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Richie Hawtin: "Not being allowed in the United States felt like my career was over"

The techno pioneer opens up to BBC

  • Louis Anderson-Rich
  • 5 July 2017

As one of techno’s most successful figures, it’s hard to imagine a time when Richie Hawtin’s career was in doubt.

Following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terrorist attack that killed 168 people, Hawtin wasn’t allowed into the United States, a place he had made his musical home for a year-and-a-half.

Speaking to BBC World Service, the Canadian artist said: “The day after [the Oklahoma Bombing] I had a gig in New York which was supposed to be a pivotal point, it was the first Plastikman live show of New York.

“I crossed the border that day, my brother and I were both skinheads. We had a huge trunk full of equipment and they were like ‘no, pull over’ and asked what we were doing. I didn’t have working papers for the States then. I didn’t have anything I was supposed to.”

Hawtin said he and his brother, Matthew, tried claiming they were just going to a friend’s house to record, but the authorities weren’t having any of it.

“I remember going home after being in detention for six or seven hours and just crumbling on my mum and dad’s floor because it was like my career was over. My girlfriend was living in Detroit, all the parties we were doing were in Detroit [it was] everything that Plastikman had become. It was like cutting the umbilical cord. It changed everything for me.”

Luckily, Hawtin still had his passport and was able to take opportunities in Europe that would eventually propel him to the big time. He also said the time away from the States helped him hone his craft in the studio.

In the short piece, Hawtin also talks about his introduction to Detroit techno, being an "oddball" in Canada and his early parties. Listen to it in full here and check out 10 iconic Richie Hawtin moments here.

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