Moxie Talks NTS Memories, Painting, and her Most Diverse Compilation Yet
Moxie Talks NTS Memories, Painting, and her Most Diverse Compilation YetNovember 13, 2020
Having just released the 5th installment of her adored compilation series, Moxie Presents, we catch up with the UK selector to go over her listening habits, art school, her On Loop imprint, and finding the right balance with club music.
Having just come back from a day working at her local North London food bank, Moxie explained the ideas behind her new compilation. “It’s a real labour of love,” she says of the A&R process, though she could equally have been speaking about her day out volunteering in Tottenham. Both come from a sincere place of wanting to share what she has.
The series of Moxie Presents compilations began with a free download album in 2014 as a platform to showcase some of the artists who’d been sending Moxie music for her much-loved NTS radio show. From there, it organically grew into Moxie’s On Loop record label and event series.
Moxie Presents, Vol.5 has all the sounds and colours you would hear in a Moxie DJ set — from dubbed-out, UK garage, to classic house and unconventional breaks. She put it together with painstaking attention to detail and her well-honed ear for a musical journey. The tracklist includes established names like rRoxymore, Al Wootton (FKA Deadboy), and Yu Su, as well as up-and-coming talents like System Olympia and Ronan. This latest compilation also has one of Moxie’s own paintings on the cover, bringing another side of her creativity to On Loop.
How does this latest compilation differ from previous volumes?
To be honest with you, this one has taken the longest to put together. I’ve been working on it for over a year and a half, on and off. It’s been a journey! I set a rule for myself when I did the first one that each compilation will have more female artists than the one before. This time I wanted to try and have it equally split between men and women to show how far the scene has come, but still that was a challenge in itself as it’s only recently that things have started to shift. I would never sign an artist just for being a woman, I have to connect with the music and it has to work with the label. I’m beyond happy that we have five women featured out of the seven tracks.
Which was the first track you confirmed for this volume and did that shape the outcome?
I believe it was the rRoxymore track. We’d already been speaking since 2018 about doing something for Vol.4, but she was so busy at the time it didn’t work out. So when I started the next volume she was one of the first artists I messaged. I love her stuff, she’s such a unique producer and has such an interesting take on dance music. She has her own identity — quite quirky and out there sometimes.
In terms of influencing the rest of the compilation, I would say that once the first four tracks are confirmed, I can then have an idea of how it’s going to sound. I have this ongoing list of artists, so I go back to that and see who I think would work.
I imagine sometimes an artist sends you a selection of tracks to choose one for the compilation, but you want to choose them all and release an EP.
Yeah, that happened with this one, and the release will come out next year! It was so easy, all the tracks were ready to go!
Do you enjoy the back-and-forth process of giving feedback to the artists?
Yes, but it’s quite time-consuming. A real labour of love compared to working with one artist.
Did you give the artists a brief?
If someone has a distinct sound, like Al Wootton’s dubby, deep garage sound for example, then I don’t need to. Whereas System Olympia’s productions can levitate in different directions, so with her I wanted to hone in the R&B element that she does so well. Same with Pursuit Grooves. She’s an incredibly effective producer and can go in many different directions.
Do you tell the artists who else will be on the release?
I don’t tell anyone who else is on the compilation until I start getting the pre-masters in, just because things sometimes fall through.
I was going to ask if you approached this compilation any differently due to the fact clubs are not open right now, but I guess not if you have been working on it for a year and a half already.
The thing is that a year and a half ago, I had two or three tracks locked in but it wasn’t quite gelling together. It was the first time I’ve had that with a compilation. I think it was partly due to me and the artists being really busy with touring. I decided to put it on hold and came back to it in February this year. I think the remaining tracks that I ended up selecting have a deeper vibe to them, compared to the earlier ones. So I think there was definitely a subconscious element going on when finalising the remaining tracks.
It’s really hard to get that balance with club music, especially if you don’t have anywhere to test it out and, most importantly, hear it loud. I have that with my show sometimes, I think, “Ah, is this too much?”. But I also crave it and whenever I play more clubby stuff on NTS it gives me this rush. It can be incredibly overwhelming at times as it’s a snapshot into what we used to do every weekend. So, for me it was still really important to have that element of club music on the comp.
How have your listening habits in general changed since you’re not playing in clubs?
I go up and down. Sometimes all I want to listen to is chilled out stuff, ambient, R&B, or hip hop. But when it comes to prepping my show, I get sent so many demos and I’m always trying to work my way through them. It’s interesting not having the context of the club, but it makes those special tracks stand out even more. They’re beyond being club music. There’s a recent release from Midland’s label Intergraded by Tom VR. As soon as I heard that whole release, I was so excited to play it. It’s just mind-blowing club music.
Without club gigs, I’m not gathering music in the same way. If I’m going to play club music, it’s only the best of the best. In a club, however, you also need some tools. Having said that, there is still so much amazing club music out there, and it’s a big part of my radio show, so I’m here to represent that.
What have been some of the biggest highlights from your NTS radio show so far?
In the first few years on NTS, we had some really special guests. I interviewed Laurent Garnier, Kerri Chandler, and Jeff Mills. Then Jeff Mills got in touch and we ended up doing a radio project together for his Axis label. That was really full-on and a challenge, as we had to write the script and everything. Going to Japan for the Red Bull Music Academy with NTS was another highlight. Also, just generally all the guest shows over the years. When Peach, Shanti Celeste, and I went back-to-back, that was so much fun! I feel quite sad about not having that personal element of the show at the moment.
This is now your fifth compilation. Are there some important lessons you’ve learned along the way that you wish you knew at the beginning?
The first couple were given out for free, and it wasn’t really a label but a side project, so I suppose it was a bit different then. But since starting the label properly, I would say having a label manager has helped loads. Doing all the backend admin stuff properly is really time-consuming, but it pays off so much for me and for the artists. I want to be able to pay them a decent amount, especially during these times. Having a label manager earlier might have helped, but it’s all a learning curve. I’m so proud of each compilation. For this new one especially, I’m so excited that there are so many female producers and women of colour. It’s the most diverse one yet.
The artwork you painted for the compilation is awesome. Was it specifically made with the compilation in mind?
Yes, it was specifically done for the compilation. I was at art school when I was younger, but I got so busy with DJing and radio that I never had enough time to paint. Last year, I did the artwork for the Desert Sound Colony release and promised myself I would do the artwork for all of the label releases from now on. For this compilation, I did a lot of sketches and finally landed on this one. Then I worked with a Spanish artist called CM-DP to refine the piece and polish it up.
It’s a strange question in such an uncertain period of our lives, but is there anything else you are planning with On Loop and as a DJ at the moment?
I’m always trying to think of things to do! Never sitting still. I have the next couple releases for the label which are coming next year so I need to get the artwork done, and think about how I want the aesthetics to be for them. I’m also getting into doing more of my own personal artwork as well. I got some really nice feedback about the cover for the compilation so I might do some prints of it. I want to use this time to reconnect with my years of going to art school. It’s a big part of who I am.
Richard Akingbehin is a freelance music writer living in Berlin.