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by Andrew Duke
San Francisco-based artist Shawn Hatfield--better known to electronic music fans as Twerk—has been deservedly reeling in much praise for his Spring-released “Humantics” full-length on Germany’s Force Inc imprint. Like fellow Californians Kit Clayton and Sutekh, Twerk’s sound is an aural collision of digital detail and almost-organic atmospherics.
Despite a list of quality techno releases on labels for labels both foreign—Planet Rhythm and Template—and domestic—including Cytrax, Delay, Resource, Context, and Belief Systems--Hatfield might have ended up producing hip hop instead. “I had been into hip hop for a long time and it was kind of a fluke that I even got exposed to techno,” Hatfield remembers. “A friend of mine, Caesar Alcantar, moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles, where he had been playing techno with friends of his. I had been going to raves around here, but wasn’t that into the music, it was more just to hang out with friends. Sometime around 1992 Caesar played me some of his acid and techno records, stuff like Damon Wild, Steve Stoll, and Mike Dearborn, and—wow—it just clicked with me.” And the appeal of this new thing called techno? “It was hearing sounds that I hadn’t heard before, things that were totally unfamiliar to me.”
September of 1997 saw Hatfield move from simply listening to the music to recording his own compositions. “I’ve always had my hand in something creative, always trying to produce something artistically, and had been doing visual art since 1988,” Hatfield explains. “ So I shifted from that into audible art. It just seemed natural to move into music production; I was still being expressive, just in a different medium.”
And he dove into that new medium with much frenzied productivity. “It was a total learning process when I started. I was making like ten tracks a day, just banging them out one after another, thinking ‘let me try this, let me try that’. None of that material was used for anything, nor should it have been, but it was important messing about.” Three months after he started recording, he debuted on local label Organised Noise.
Though he started out with an analog-based studio, Hatfield has moved into the digital realm. “I had been collecting analog gear and I had acquired quite a bit of kit. I had so many drum machines in here,” Hatfield laughs, “it was getting ridiculous. But though I had a nice analog studio, I was getting to the point where I was exhausting what I was getting out of the equipment. Around the same time, I was hearing records with sounds that I couldn’t possibly make on the equipment I had, sounds that couldn’t be squeezed out of the boxes, so I knew there had to be something else going on. I got a computer to use digital editing as a new way to create sounds.” Soon thereafter Hatfield moved totally into making his music digitally. “Within months I had the computer filled with software and I had pretty much jumped head-in by early 1999.”
Hatfield’s goal in producing techno remains the same as what he looked for when he was a listener. “To me, techno is about new music and new sounds that are always moving forward. Things that you hear that are strange; that’s what techno has meant to me, and it still does.”