Richie Hawtin and Loco Dice take CNTRL of EDM
With a cross-country lecture and concert tour, two of techno’s brightest expand the definition of EDM.
If this summer was the season of EDM’s national rise, with flashy weekend-long day raves like Spring Awakening, then this fall is the time when electronic music’s more seasoned establishments bring some context back to the scene. On Halloween, the Congress Theater hosted Sónar on Tour, a traveling version of Barcelona’s forward-thinking electronic festival, the purpose of which was to add some variety to EDM stateside. Now, with CNTRL: Beyond EDM, a college campus lecture and concert series that touches down for talks at Columbia College and an after-party at Metro on Friday 16, a handful of the scene’s most respected names add their insights to the conversation.
Subtitled “Discovering electronic and techno(logy)-based music,” CNTRL is the passion project of Richie Hawtin, 42, a formidable English-Canadian techno mind who’s helped define the genre across his 25-year career, and Loco Dice, 38, a defiantly individualistic tastemaker from Germany. “We’ve spent time coming to America and playing nightclubs,” Hawtin says on the phone from a tour stop in Philly. “But by putting in this lecture component, we’re really trying to reach out in different ways, to bring people to us and then allow us to do what we do best. It just resonated that we both wanted to see this market grow for our type of sound.”
Everyone involved in the tour—which includes Hawtin’s label mate Gaiser and a number of influential artists specially selected for each tour stop based on their connection to the local scene—feels a deep excitement for EDM’s rise, but Hawtin points out that it has its downsides too. “The actual definition of electronic music has been tightened up considerably and this whole EDM brand is really only talking about a very small section of what we believe is a very rich and diverse genre,” he says.
Balancing their roles as cultural thinkers, music makers, label owners and scene veterans, Hawtin and his tour mates are specifically targeting a millennial generation of fans, hitting campuses nationwide to spark a greater dialogue about music that goes beyond Skrillex and deadmau5. The talks cover DJ skills, the difference between a producer and a traditional musician, the ins and outs of business and networking and, naturally, harnessing technology.
“We’re trying to demonstrate that there’s no right or wrong way to perform,” Hawtin, who’s always been at the fore of electronic-music technology, says. “You have to not get too intertwined with what you’re using or how you’re using it. You have to get to a point where all that equipment disappears and you’re just performing as fluidly as possible.”
Given that audiences for both the lectures and the parties are largely new fans of the music and just as new to making it, the CNTRL principals are also trying to establish some continuity between the music’s history and its prominence today—without making it seem like a stodgy history lesson. “We just want to give them these historical references, and send them home feeling inspired so that they’ll find their own time to take steps to dig deeper,” Hawtin explains.
Pausing for a second, he sums up CNTRL’s mission in a neat analogy. “This new generation is in this massive cave of electronic music and they’re in a dark corner with just a match and don’t know how wide and varied and diverse this cavern is,” he says. “We’re giving them a larger flashlight so they can see that it goes much further than they actually imagine, giving them the tools so they can go and start exploring this cavern each in their own unique way.”
The CNTRL: Beyond EDM tour stops at both Columbia College and Metro on Friday 16.