If you’ve been part of the hip hop and electronic music scenes in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Ibiza or Berlin in the last decade or so, chances are you’ve heard of Motoe Haus. Maybe you even ran into him posted up outside a club after one of his marathon DJ sets and had a bit of a chat. This is entirely possible as I’m pretty sure that’s how we crossed paths back in the day.
Back then, Nathan Filby aka Motoe Haus was riding high on the success of his banger of an album, and exercising his double-threat talents as a producer and MC. We talked for a bit outside the club and within a few days or weeks (those times were a bit blurry) ended up linking up to talk beats, collaborate and hang.
That’s the kind of guy Motoe is.
His passion for music and collaboration have always been imbedded in his DNA and my hunch is when he sees that in another person, he’s pretty open to exploring the musical possibilities. Motoe’s crib was usually a who’s who of MCs, DJs and producers in the Vancouver scene, so it was a great spot for trying out new ideas and hanging out with other like-minded individuals. He was a bit ahead of me on the production tip at the time. While I was still cooking up boom bap on my MPC and Triton, he was well ahead on his Pro Tools, computer and plugin game with multiple instruments at hand and a non-stop work ethic for making music.
One day I got the word that he had up and moved out of town for greener pastures south of the border in Los Angeles. While I was bummed that he wouldn’t be around anymore it was kind of like a Good Will Hunting moment. Hey, I love Vancouver, but to really make a go of it in the entertainment world it often involves taking a leap of faith and hitting a major market with greater opportunities for work and meeting the right person to help you level up.
That’s exactly what he did and since then hasn’t let any city hold him down for too long. Playing some of the biggest dance music venues in the world like Exchange LA, Viper Room, Miami Ultra and World Club Dome, Motoe has logged some serious time on the decks and no doubt racked up a grip of frequent flyer miles. Over the past several years he has also continued his frenetic production pace with literally hundreds of releases on his own and with numerous collaborators on various labels and his imprint, Haustronaut Records. Sprinkling his magic among styles like Techno, Deep, Tribal, House and Progressive, he has done significant remix work for the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Kool n the Gang, Jimi Hendrix and Fleetwood Mac.
Clearly he’s been busy.
Rather than tell you his story in my words, better yet, let’s hear from the man himself about where he came from, where he’s been and what the future holds for the multi-talented producer and artist.
Tell me about your roots… I think you grew up on Vancouver Island? Is that right?
Well I’m a big mixed raced calculation as they call it LOL. My mother is African-American, Ashkenazi Jew, and Cheyenne Indian, and my father is British Nordic and German. So, I had an interesting upbringing with wonderful very different styles of music, culture, and of course food. I grew up on Vancouver Island with my brother Adam in Victoria. Did all my schooling there, played sports and learned to DJ when I was about 14 on vinyl. Wrany Foster was the first one to really take some time and show me the general skills needed and technical aspects of being a DJ. And then I was lucky enough to meet Roc Raida from the X-Ecutioners and he gave me a ton of understanding that helps quite significantly.
Let’s talk about your timeline and cities you’ve been living in since those days on the island. Vancouver Island -> Vancouver -> LA -> Ibiza -> Berlin -> LA? Is that right?
That is correct. I spent about seven years in downtown Vancouver and then I moved to LA for nine years making tons of music and all sorts of genres particularly hip-hop, R&B, rock and also producing adult contemporary and pop. When I moved to LA, I started losing interest in most of those genres. And since I had been secretly raving since I was 15, I felt like I needed to change my artistic approach as the former mediums were just not servicing my soul. So, I decided to go to Miami for a few weeks and get reacquainted with what was going on and dance music had a good footing there. I came back to LA and for the next couple of years I indulged heavily in house and techno. Then it was Ibiza for one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I was there for about four years doing hundreds of gigs and many weekly radio shows, building my label Haustronaut until I transplanted to Berlin for a year. While I was in Europe, I was touring like crazy doing all the major cities around Europe as well as Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and even some events in Brazil.
Tell me about your hip hop projects back in the day.
Well I was recording quite a lot of artists from all over North America and touring a lot with some very notable emcees. Creating music videos and getting some good love on the music video channels in the States and Canada as well as a lot of radio play from college on up. You and I even did a couple of tracks JT!
Yes! We did rock out a couple tracks back in the day. Probably still have that on a burnt CD-R somewhere in my archives lol.
Where did the name Motoe come from?
It was a random nickname given to me when I was 13 from my cousins. They were making fun of me calling me Quasimodo. And so, it stuck. I’ve always found that the best nicknames are enduring insults from people that actually love you and many times that becomes the moniker.
Who are some of your musical or artistic influences?
Dylon, Dylon, Dylon, Dylon, & Dylon. Cuz he spit hot fiyah! lol
That’s a legit Top 5 lol!
You made the transition to house after success in hip hop. What was the spark that interested you in electronic music and techno? Tell me about any artists or tracks that initially inspired you?
