Building your universe: Le Motel starts Maloca Records

Pictures by Thomas Nolf

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The Brussels-based producer has founded his own record label, starting with an EP by himself - his first in three years.

Even though most people might know Le Motel as Roméo Elvis’ former sidekick, the talented DJ-producer has his own story to tell. Le Motel’s strength is found in his unique style of eclecticism. Now that the time has come for a new chapter in his career, the enigmatic producer is starting his own imprint with six original productions by himself. Scroll down for an exlusive first listen of his track 'Wasiwa'.

Why did you decide to start your own label now?

I didn’t see much benefit to signing with a major or even smaller, relevant international record labels. Since my career is currently on a turning point, the time was right to focus inwards again, creating a community of my own instead of joining someone else’s. Practically, I realized I was able to do most things on my own: the organization, A&R and graphic design. For anything else, like the mastering, PR and distribution, I could count on close friends around me. That’s what made it so appealing: a personal, small-scale and independent approach. Many of my favourite labels, like Principe Discos, Nyege Nyege, Enchufada, Black Acre or Hessle Audio are run just like that. They're not big, but every single release has a particular story to tell, new artists are given a chance, and there's a clear narrative throughout the catalogue. That’s what I aim for with Maloca Records.

What sound can we expect to emerge from the label in the first couple of releases?

The first release would be my own Transiro EP, which will serve as a kind of example of what the label will sound like. I haven’t done a solo release in a long time anyway, so it made perfect sense to go first myself. Up next are EP’s with incredible artists like the China-based Howie Lee and the Oakland-native Farsight. Both were musicians I had in mind from the start. Howie Lee, for example, perfectly balances contemporary experimental club beats with traditional Chinese music; that's precisely the kind of mindset I want to push with my label. I'm just happy they are willing to join me on this adventure because I didn't have much to show for (laughs). As you can hear in my first release, I want it to be truly global. I don't just draw inspiration from one style; I want to build bridges between many different times and cultures.

Since my career is currently on a turning point, the time was right to focus inwards again, creating a community of my own instead of joining someone else’s.

The Transiro EP marks a shift in your personal life and methods. Can you elaborate?

‘Transiro’ means transition, which is relevant to me as I’ve indeed been experiencing some profound changes in my life. That’s why I went to the Colombian Amazon forest to clear my mind last year. Over there, I spent a week in a village of the Ticuna tribe, learning about plants, medicine, food, etc. After that, I visited Palenque de San Basilio, a village that's famous for its drum culture, as most of the inhabitants are of African descent. I met up with a lot of local artists, one of which helped me get a unique pirated CD containing rare recordings of the village’s bands, like Sexteto Tabala and Son Palenque. Unfortunately, tragedy struck and all my stuff got stolen.

At first, I was filled with rage, but I made peace with the situation. After all, I had still lived through all those moments. So in a way, this misfortune became part of my transition. Eventually, I met Luca Silva of Palenque Records, who helped me get a new CD copy of all the music I had just lost. He has done some fantastic work with local musicians there, and I definitely want to involve him on the record label in the future. In the days that followed, I formed the current vision I have for Maloca Records.

What does the word Maloca mean?

A maloca is a kind of unique community centre in the middle of indigenous villages in the Amazons. Everything is built around this structure. It’s where they play music and spend time together. When the wood of the building starts to rot – which happens in a rain forest – it means that the area is contaminated and they move the whole village to another location. Only after a couple of years, they can come back again. I was dumbfounded and fascinated when they explained this to me because it really makes you feel like a small pawn in the ethereal plans of nature. I learned a lot of important lessons from these cultures (like the way they take care of their elders for example). Additionally, the link with the function of a motel is totally unrelated, but quite the funny bonus.

When you’re unshackled of other people’s expectations, you have a healthy base to start building your own universe upon.

You use influences from all over the world - in one EP. How do you make sure to avoid being accused of cultural appropriation?

I’m always very aware of this issue when I’m abroad. The point is never to simply use their music as samples or replicate what they do and call it my own. Without denying credit to whom it’s due, I want to unite all those elements from different cultures into one global sound – that's where it becomes exciting. In the end, all good music is the result of different cultures mixed. Unfortunately, cultural appropriation is rife in the current electronic music scene. I would love to bring those musicians like those from Palenque de San Basilio over here; not to use their music for my benefit, but to work together, bring them on tour, and stuff like that. Debruit’s project with KoKoKo! (who’s done an album and a couple of tours with a band from Kinshasa, ed.) or Young Marco’s ‘Bahasa’ album (in which he visited his roots and recorded an album with traditional musicians from Indonesia, red.) are great recent examples of how it should be done. It's not appropriation; it's collaboration and appreciation.

What’s the advice you would give to your younger self if you had the chance?

Inspiration is important. You need to see what other people do and how they do it, but you need to stay yourself in the process. Don’t replicate what someone else has already done, or we’ll all end up with the same thing. I know that sounds so incredibly cheesy, but it's true. Don't cave into the pressure of other people that expect something from you. Young artists these days always think they need to do this or that. You don’t need to do anything. When you’re unshackled of other people’s expectations, you have a healthy base to start building your own universe upon. I've never felt any pressure to make my music more accessible, not even when I was working with Roméo.

How do you look back on your days with Roméo?

A lot of people still ask me that as if we were lovers that broke up. Working together with Roméo always felt natural and spontaneous; just two friends who learned a lot from each other. Indeed, we never planned to work together for so long – we did two albums, three if you count in the deluxe version of 'Morale 2'. At a given point, the time came to part ways. I wanted to go back to my roots as an electronic music producer, and Roméo needed to try his luck with other people in the studio. We still see each other as much as we can, and we even continue to do collaborations sometimes. I’ve produced ‘En Silence’, a track on his latest album ‘Chocolat’ and I’ve joined him on his yearly retreat to the Red Bull Studios in Amsterdam, alongside Lennard Vink, Vladimir Cauchemar, Todiefor and others.

I've never felt any pressure to make my music more accessible.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from those days?

It was a fantastic experience from start to finish. When we first worked together, we didn’t expect anything at all. Experiencing the relentless growth from the inside was a life lesson I’ll never forget. From tiny tour vans to massive tour busses, from 30 people in a Brussels bar to 40.000 people on a French festival, etc. I never suspected I would like playing in front of crowds like that, but once I got up there, I realized it's one of the best feelings in the world.

What can we expect if we see Le Motel on a lineup these days?

There’s a big difference between my DJ-sets and my live sets. In the case of the latter, I’m joined by Antoine De Schuyter, who provides fantastic live visuals during my set. We emphasize on the spontaneous interaction between music and visuals, which always delivers a unique live set. Other than that, I’m curating a stage on Listen! Festival, inviting Addison Groove, Dengue Dengue Dengue, Suzi Analogue, Susobrino and Pippin.