We’re starting to notice a trend with Australians — they’re excellent conversationalists. Motez, the “next big thing” alongside electronic artists like RÜFÜS and Flume, is no exception. He arrived in the Bay on Tuesday afternoon, “went for a good lunch, took a nap, and then didn’t know what to do” that evening, with a night off before the first performance of his second US tour this year at DNA Lounge.
It was Game 6 of the World Series, he found out, through pubcrawlers. “Go Giants?” he offered during our phone conversation that evening. Yes, Tez — we told him to join in the fun while he was there. (The baseball match is headed for Game 7 Wednesday.)
Motez — yes, that’s his actual first name — will be getting his night started with his distinct deep, dirty house as the World Series comes to a close tomorrow, splitting the bill with Jessie Andrews at the Hallowe’en edition of DNA’s weekly GO DEEP! series. From there, he zigzags across the US and Canada, hitting Chicago for a Hallowe’en show with Classixx before returning to the West Coast for LA’s HARD Festival.
We considered giving Latane Hughes, his booking agent, and Windish a map of the continent upon seeing the tour poster (“so much flying!”), but Motez is pretty happy with them. He’s also a proud Aussie, as we found out when he brought our attention to fellow Australian Windish clients, Flume and Cassian, and notable new addition, Alison Wonderland.
Another difference between the States and the Land Down Under? Hallowe’en, which Motez is very excited about. He’ll be spending it here for the first time, in Chicago with Classixx. “it’s a very American thing. I think you guys kinda started it early on, in terms of having trick-or-treating and all the other fun traditions. In Australia, I take it with a pinch of salt, because it’s not an Australian tradition.”
We asked him if he was dressing up — he’s not. But he will be wearing his Hawthorne FC top. Tez is a soccer boy. In fact, he pondered one of our toughest questions — whether or not he’d win in a fight with a bear, coming to the conclusion that “the bear [would win], for sure. The only times I got into a fight, I was playing soccer. I get really fired up. Unless, I was playing soccer with a bear, in which case… maybe.”
An excerpt from the conversation below:
I’m gonna dig up some bodies here, but correct me if I’m wrong — you first started in 1998 in Baghdad under a different name and as a band?
Kind of — I would not take that kind of credit. It didn’t amount to anything, really, [the earlier stuff]. For me, Motez started around 2003, 2004. I really got started when I moved to Australia, though — doing music in Baghdad is pretty impossible. There was no structure, clubs, venues, labels — just nothing in electronic music. So moving to Australia was pivotal in being recognized.
I think the music scene may be… well, it’s definitely different. I don’t want to say it’s less established, because I’ve never been to Iraq.
I don’t think anyone has been, really.
Have you played there since as Motez?
No. Definitely not. It’s on the bucket list, but to be honest, I wouldn’t expect it to happen… for another, I dunno. Sometime later in the future.
Where’s the most exotic place you’ve played?
Probably Magnetic Island. It’s an island off the coast of Townsville in Queensland and it’s beautiful… I’ve also played in Fiji, there’s a really cool little festival with a whole bunch of us. An incredible time.
Sounds like a party. On “Fancy,” you completely dropped the schoolgirl chorus on that edit… oh, it was fancy.
Yes, the Iggy Azalea! I wasn’t editing to make it sound completely different. I felt like it needed just the rap by itself and I wanted to focus on Iggy a bit more. I did that one before moving to Australia. It was an ode to people who inspire me, regardless of genre — she’s really making it in America right now.
No, you did her proud. Lots of reworks and a few originals, too — “Own Up,” “Promise Me,” “Bodywork” — any plans for those? Are you just rolling them out as you go or do you have something in the works?
I’m at the point where it’s all kinda done, it’s just a matter of releasing in the right order, at the right time. There are so many originals and a lot of collaborations with Australian artists, and some American artists, so hopefully we’ll get more out in the future.
How excited should we be about all the material you finished this month and this “traditional Iraqi instrument” you have going ?
It’s called a zanboor, it’s Arabic for “wasp.” It sounds very snappy very high-pitched; I’ve always wanted to use it. I’ve had the sample for maybe ten years. I just started this track the other day, and I went, well, I might as well just try it, and it just worked really well. It’s a percussion instrument; it’s not tonal, but a lot of Middle Eastern people will recognize it straight away.
We’re listening to some of the B-sides on the singles you’ve released – you seem to have a lot of fun on those. What’s the most organic thing you’ve done, or a song that came about very naturally for you?
“Ride Roof Back,” for sure. I finished it in a very short period of time. I was in the right sort of mind frame; you get these moments as an artist where it’s just moments of magic: things fall in the right place, the stars align, the right food, and the coffee you’re drinking is amazing. Everything just lines up, you just create something organically and really quick; you know right away, you’re really happy with it. As an artist, you’re always chasing that moment of light and you want to recreate a natural moment. I think “Ride Roof Back” signifies that. Making it, and it fell in the right hands as well?
What are your typical work hours? Are you in the studio, outside the studio?
I feel most creative when I’m most comfortable, so at home. I’m trying to come up with ideas on the road to work on once I’m back home. I try to wake up as early as possible.
Oh, you’re a morning person? That’s gotta be difficult, though, if you’re DJ’ing late at night and then you wanna be up in the morning.
Yeah, that’s why I try to take care of myself, I don’t really drink too much, I try to get up, but it’s inevitable that it varies. That’s why, at the end of August, I took a seven-week break after my first US tour of the year. I’ll probably do the same after the final three Canadian shows in November. Then I’ll be back for Holy Ship in January.
It’ll be summer in Australia when you get back — any particular festivals you’re looking most forward to?
I’m playing Wonderland in Perth – a bunch of great Australian artists — including RÜFÜS and Wave Racer there. I’m also playing a festival on Phillip Island off Victoria with Dillon Francis a dude called GANZ — it’s a pretty big festival on New Year’s Eve, so I’m playing there. Some really cool people.
Have you heard Dillon Francis’s new album?
I’ve heard bits and pieces. I was looking at the track list and I can’t wait to hear it.
It’s incredible for a debut; [that] he’s got people left, right, and center.
Yeah, he’s collaborated with some really cool artists like TJR — I don’t play TJR’s music but I love him to bits. He’s such a great guy, very genuine. Oliver, as well; they’re really great friends of mine.
What’s the longest set you’ve ever played?
I’m not a huge fan of long sets. The longest one I’ve played is probably Chinese Laundry, they did a launch and I was honoured to be the guy who opened for about two and a half hours. I’d personally rather play the hour and a half shows. I’m not used to the three hour sets. I did still enjoy it.
I don’t know how people do these eight-hour marathons.
It’s almost depresses me! I just can’t do it.
Would you ever DJ with Paris Hilton?
No. Just no. I saw a video today… I mean, each to their own.
Can you give her some pointers?
[laughs] I dunno, if I could give her some pointers in making silk, I guess. The music she was playing was throwback, 155 BPM, bangin’ 1995 hardcore.
Are you growing your beard out for No-Shave November?
That would require me to shave my beard — I don’t wanna do that! I did Movember a couple years in a row, raised a bit for charity.
Oh, did you ever start a Tumblr?
If I did, it’d be private. I wish I had the time!
Yeah, your tour’s pretty packed. You’ve got a show pretty much every day — a couple breaks in there, a few Canadian dates… this looks good!
It is. But I got some time in New York, which is great, because it’s my favourite city in the world.
Article by Joanna Jiang