Motez – One of 2014’s Rising Stars

What’s a bit of healthy competition among colleagues and peers? Or perhaps, what’s a bit of tactical playing to take your main rival out? All will be revealed when some of the Australian Dance Music Industry’s top dogs take to the soccer field to verse each other, all in the name of charity!
16 premier music industry teams are competing for a whopping $12,000 in prize money for their chosen charities, with notable teams in the running from Future Classic, Sweat It Out!, MTV, and many, many more! A string of notable DJs have also been locked down for kick-ons (yeah, I said it) including Indian Summer, Bag Raiders, Yolanda Be Cool, Akouo, Yahtzel [DJ Set], and the legends at Motorik Vibe Council.
So yeah, it’s gonna be one hell of a night! We got the chance to speak to one of 2014’s most prominent breakthrough artists, and member of the Sweat It Out! team, Adelaide-via-Bagdhad’s all round nice guy Motez ahead of the big game. Going from strength to strength, Motez is a serious force to be reckoned with in dance music on a national and international stage. Huge tour schedules, a flawless Splendour In The Grass set and some dates over in the US – who knows what will happen next from this groove house enthusiast. All we know is, we can’t wait for what’s still to come!

First of all, I have to say, congratulations! I saw you at Oh Hello last year because my friend told me about you, and then suddenly what seemed over night, you’re everywhere! What are some of the highlights for you?

For the whole year?! I would say Splendour In The Grass. That was absolutely crazy. I played in front of about 8 or 9000 people and it was perfect. It was really, really good.

Yeah I was one of them! It was awesome, and definitely one of my favourites!

Oh thank you! It was a bit of a challenge, because I played two sets. The first one was challenging because I played after Hot Dub [Time Machine], and he just smashed it, but no one there really wanted to follow that with groovy house! *laughs* But the second one was perfect. I played after Metronomy and before RUFUS, who are my mates. So they were all there and it was just so much fun!

That’s awesome. Let’s talk about your live show; how does it differ from playing at a small club like Flinders Social in Townsville to Splendour In The Grass?

Well they’re both DJ sets, but it just depends on the room. Smaller rooms like Flinders Social or Oh Hello! – I play more intimate shows because they’re smaller rooms. But then Splendour has a massive stage and more people, so I play “bigger” music I guess? Bigger sounding tracks – big build ups, big drops. It can be a bit of a challenge finding where it fits.

Let’s get a bit of background now, did you grow up listening to dance music? When did this passion begin – were you DJing and producing in Iraq?

No, of course there is no DJing in Iraq. There is so much happening there that limits any kind of creativity, but I grew up listening to electronic music in general, like a lot of pop. My dad had some influence on me there. I think I started listening to dance music relatively recently. Not recent, but not straight away!

So when did it click like, “Yep, this is what I want to do?” Or was it just coincidental?

Oh I’ve always wanted to make electronic music in general, whether it’s dance music or non-dance music. I’ve always found myself gravitating towards that stuff; not necessarily dance music like four-to-the-floor kind of tunes, but electronic music in general recently in the last six months. I’ve been making a lot music that varies from house music down to even hip hop, and two-step. Hopefully you guys will hear all of that in the next year!

Your collection of remixes are quite broad in artists – what draws you to remixing a song?

Well, generally speaking, they usual contact us – my manager and myself. I’ll listen to the track and see if there is some sort of a hook or… The problem now days with a lot of releases that you hear is the lead track sounds pretty much the same as all the remixes. We usually ask them who else is remixing, and what kind of stuff they want to have on the release so every track on the release will stand out. I’ll find something on there, whether it’s the vocal or a sample or anything, and I work from there. If the track is happy, I’ll make it darker, and vice versa!

What about remixes like the Ellie Goulding one and the Iggy Azalea one?

No, the Iggy Azalea one is actually a bootleg! Same with the Sage The Gemini one. I just released them for free. The Iggy Azalea one is like an ode to the artists making it in the US, and I made sure I released it prior to my US tour. Ellie Goulding was an official remix though, they approached us because it’s part of a movie! Divergent I think it’s called… Her voice is absolutely amazing and really, really interesting, so it was a no brainer!

When listening to your SoundCloud, there are so many different genres in your releases – is this a conscious decision to not stick to one genre, or does it just come down to what you’re listening to at the moment?

