Name: Matthias Roeingh aka Dr. Motte
Occupation: DJ, producer
Current release: Trip To Venus, a new two-track EP by Dr. Motte and Tom Wax is out now via Complexed.
Recommendations: Wow. That's a tough one. Only two? I like so much art, it's in my blood and genes. I love modern art from the last 120 years. Paintings from all over the world, modern jazz and free jazz, improvisations, modern classical music, modern architecture, inspirational books, high quality films, abstract art in every direction, public art installations, happenings, street art, modern dance, modern theatre, art from the history of mankind and I'm fascinated by how creative the human mind can be. In particular also when mind-altering natural substances are ingested. For example, peyote, which the Huichol use in a religious context and create very unique works of art with.
If you ask me what I can recommend, I would say if you ever have the opportunity to visit an exhibition of Pablo Picasso's sculptures, definitely do it! It's probably the most innovative thing you'll ever see. You can look at pictures of them, but seeing these works in real is a revelation. My second recommendation is a great piece of music that made a deep impression on me. It comes from Berlin and lasts a whole hour. It was often played as the opening in the Studio 54 in NYC. It is the musical description of a chess game by Manuel Göttsching "E2-E4". Put on your headphones and enjoy a fantastic masterpiece in a cozy place. Thank you very much!
If you enjoyed this Dr. Motte interview, visit his official website for more information. You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.
For the perspectives of one of Dr. Motte's long-time collaborators, check out our Tom Wax interview.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I grew up with classical music and started to collect music in 1972 at the age of 12, because of a record shop that popped up in the neighbourhood. A few years later I discovered fusion jazz and jazz rock. My older brother gave me a cassette with this music on it and I got totally hooked on improvisation. Wow!
I went to every jazz concert in Berlin at that time. It blew my mind watching and listening to Weather Report live on stage! That changed when I heard John Peel on BFBS for the first time in 1979. From then on I was into punk rock and absorbed all kinds of indie music from all over the planet. In 1982, I discovered black dance music. Imagine what my record collection looked like …
I was a vinyl junkie and additionally I had a pretty good collection of audio cassettes with recordings from records and radio music. Life back then was a lot easier than it is now and I even managed to make a living selling mixtapes at bars, cafés and shops during the first half of the 80's. I never left the house without a cassette in my pocket that I could have sold and people knew me for that.
So in 1985 a friend asked me if I could play some music on the Wednesday nights at a small dance club in Berlin-Kreuzberg. One year later I started the club "Turbine Rosenheim" together with two DJ colleagues and organized the very first acid house party in Berlin.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Boris Blank of Yello once said in an interview that he doesn't listen to music by other artists because he doesn't want to be influenced by it and wants to get the creativity out of himself. I like this idea, because for me this means the highest level of being an artist. Nevertheless, it works exactly the other way around for me. I always get my inspiration from the music I listened to or played for the people.
At the very beginning of acid house, I was thrilled that it suddenly became so easy to make music and thus express myself artistically in a completely new way. All that was needed were a drum machine and a synth or bassline. What an innovation! No big production studio, no expensive equipment – just two synthesizers and a recorder. This democratized music production and allowed everyone to find their own approach to it. At very low costs you could create a track and it even became easier to self-publish the music. I am thankful that I could experience and be part of this.
In this whole rush of creativity and freedom, where everything seemed to be possible, I finally came up with the idea of the Love Parade. Many say that was the ancestral mother of all techno festivals that we had and have on this planet, until today. Floats with big sound systems and people dancing together for a better world. In only 10 years, this small group of 150 people who started grew to a huge parade with 1.5 million participants in 1999.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
When I sit down in the studio I try to listen inside myself and visualize the situation for which I want to create music. Should it be a tune to listen to or do I want to make people dance? Then I look for the first note I want to play. What tone do I associate with that feeling and what follows it until I finally have a one-bar loop or something.
Mainly, I make music for myself. I must say that I have a big influence from radical, authentic electronic music artists like Apex Twin and Manuel Göttsching and the music that LTJ Bukem played in the nineties and Detroit techno from the early years. I like disco funk from the mid-1980s, dub reggae and all indigenous music and more.
