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A Short Conversation with Liu Mottes of Alienbaby Collective

29 March 2020

With F I S H B O W L / T E R R E S T R I A L about to land in the public marketplace, I sat down with the artist behind Alienbaby Collective, Liu Mottes to find out how this new musical path came about, what are its drives and inspirations and where it all goes next.

You have said that Alienbaby Collective first came to life through a “half-dead laptop and the cheapest audio interface,” do you think that the music benefits from you having had access only to the basic tools to record through when you started?

Liu Mottes: I am not sure that the music benefits from that situation per se, however what I ended up making that way would have turned out very differently if I had more or better equipment. The songs are what they are, but some of them on this record started because of little mistakes I made when trying to record something, or from a sound that I wouldn’t have found if I’d have had other ways of recording. So in that way I think this music just wouldn’t have existed in the same way if things had been different.

How autobiographical are the songs you write?

Liu Mottes: My songs definitely relate to my life in some way, but they aren’t about me necessarily. They mostly speak about states or places one can find oneself in and are an attempt to describe those, sometimes with words and sometimes with sounds, or both. But I can always tell, looking back on things written within a certain period, what events in my life have inspired those moods, or what the things were that I found interesting or was fascinated with.

Musically the songs don’t seem to follow many conventional rules, do you deliberately seek to subvert the rules or do you just feel that rules aren’t needed in the first place?

Liu Mottes: I think I don’t care for rules so much, but I also don’t deliberately find ways to subvert them. I am not interested in breaking rules just to break them. I honestly wouldn’t even know what the rules are most of the time. What I try to do is to follow the logic or the path of something (a melody, a sound, a feeling, a story), to let it tell me where it wants to go and to listen and to respond.

Are there any bands in particular who have influenced the way that you make music or the sounds that you work with?

Liu Mottes: All the bands! I know that sounds a little uninformative, but I mean it. I think everything that I have ever listened to has influenced me so much. Bands that I really liked when I first started getting into music on a more obsessive level, but might not like at all anymore (let’s say Sum41?); music that I really hated when I was younger, but now breaks my heart in the best way (Joni Mitchell); music that I’ve always disliked (Reggae..) or liked for as long as I can remember (The Beatles); newer obsessions (Colleen, Tirzah, Cindy Lee); loves that will never leave me (Sonic Youth, Broadcast, Women); bands or artists that have been around me for years from the music scene/world here in The Netherlands (Space Siren, The Sweet Release of Death,* Lewsberg*, Spill Gold, The Ex) . All of these are factors to influence my taste and the way that I do or don’t want to make.

James Ferguson of Broads and Humm Recordings released the double e.p. F I S H B O W L / T E R R E S T R I A L , how important has he been in the process of getting your music heard?

Liu Mottes: James has been extremely important! This record would have stayed a tiny semi-secret in a corner of the internet if he hadn’t proposed to release it on Humm. We met at a show in the Netherlands where James played with Broads (who have released a beautiful record last week by the way) and I played as ABC. We stayed in contact after that and the conversation led to the idea of releasing this as a double EP on Humm Recordings. James did some additional mixing on the record and mastered it as well, now here it is, out in the world so soon. I never expected that to happen when I was making these songs, so it was and is a very lovely surprise and adventure.

You seem to have lots of musical commitments – SOON, Slow Worries and OBOL LE – will you have time to return to this solo project or do you not plan that far ahead?

Liu Mottes: Yes, ha, lots of commitments! I find it quite hard to say no to things that I really want to do, so I just end up doing them all. It somehow, so far, seems to work out though. each project has its own pace and I just try to divide my attention so that there’ll be some periods where I focus a little more on one of them and at other times another project gets some extra love. Since Alienbaby Collective is a very personal project it is easier to make it move between everything else. As long as I exist, so will ABC in one way or another, but I’ve always had some trouble looking far into the future, so who knows where this will all land!

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me