MOGUAI – A Candid Conversation with A Dance Music Legend
Around a week ago, I attended an undeniably rowdy event held on Governors Island in NYC, headlined by Thomas Gold, MOGUAI, Bright Lights, and Dubvision. After a few hours of partying with a bunch of random ravers (all my friends bailed on me), I weaved my way backstage; $8 Bud Light in hand, and caught up with the veteran German DJ/Producer, MOGUAI. Throw on the mix below, and check out our in-depth interview with the seasoned punk of dance!
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OTB: How was the show? Governors Island is a pretty incredible venue. Where did you play last in NYC?
MOGUAI: That’s what I’m up for! And that’s how I grew up with the music. Like, it’s not only one style, I always play different styles, and tonight was a good example for mixing one style into another, telling a nice story. A musical story. I love having a great conversation with the crowd. People appreciate it, and I appreciate the response.
MOGUAI: It was a party that I put on myself in my hometown. I remember using two Technics MK2‘s, which I played with for over 8 years. After that, I switched to CDJ’s, and then Ableton, which I used to play live sets along side Deadmau5 following my album release on Mau5trap. Now I’m back using CDJ’s again.
OTB: How do you feel about the digital age of DJ-ing? Do you prefer it?
MOGUAI: I prefer it, I’m used to it right now. You just have so many options when you play digital. I can do my own tracks before I come to the show, and make my own edits, where before this wasn’t possible. To do that, you had to make templates, and make hard copies of your own records just to play them. Most people don’t know that before CD’s, if you really wanted to play new stuff, you had to make templates, and it took like 4 or 5 weeks just to make them. Now, you can make an edit and play it immediately after putting it on a USB stick or a CD.
OTB: I’ve heard that you studied law (like fellow producer, Armin Van Buuren) before you decided to fully pursue music. Could you tell us a bit about how you made your decision?
MOGUAI: It was a pretty tough decision because I grew up in a very different surrounding. My parents owned a butcher shop, and I grew up very conservative / old school. They never supported me in my creative and musical endeavors, or even when I went to study; because it was very different. Normally, parents will say, “Wow you want to study law, go for it, great!”, but for me it was like, “Okay, I have to finance this myself”. This is when I began with the music. I played in clubs every weekend, and made enough money to get by during the week. Gradually, I made more and more, and after 1 or 2 years, I had about 10 shows per month and had to make a decision, “Do I really want to go on with studying law, or do I want to go the unserious way of a DJ or producer?”. At that time, dance culture wasn’t enormous like it is today, so it was a tough decision, but I made it and now I’m very happy.
OTB: What would you say was your breakout record?
MOGUAI: It was not just one, or a couple. If I had to pick one, I’d say it was “U Know Y” on my old label PUNX. But in the late 90’s, my track “Beatbox” was pretty big in Australia, South Africa, and South America. Likewise, a lot of the tracks I released on Mau5trap, the track I did with Dimiti Vegas and Like Mike, “Mammoth”, and others were very big, it was not just one hit record. I could play 3 hours or more just playing my own music.
OTB: What artists have you been inspired by over the past year? Dance artists or visual artists.
MOGUAI: Karl Lagerfeld. For fashion, he’s very versatile, and is doing his own thing. He’s inspiring me.
OTB: Any dream collaborations?
OTB: Have you ever thought about merging your love for Punk and Dance music?
MOGUAI: I already did it! I did it on my label PUNX, but never did covers, I did most of the records on my own. The first one was “The Rock”, then “U Know Y”, “Get On”, “Freaks”, and “Old ‘N’ New”. All these records were very much punk influenced. The new tracks coming out in the next few months are kind of going back to this style, but with more of an Indie Dance flair. It’s a very handmade sound. The very last record that I played tonight is a track that I will release on Spinnin’ Deep called “Hold On”. I made it together with a band from LA called Cheat Codes. I’m very into this is the style of music right now. Handmade music. I’d call it Red Hot Chili Peppers influenced Dance music.
OTB: Have you ever played Berghein, in Berlin?
MOGUAI: No, because I’m too commercial. If you know underground guys from New York / the states, I think they’d even be too commercial. Berghain is known as one of the most underground clubs in the world. I’ve been there a couple of times, but I don’t really want to play there. It’s great for going out, and they have a great concept. Check it out if you get a chance. It’s an experience.
OTB: Lets talk about your new single “Portland” (which hit #1 on beatport). You’ve previously mentioned that you find the naming of your tracks to be the hardest part in releases. Could you give us a bit of insight into the meaning of “Portland”?
MOGUAI: You know what, there was no reason. I had a different name for that track, but Watermät came up with the name “Portland”. It sounds a bit techy / techno-y, but has no real meaning. I think it suits very well to the track, which is why I said “hey, I don’t have a problem with that, lets go with that”.
OTB: Any other upcoming releases or collaborations you want to tell us about?
MOGUAI: The track that I told you about before, to be released on Spinnin’ Deep, “MOGUAI feat. Cheat Codes – Hold On”, then another collaboration that I made with Robin Schulz, for his upcoming album. That track is called “Save Tonight”, and will be available on September 25th. Then I have a couple of new tracks which are coming out on Warner Chappell International, and some more which I can’t talk about right now.
OTB: Any more releases on PUNX? Or has that run its course?
MOGUAI: Yes! But they’re not scheduled yet, but will come out. Right now we are at the end of August, almost September, I think by the end of this year 3 or 4 more releases will come out.
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