if you said electronic music to people or techno or house, they'd look at you like you were crazy, or at least like you're a freak for liking it -- but we're hoping there's people in the schools where the idea of the lectures will pique their interest so they'll come down and also follow us to the shows and be inspired.

So that's why you chose to focus specifically on colleges?
Yeah, exactly. We could've done high schools, but they seem too young for us right now. We're going out there and playing a lot of events around the world -- I've spent quite a bit of time the last year or so in Canada and America and Mexico -- and you can see the college kids today are going out and partying like every other college kid has done for the last 100 years, but their soundtrack is EDM. We're hoping that because of that type of affinity or interest in EDM, we're going to bring them a little bit closer and give them a bit more of a story that perhaps they don't know.

To me at least, this progression from EDM to your type of music or Loco Dice's type of music seems almost natural. Like it's bound to happen inevitably. Do you view it the same way or do you see it as more of an uphill battle than that?
No, I think it will happen naturally, but it needs some help. Not everyone out there is going to find that doorway to step into that natural progression. I think for most who do know a lot about electronic music, it is a natural progression. But it's not natural for everyone to dig deeper and we want to grab the next generation while their attention is focused on electronic music and help them along that natural progression.

Right. There's obviously certain pockets here in the United States -- New York, Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles on the west coast -- that are viable electronic music communities already, but how do you see certain areas outside of those where you wouldn't generally stop when you come to the U.S. catching on?
Well actually, if I'm honest, I think the tour that we're on and the locations are pretty safe. Like you said, we're hitting some major markets -- New York, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto -- but in between, there is some smaller areas. But still, the whole eastern United States has always been a little more into electronic music over the years. The whole mid-western area, at least classically, was into the whole industrial and that harder electronic sound, so I'm hoping that somewhere that allows us to reach kids a little bit easier. The harder story will be going into the central areas of America, or even some of the other west coast areas, once this tour continues. But we thought this was the right way to gather the momentum and make a positive step into this whole tour idea.

How did you arrive at your co-panelists? Was there any specific conversations that you had with any of them that made you think, "OK, this person would be perfect to bring along on this trip."
First of all, I didn't want a bunch of DJs who were the same. Dice is playing with vinyl and computers. I'm playing only with computers. You got Ean Golden who is more of a controlerist. Both him and Dice are a little more into hip-hop, coming from that side. And the other thing, a lot of the other speakers and artists that are performing we tried to pick as we were going along. So finding Carl Craig and focusing on Detroit and his area, looking for Frankie Knuckles and people like that in Chicago -- keep it local because there's so many levels of ways that we can grab the attention or inspire that person that comes to the club or especially to the lecture. To hear about people who are doing the music that they're into is one thing. But then actually being able to identify with someone who's had a career who is local is another way and that impact could perhaps even be more inspiring. It's on many different levels. The story that unfolds during this tour through the lectures, through the Facebook posts that we do, through the videos that will be recorded, fills in a lot of blanks just by the conversations we're going to have by being together.

I actually spoke with Seth Troxler last week about the Sonar tour that he's going to be on and he actually brought up the couple of dates he's going to be on your tour. I think it's kind of exciting to have both of these massive, almost unprecedented type events happening at the same time. I mean, it definitely speaks toward the direction we're headed over here in the United States.
Yeah, I hope the direction is breaking open with a wider understanding and wider love of the rich variety of this whole genre of electronic music.

One last question, it seems like every couple years you come up with one of these large, event-like tours -- like the Minus cube and then the big return of Plastikman and now this. Is that important for you to brand your repertoire around an event?
Well yeah, after just playing great clubs, you know, that's amazing. But adding an idea or a concept around something and going out on the road with a very focused attention, for myself and for the public, really works like the old rock-and-roll, where instead of making an album to go on tour, I try to make a concept to go on tour. It gives you more momentum and allows you to reach more people. And all of these ideas that I do are challenging myself and allowing myself to grow, but it's also to open up the scope of my audience and hopefully reach new people who can identify with what I believe in.
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