Cover Photo by: Ginger Wesson
Wax Motif is having a big year, some may even say a HUGE year. From Russia to Alaska, he has been playing shows all around the world. His remix of AC Slater and Chris Lorenzo’s “Fly Kicks” has been streamed almost two million times on Spotify. We caught up with him at Imagine festival to talk about the state of music genres, about originally learning to mix music on vinyls, and on being the gateway for new lovers of house and night bass.
Photo from Wax Motif’s Facebook
Festival Squad: Do you feel like an hour set is long enough?
Wax Motif: An hour can feel too short. All of sudden there is only twenty minutes left and I’m like panicking trying to cut songs off or skip to the next one. Honestly, an hour and half is perfect for me. If you’re a house DJ you want time to play the record. If you are playing dubstep or trap, fair enough. You can’t jump through house records super quick. You have to have the time to get in the groove. If you have an hour you are just rushing through.
FS: Would two hours be too long?
WM: I think it depends. After Electric Zoo we had an afterparty and I ended up doing two plus hours. That set, nothing was planned. I was like “I’m just gonna play shit loads of techno.” That place has no cameras, underground vibe. So for that, two hours was fine because I could let everything play out. You know stretch the legs a bit. That was fine but I think for a festival an hour and a half is fine. You don’t want to see someone for two hours at a festival. You just wanna see someone you like and then see another because there are so many competing times.
FS: How much do you pre plan your sets?
WM: I feel like I have to play my own songs like Tokyo, Make It Rain, and Fly Kicks Remix. So that takes up about one third of my set already. The other stuff is kind of around that. I have sections, like three or four tracks that I know always go off together, they’re in perfect key, and they mix really well together. So what I kind of do is just mix those sections around. So it’s not planned but it kind of is. I think it’s important to give people the best show. If you are just gonna wing it every time, I don’t really think you can do that. I don’t want to say that it’s planned but I don’t want people to think that I am coming unprepared. Because I’m here with an hour to smash it. I want people to walk away that haven’t been to a show before to be like “I’m a new fan”. I think sometimes you can get lost catering to the fans you already have and playing the most underground forward thing you have. Which I know all you guys would love. You would pick up on it and be like “Aw yeah what is that?!” But then I also got to remember that some people are only seeing me for the first time and maybe their not so developed in their Night Bass taste so I want to be kind of like the gateway. I kind of see myself as the more commercial one on Night Bass. I have more vocal records. Ideally I would like to be the Diplo or Calvin Harris of our sound. I want to be able to get more of the mainstream into our sound.
FS: Do you think you can do that because people are starting to care less about genres?
I don’t think I would label it officially, but I think you are right that people are caring less. That then gives way for new sounds to infiltrate commercial music. I think most people that know me know that I work on a lot of rap albums. At the same time I am also still doing house collabs as well as other genres. Last week I was in the studio with Flosstradamus. I am a fan of his and he’s a fan of mine. We don’t play each others music, but we were like just hang out and see. We did like one housey thing and then one with more rap.
FS: You do a lot of production for others but when you are making your own music do you have a specific direction you want to go or do you make whatever sounds good?
I want to wake up and just make whatever I am feeling that day. The good thing about having your foot in both doors is that if I make something that doesn’t really suit my artist project then I can shop it out to a pop singer or a rapper or I can collab with someone to make it work. I’m the kind of person where if you put me in the corner I will go mad. If I was only allowed to make house music everyday I would go insane. So I physically need to make other things. I think it’s about working out what to do with them so that you don’t waste the time you spent making it. For the most part, every thing lately has been pretty housey and I’m on track. Now I am working on stuff for next year.
FS: So no more new music this year?
No! We have got two or three more. The next one is Bunda (out now) it’s coming out on Musical Freedom, Tiësto’s label. I have got something coming out with Zeds Dead, on their Dead Beats label. Then we do not have concrete plans but there are a few more tracks I wanna put out.
FS: Do you think you would ever put out a full album?
I would like to yeah. I think it would give me more room to do more things. The good thing with jumping around on these labels is that right now they are all down to sign stuff. But they just want the newest club banger from me, they’re not invested in my long term to be songs a little deeper and then we’ll come back to that. It would be nice to have a home to be able to settle into. I always feel like I have a bass in Night Bass and Confession anyway, but I would like to be on a major label. We are talking to a few now.
FS: Do you think that will happen in the next year?
