At The New School, the daytime schedule culminated in a panel featuring Hawtin alongside New York club icon François K, Minus recruit Nsound and relative newcomer Dantiez Saunderson. DJTechTools founder Ean Golden led the conversation as moderator. Over two hours, the discussion covered everything from the minutiae of studio techniques to the isolation of the touring life.
The dynamic onstage made for a compelling session. Hawtin held the focus of the room each time he leaned into the microphone, while François K brought a sly mix of wisdom and humor. On either side of the electronic music veterans, Nsound and Dantiez Saunderson listened intently and occasionally weighed in with clear, practical advice. (Dantiez’s father, Detroit techno original Kevin Saunderson, was watching from the auditorium seats.) Listening back to our recording of the CNTRL New York session, these six quotes stood out.
François K on his music-making philosophy: “There’s something cool I keep in mind whenever I do music. Miles Davis just simply said, ‘Do not fear mistakes – there are none.’ I think that’s very profound, because in a way it points towards the idea that in whatever you do, you can’t hold yourself back from trying to express what’s really your inspiration. I hope that taken in a more general context, it can apply to anybody…
Second-guessing is all too easy when we use computers and can endlessly edit, tweak and change. It’s possible to get lost in that tweaking and lose focus on the original idea. It’s more about using the computer as a tool to illustrate the inspiration that first came.”
Richie Hawtin on capturing a vibe in the studio: “If I’m going in for a big session in the studio, I’ll clean the whole studio up first. I never really record anything good when it’s clean, but I have to do that at the beginning.
As things begin to warm up, it starts to get messy and I get loose and comfortable. Then things happen. If you grab it, you need to go with it as long as possible. You’re breaking dinner dates, you’re not calling people back; you disappear for a couple of days.
If you don’t grab it, it may not come back for another day – or another year, honestly. There’s been times where I didn’t record anything I liked for a year, and then when I did the firstPlastikman album, I started and 22 hours later the album was done. It was easy, but it wasn’t easy waiting for that moment, playing around, stressing myself out with everything sounding shit and the same.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the actual act of creation should be easy; should be nearly painless. It’s all the time and prep waiting for the moment that’s the struggle.”
Dantiez Saunderson’s simple advice for producers: “Basically less is more with everything. You have to limit yourself – if you have too much low-end, too many hats, too many toms, in the end it’s going to make it all muddy. Take all the garbage out.”
Richie Hawtin on a ‘less is more’ studio set-up: “We were on tour the last few days withMatthew Dear. He just recently had to move his house, and he had spent months and lots of money on a beautiful high-end studio with every toy he ever wanted.
He had to suddenly move and pack up everything, and during that move he grabbed a few pieces of equipment – just three or four – and started making tracks as fast and inspired as he used to. He said he’s been making the best techno he’s done in the last ten years.”
Nsound breaking it down to three key tips: “For the aspiring artists, three tips that work for me are: be honest with what you make; invest time and money in equipment; and be patient. This is a difficult thing so it takes time.”
Richie Hawtin on his not-so-regular life: “20 years ago, the scene was smaller. Promoters were just fans. They didn’t know how they going to pay you, probably. It was in a way a different world.
One of the things I think is hard about traveling is being away for a week or two, and you feel disconnected from your friends or your family. They’ve had all these experiences, and you’re coming back talking about this after-party where a DJ played this record on top of this…and they’re all looking at you like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ So it’s very easy to get disconnected and lose relationships. In that way, it’s hard. I jump in and out of people’s lives.
But you know – the reason that this whole electronic music scene is huge right now isn’t because of EDM. It’s been 30 years of an incredible network of music lovers who became promoters or booking agents, picking people up at airports and taking them to dinners where no one speaks the same language, then going to the club and listening to music together. That’s the foundation we’re living on now, and that’s incredible.”
The CNTRL tour continues this weekend, with stops in San Francisco and LA. Find out more at the official website.