Beyond EDM: Richie Hawtin talks about his experimental gig at Marquee

Techno pioneer Richie Hawtin.
Photo: Raminta Malinauskaite

Minimal house and techno aren’t typically welcome on the Strip, which is why Marquee’s first-ever afterhours experiment with electronic music pioneer Richie Hawtin—who has only ever played Las Vegas during EDC week—comes as a surprise. As Hawtin tells us, this event could beget future ones—and a much-needed expansion of the local nightlife soundtrack.

Will the October 26 Marquee event will be your first Las Vegas gig outside of the EDC Vegas and Drai's appearances?

Yes, we've been waiting for the right time to do a “solo” show in Vegas for quite some time. Of course there’s been a few options and offers, but I'm very aware and cautious of the development of electronic music in the States. I'm happy to see the growth of our scene and the music, but you do have to be careful with the timing of introducing new and deeper sounds to any new developing scene ... I want to play to a crowd who are open-minded and ready to hear something a bit different than perhaps they've been exposed to so far, and hopefully now is that time! This gig will hopefully be our first step, putting our big (or small) toe into the musical waters of Vegas to get the temperature of the local scene and then make our next plans!

Did your gig at Marquee NYC in May beget this upcoming one in Vegas?

In a way, yes, as the entire scene is made up our relationships with clubs, owners, promoters and fellow DJs and musicians. So testing the waters at a related club or with the same promoters is always a good idea as you form new alliances and take steps into new markets.

You had previously told us you'd like to play Las Vegas more once the time is right, and also called your 2012 Drai's afterhours gig a "stepping point" for that. Have you been satisfied with your progression in Vegas thus far, and has it been worth the gradual efforts?

All good things come to those who wait. As I said before, the worst thing that can happen is if you do something too early, how terrible would it be to come for a performance and the crowd before you is just not ready for the type of music you play. It's a game of balance; of course I can play slightly to the left or right, but there's a line that I won't go over, and it's much better for everyone involved to find that moment when everyone’s lines start to come together—club owners, crowd, performers, etc.—or at least find some points of intersection.

You just concluded your Enter. residency at Space in Ibiza. How did it go?

ENTER.2013 was an incredibly dynamic season that gained more momentum than we ever imagined. We rebuilt most of the club (again), creating new environments better suited to the music that was played in each, and this created such a special atmosphere that incredible moments came together nightly. The selection of performers this year was wider in scope than [last] year, and I really felt that we, as promoters, had made the next step in our ideas and truly presented a totally new Ibiza experience.

Knowing Ibiza was once as mainstream as Vegas is now, can Vegas learn something from Ibiza's evolution?

Ibiza has had a long time to develop; slowly over 30-plus years, the island has been a center point for dance music and nightclubbing. Vegas, on the other hand, is playing catch up and has only really started booking a continuous stream of DJs over the past five-plus years. That's why we've been waiting; things need time to develop. I do feel that Vegas has an incredible amount of potential to be a key player in the international electronic music scene, but it still needs to decouple itself from the glitz and glamour of its past a little bit and find a better balance in the artists and musical programming that are invited to perform. Our scene is diverse, and Vegas needs to respect and welcome us in our entirety.

It seems a lot of the American club goers—certainly in the bigger, more mainstream venues—do less actual dancing and more of the fist-pump, stare-at-the-DJ thing you'd more likely see at a rock/pop concert. As someone who feeds off the movement of the crowd, does that worry you?

These type of large-scale dance music concerts have been going on for years—remember the huge shows that people like Paul Oakenfold and Sasha & Digweed used to do? There was a lot of fist-pumping there. In Europe, there was always a good balance between these large “more concert-like” events and the small, more intimate club events, and the problem in North America at the moment is that many of the newly initiated EDM fans are only aware of the larger-scale shows. My hope is that as the scene and crowd develops in North America, there will be more and more people interested in what comes after these big shows and find themselves searching out smaller, more intimate venues and performances. This will be a great step into bringing a bit more balance into the scene.

Your DJ schedule has looked pretty busy. Have you had time for the studio?

The schedule of performances really takes its toll and leaves very little time to focus on all the other ideas that many of us have in our heads … I have been able to squeeze a bit of studio work into the past few months, but the steps are small and few and far between. However, at the moment I do feel more of a pull into the studio than I've felt in a long time, so hopefully something will happen and more time will materialize in between the gigs and bigger steps will be made sooner rather than later.

You've really put in the work with your CNTRL: Beyond EDM college tour, the festival gigs, and the SXSW and EDC chats. Have you seen the rewards here in the States yet?

I hope that all of these projects help to educate people about the greater depths and history of our music and scene ... but we need a concentrated effort from all sides of the scene—producers, club owners, promoters, etc.—to all help educate the new members of the scene. I try to find different ways to do two things at once—educate and entertain!

Are you frustrated or affected at all by fans who see that you're playing places like Marquee and the various festivals and call you a sellout, or even seeing your techno/progressive peers take to Twitter to make snarky comments about the state of dance music/club culture?

Our scene must continue to evolve and develop, otherwise it will stagnate and go the way of disco, so I have very little time for peers or fans who only want to hold the scene selfishly so close that they'll suffocate any steps forward.

You have frequently predicted (or hoped) that new electronic dance music fans will ultimately go back and/or dig deeper in their discovery process and find the sort of music you're aligned with. Have you seen or heard evidence that such a phenomena is actually happening?

It's quite easy to see this process already happening by just looking at my own social media. [There are] new fans coming in for the first time, following my recommendations of new tracks and artists, or watching what I'm playing via my live Twitter DJ stream [@rhawtin_live]. I feel like the current generation is consuming and discovering at an incredible rate, bringing themselves up to speed to where we are now and how we arrived at this point. [It’s] exciting to see where they go from here.

Can we stream your most recent Soundcloud sets for a taste of what to expect at Marquee, or will you be changing things up?

I think my Soundcloud sets give you a taste of both old and new. Will they sound like the set I'll be doing at Marquee? Probably not, as tracks pass through my systems quite fast, with some only really being played a couple times over a few weeks. Things are moving so fast with releases and demos, which makes my sets even more exciting and dynamic for me as a performer ... and hopefully for the audience, too.

Richie Hawtin with Brett Rubin: October 26, doors at 2 a.m. for late-night entry, $20, Marquee Nightclub, 333-9000

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