Richie Hawtin Takes CNTRL

By Lucinda Catchlove

“Our tour, CNTRL: Beyond EDM, is called that because we want to break open the definition of what is called EDM, we want to go beyond what people think or have come to expect from the media, which right now is basically electronic pop music, and a very small sliver of how vibrant the scene is,” explains Richie Hawtin. Here’s a Canadian who likes to push boundaries, whether they’re musical, technological or, in this case, intellectual and practical. CNTRL is much more than a club tour aimed at inciting people to dance to a different electronic beat; it also features university lectures aimed at making people, particularly younger people, engage in a discussion about a wide range of topics related to EDM.

Hawtin knows what he’s talking about. Easily the most important underground electronic artist to come out of Canada, he’s not only a DJ and producer but has also founded two labels (Plus8 and Minus) and made his mark internationally. His early productions under the alias Plastikman, on the Plus8 label that he cofounded in 1990 with John Acquaviva in Hamilton, Ontario (because they couldn’t find anyone else to release their music) are legendary and an important part of the second wave of Detroit techno. But Hawtin isn’t some fossil interested in lecturing “the kids” about the past—he’s more interested in sharing what he’s learned as he’s built his own underground music empire and discussing the future of EDM and how to make music.

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“We talk about what we’re doing and why we do it, and allow people to make their own definition,” says Hawtin. “We want people to find their own unique connection to electronically produced music. That’s what our goal is with the lecture, to help people find their own way to participate in this wonderful genre. We started out 20, 25 years ago and I think we were ahead of the curve but we were just doing what is natural to many kids coming up now—multitasking and taking control of the pathway that you’re on,” explains Hawtin, who is joined on the tour by Loco Dice and a changing roster of techno luminaries (both in the club and the lecture hall).

“For me it’s very important to control the environment that I find myself in, it’s an incredible opportunity to bring like-minded individuals together, many of them friends, and to work closely on shared ideas and shared dreams,” says Hawtin. “Having the ability to control one’s destiny, to take even more creative ideas and to bring them to reality is a beautiful thing.” Even if you skip the lecture and head straight for the dancefloor, you’ll be sharing the beautiful things spun out of shared dreams and Hawtin’s controlled creativity.  Dance music can be a beautiful and heady thing and sometimes it’s best to give up all control to a master of the genre.

Richie Hawtin performs with Loco Dice and Victor Calderone at London Music Hall, London, ON on November 6th, with Loco Dice and Carl Craig at the Boom Boom Room in Windsor, Ontario on November 7th and at The Hoxton, Toronto on November 8th.