Papi Moshodi – aka Eye-On Feather – is a producer/DJ who’s strong on texture, tone and technique.
Favouring jazz and electronic hip-hop, Eye-On takes the chemistry of electronic music quite seriously and it shows in his use of indigenous South African instruments alongside computer-crafted vibrations. We had a chat with him about his various endeavours, particularly his latest EP Creatures of the Air and the science behind his use of technology when creating music.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am Papi Moshodi aka EOF, born in Pretoria and raised in Johannesburg. I am a musician, composer, producer, song writer and DJ. I like to take long naps and drink pomegranate juice. I am here to explore and express all the sonic perspectives and soundscapes the world has to offer me.
Can you elaborate on the name you’ve chosen and its significance?
The name Eye-On Feather was originally spelt as Iron Feather. Its significance was based on the contradiction of the two words put together, but after doing my research to check the name’s availability, I discovered that it was already being used by someone else, so I decided to change the spelling and keep the sound as I had already grown fond of it.
How would you describe your sound and who would you say opened your eyes to the possibilities in music production?
My sound is based on creating music from ambient melodic instruments or synthesisers, which have subtle rhythmic suggestions that complement the song’s movement and overall structure. The likes of Amon Tobin, Tricky, Massive Attack, Ras G and Adrian Younge inspired the curiosity and motivation to gain knowledge and understanding of how to make music from scratch.
What fascinates me the most about their style of production is their ability to make dark ambient sounds appear melodically bright, and how the listener can be entertained by trying to figure out what instruments or sounds were originally used.
How did you come to create this kind of music specifically? Do you think formal education in that respect is necessary? What was your first experience in studio like?
When I started creating music, I used to sample a lot of old-school tunes and tried to arrange the music as if it were mine. I would also add some sound effects to manipulate the original sound of the sample. Even when I’m not sampling, and I’m making a song from scratch, I still find myself using the same technique or approach as when I used to sample.
Information today is easy to access on the internet, so you can find tons of tutorials from professionals online.
I didn’t study sound engineering, but I do have a music theory background which has assisted me in certain musical aspects; especially when it comes to playing in a certain key, or being able to structure my music according to universal music principles.
I think formal education is good because it makes things MUCH easier. But it’s not the only way one can improve their knowledge or skill. Information today is easy to access on the internet, so you can find tons of tutorials from professionals online and you can also get tips from peers and other sources available.
More than anything, I think being in studio has helped me realise what equipment I need in order to build my own studio. So I guess my first experience was more of realisation – and also some form of fascination.
This being your debut, tell us a bit about the making of this EP, the tracks and what they mean to you.
Creatures of the Air is more of an experiment rather than a musical project. The idea is derived from using musical sounds, which I structured in a way that they imitate a wide variety of flying objects, and these objects could be taking off or in flight. My favourite track is While She Sleeps because it’s the song that inspired the whole mood and colour of the project.
On all of the songs, I avoided using snare drums; instead I would use a high-pitched bass drum or make it as rhythmic as possible, which makes it a bit of an unusual project for me. Other favourites for me are Caterpillar and Lehonu (which means ‘today’ in Sepedi), because of how they both symbolise taking off or flight and for me they exemplify flying creatures for me.
I enjoy the freedom of diversity and flexibility to keep my listeners guessing.
I think the weirdness of the project actually speaks for itself; it is more mood music than anything you can dance to because I made all the songs in a very relaxed state of mind, so I hope it speaks the same language to the listener.
Would you say that you have a signature sound?
I don’t have a signature sound. I enjoy the freedom of diversity and flexibility to keep my listeners guessing instead of being able to identify my music immediately.
What are your thoughts on the beat scene in South Africa?
The beat scene in South Africa has come a long way. I think now more than ever, we actually have a substantial number of really good producers and beatmakers which are continuously introducing South Africans and the rest of world to the quality of our sound. This sound significantly represents our cultural wealth and diversity, as well as the level of creativity we possess.
What are your thoughts on the beats scene internationally, and what do you think South African beatmakers can bring to the scene that others might not?
As much as the international beat scene is big and largely influences a lot of beat makers at home, I also think that South Africans should not pay too much attention to what international producers are doing, as this could inevitably direct our creative output.
However, it is good to stay current within your industry and compare things such as sound quality and other universal beat-making principles, but overall we have a wealth of musical references here at home, and that is the one thing we all have access to.
The availability of different software also gives everyone a competitive edge.
This will give us a clear distinction to everybody else and allow us to not only mimic what’s happening out there but instead create from a more personal and founded point of view.
Do you feel that with technological advancements and such that the quality of electronic music has diminished because it’s so accessible to anyone with a computer?
Well I think it has actually given space for improvement instead. For instance, without the advancement of technology and media platforms such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, a large number of producers that we currently have on the scene would go unnoticed. And the availability of different software also gives everyone a competitive edge and the drive to either be more creative or prolific in a sense.
Do you feel that producers are often overlooked when it comes to the creation of music as opposed to frontmen/women, singers or rappers?
Sure that happens but mostly because when a song is played on the radio or you stream it on the internet, it is usually the frontman or woman’s name that comes up. That is usually because there is an agreement between the producer and vocalist about whose name will be used and whose project it is.
My creative process is not always the same.
In the case where the project is the producer’s, it is unlikely that they will be overlooked, because everyone else will be a feature and the producer is the frontman/woman. I think once you identify yourself as a producer, you have the confidence to work with artists and know that your work speaks for itself.
What is your creative process like? Do songs sort of come to you randomly in the shower or while driving, or is it something you have to dig out of yourself and constantly chip away at until it’s perfectly sculpted?
My creative process is not always the same. Sometimes a melody will just pop into my head and I go along with it. At times I could be me just messing around and I end up getting an idea from that.
But, I have found that most of the ideas which end up materialising into something are usually the ones that come without me even thinking about music and then I’ll have to rush home or record a quick voice note just in case it escapes me.
What does your creative space consist of, and what tech can you not do without as a producer?
I’ve got my computer, a soundcard, headphones, studio monitors, a midi-keyboard, condenser microphone as well as some acoustic instruments like; the Mbira, a drum kit and other indigenous instruments I haven’t even used yet. I think I can never do without my mic, monitors and headphones.
Find Eye-On Feather on SoundCloud