Playing differently: Richie Hawtin and his DJ super-team - Cover stars - Mixmag
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Playing differently: Richie Hawtin and his DJ super-team

We rounded them up at the Amsterdam Dance Event to talk tech, techno and taking performance to the next level

  • Words: Dave Jenkins | Photography: Stephanie Pistel | Hair & make-up: Anita Jolles
  • 24 November 2016
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Very few DJs have come through in the last decade without the profile of productions. Fewer have come through as vinyl-only. These are just two factors that ensure Hito’s unique status. Her philosophical perspective makes three…

“I’m always asked, ‘Why do I do this?’” she says. “I ask myself this question, too,” she considers. “I’ve tried Traktor and USBs but I don’t feel Hito. I think it’s about the way I deliver the message to people. It feels the most natural. It’s continuous in everything I do.”

Hito didn’t choose vinyl, it chose her. And its trappings and triumphs have influenced her ever since. Her selection is more creative as the limitation of tracks available on vinyl means she will draw deep for classic tracks to join the dots. The physical challenge of mixing records that can’t be manipulated digitally is also something she embraces.

“I love the thrill and the risk,” the Japanese-born, Berlin-based DJ admits. “Vinyl has an end. There’s no loop unless you use machines. You have to mix by the rules of the record. I chase those thrilling moments from one track to the other. Sometimes I have a bad day and do a lot of bad beat-matching. Other times I have a perfect day and the mixing is so good. Like good weather and bad weather.”

Her creative philosophy is backed up by fastidious technical aptitude, one that saw her travel back to Tokyo to study deck mechanics and the long-lost art of turntable TLC. “My tour manager and I went to Japan and studied with my master DJ Ko Kimura,” she says, alluding to another thing that makes her unique: she acknowledges the place in DJ craft for master roles.

“He’s like Tokyo’s Frankie Knuckles or David Morales. He’s also a talented mechanic. He can fix cars, speakers, headphones and of course turntables. We learned a lot from Ko. How to set up in different scenarios, how to avoid vibrations, faulty cabling, bad needles, setting the level of the needle. It’s very important. Knowing how heavy the weight should be calibrated in different environments. Detailed technical facts.”

It’s this precision balance of philosophy and technicality, deliberation and detail, that make Hito a perfect fit for Richie Hawtin’s ENTER. concept – although their first connection when they met in Berlin in 2008 wasn’t through music or technology at all.

“At the beginning we were studying sake. That was our connection, not music,” she recalls. “We were playing very different music. Then in 2012 when ENTER.Sake began he called me up and I guess he was positively surprised, so kept inviting me back.”

In a sea of egos, humility is the fifth factor that gives Hito a refreshing edge. Her role as a MODEL 1 ambassador is equally unique. A member of a crack team of DJs who embrace the widest spectrum of technology in their own unique combinations, Hito plays the concept of PLAYdifferently in a different way…

“A mixer is a musical instrument,” says Hito. “To use a mixer is to perform. The better the instrument, the more you will push the sound. With the MODEL 1 you get into the details of the frequencies; it’s not just high-mids-low, the sounds are more crafted. You can feel the frequencies in the mix. It’s completely changed how I feel and see the sound.”

Hito first felt this change when she debuted on the mixer after just two hours of practice (or “study”, as she calls it) at the PLAYdifferently HQ. She then DJed on it at one of techno’s most illustrious and respected venues: Frankfurt’s Robert Johnson.

“Everyone could see it, it’s a scary memory to this day!” she laughs. “But the scariest day was the live-streamed show that launched the mixer. The world was watching. Now I can laugh. But I have never had such a scary experience. But that’s the risk all DJs should embrace: trying something new and pushing yourself.”

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