We Talk with Iraqi Refugee Producer Motez, Who Drops a Beatport Exclusive

We catch up with the Iraqi electronic music specialist to learn more about his experience coming to Australia, how it enabled him to persue his musical dreams, and what his new sound holds in store.

9 min
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Apr 9, 2021
Cameron Holbrook

One of South Australia’s freshest electronic acts, Motez, is gearing up to release a brand new EP via the Sydney-based record label, Sweat It Out. His first single off the forthcoming release is “Give Me Space,” a gorgeous ’80s-infused dance floor ballad featuring award-winning vocalist/multi-instrumentalist, The Kite String Tangle.

Following the original tune release, Beatport has snagged the exclusive of Motez’s “Give Me Space” (Club Mix) — a rework that, according to Motez, was created to “take the vocals to a darker place” and is “made to sound big and boisterous for those peak moments on the dance floor.” Check it out below.

Originally hailing from Baghdad, Motez grew up under Saddam Hussain’s regime before fleeing the country in the 2000s. After seeking asylum in Australia in 2006, he got a job working at a record shop and immersed himself in the world of dance music. His musical appetite and knowledge of computers led him to making music. He soon found a funky and blistering house-oriented sound that has garnered support from some of the biggest names in the scene, and labels like Food Music, Say Wat Records, Armada Electronic Elements, and more.

We caught up with Motez to learn more about his experience growing up in Iraq, music production, his forthcoming EP, and more.

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Tell us about your experience growing up in Baghdad and having to endure Saddam Hussein’s regime and the eventual war.

It was quite tough. The lack of stability or predictability totally took its toll on the overall Iraqi psyche. Iraq was quite the cultural hub for centuries, even up until the ’90s. There’s always been a huge appetite for art, music, poetry, and many Western music influences. My parents grew up on the likes of Tom Jones, Elvis, and The Beatles. Eventually, being under a dictatorship that started diving more into religion, made a huge negative impact on finding new music. Also, being under sanctions meant that the country was virtually closed to the rest of the world, and with that, the flow of new music was cut off as well.

We found our ways, though. I still remember finding bootleg cassettes and CDs of The Prodigy, Jean Michel Jarre, and Underworld. I also got my friend to make me a bootleg CD of Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby. That record shaped my music a lot, and the fact that I supported Fatboy Slim on his entire Australian tour a couple of years ago and had the chance to meet him was quite a surreal experience for me.

The most jarring experiences happened post-2003 after Saddam was removed. That was the most dangerous and volatile time. I had a very close encounter with a bomb explosion. I was a few meters away from it and was literally about to drive through, but I was distracted by something, so I stopped, and then the bomb went off. I still feel incredibly lucky that it didn’t happen to me.

One of your first jobs after moving to Australia was working at a music store. Can you name some of the artists you came across working there who inspired your career path, and how did you come to start writing, producing, and DJing your music?

I haven’t actually met many artists working there, but I was genuinely inspired by the people I worked with. They were mostly rockers though, so only a handful of us dabbled in electronic music. I was surrounded by all the latest synths, speakers, and music gear that I had the chance to play around with them, and it honestly helped with my production skills and understanding of the technical stuff. I have also formed incredible friendships that have shaped my experience being a migrant. They really enabled me to work in music more.

One relationship that has become an integral part of my life and work was meeting my best friend Wayne Sunderland, who started Suture Mastering. It has become one of the most sought-after mastering studios in the country, and he’s mastered for the likes of Lil Jon, Dom Dolla, and Tommy Trash. He’s touched almost every electronic music tune coming out of Australia, including my own music. He’s a wizard.

We heard there is an EP on the way… What can you tell us about it?

Correct, there’s an upcoming EP that will comprise of a few tracks that are thematically linked in a sense. Consider it the “darker sibling” to the Soulitude EP that I released last year. It explores thoughts of freedom from expectations, catharsis, being rebellious, and turning the page to the next chapter… it’s a bit more out there. It’s louder and prouder than anything I’ve done. Sonically it leans a lot on what I’ve done already but with a nostalgic expression.

How did you link up with The Kite String Tangle for this track? Tell us about some of the ’80s inspired music that helped inform your creative direction for this tune.

I’ve always been a fan of Danny’s work. His voice and production have always been at the forefront of Australian music, and to top it all off, he’s a very nice man. We caught up a few times over the years in shows but haven’t really worked together until I remixed his song “North” a couple of years ago, and that’s when we decided to work together. He’s sent me a bunch of vocals that I can work with, and “Give Me Space” was the one that resonated with me the most. It’s just an idea I’ve been thinking about given we have all been locked in and isolated, the sense of appreciation for this notion of space. I found that extremely important to recalibrate and reassess.

As for the music, I’ve loved ’80s sound for a long time listening to artists like Pet Shop Boys, Talk Talk, and Depeche Mode. Recently, I’ve been listening to lots of Krystal Klear, Damon Jee, and Adana Twins, as well as “Cold Wave” music like Molchat Doma, Boy Harsher, and (especially) Drab Majesty. The mix of all of these artists has truly shaped my musical listening experience over the last two years and what’s to come in the next couple of years.

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