Wired News has a real good interview with techno DJ Richie Hawtin that’s worth checking out. Hawtin has been at the forefront of the digital DJ thing since its inception, and his insights on where DJing has been and where it’s going is dead on.
WN: In a club, it’s not very interesting watching a DJ play from a laptop. [Yowch! -ed.] Is that why you customized the mixing desk, to add movement to your performance?
Hawtin: Yes. The turntable is interesting because it offers a mechanical way to interact with prerecorded music, and I’m looking at where that is going to go next. I think that’s what everyone’s searching for now: What is the next interface?
All the technologies you’re seeing now … DJs are scratching a record, or moving a dial, or working a keyboard on a computer. We really haven’t moved beyond these interfaces we’ve been using for so long. So I really think there’s a huge search for new ways to take our human movements, our physicality, and transferring that into the computer in different ways.
I’ve seen people with balls and all these weird things — sensors taking X and Y axes from your movements, and power gloves. I’ve been experimenting with motion-to-MIDI and motion sensors. The biggest experiment for me in the last six months is the modification of the mixer, which is still based on fairly typical ways of interfacing….
There’s a human interaction there…. It’s interesting to us as performers; it’s also interesting to the people watching. Sitting behind a laptop, even if the music sounds amazing, after a little while, it gets boring. That’s why people love going to see a rock band. They see the guy hitting a drum and that creates a sound … and that’s what’s happened with the DJ in the last 10 years. They see the DJ move his hand, scratching a record, making some tweaks, and once you have this feedback loop, there’s this understanding in the audience what manipulations are causing what sounds; some kind of energy is created.