Music often serves impetus for healing, and Motez‘ mission as an artist is to wield this power to its maximum extent. He comes from a background fraught with hardship and perseverance, fleeing his native Baghdad at the height of the Iraq war to seek asylum in Australia. With a background in music that stretches back before uprooting his life, Motez grew up knowing that he was meant for a life of spreading positivity through music and using it as a way to help others out of turmoil like it had to him. He settled into dance music come adulthood, building a name for himself in the house realm for his frenetic take on the genre and adoration for a quality vocal collaboration. It wouldn’t take long after his break before he scored a Triple J residency and widespread support on the DJ/producer circuit.
This theme persists in his latest single, “Steady Motion”—which features optimistic verses by KWAYE. Disco-esque string accents and a funk-driven base wrap around KWAYE’s warm voice, creating an effective tune without piling on too many bells and whistles. It’s the kind of tune one would want to toss on during an outdoor gathering, or when craving a slice of euphoria in general. Curious to know more about this swiftly rising star, we poked his brain a bit on what inspires him, the messages he hopes to send with his music, and more.
You’re a classically-trained pianist; tell us about the path that led you into electronic music production, and how you came to fall in love with this genre.
The turning point for me was listening to artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Boards of Canada. Even though it’s electronic, it has heart and soul. There’s a focus on melody being the “hook” rather than words and that’s what made me think I’d like to do electronic music.
How can music be a vehicle for positive change, and what do you do in your own work to implement this?
Music is a universal language, even though the phrase sounds corny but it is. I am lucky enough that I grew up in Iraq listening to lots of Arabic music yet I was, and still am, making predominantly electronic music. That combo has helped me understand the power of positivity in music and the universality in the messages. I try to make messages within my music personal, reaffirming stories that most of us encounter in every day life and helping people who might go through them find solace.
On a similar note, you’re an outspoken activist and participate in campaigns to aid the global refugee crisis. What are your thoughts on politics in music, and have you ever produced or thought of producing a socially conscious/protest record of sorts? Or do you think it’s important to focus on music as a unifying force?
I think the answer is linked to the previous question; the key for me (as a person who was once an asylum seeker) is to make good music and have all positive messages weaved into it. That is what we can do as a positive answer to governments and politicians who treat people seeking asylum as scapegoats or tools to frighten the masses in their fear mongering tactics. We can only add cultural value, contribute and help build those new countries we move to. Our worth is the invaluable work we provide.
What was the inspiration behind “Steady Motion,” and how did the writing process go?
Steady Motion at its heart is a song I wrote about the struggles of being in a volatile and chaotic life of a touring musician. Above it all, you have to keep a brave face, stay positive in the age of social media where you have to always stay present. I wrote the instrumental after being inspired by emotional yet upbeat house music from the likes of MJ Cole, George Fitzgerald and Jon Hopkins. I received the vocals from Kwaye and immediately knew that it is the one. He perfectly translated the emotions and story behind the song, as he was also feeling the same about it. I wrote the string section soon after which was performed by the amazing Davide Rossi who has collaborated with lots of heavyweights around the world including Alicia Keys, The Verve, Jon Hopkins and Coldplay. I am very proud of the end result.
Define the “Motez sound” for us, and what makes your music different than the rest.
I am attracted to intelligent music with heart and soul. Even with my club-driven output I tend to make dance music with purpose, with melody and lots of musicality. I think it is music that I hope surprises people and doesn’t sound like anybody else because I draw a lot of inspiration from non-electronic music.
What else is coming down the Motez pipeline?
I am working on a few new originals that hopefully you will get to hear, I have also finished a remix for Icarus that will be out very soon.