Tea at the Zoo

# 015 | Dr. Motte

It’s Thursday March 26, 2015 – this is the 15th TEA at the ZOO and we got a big one. This time we were very proud to interview one of Techno’s legends, Dr. Motte from Praxxiz | Berlin. So open your ears and hark to what he plays and has to say:

Dear Dr. Motte, last year you announced to run for mayor in Berlin. Meanwhile, Mr. Wowereit has stepped down but you’re not mayor. What happened? Well, I didn’t really mean it. But it’s fun to think of it, actually.

If you were in charge of Berlin for one day, what would be your first official act? I would install an additional mayor just for the night time. They did something similar in Amsterdam. There would be one mayor for the day-to-day routine and a night time mayor, responsible for bars and gastronomy. At least 70 % of all people visiting Berlin come here for experiencing its nightlife. It’s important to keep that in mind. As my second official act I would lower the taxes for all events and clubs. It would be a simple way to support them.

Do you consider yourself a political person? Yes, ever since my brothers took me to a rally against the war in Vietnam in 1972 as a twelve year old boy. Since then, I look at the world with open eyes. Also, I would describe myself as a social person.

Do artists have a political obligation? Assuming that we are living in a political society, everything we do in the public space is political. Everything. The question is: what is politics after all? I think it is about creating a public spirit, a sense of solidarity. Politics must be for the people. Politicians as elected representatives have the duty to defend civil rights against the capital. I see that this poses various problems in Berlin as well as on a global scale – because politicians don’t live up to this duty! Take TTIP and CETA. It comes down to this: we won’t have a democracy anymore but will be dominated by others. It will be almost impossible to challenge that. Personally, I find it interesting to take not of these developments, analyze them, meditate and find solutions.

Obviously, you were not elected mayor. What would you choose to do for a living if it wasn’t DJing? Be an architect. I worked as a concrete pourer on different construction sites in Berlin for six years and planned to become an architect. Since I also was a punk, this plan didn’t work out that well. Our band was called „Die toten Piloten“ (Dead Pilots).

What was your instrument? In fact, I am a drummer. My mom bought me a drum set when I was 16 years old. It stood in our living room. I saved some money to get myself the Pearl “Syncusion”, a control module that worked with pads. I still have my drum set, but the Pearl is gone ever since I lent it to someone.

Why did you swap your drum set for the turntables? I played in the band and worked on the construction site at the same time. It made me sick to wake up at 5 a.m. and start working at 6 a.m. every day. As I naturally get up late I had to throw up once in a while on my way to work. One day we had planned a concert with the Dead Pilots so I asked my boss for a day off without pay. He declined and threatened to kick me out if I didn’t show up. Well, obviously I didn’t go to work that day. Looking back, I should thank my boss. I struggled to pay rent and started selling tapes of my first recordings in bars and restaurants. I lived on that for a while. You could get by with 120,- Deutsch Mark a month back then.

You could live on your music right away? Well, the job center made life easier as well. However, I started throwing parties soon. I always carried three tape decks with me: for winding forward, pre-listening and playing. I jotted down the BPMs of all my tracks in a small notebook. A friend of mine already worked as a DJ in a small club in Kreuzberg. That’s where I played my first public gigs. One year later we had the Turbine Rosenheim.

In 2015 you’re celebrating your 30 year stage anniversary with an extended world tour. Where will you play? How many gigs? I just came back from a tour around India with DJ Rummy Sharma and DJ Gokul. I will spend spring and summer in Europe to play in Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Luxembourg, etc. But we’re also working on turs across the USA and South America. In the fall and winter, I will be in Australia. The Goethe Institute invited me to give some lectures on Berlin music history and the Festival Genialer Dilettanten. And, of course, I will play some gigs, too. My team is also working on a tour through Japan and New Zealand. In December, I will celebrate the tour’s finale in Berlin.

Is there a location you’re particularly excited about? Actually, all of them. I can’t get enough of playing, playing, playing. I’m excited to play at Promised Land Festival in Spanwoude, Netherlands, and at Silesia in Love in Chorzaw, Poland. I am also happy to be invited to Mayday and Nature One, yet again! Electronic music is an exciting adventure. I try to take people by the hand and guide them trough my universe of sound.

The tour is called „Friede. Freude. Eierkuchen.“ (the proverbial love, peace and harmony, in German: peace, joy and pancakes). It’s the same motto as that of the very first Love Parade in 1989. What did it mean to you back then and what does it mean to you today? Back then it was an attempt to rally for something, not to demonstrate against something. We took a popular proverb but provided new contents. Peace – for interpersonal disarmament. Joy – music as means of understanding. Use music to express yourself and everybody else would understand. Everybody understands music because it’s a universal language. Pancakes – for fair food distribution. It’s an important issue more than ever, I guess. The use of this theme has a second purpose as well. I’d like to bring the origins back to mind. I embrace that there are a lot of books about how it all started. We are originators. We need to pass the torch to the younger generation, the successors. That’s essential for human culture and for the culture of electronic music as well.

So you go back to the roots? Only trees with roots will bear fruit. Only if I know where it all comes from, am I able to ground myself.

