Q&A: Green DJ Richie Hawtin

| 23rd June 2011
Richie Hawtin DJ
From dispensing with plastic CD cases to finding creative ways to reduce his carbon footprint, Richie Hawtin is blazing a green trail in the music industry. Victoria Aitken caught up with him for a chat

Richie Hawtin, better known as DJ Richie, isn’t just a talented performer. He’s also the world’s first ‘green DJ’ and one of the few making a real effort to reduce the impact that a nomadic life and clubland existence has on the planet. From the impact of powering disco lights to the enormous amount of air miles clocked up by DJs, the party business is one of the least planet friendly industries in the world. But thanks to his groundbreaking talk at this year’s International Music Summit [the annual conference which brings together some of the biggest names on the clubbing circuit] entitled ‘Everything’s Gone Green: A New Mandate for the Touring DJ,’ things are looking up for eco-conscious music lovers. Victoria Aitken caught up with him to find out more.

VA: It was great to meet you briefly at the IMS [International Music Summit] in Ibiza. So, Richie, where did your interest in the environment come from?
‘My brother was doing a masters in Environmental Studies at Surrey University, and around the same time I found out that I was going to be a father. It was at that moment that I started to think about the future generations and about my impact on the world. I started to think about the flying I was doing, I started to read the various papers that were written [about the environment] and I started to look at what I could do as a Dj to lower my carbon footprint on the world.’
VA: What sort of things do you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
‘I’ve taken a number of steps, including moving my record company away from producing jewel cases [the hard plastic cases for CDs]. Some of the artists we sign do complain about it as they like to have the booklets that come out with jewel cases, but if we do use paper, it is always Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] certified, which means the paper comes from sustainable sources.’
VA: Isn’t that a lot of extra effort?
‘Yes but it’s worth it, although not everyone likes it. We had one store call us and tell us to send them jewel cased CDs as they only stocked jewel cases. We said to them: “no we’re not going to change our whole policy; come back when you change your rules.”’

VA: Your music has no vocals, but while music can be very political: if you can’t send a message through lyrics, how can you use it to influence others?
‘Well I’m interested in music and technology as well as the future and sustainability, so it’s all integrated in the music. In a way, my music is about escaping the world that surrounds us and having no consciousness of it. But unconsiciousness of the planet means your actions can have repercussions for the world we live in and its future.  The message is that by paying attention to your actions, by making them more environmentally friendly, we can all continue to flourish and escape into music. I don’t shove my message down people’s throats - I just try and raise awareness by giving talks such as the one at the IMS, and by living in a green way myself.’
VA: You live in Berlin, which is considered to be, along with Copenhagen, one of Europe’s greenest cities. Do you think living there has made a difference to your thinking?
RH: ‘Perhaps. People seem to have a good life here; it’s a sociable place and very liveable. I’m originally from Detroit, which is the car capital of the world. Berlin is full of grass, and people always seem to ride bicycles. What’s interesting is that the Germans are very open to green ideas and projects, for example Berlin-based banks tend to be open to funding solar or wind projects, while many other European banks avoid them.’

Photos: Riva Sayegh Photography

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