I think that it wasn’t a spark that made me interested in house music, as I mentioned before, it is something that was there for a while, as I had been secretly going to raves for years before actually starting to produce underground dance music. I think why I gravitated towards it is because I felt that even though the pop EDM side of American dance music was very prevalent here, I love the fact that there is this incredible sensibility in the underground scene that celebrates innovation. And because many of the songs are longer than radio standard, it is created from a place of passion, love and expression. This for me is what hip-hop used to be, but unfortunately, it’s been totally corrupted, and those aspects do not exist in any kind of mainstream hip-hop style. However, in techno and in the house music scene we are free. We realize that a hit record is a matter of timing and marketing. It has nothing to do with “making a hit record”. It has everything to do with expressing yourself and hopefully it resonates with people in a positive way.
Tell me about NiceTie and your experience in LA before leaving for Ibiza.
NiceTie was an experiment with my boy Cas, myself and a rotating ensemble if singers and musicians. It was basically a transition between hip hop and house music, something that we could express ourselves freely and create something new that helps to bridge the two genres as we transition into solely house and techno. We performed at every major Hollywood club and venue and invented the genre we coined “HiPtronica”.
Tell me about your Ibiza experience
When I arrived in Ibiza, I did not know anyone, didn’t speak the language, didn’t have any connections, and for the first year and a half I was illegal as my visa had run out three months after I arrived. We had a few people working from the States that came with us to the island and my business partner, who is a private equity banker that wanted to be a DJ/producer, lost his noodle and left all of us there. He cut off the corporate card canceled our flights, accommodations and vanished. The guy walked away from millions of dollars in business we had on the table and to be honest was one of the most disappointing moments in my career. However, I’m an underground guy, so no matter where I go, I’m going to find a way to organize people and create art. So that is exactly what I did. I was able to connect with some really great people including Luna from Ibiza live radio, Rufus White from Native Instruments, Koala and Maceo PLEX as well as Petra and Nick Warren who all gave me wonderful opportunities and gave me a chance to play and show my skill sets. Living on the island in the summer is super hectic and very expensive as there are millions and millions of people that come there over the five months of summer. And then the winter months are incredibly quiet to a certain extent however the music and ability to absorb and create are second to none. Some of the most incredibly talented people I’ve ever seen, heard, and luckily met live in Ibiza, year round. I have so many crazy and amazing stories that I probably should not put in print LOL. However, let’s just say that there are a few sides or better to say layers that make up the reasoning of living there. I think that everyone should go to experience it but just remember it’s not another Vegas.
Coolest gig you ever played?
Man, that is a tough one to answer. I’ve played resistance at Ultra, all the way to Coachella and incredible cave parties and underground clubs in Berlin to warehouses in Norway. It’s very difficult to say one favorite as they are all so different and so special in their own way. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to play beside so many incredible artists and to learn so much about why sound is the most important thing that we have as humans have the luxury to play with.
When did you end up leaving Vancouver and why?
I left Vancouver in 2005, I think. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track as I’m much more about going forward then wallowing in the past. However, I had an opportunity from a dear friend of mine to come down to Los Angeles and build a recording studio and just get into the scene here. It was a tough choice because I was dating someone that mattered dearly to me. And I knew that the choice to move to LA was going to be a massive change and everything about my life. But, I was compelled. When I was younger, I used to have dreams of being on stage in front of many people in different places and sometimes you just have to sacrifice things you love in order to follow the path you were meant to do.
When did you leave LA and why? Ibiza? Berlin?
I left LA in 2013. We were going out there for a couple of months just for business purposes. But as I had talked about before my old business partner went bat shit crazy and so I decided to stay. There’s an old expression that says Ibiza calling. And I think it has something to do with the Earth’s electromagnetic torus field. It’s a very magnetic place and very intense and from the first moment I stepped foot on the island I felt home for the first time in my life. To be honest leaving the island was so hard and I think about it every single day for the last two years that I’ve been gone.
How are you dealing with the pandemic and lack of gigs?
It has hit the entire industry very hard. Most of us in this have lost all our gigs for the year. Unfortunately, there is no unemployment insurance for what we do and traditionally artists have always been looked at as the least essential parts of culture in these times. Even though during times like this the only thing people want is to be entertained while they’re sitting in their homes waiting for the world to start again. So, we’ve had to pivot and try different approaches but nothing is as well as it was with the lack of travel. All festivals and clubs have been shut down and it’s really sad.
Have you played out since March?
Only very small private events. But nothing like I’m used to. By any means. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and into all these wonderful places with all of you wonderful people, so we can dance the night away, share ideas, and connect as we are meant to do.
Where are you now?
I’m back in Los Angeles. For about a year and a half now. As I came back for more business for my record label and to locate more artists in the States that are on the top of mind, state and intention for how they create wonderful music. I’m not sure how much longer I will stay in the States but for now it’s cool. Aside of course from the insanity outside. Funny thing, I predicted all this coming and I knew that it was bubbling until something ridiculous happened. So, it’s very important that as an artist I maintain diligence and resolve and to be unafraid so that the creativity is nurtured. Music is life.
What advice would you give to a DJ who is just starting the craft?
