Name: Oupa Joseph Makwela aka El Payo

Nationality: South African
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: El Payo's debut album In Motion is out via Stay True.
Recommendations: I love reading the manuals of the software that I use before I create something. The only book I have read and I recommend is from Computer Music magazine. It teaches us about science in music.

If you enjoyed this interview with El Payo and would like to know more about his work, visit him on Facebook, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

My journey into music began early 2007 as a DJ. I then began music production in 2012, being inspired by artists like Atjazz, Stimming, Boddhi Satva and Floating Points, just to name a few.

[Read our Stimming interview]

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

I feel like I'm in my own dimension. with all the vibrations and frequencies    channeling and unlocking happiness in me.

When I create music that feels good, it just keep pushing me to push the boundaries.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

For me, music has never been about breakthroughs, it has been all about being able to create something that would describe me as an artist. Something unique and organic.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I'm someone who likes to pay attention to every detail on a song, sounds that are unique and soul touching.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

I believe music sends a strong message. It's something that is not just about entertainment, but story telling.

So I like creating music that tells a story.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I believe in inviting the past into the present to unlock the future.innovation is part of evolution.

There are lots of artists since technology has introduced unlimited possibilities.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

We are in the digital era, everything I do is digital. I don't have a special tool or instrument. I use everything that I come across during the production session.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I don't normally produce during the day. For me, magic happens at midnight. I stop in the morning, but only to avoid fatigue. But yeah I spend a-lot of time in the studio creating music.

I think the only time I'm producing during the day is when I have a session with other artists.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I do believe in team-working, in the old days music was something that was achieved by people who believed in a common goal, the end result.

I believe that culture still exists even if technology has made things easier for us.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

Music has saved me from a lot of things. It kept me away from the streets, away from depression. It's sad to see a generation that got itself trapped by drugs.

So for me, music kept me safe from the streets.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

As I mentioned before, depression on the previous question. I lost my mom in 2005 and of course I went through a lot of depression.

When I got myself into music, I have found happiness and realised that life has to go on

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

Music and science go hand in hand, we cannot deny the fact that most of the things that we do today are all part of science. Denying science is like denying the truth.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

When you drink coffee, the first thing that happens to the tongue is the taste. If it's sweet, then it's ready to go, if it's sour that's a problem.

Ears have a unique taste when it comes to music.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

It's magic. Being able to change something that is just an illusion into reality.