Do you really see yourself as a progenitor or is it rather an image others have given you? I really have to contain myself here. The history of electronic music started in 1940. I am just a tiny rock in a huge mosaic.

Comparing the electronic music scene back in the days of its origin to today’s mass phenomenon – what comes to mind? The essential question that everyone must ask is: How can I be the lighthouse in the sea? I don’t want to be part of the mainstream, that’s not special. I simply skip that. I’m thrilled when I get a request for re-mixing a piece that I normally would not even appreciate much. That’s a great challenge. It turns me into a nerd and I won’t stop until the result truly satisfies me. It’s about your musical skills rather than putting some samples together. You really need to know what you’re doing. It’s this: computers allow us to do almost everything these days. However, it would be absolutely crucial for many people to deal with a real synthesizer just for a day. In the end, it’s all about the music. Music lets you do whatever you want. It doesn’t judge.

What type of music do you listen to besides techno? None! If I don’t listen to techno my ears need some rest. But I’m just kidding. To be honest, I love to listen to a lot of music. Funk, soul, jazz, classical music, chillout… Recently, I was at a concert by Glen Branca.

What inspires you? I take my inspiration from my personal musical history. I grew up with classical music. My mom sang in a choir. In kindergarden they also noticed my musical talent, so what do you think my mum did? She put me into a ballet class (laughs). When I was 14 years old my brothers made me discover Free Jazz. I felt my brain exploding. Free Jazz caused the one desire that has never left me: fulfilment through music.

When DJing, how much do you prepare and how much do you improvise? I am really bad when it comes to planning things. I roughly know how to begin. Everything else I do on the spur of the moment. I like to see myself as a spectator, as a catalyst of the present, the atmosphere, the vibe. I want to make people dance. Of course, I can only bring a limited amount of tracks to my gigs, be it vinyls, CDs or .wav-files.

Jeff Mills‘ approach is to ignore the audience most of the time. He only looks at his decks and doesn’t really care if people like what he’s doing. Well, as an DJ and artist I play my sound resolutely. I don’t play “what they want to hear” because that means consent. I am creative and want to educate the audience and surprise them with new stuff they don’t know. Of course, I had a few gigs where nobody danced or some guys wanted me to play some sing-along songs or so called club hits. I never do and I don’t give a damn about it. Please take for granted that I want to make people dance! But I can only use the means that I have. I am just who I am – period.

From small clubs to massive open air events you have played at virtually every venue. Where do you feel most comfortable? Last weekend I played in a tiny club in Heilbronn called Bukowski. It took no more than 100 people to fill up the place. That’s where I feel most comfortable. Close to the audience, wicked sound, authentic club. You stand right in the middle, it’s not perfect, it’s not posh, but it’s cool, simply superb. Powerful, saturated sound, just like it’s meant to be. It was great fun, people cheered, and we just had a proper party. I played for three hours. They had to drag me away from the decks (laughs).

What was the most exceptional thing that ever happened to you while DJing? It’s something that happened in a dream. I dreamt that in Turbine Rosenheim the turntables were three meters in diameter. I could only feel, not see them. That’s the most extreme thing I can imagine. I woke up with cold sweat on my forehead.

Do you remember a moment when you were fed up with Techno? (long silence) No. Well, actually yes, in 1992. It was an awful year anyway. Suddenly, Smurf Techno was all over the place and we had some issues within the Loveparade team. I just had enough when I couldn’t play in Planet Club the day after the Love Parade because some people had booked the place for their wedding. Nobody called me and I was really pissed because that was a club I helped establishing. After this situation I went to Hamburg. In retrospect, I should be thankful to these people because I produced my Euphorhythm album „Chill Out Planet Earth“ in Hamburg.

What’s your favourite equipment for DJing? I keep it really simple: two USB-sticks, a couple of security backups on CD, that’s it. Yes, please, bitch about it! All that counts is the sound that comes out of the speakers. People dancing are not interested in a nerdy discussion. In the end, your equipment doesn’t matter. Quality matters. You must not hear transitions, ideally you mix musically or at least rhythmically. What’s worse: a DJ playing great tracks but totally lacking technique or a DJ showing off great technique but playing lame tracks?

What makes the difference between playing open air and clubs? Oh, you play really different styles. But it depends on the festival or club itself. Every venue has its own vibe and so every set is different.

What’s the most recent track you purchased? Well, people keep throwing promos at me all the time so I have barely purchased any track in a long time. I guess it was Octopuss by Johannes Heil & Len Faki something by Philippe Petit.

Do you still remember the first record you bought? My first LP was Made in Japan by Deep Purple. The first single was Popcorn by Archaic System.

30 years on stage in 2015 – will you celebrate 60 years on stage in 2045? When? Will I be able to experience that? If so: YES!

We hope so! Our last question: what’s your favourite animal? I find the naked mole rat hilarious. Look at its teeth! (laughs) It’s not the most beautiful creature under the sun, but I guess it doesn’t really give a damn since it doesn’t look at itself.

Try to catch Dr. Motte playing one of his forward pushing sets, it was an honor doing the interview with him and a pleaser listening to his set. So don’t forget to say hello from us!

– Larry

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