British-Canadian DJ Richie Hawtin put out the Close Combined live album in September and, as the title suggests, it combines three shows recorded in Glasgow, London and Tokyo on his Close tour. The next step is the unleashing of the Closer app, which intentionally brings further transparency to the DJing art form. We spoke to Hawtin about all of this and his forthcoming L.A. set…
L.A. WEEKLY: Close Combined came out in Sept — why did you choose those three shows to combine?
RICHIE HAWTIN: Honestly it was really random or luck of the draw. I had been attempting to make a record or release like Close Combined for over five years —recording a lot of shows and testing different technologies, and when I was doing this tour in London, Glasgow, Paris, New York and Tokyo last year, it all just came into alignment. There was enough music that was different, there were enough crossover points, and we actually got really good recordings from them. Sometimes one of the recorders would fail, or we’ve had great shows where technical problems didn’t allow us to get all the audio or video recording. You just have to imagine that, to capture a Close show, there were about 12 different video recordings with backups, and there were about 40 channels of audio because everything was separated. If too many of those things didn’t get captured, we weren’t able to actually reconstruct the show. So again, it was planned and we kept recording. Really by luck, we had four or five incredible shows and all the recordings were there. Imagine trying to stitch shows together — even if you have the recordings it’s complicated. But I sat down with the specific shows and they kinda melted together relatively easily.
Tell us about the new Close app…
Again, the idea for the release and app have been percolating for years. Some of the ideas just weren’t possible because of technical limitations — phone size, speeds of internet, blah blah blah. But at the core, the Close app and project are my way of allowing people to get closer to what I do, to hopefully give people more information and understanding of how far you can take the skill or concept of DJing. I really believe that we’re in a place now 30 years later in my career, where finally people understand that DJing is an art form and there’s a lot of creativity behind it. But I don’t know if they understand how far you can push that. Now, everyone knows that a DJ is an artist but the definition is pretty limiting. I wanted to demonstrate what I do, and bring more awareness and transparency to the whole art form.
How can the definition of DJing be broadened then?
There are misunderstandings and misconceptions, or maybe in some cases true understanding, about how some artists are getting up on stage and really not doing much more than being a jukebox — playing one track after another. I want to fight against those type of artists and that definition by allowing people to deconstruct my mix. Understand that there are different components combining to create a new moment. The true art of DJing, I think, is to put music together in your own personal way, that transcends and becomes something more than just the tracks that you’re playing. In a way, it’s about the music you play and it’s about those artists who you’re featuring but the challenge is to also add yourself into that mix and create something that is more than the sum of its parts. That’s what has always inspired me about the idea of DJing, and actually when you think of the definition of DJing, it’s even more spontaneous and improvisational than most live performances out there. Bands get up there, and of course there’s somebody playing the guitar and hitting the drums, and many great artists are doing that, but most concerts are pretty much predetermined. They know what songs they’re going to play and in what order. The visuals are synced up. All these decisions are made at a board meeting before they get on stage. DJing at its best, and what Close tries to hold onto even as it becomes more of a show with visuals and everything, is that spontaneity. As a DJ you’re up there and you’re like, ‘What should I play next? What’s the hottest record? What’s brand new or what’s a classic?’ Really having so many ways you can go at any one point, and building that tapestry lie in front of people. I think it’s a wonderful, incredible skill and craft, and I would love people to be able to appreciate it as much as possible.
How will all of that translate into the L.A. set?
The L.A. set will be different than Close Combined because that was based on records I was playing a year ago. I doubt you’ll hear anything that was on that release. But the set right now is tough. I’m inspired by fast, strong techno. I’ve added some new effect machines, so don’t expect a normal Rich DJ set. With my machines, and in that context, I feel I can push the envelope in intensity and speed, and contrast, much more than I usually do in a regular DJ set.
Richie Hawtin plays with Joseph Capriati, Corey Sizemore and Richie Panic at 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 23 at the Hollywood Palladium.