If you scratch just past the surface, it’s true that most of the artists on the bill at Coachella are there to promote something -- an album, an upcoming tour, a reunion show. But Richie Hawtin, the techno DJ, may have the most interesting promotional story on the field: as well as debuting a new show, “CLOSE: Spontaneity and Synchronicity,” he’s the founder of ENTER.Sake, a high-end line of the Japanese rice wine that’s made its debut at a North American festival via a stand in the VIP Rose Garden this year.
Hawtin’s love for sake runs in tandem with his love for Japan overall. “I ate and drank my way through Japan over about 10 years doing gigs,” Hawtin says in his trailer backstage. “If you called me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to come to Japan,’ I said ‘OK, yeah!’ When I landed, I was like, ‘What do you mean it’s only for 50 people?’” While there, Hawtin realized that sake was a sort of lifeblood during his gigs. “It's something that [when I’m drinking it] I can play two, three, four, eight, 10, 12, 24 hours,” he says. “I don't know if it's the amino acids -- there's lots of different theory here -- but the frequency that it vibrates at, it's perfectly in sync with pure, great electronic music.”
Hawtin’s take on the sake brand is running it like an old-school record label -- signing distributors to make content specifically for the brand sometimes, and white-labeling other sakes as if they’re indie releases picked up by a major. “It's interesting because the whole music world, since I started in 1989, has become digital,” Hawtin says. “I went from a world of making records and distributing them and physical sales and now I've kind of gone back to that.”