Richie Hawtin’s CNTRL tour: the catalyst for the next generation of underground artists
Richie Hawtin is spreading techno like it’s gospel — and in the hazy darkness of the 3am dancefloor, it very well may be. With the fervor of a techno missionary, Hawtin recently embarked on his second CNTRL tour to educate the youth on the sounds of underground electronic music.
Throughout the month of April, Hawtin and his CNTRL crew hosted panels, workshops, and nighttime performances at eight different colleges across North America. The tour culminated in Los Angeles with daytime events at UCLA and a seven-hour show at the Hollywood Palladium featuring the likes of Chris Liebing, Victor Calderone, Ean Golden, Lee K, and of course, Richie himself.
“The CNTRL tour was one of the most exhilarating and inspiring projects I’ve done in recent years,” Hawtin said. “Having the opportunity to teach and learn and view the Electronic Music scene through the eyes of the next generation enables us all (my peers and I) to remember those early inspiring days of our own careers and understand from a new perspective how the scene is interpreted by today’s youth.”
The CNTRL daytime events consisted of a Point Blank Masterclass with Hawtin, as well as a two-hour artist panel with Grimes, Chris Liebing, Victor Calderone, and Ean Golden. More than anything, the afternoon stressed the importance of surrounding one’s self with like-minded individuals. Hawtin, of course, had John Acquaviva by his side, not to mention fellow 2nd wavers like Carl Craig and Jeff Mills. Today, it’s about finding your own collaborators, who — as Hawtin and crew stressed — are more often than not right beside you already.
As techno legend Chris Liebing mentioned on the panel, Richie Hawtin could easily be sitting on some island anywhere, totally disengaged with the cultivation of the scene in America, but instead he’s organizing ambitious tours like CNTRL to inspire the next generation of electronic musicians.
Hawtin said of the endeavor:
“By holding our day time lectures and master classes on campuses we hope to open up new possible career choices for the students beyond just becoming performing artists. For the Electronic Music scene to continue developing we need inspired young people to help with all parts of the industry, from managers, to producers, agents, engineers and so forth. At a very basic level, we hope to inspire as many students and fans to take a step closer to the world of electronic music and find their own way to participate on any level that they feel comfortable.”
Ean Golden, who has played a pivotal role in shaping the CNTRL tour over its last two iterations, echoed the importance of engaging with the college audience: “I think when you’re 18, 19, 20, you’re at a very vulnerable place in your life where things like this could have a big impact, and I think Rich wants to make a big impact on people, and maybe inspire them to be more individualistic and find their own path in music.”
In this day and age, there’s hardly a better spokesperson for the scene than Hawtin. As one of the most influential figures in Detroit’s second wave of techno, Richie holds something of a legendary status in today’s electronic music landscape. Beyond his legacy, he’s one of the more optimistic minds of the underground, and his enthusiasm for the creative lifestyle is simply infectious.
To listen to Richie speak is to absorb the wisdom of a fiery visionary. To watch Richie perform is to witness the kindling of that fire.
It’s 1am when Hawtin takes the decks at the Hollywood Palladium. The lights are low, and the crowd is sizable, yet there’s something different. There’s hardly any cell phones in the air. Rather, heads are down, feet are moving back and forth, and the focus is on the music.
The transition from the previous set — Victor Calderone — is nearly inconspicuous. There’s no showy display on the mic — hardly even a visual cue to signal the change. Rather, one slowly begins to hear Richie introduce himself into the mix. After Calderone’s pummeling display of ravey, Drumcode-style techno, Richie opts for a more cerebral direction. For the next hour and a half, Hawtin puts on a technological showcase. With both Ableton and Traktor running concurrently and new MIDI controllers like Native Instruments’ D2 on hand, Hawtin layers tracks seamlessly while constructing percussive rhythms on the spot by way of his Push controller. It’s an engrossing spectacle, and at the pace he’s mixing, his time slot feels closer to 3 hours.
At 2:30am, the room is alive and perfectly warmed up for Chris Liebing. The German techno connoisseur is a regular at festivals like Awakenings and Time Warp, and his status is not lost on the savvy CNTRL audience. Throughout his set, Liebing presents some of the heaviest selections of the night. At one point, the subbass is so powerful I can feel it in my throat. As the hour pushes towards 4am, the crowd has thinned, but those in attendance are witnessing a rare bit of melodic techno from the CLR legend.
By the time the night wraps up, Liebing feels like he’s just getting started. But with 7 hours of techno at a venue as large (and historic) as the Hollywood Palladium, Hawtin and crew have left an indelible mark on the Los Angeles electronic music community for years to come.