A Few Quiet Minutes with Motez
Making his way around the hotel he was taking up residence in, I began my chat with Australian EDM and dance music producer, Motez. Currently partway through his Australian tour, the Baghdad born, Australian-raised artist is making waves throughout Australia and the globe with his hit ‘The Future’. But even more specifically (and contextually), Motez was in a hotel elevator trying to make his way to his room, cutting out here and there, and he eventually reached a quiet spot in his room to resume our chat.
What are your roots, and what got you into producing your own music?
I am originally from Baghdad, Iraq. Born and bred in Baghdad, and I moved to Adelaide 11 years ago. And what made me do music? Well, I’ve always done music, but I started with a different kind of music — something more abstract and up temp. About 10 years ago, I moved firmly into dance music, with many influences like MJ Cole, Left Field, and Boards of Canada inspiring me to start making the kind of music that you hear today.
So, what were you making before?
Again, I would say mainly abstract, electronic, and downbeat kind of stuff — so if you think Jean Michelle Jarre or Angelis, or even Boards of Canada, that’s the kind of stuff that I used to do.
For your funky as hell single ‘The Future’, where did you draw inspiration from?
I think I drew my inspiration from the music I listened to when I was a lot younger. I used to listen to lots of blues, swing, jazz and a lot of 90’s RnB and East Coast hip hop. I think that’s where the sound generally comes from. A lot of instrumentation, a lot of soul, a kind of sensuality and a lot of groove, but still with an oomph to it, so it’s not airy-fairy sort of music, because that would have little purpose.
How were you feeling when the likes of BBC1, KCRW and Triple J took notice of your music and began supporting it?
It was good! It was really, really good. Well, you always set these goals in mind, not necessarily for radio play but from a greater perspective. For me, when I got there I was like ‘What’s next?’ rather than enjoying it and spending time pondering and reflecting on achieving the goal that I’d set. I'm always thinking more about the future though. It's always like: 'What’s next?', 'What can I do next?' and 'What can I do more of to get to other goals?' It’s like when you close one door, five other doors open up.
Where would you like to see your music progress to in the future? (No pun intended.)
(laughs) Ideally, I would like to keep experimenting with a broader range of music and not strictly dance music, but also make music with a purpose. At the same time, I'd love to keep making music that has a lot more musicality and instrumentation behind it, and have it be a lot more thought out. Say, songs that you can hear at a club, at a gig, on the radio, in your car; in general, music that can translate to a broader audience as opposed to strictly just a a club crowd.
You’ve mentioned 'music with a purpose' a couple times now, could you expand on that for me?
So, growing up listening to Jean Michelle Jarre, Angelis and Boards of Canada — where their music has a deep-seated purpose — you don’t just look at their music from a track perspective but as a whole body of work, what it provides, what the flow is and all of the ideas it encompasses. The concept of the music as a whole rather than just one isolated track, for me , signifies music with a purpose, and that’s hopefully what I’ll work on more in the future. I think music has to have a purpose rather than just being something catchy and flailing about.
With your music video for ‘The Future’, how long did it take for it to be produced? Along with that, what was it like to make?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t there on site for when they produced it. However, I knew Katzki through his work with RÜFÜS, because we share the same management and we’re also really good friends. I really enjoyed his work; he came with a lot of glow and recommendations from the RÜFÜS guys. When he told me this was going to be his vision of the song, which is what his own interpreation I thought it was really good idea if it were to get executed well. And that's exactly what he did! Seeing the final product for the first time was very visceral, because it was perfect and kept a lot of artistic integrity from the song. The artistic direction taken with the video was absolutely perfect for what I intended for the song.
So that wasn’t you dancing in there, was it?
No! (laughs) If you have a look at my photos, I look completely different.
I was going to ask you how long it took you to get those steps down! But it’s not you, so that’s fine then.
No, it’s definitely not me! (mumbled laughter)
What were your expectations before the tour?
We had this tour sorted out from every aspect — from all the the tour plans, to the message behind the song the tour itself was named after. We had the whole live set up: keyboards, playing them up there, making edits for them (that you can’t hear anywhere else), and the light show itself, which was absolutely incredible. It was designed by a local Adelaide company that we were touring with. So in short, every aspect of the tour was really well thought-out and really well designed. I just knew that the gigs were going to be great, from start to finish. Having absolutely amazing support acts, like Micky Kojack and Tigerilla, complements the show really well. So far, they have been the perfect start to each show.
Last but not least, how do you go about translating your music to a live setting?
It wasn’t easy, to be honest, because I needed to make sure. Ideally you need to have a show with a flow, an intro, a body, an outro, a conclusion — and on top of that, needed to make that the most amount of my own work as possible and I was very happy I was able to do it, so 60%-70% of the show was all me, with edits that I made specifically for different parts of the set, making sure there was a live element, so the live keys, and at the same time we sat down with the lighting engineer that we’re touring with, making sure that the light show translated along with the music, the start, the middle then to the end. These things aren’t easy and it takes a long time for these things to be ironed out, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s a matter of thinking about what you would want from your show as a whole, and looking at your music library and the pool of tracks that you’re going to use and slot them in where you think they’re going to work.
So really good song selection of sorts?
Yeah true — but not just song selection, but songs that are suitable to particular moments of the set. I’ve been lucky enough to have a relatively big body of work so I can choose from different tracks in my library and slot them in, but I need to edit them in a way that would, as I said, suit the particular moment of each set.
To wrap up, thanks so much for the chat!