For me as an artist, you can’t just define yourself in one particular genre and you just keep making that. You need to be creative, and music is such an artist expression so you can do that in so many ways. I didn’t want to limit myself to one thing. Still now though, I view my music as very particular in the wide spectrum of music that I listen to. I don’t listen to dance music in my spare time. I listen to pop, like Boards of Canada. Actually, pretty much on a weekly basis I’ll listen to Boards of Canada, which is not dance music whatsoever. You can’t just define yourself to one genre as an artist.

Do you agree with the speculation that the next big trend is going to be house and deep house?

I mean, house has always been around! It kind of stays in the background, then comes to the forefront, then goes to the background again. I think it is, particularly in America and here in Australia. It has been on the rise in the last two years, but I wonder if it’ll “make it”! It has been on the radio, so it’s making it to the top 10 charts. Whether it’s going to dominate festivals? I don’t think so, because the sound doesn’t lend itself to be on big stages, it’s designed to be cozy and groovy. That’s what I was saying before, like it’s hard to find tracks that work on big stages because the sound itself doesn’t work that way. I think it will become bigger, but there will be limitations.

You have quite a following in America too – how does it go playing over there?

It’s completely different to Australia. The shows that I’ve played there so far, a lot of them have been intimate shows, apart from a festival in Palm Springs and Day of the Dead in LA. But everything else was small and intimate, and I find my set progresses differently. In Australia, it’s really heavy and in your face with bigger basslines. In the US, you go darker and groovier.

You’ve been selected to play for Musica Copa – how do your soccer skills go?

I’m terrible! Part of me thinks I’m good like, “Yeah, I can do this! I’ve got this!” Nah, I’m terrible! I played soccer in like a five-a-side sort of thing. But yeah I really feel sorry for my teammates…

Have you told them you don’t have much confidence?!

I told them! It’s not so much lack of confidence; it’s more like, you know, I can only do so much! It’s a lack of fitness, and traveling and touring takes its toll on you, but that’s me complaining. I told them I’ll bring the spirit to the team!

Enthusiasm! You can be the team’s hype man!

I’ll be the hype man!

Or water boy?

Woah… *laughs* Yeah, I’ll probably help the team that way! I don’t know, they want me to play so I said okay.

What charity will you be hoping to win for? Why do you think it’s important for these events to happen for the music industry?

All the Sweat It Out events go to St Vinnies, and I think this one will fall into the same category. But I mean, it’s good to kind of get together with all the people you meet online, or briefly when you travel. But not only that; it just happens for a good reason. Everything is very competitive in the music world, and they kind of wanted to bring that on the field for people in need. I think it’s just a good vibe. All the DJs play with and against each other. There are rivalries – healthy rivalries – on and off the field so they bring it to the field.

I think a lot of people would be looking to you for inspiration and cite you as a strong influence, especially in Australia – do you have any parting wisdom for new artists?

There is so many things I can say, but I think a lot of people get really down because they can’t get anywhere with their music on the first go. I would say just persistence: keep the drive, keep at it. If you have the work ethic, you’ll get somewhere. Also don’t do exactly the same thing that everyone else is doing. It’s just really boring and right now, the music around the world is so open and everyone is all ears for things that are new or experimental. Go nuts! Don’t define yourself by other people and copy tracks because it’s really boring.

What can we expect still to come from you? What are you doing next year?

Well for the rest of the year, I’ll have a remix with Sam Smith which is coming out on Universal! Next year, I’m having a meeting with my manager to see what the year is going to bring, but the last few weeks I think I’ve made about two albums work of new tracks. We think they’re really good so we’ll need to be really picky to see which ones we’ll use. I’ve collaborated with lots of artists around Australia so hopefully you’ll be able to hear them!

Are you constantly working on new music, or someone who just retreats for a few weeks and does it all then?

Yeah I think so. I find it really hard to finish ideas on the road. It’s good to start ideas there, but finishing them is a bit difficult. I’m the kind of person that needs to be in a particular headspace, so when I’m at home I work on my stuff there. I have a break there and I just worked non-stop.

Well thanks for talking to me, Motez! Have a good game!

Yeah, wish me luck!

Musica Copa kicks off from 3-10om this Friday, 5th of December at KIKOFF, Fraser Park, Marrickville.
Invitation event (donation on entry).