What were your main creative challenges when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time?
I just play the music that I like. I love to sense what is the right track at that very moment. I call that a "selfie revolution." Looking inward and connecting with what's inside me and wants to come out of me to make a sound. It's a matter of being inspired, of set and setting.
I also love taking on new challenges. For example, playing ambient music in a planetarium or even in nature or in a big park. To prepare my set for the Bochum planetarium, it took me three months to find the right music and put it in the right order. I imagined what it would be like to listen to the music, look at the stars in the darkness of the room and sit with the other people. My question to myself: What would I like to hear? What would the story look like for two hours?
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
The first electronic music instrument was the Pearls "Syncusion" in 1979, as an addition to a drum kit my mother bought me. I used it as a stand-alone and also without the pads. The oscillators could start self-oscillating at very low and heavy frequencies. My speakers at home didn't like that at all. So I had to get new ones after that session. In 1984, my cousin sold me his Korg MS20. I still have it. Day after day, I literally dove into those two synthesizers and explored the possibilities they offered me. In West Berlin we had a good second-hand market, so I could buy more stuff for little money to expand my collection.
Later in 1991 and 1992 I recorded my first own album on Space Teddy called "Chill Out Planet Earth" with the following equipment: TR909, Juno 60, Boss SE 50, Moog Prodigy, a small Sony DAT recorder, Vestax DJ mixer, MC202 and some cheap hifi speakers as monitors. That was my little band and I was the conductor.
The newest hardware I got this year is a ZEN Delay and The Bassline from Erica Synth. All analog. I love it. I can be very minimalistic in terms of gear. But it can be a massive wall of sound at the same time. I used to make tracks with just a synthesizer ... Now I do everything with Ableton Live, software plugins and synthesizers from Urs Heckmann. The Diva Synth has an incredible sound quality, lots of depth, power and variety.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you perform?
I usually don't talk so much about what I do and how I do it. So. I played vinyl until 2010 or so. After that, I just played with CDs. I watched DJs do that and I liked the energy that came from those wav files. So I started playing with CDs as well.
On my self-burned CDs there were a maximum of 4 tracks. I had to mark them in a specific way to remember what was on them. I'm a visual guy and got into the habit of looking at vinyl labels to find the right track. Since 2012 or so, I've only played digitally from my hard drive. That means a lot less plastic and I always have my entire digital music collection with me. But at the moment, when I play, I often feel like I don't have the right collection with me.
It wasn't like that when I was playing vinyl. That was more revolutionary. When I play vinyl, it's like riding a bike. Playing with digital DJ hardware is not the same. Somehow I feel more insecure and I don't know exactly why. Maybe because the whole system is more error prone. I remember my Boiler Room set, where suddenly the connection to the hard drive was lost ...
DJing is a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation. How would you describe your approach to it? What do you start with, how do you develop a set, how does a form gradually manifest itself, what are good transitions between different tracks etc…
So many new tracks are released every week. I lose track in digital download stores. So I don't buy music there.
It sounds like a cliché, but as a DJ I love to tell stories with the music. I'm meticulous when it comes to listening to tracks. I often leave it until the last minute so I always have the latest material and know exactly what I have with me and find exactly the one I want to play next. I love to take elements from the first track and continue them in the next one and so on.
Nowadays we have such good technology and such brilliant sound systems that make a lot of details of the music audible. I only play uncompressed sound files because I want to offer people the best possible quality and energy. That makes a huge difference.
Whenever a DJ plays before me, I always say "You play your music. I play my music." I give everyone the freedom and respect. Then I start either with a well-known track or with long intros like "The Breeze" which I produced with my friend Gabriel Le Mar. That's a single-synth line we recorded that starts with just a bass sound and builds for a long time until finally the beats kick in. The track is 15 minutes long and I love to build it up and up and up, creating a unique dancing experience for everyone. Sometimes I start at 120 bpm and end up at 134 bpm ... I love to take people with me and make them feel safe in this dance environment.