This month sees Richie Hawtin and the M-nus crew bring their Contakt show to London, showcasing a potentially paradigm-shifting approach to live electronic performance. The techno legend you love to hate explains…
Why ‘Contakt’ and why now?
“One of the things that I think has brought success to M-nus is collaboration and connection between the artists on the label. We wanted to involve the audience more: to use technology to hopefully connect us all in ways that haven’t been possible before. That was the idea of the name Contakt – to make a better contact between everyone in the venue.”
What form does this “contact” take?
“There’s a number of levels of interaction. Because we’re all playing together, we’re using a centralized mixing console, sending a lot of the information that we’re creating to our video guy, and he’s using some of that to manipulate images and actually show read-outs on the screen – so an audience member can get a visual feedback of what’s happening on stage.
“We also decided to create wireless networks which people can connect to with their mobile phones in order to access some of the information that we performers are sharing among ourselves. People can download audio, and they can actually upload it to us on stage; they can also peer into what’s happening with special cameras. If you sign up for Contakt membership beforehand at m-nus.com, you’ll actually get updates sent by us directly to your mobile phone.”
Is it fair to say that the live arena is your primary creative outlet right now?
“I think more and more that the live arena is where the excitement and the new ideas spring forth. I mean, who’s a producer now? Who’s a recording artist? Who’s a DJ? Everybody! All these lines have been blurred. We want to take that one step further and blur the line between audience and performer, and get to a point where information is flowing to us as we’re performing. I might get a track sent to me a couple of hours before a gig and decide to play it that night. But why can’t that happen as I’m playing? OK, you need higher bandwidth and a couple of other things in place, but we’re trying to put at least a small network inside the venue so that these things can begin to happen, and promote the idea. We’re aiming for a mass experience, a mass feedback loop. For me that’s more exciting than being in the studio playing with the same technology that everybody else has access to.”
Do you ever worry that people might take M-nus’s sci-fi theatricality a little seriously?
“People definitely take us way too seriously. From the beginning, flowing even from the early Plus8 days, there was always, hopefully, a humour to what we do.”
“Contakt is definitely my main concern at the moment – there are a lot of shows coming up. It’s a big R&D period for us right now. At the end of the year, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked will help define the next Hawtin shows, the next Plastikman album, the next M-nus direction. So it’s exciting and frustrating at the same time – because we really need to get through the next few months to know which of the possible directions is the right one.”