Text: tamara aus De:Bug 13

Plastikman Tamara Lynn Warren I remember seeing the mutated figure for the first time and wondering what it meant — the Plastikman logo — Richie Hawtin’s mark. I was a teenager, coming of age in a Detroit suburb. Just recently, I had discovered the splendors of the Detroit rave scene. I was enthralled by the ambiance of the dimly lit warehouses and the pulsating music that blindly drove me to surrender my body for long nights of unbridled movement, with caffeine as my only stimulant. Like many of the kids I joined at these parties, I was ignorant of the influence of Detroit producers and djs then. I sought only the music, and I was lucky to have such a supreme selection for my newfound passion. I believe it was a Plus 8 party that first captured my spark. I remember that summer night, the mysterious atmosphere and the way the speakers seemed to suck the dancers close. And there was the man with the little black glasses who someone pointed out to me. “He’s a genius,” I was told. The energy, the mania, the darkness — that’s what I remember from my first experience with Richie Hawtin. I would soon discover this was the man represented by those bumper stickers and backpack logos that were everywhere in Detroit that Spastik summer — Plastikman. As the years have passed and I have grown, so has the popularity of Richie Hawtin’s various identities. He is one of Detroit’s superstar djs who attract international attention, but are worshipped by a more select group in the fickle underground scene. Isolated by miles, highways and demographical divisions the electronic music scene in Detroit has silently evolved and remains disjointed. Local appearances by many of the acclaimed techno and house producers are sporadic. But, if Richie Hawtin is involved it is a different story. An occasional reference in a free weekly paper or a flier slipped into a sweaty palm is promotion enough for this techno icon. Skeptics vanish as devotees cancel plans at a moment’s notice, travelling to Canadian corn fields if need be, because they know what they are in for — a night far beyond their control. The ultra-ego Plastikman continues to fulfill his role as evil mastermind. This self-declared control freak manipulates the environment for his guests down to the most minute detail. His latest large scale event, “Consumed”, is telling. Even those who have never heard of Detroit can see what was inflicted on this May evening if they look up the extensive floor plan on the M_inus Website. Technological tweaks created a surreal environment in a space that was almost as frightening as the five-hour extravaganza produced by Hawtin. Occasionally, one could see the devious gleam behind those familiar glasses, as this bald headed skinny man controlled everything, down to the lights. Reactions to this mythological Canadian are mixed — adoring, critical, and confused. After all, he delights in keeping people guessing. As usual, people in Detroit are talking about Hawtin. He has been criticized for entertaining the suburbanites — some bluntly have said — rich white kids who do not care about the heart of the city. But, in reality, Hawtin draws people by contributing revolutionary sounds to the eclectic electronic community. He keeps the spirit of Detroit techno alive in a time when house is what now draws the young crowds. One thing for certain — Midwest scenesters will never stop submitting themselves to Rich Hawtin. And as Hawtin continues to tease fans with his mind-influencing powers, he remains committed to the town where he began his dj career in the late 80s. His earnest desire for approval in Detroit is not just a press statement. For instance, recently at a party featuring his original partner, John Aquaviva, Hawtin stepped in when one of the djs failed to show up. Toting a crate of techno classics, he spontaneously tag-teamed with Plus 8 dj Boomer in the second room, while Aquaviva played for the masses across the hall.. Internationally, Plastikman is inescapable, but in Detroit Hawtin is only another presence in the fluctuating scene. Heads turn when the Plus 8 (or now M_inus) crew walk into a club, but reactions are discreet. For the most part, he has people’s respect — a man who has a built a dynasty intelligently. Sometimes his perfectionism appears intimidating, almost comical, but in all fairness to achieve the stature he enjoys, perfection and planning are crucial. Like many legendary area producers, Richie Hawtin has opted to stay close to his musical roots. He creates his material from across the bridge in Windsor, but he has used Detroit as his dance floor proving grounds time after time. He will be remembered by his legion of followers in this town for the defining memories he has created with every twist of a knob. And though he is a trickster at heart, my guess is that he will continue his legacy of stinging Detroit dance floors with his killer bee tactics long into the future.

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