I would say don’t rush to get on stage or in the faces of people. Practice, learn the techniques, understand the technologies and get really tight with all of that stuff. Also, don’t worry about what other people are playing or what is number one, find something that resonates with yourself, dig and seek out music that makes you feel something. Also, I would say that because I consider being a DJ a medium of performance, production of music is absolutely vital. Without creating music yourself, no matter how great of a DJ you are it doesn’t really matter because people want art. They want something that you’ve created that they can experience and a DJ that only plays other people’s music does not have longevity.
I know you’ve been prolific with your production output. What are a few tracks you’ve produced that you’re really proud of that people should check out?
To be honest, everything that I’ve made I have a personal connection to, of course. So, it’s challenging for me to say what are my favorite tracks that I’m proud of because I’m proud of all of them. I don’t expect every song to be attractive to every single person. But, I definitely feel humbled when even one of my songs can connect with even one person and help make their life just a little bit more positive. Help them get through something that could otherwise be more challenging. To have this effect on even just one person with just one song makes every single moment totally worth it. I’d say for y’all to check out my catalog and find the tracks resonate with you. I literally have hundreds and hundreds of songs in the market, so I invite you to enter my world of sonic experimentation and try what appeals to you. Be inspired and become your best self.
Tell us about your production setup. What kind of DAW do you run?
Over the years I’ve used every digital audio workstation and spent many years on ProTools as well as Reason. I initially come from MPC 2000 XL and outboard keyboards and racks. However, over the last eight years I have been using a program called Bitwig. To me it is the best platform on the market as it is incredibly powerful, super intuitive, and seems to be designed by producers for producers.
I know all producers have their secrets, but are there any plugins, or gear you’d recommend?
I really like the Fab Filter package as well as everything from native instruments and Rob Papen. There are a ton of wonderful plug-ins and I suggest that people seek out what they really enjoy using by trying as many different products as possible. As I know you know Jay, producing music is more than anything cut and dry or turnkey, it comes down to many years of trial and error and an insane amount of hours developing an efficient workflow.
Amen to that. It’s just like anything in life, you’ve got to put in the hours and dedication to get your skills up to par and elevate from there. The universe rewards expertise and expertise comes from hard work. Fab Filter seems to be one I hear a lot of producers suggest. I’m a fan. I’ve got Rob Papen’s SubBoomBass in my kit, as well.
Any tips for young producers?
As for tips I would tell all young producers to make sure that they do what they love and they do it all the time. Be willing to sacrifice creature comforts and the things that a normal life is expecting. The life of a music producer is similar to the life of a kung fu master in 16th century China. By the time you are truly ready it is not a matter of rushing to the goal line it is a matter of knowing what to do when you reach it.
That’s a dope analogy! Finding that niche you are passionate about and digging in – so true!
What’s next for Motoe Haus?
Quite a lot of my music is on Spotify so make sure that you subscribe and let the records play, I’m sure you will enjoy. Also, my label Haustronaut has over 120 artists on roster now, and we are scheduled for a new release every Tuesday until the end of December of this year. We have a crazy output of amazing songs from incredible artists that you must check out. As for my tracks, I have just released a few vinyl projects with Techno Vinyls Records, as well as a collaborative release with Jerome Sydenham and Fatima Njai on Apotek out of Berlin. A couple of EPs on Ushuaia music, as well as some EPs on DzB records. And I have a few upcoming tracks on my own label. We are still doing my Vitamins weekly radio show on Monday nights on www.ibizaliveradio.com And I am going to be doing some cool club virtual reality stuff with a company out of England called ClubMixed.
Latest Motoe Haus releases?
I’m very happy about my collaboration with Jerome Sydenham and Fatima Njai on Apotek and recent releases with Kamil Van Derson, Orly Gal, Kilany M, Erick Khalifa, Phill Kullnig, Valentino Iacenda; respectively. I also have 3 wax releases with Techno Vinyls drop over the last 6 months and this is well exciting to me since working in 432 Root, I am seriously pleased with the sound quality on the vinyls.
Upcoming releases and collaborations with Leon Morley, Holmar, Xavianca, Mr Ayers, WheresGray, Anthony Powers, Frida Henson, and more will be available over the coming months. If you would like to keep up-to-date feel free to follow me on my Spotify and also purchase the tracks on Beatport and Traxsource.
Thanks, so much for taking the time to reach out to me, I hope everyone is doing well, staying safe, and preparing for the world to hear you. I love you all, thank you so much for the support over the years and please feel free to connect with me on my socials.
– Motoe Haus
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Jamie “JT James” Thirsk is a DJ, producer and writer based out of Vancouver, Canada. A veteran of the DJ and recording worlds. he has produced several projects in the genres of hip hop and electronic music under various aliases such as James Divine, Track Nicholson and Sandy Villanova. When he’s not on the decks, in the studio or staring into a blank word document you can catch him at the beach, hiking through the forest or telling people how much yoga can change their life. Look out for his latest project Wulvun and their debut single ‘Far Away’ coming to all platforms later this summer. Check out the presale link below.
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