After speaking with Motez, a Baghdad born DJ from Adelaide, it’s obvious that this is an artist who is passionate about his craft. Going from working at a music store to playing at international stages and world class festivals, Motez knows the inner workings of the music world inside out.
BYO: How would you describe Motez to the uninitiated?
Motez: It’s dance music with purpose. So it’s dance music predominately, but I grew up listening to anything but dance music and am trying to mix emotion, musicality and soul into dance music.
BYO: So what did you grow up listening to?
Motez: From a really early age my dad was playing Peter Gabriel and even Phil Collins. But then I kind of shaped my own identity through listening to sort of abstract electronic music like Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis, lots of [Boards of] Canada later on and even The Prodigy. So I guess it’s a bit of a mish mash of different things, but it was mainly abstract electronic music.
BYO: And is that what got you into music in the first place?
Motez: Yeah pretty much. I grew up making music rather than DJing. I grew up in Iraq in Baghdad, where there are no clubs. There were clubs back in the 80’s when times were slightly better, but [growing up] we had no clubs. I didn’t pick up DJing until I moved to Australia.
BYO: So you were just writing music in Baghdad?
Motez: I just wrote music for me, I was really young. But I think my formative years there are more of an appreciation and understanding of music, and that’s a little bit of an issue that I have with a few producers nowadays. They just kind of put on loops, particularly with electronic and dance music, without really trying to investigate what the music is about, what harmonies and chords and melodies are about.
BYO: What made you see music as a career?
Motez: All my family took different paths, My dad’s a biologist, my mum’s an accountant, a lot of my family are doctors. I have two degrees and I resisted music at the start because it was hard to decide that something so volatile, like music, for a new immigrant was a thing.
I had just immigrated to Australia and you’ve got to be able to rebuild your life entirely, and if you’re a person in the right mindset, you’re not going to look at music and think, that’s a sustainable and viable career.
BYO: What was the prime reason you and your family immigrated to Australia?
Motez: We are asylum seekers. My dad came here on a boat, got locked up in Woomera, back in 2000/2001. We had to leave Iraq because it was and still is, to an extent, messed up. We’re also an ethnic and religious minority in Iraq, so there was no room for us. We had to leave, we had no other family that were left, everyone was leaving and jumping ship. My parents just wanted a better life for us.
BYO: When moving to Australia, you started working in a music store, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Motez: I started working in music retail, and that helped me submerge myself in Australian culture. Now I feel more Australian than I do Iraqi to be quite honest.
Eventually it turned out that subconsciously my brain was making those connections, developing more a know-how of the equipment and so and so forth.
BYO: What was the biggest lesson you learnt working at a music store?
Motez: One of the best things I’ve ever learnt working in a music store for years and seeing amazing musicians come through, is that I see them come in, year in year out, being in the exact same spot, because they took their craft for granted. That made me realise that people who make it in music or any other volatile art form are the ones that really have that sort of innate sense of opportunism inside their mind, that sometimes they don’t actively know about. And I think sometimes, life doesn’t just give you a chance, you just make up your own chance, and you create your own opportunity.
BYO: You’ve noted that your new song, ‘Steady Motion’ is both one of your proudest works and quite personal to you, could you explain why it’s so personal to you?
Motez: So the song was written throughout a period of time where it started to get to me the sort of lifestyle being a touring musician is. And how not only lonely, but how much the contrast of what you feel like and what you should portray to the public is. You have to be happy and jovial and proud. But being alone does not bring that to most people.
It gets exacerbated when you’re really not feeling good and play a show that goes really well, and then the adrenaline kicks in and you’re really happy. But when the show finishes, you end up being in a hotel room by yourself. It really messes with you. Touring alone and being alone with my own thoughts was not a good thing. But the only thing I knew was to keep going. That's what Steady Motion was about.
Then I met Kwaye, who did the vocals on the song. He sent me the vocals online - we hadn’t even met - and I thought these lyrics are pretty peculiar, because they’re kind of what I’m feeling now. We met in London to work on it more and he asked me what I think the lyrics are about, from my perspective, and I said ‘I think it’s that,’ and we kind of stopped, because it was a very emotional moment, we were [both] feeling the same way.
Listen to ‘Steady Motion’ here.