WM: Hopefully in the next year, yeah. We have had a bit of interest from some big labels. We are kind of talking to them know. I don’t know. We will see. We are in early stages of talking but everyone seems pretty excited. I think being with a bigger label can bring more vocals, more rappers, and more resources. At the end of the day I know I always have a home in Night Bass and Confession. Tchami and AC (Slater) have been super supportive of me the whole time. And what’s great is that I still get to play the parties. We have a Confession one coming up in Amsterdam. We just did a Night Bass one. I feel like I am in a really good place. I really want to help take our scene up first.
Photo from Wax Motif’s Facebook
FS: I feel like you have done a really good job of introducing people to your scene. A lot of my friends saw you at a show in Atlanta during Shaky Beats in May and now at Imagine in September you were on the top of their list for who they had to see. So I feel like you are doing a good job of accomplishing what you want.
FS: Sort of a basic question, but I could not find it anywhere online. Where does the name Wax Motif come from?
WM: That’s because there is no story. Really, it’s so boring. So wax is another word for vinyl records and motif is the theme of something. When I first started DJing I was only playing on vinyl. I still have so many records at my mom’s house. She’s like “Can you get rid of this stuff?!” and I am like no it could be worth something! I was just stubborn like I am going to play on vinyl even though everything was on CDJs already. I found it really fun to go digging for vinyls. You know sitting in dusty record stores, searching for stuff, getting a stack, and listening to all of them. I really liked part of it. Now it’s just like click a button on Beatport or open a million promo emails. I don’t feel like you ever find anything special just for you. You might find a good track but there is a chance that a hundred other DJs have been sent that too. So it’s harder and harder to get sets with all exclusive stuff. I am trying to get demos from these kids and be like aw yeah I am going to rep this. There is a really good one that I didn’t get to play tonight but I played it last night. It’s by these kids called Low Down and Lozz. They are super up and coming. Lozz is dope he is from Italy and Low Down is young Australian kid. They have this one song that is just mad. I think being able to separate my sets from others is cool. I think as well, you know Night Bass is awesome but I think one of the downsides is that we are all playing each others records so it’s hard to have a set that is really unique unless you are keeping your IDs. A few of the guys have don’t it and I even know like me, I didn’t give the David Banner “Wet” to anyone. Sometimes you just have to make some things that are just for you and that make you sets a little special.
Photo from Wax Motif’s Facebook
FS: That David Banner song has kind of taken on a life of its own, hasn’t it?
WM: What’s really funny is that I made that in a day. I wanted something that goes through a real simple bass line. So I sampled that song and now it’s my most requested track ID. Every day someone is like “Release that!!” We are trying but we have to get all the legal stuff right so we can put it out and not have it get taken down.
FS: What’s been your favorite performance to date?
WM: Lollapalooza in Chicago last year was definitely one.
FS: Yes I was at that set it was awesome!
WM: You were?! I love you!
FS: I love you too! Actually ever since Holy Ship 8.0 at the Bliss Stage, I have been a big fan of yours. I think you even put that mix up the “Loose on the Goose” set.
WM: Aw yeah, that set was so funny because it was just a few of us mucking around on the decks. I was so embarrassed to put it up because there’s so many off mixes but for some reason the people love that set and wanted it up so badly. Actually after listening to that set I started talking less on the mic. I would go back and listen to others and be like I sound SO dumb. When you hear some at every drop like “1,2…” I want to be like “Shh you’re ruining the set!” I try to do a little bit but not go overboard. I watched a set from What So Not a few years ago and he didn’t say anything! I was like that’s so fucking cool. And when you watch like Tchami, he doesn’t say shit. Malaa, doesn’t say shit. I think it’s better to just let the music do the talking. I am liking it more. I felt like it was so stressful to always be like “Ahh, Jump! Do something!” Now I just chill.
FS: What is your dream venue?
WM: I want to play Coachella. It’s my number one goal. I mean I will play anywhere. So if you are promoter and listening I will play anywhere! I just came back from Alaska and Hawaii. We are going to Russia next month, I am playing two shows with the Phlegmatic Dogs there.
FS: Have you ever played in Russia? I wonder what the fans will be like.
WM: I have never been there but I have heard they are crazy. The Phlegmatic Dogs have been building the scene. As soon as we announced it I started getting all these DMs of people that were excited for the show. But yeah, Coachella is my top goal. I am playing the El Rey Theater in LA and I would love to, no I am going to sell it out. (Buy tickets to the LA show here)
FS: One more question, what would be your last meal?
WM: I love chicken schnitzel with gravy and fries with a Coca-Cola and some kind of snickers or something sweet. I love cakes too so maybe like a carrot cake too.