Hawtin was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England, but moved when he was aged nine to LaSalle, Ontario, a suburb of Windsor, Ontario, and just across the river from Detroit, the birthplace of techno. His father worked as a robotics technician at General Motors, and was a fan of electronic music, introducing his son to Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream at an early age. He has one brother, Matthew, who is a visual artist and ambient music DJ. Hawtin attended Sandwich Secondary High School in LaSalle. He began to DJ in clubs in Detroit at 17, and his early style was a mix of house music and techno.
With Canadian DJ John Acquaviva he formed the label Plus 8 in 1990 to release his own tracks under the name F.U.S.E. He spent part of 2002 and 2003 living in New York City, and has since moved to Berlin, Germany. He said, “I’d always wanted to move to Europe. I needed somewhere that was inspiring and where there were like-minded musicians and artists, somewhere you could still experiment with music and with life. Berlin is so liberal in so many different ways; there’s an amazing club scene, there’s a great development software tech scene, there are so many resources here.”