Pro Techniques  
Pro Techniques with Richie Hawtin
By Randy Alberts


“Most of my work has been about the interaction of small sounds, frequencies, and the space around those sounds,” says DJ, musician, producer, remixer, and surround mixer Richie Hawtin (who also has recorded under pseudonyms like Plastikman and F.U.S.E.). “Most people to describe my music as minimal. Having this newfound space to work within allows me to conceptualize and create in a far more architectural way. It allows me more depth, definition, room, placement — and displacement — of sound.”

The new space Hawtin refers to — surround sound — is an organic entity that affects his approach to producing, mixing, and even composing his unique music. “Recording DE9: Transitions really changed my way of thinking,” says Hawtin. “Instead of doing the normal mix in stereo and then ‘remixing’ that into surround later, I took the opposite approach: I chose to work with surround from the beginning of the creative process, from the ground up. From the beginning, I was thinking only about how this record would sound in surround. It gave me much more room to think about how all my long and short samples would come together to fill the void — that void of space we all start with when working with sound.”

DE9: Transitions is the third leg of his DE9 electronic minimal acid techno club triptych that began in 1998 with Decks, Efx & 909 [DE9]. According to Hawtin, the Transitions CD/DVD will allow listeners to transition from his earliest work, produced 17 years ago in southern Ontario, Canada, to his latest adventures in “minimal surround.”

“Throughout life we all develop through stages of transitions,” Hawtin explains. “We go from one key moment to the next, and many times these transitions move freely from one into the next without us ever realizing the importance of them until later on in life. I wanted to have the Transitions surround composition and mix flow smoothly through a number of ideas, tracks, and moods — and only in retrospect have the listener realize the journey they’ve just experienced. That also builds upon the idea of what the DJ has become known for over the past decade: An artist who incorporates new and pre-existing compositions, sometimes of his or her own creation but many times by others, into a mix where a beginning and/or an end is really hard to grasp.

“In recording the new DE9: Transitions album, most of the pre-arrangement and basic structure of the mix was first tested and laid out in Ableton Live, then piped into Pro Tools via ReWire,” says Hawtin. “The integration of these two programs made for a seamless link allowing the best parts of each program to be used — Live for its spontaneity, and Pro Tools for its effects power and its depth in creating, building, and handling thousands of samples at a time.”

Beta Plastik, Man
Hawtin, a longtime Pro Tools user who was part of the earliest Pro Tools 7 beta team, is pleased with the release. “I did some testing on Pro Tools 7, and I can say there are some really amazing features to be very excited about,” he says. “The restructuring of the MIDI tracks allows easier integration of MIDI and Audio tracks — I’m a huge MIDI user. And keeping the sessions more organized and smaller is a blessing for me, as well.

“Anyone copying and pasting
audio in Pro Tools 7
should definitely check
out the new
Region Looping function.”
“The real-time MIDI functions available on each MIDI track will also be very important to my projects,” continues Hawtin. “I work in a very real-time way, trying out subtle new note shifts, transpositions, and such as I go, in real time. As my pieces are playing, I’m experimenting and testing other possibilities all the time. Pro Tools 7 allows me to do this more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Now I can stay longer in the creative process, and less in the testing and tech setup stages.”

For Hawtin, the addition of Instrument tracks, enhanced groove quantization, and a range of other new features in Pro Tools 7 will help his creative process. (See this issue’s special feature for more on Hawtin’s impressions of Pro Tools 7 software.) But it seems Pro Tools 7’s new looping capabilities and user-customizable Zoom Toggle navigation settings have really captured his imagination. He plans to use these features extensively in composition, performance, editing, signal processing, and surround mixing.

Pro Technique 1 — Looping individual song sections with Pro Tools 7

“The DE9 series are each made up of many repetitive sections that have only slight fluctuations in sound and settings,” says Hawtin. “For this, the new loop options in Pro Tools 7 are great, because I can work on a session like Transitions much more quickly and still be able to grab, loop, copy, and move only certain sections. This allows me to test, experiment, and construct much more fluidly.”

Hawtin explains that anyone copying and pasting audio in Pro Tools 7 should definitely check out the new Region Loop function. He says he is often working on a project where he needs to fill in a specific gap — or rather, “a space/silence in between two sections of the mix,” as he puts it. The new loop function allows him to do that by quickly selecting a region in his track, then taking everything from there.

“Just go to the ‘Region’ menu and down to ‘Loop,’ and a window will come up and ask you how you want to loop the region,” Hawtin says. “You’ll have a number of choices allowing you to specify a certain amount of loops, a certain total time that the loop should continue to, or my favorite, to loop the space until the next region starts! This is a great and easy way to fill those ‘holes’ and spaces in your mix with elements that you know already work. Another great thing about the new Loop feature is that, if you then need to create a fade or slightly edit the length of the entire loop region, you can just do that in the normal manner. Now there’s no need to consolidate the area or anything like that. I mean, wow — before you can even think about it, you're already done and onto the next important section of your mix.”

Pro Technique 2 — Creating and using your own navigation/zoom settings in Pro Tools 7
Hawtin also likes the new navigational/zoom functions in Pro Tools 7 that allow him to quickly jump back and forth between certain zoom settings. He reiterates just how perfect this new feature is for people jumping in and out of organization and micro-editing tasks all day long, and then back to MIDI editing.

“It’s a timesaver, and a creativity saver,” he says. “The best way to use the new Zoom Toggle feature in Pro Tools 7 is to first work on one section of your project, say either the audio, or the MIDI, in your Edit window. Once you have found the best settings for your track height, grid type, horizontal zoom, and individual track display mode settings, press the Zoom Toggle button, and those settings are saved.

“Whenever you need to switch back to your other view, just hit the Zoom Toggle button and return back to the old settings,” he concludes. “You can press it once more to come right back, too. This is a very quick and easy way to work efficiently between two specific tasks. I use it all the time to quickly switch between my MIDI view editing and my audio editing environments.”