For being one of the most written about and interviewed men in electronic music, Richie Hawtin was not someone I wanted to interview in fear of not rising up to the task. In fact, when the opportunity came around, I almost bypassed it. From interviews to documentaries, the man has been asked nearly everything. That fact combined with my fear as a journalist to ask “over-asked” and trivial questions just seemed a nightmare in the making. It took some slack from my friends (“What's wrong with you, Natalie?”) to finally jump up and say, “Hey, wait!” I was lucky enough that the opportunity hadn't completely eclipsed me. As for how the interview came out, well I leave that up to you.
There is no rest for the weary, nor the creative, as Hawtin completes his 42nd birthday. His mind, brimming as ever with new ideas not just for the music, but for the experience as well, brings to us the new concept of “ENTER.” for his residency this summer in Ibiza. He tells us in the interview how some of his ideas need a rest and a chance to explore other areas in order to keep an artist healthy and inspired. Further in the interview, we pick up on a conversation that was started with Mixmag: a continuation on the topic of the state of electronic music in the US.
Perhaps I am young and hard headed to agree on the matter of expansion, but the theory of “trickle-down economics” that we once learned about in our US history classes seem to be applied here. The thinking goes that if the masses are exposed to our music, those in search of something new will trickle down to the more underground sounds. Today's situation can be looked upon as a double edged sword, that while there are those who take it upon themselves to look for new sounds, the backlash is that there is a lot of people coming to music events as a trend and not really understanding the essence of community and respect that electronic music champions. While I myself am not the biggest festival fan—I don't believe you get artists’ true style and their ability to explore while at them (and Hawtin agrees with me)—there was always a sense of camaraderie and open mindedness at festivals to meeting other people and appreciating the music. At one of the last festivals I attended I had a heartbreaking realization while watching the parking lot flood with oceans of neon that the respect was missing. Name-calling, standoffishness, entitlement—it was just younger kids being silly but their actions show that they do not understand what electronic music exemplifies.
There are no freaks, losers, or weirdoes within the electronic music community. There is a level of open mindedness and respect that comes with each show, each song and each person. It is almost ironic that the “cool” kids are donning their neon and heading over to these festivals, because just a few years back we were the outcasts. When my friends and I played techno or trance in the car, most people said, “What the fuck are you guys listening to? This dance music?” Even my roommates in college were saying, “Oh, there goes Natalie playing her techno again...” and this was when Kid Cudi was teaming up with Steve Aoki. These kids who steered clear of electronic music prior, now rock out to 4/4 beats while draped in neon, but did they receive the message that came with the bass?
So while trickle down economics for electronic music may eventually add numbers to our underground, I worry about how electronic music's message, ethics and morals maybe twisted and misrepresented to the masses. We have Madonna championing the music as a drug infested play pen of the youth and tries to deny that—sorry Madonna, I'm going to have to side with Paul van Dyk on this one, that was a major faux pas—leading people to believe it's just 15-year-olds making out with trees and a chance for everyone to just party out each weekend. The years we have spent building respect for our music—that it is not just some drug infected palooza but something deeper, more emotional, more involved, more binding—is now being thrown in to the hands of people who may not get it.
I do not want to generalize and say everyone is like that. There are many who are not. I want my friends who are producers and DJs of the underground scene to be successful and have people love their music as much as I do—genuinely from the bottom of my heart. It just pains me to see when a music I identify with, and carry close to me, should be so twisted out of its context. I asked Hawtin about being the mainstream of the underground and I realize how he and his colleagues have pulled down their defenses in order to spread the music, heading the frontier of new music and new people as well. I commend him for that, and the others who have ventured out with him, because I find it hard for myself to share what I hold dear with every one, yet everyday they put out on the line a part of themselves (as what we create is an extension of ourselves).
So now I take Richie Hawtin's question of, “Will the underground survive with the surge of popularity in electronic music?” and change it to, “Where do we draw the line of expansion?”