Needless to say that Danny Chien, better known by his stage name Wax Motif, is a young House legend. Originally from Sydney – Australia, Wax has become an icon of the L.A music scene in recent years with songs that have consistently ranked at the top of the music charts.
He is also one of the key players behind the G-House movement and has worked with other geniuses like Destructo and GTA. Every time he settles on a stage it is to set it ablaze with energy through his music. In this interview he lets us know how hard he had to work to earn the place he currently has, his Divided Souls label, and his love for the artisanal work that leads him to discover new sounds.
You are Australian by nationality and Chinese by ancestry. Has this mixed heritage somehow influenced your sound?
In a subconscious way, it probably has, but my parents were never really musically inclined. They did play a lot of 70’s music as well as Chinese music in the house. My Mom loved the BeeGees, Beach Boys, etc, so we always got a lot of that. And my Dad loved the Chinese violin and had loads of CDs he’d keep on high rotation. Other than that most of my music discovery came from myself or friends.
Talking about vinyl records, you said once in an interview that, “now it’s just like you click a button on Beatport or open a million promo emails. I don’t feel like you ever find anything special just for you.” Do you still feel that way? Even while playing music on vinyl?
Yeah, I do still feel that way. Everything is so algorithmic and curated now that we’re kinda directed towards what a platform thinks we like. Music discovery is still there, but it’s harder now and requires more patience. Starting my label Divided Souls brought a lot of that discovery back and now I’m trying to fill my sets with either my own unreleased songs or unreleased IDs we have from the label. Going the extra step to find those rare or undiscovered gems gives your set something unique over the next DJ, too.
You also have this fashion side. Are there any threads that unite your clothing brand with your musical style? How would you conceptualize that?
I guess streetwear is probably how you would describe most of my wardrobe. Honestly, the main thing for me is comfort first due to the heavy amounts of traveling I do, so I’m always stacked with hoodies and sneakers. After that, I’m really just looking for stuff that grabs my eye. I bring a little hip-hop to my house sets so I feel like my style reflects that too.
How do you evaluate dance music movement at the moment? Do you think there are things being done that resist fashion?
We’re in a good space right now. Dance music isn’t so focused on being the most extreme sounding anymore and it’s a lot about grooves and vibes right now. House music is in, and fashion and house go so hand in hand I actually think I’m seeing more crossovers than ever before. Plus, who doesn’t wanna look good?
Divided Soul has become a platform for many new artists and a hub for new ideas. How has the experience been running your own label? How do you feel it’s contributed to your career?
Starting my own label has been one of the best things I’ve ever done, not even just on a career note, but also personally. It really helped freshen my palette when I started getting demos which just blew me away. It’s like a new shot of motivation when I hear something that I have no idea how it was made, and I think that’s what fuels the passion for people making music. It’s also given me a whole arsenal of unreleased material to test out on the road. I really think it’s important to help put on the next generation of kids you believe are really talented.
Some people don’t realize how much you’ve sacrificed in your music career. Could you explain this experience?
Being from Australia, I think my journey has been more brutal than most. The journey is almost twice as long, as we have to make it there first to be able to get noticed by American agents, which eventually leads to a visa and the opportunity to move to America. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot, and usually at the expense of my family or friends, which doesn’t feel great. But I don’t think I would be in my position if I didn’t, so I have no regrets. I’ve missed a lot of birthdays, weddings, Christmases, or just weekends with friends. But the people I’m closest to all understand and I try to make up for it in other ways.
What kind of music can we find in your playlist?
House, rap, RnB usually. Right now I’m listening to the David Penn remix of “Stupiddisco” by Junior Jack and “Who Wants the Smoke” by Nardo Wick.
It may sound like a trite question, but what has been your key to success? The thing that’s allowed you to successfully explore so many paths. Talent is the main reason, of course. But what else?
Besides talent, I’d say work ethic, determination, and sacrifice. Being Chinese and growing up with Chinese parents I think work ethic is ingrained in you from an early age, and sacrifice is just a part of that. Most people around me see how hard I work and a lot of that is just the determination to not fail. I feel like I’ve sacrificed so much, just like my parents who worked so hard just to give us a decent life. So I feel the weight of that responsibility and want to maximize my opportunities as much as possible.
Wax has commented that a pending goal for him would be to play at Coachella. We are sure that it will not be long before his talent and determination to achieve will place him at the top of that podium.
Story: Mariana Gonzalez Photos: John Chiaravalle
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