Eric Musyoka is a hitmaker and music producer. He has made his bones producing some of the popular names in music, in turn shaping the tune of the music industry. The feathers in his cap include names like Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, Bamzigi, Wyre, Nameless, Peter Miles, Nonini, Kleptomaniacs, P-Unit, Juliani, Daddy Owen, Elani, Just A Band and Sauti Sol. His recording label, Decimal Records has also produced a song you might have heard - ‘Drinx Na Mayenx’ and Morgan Heritage's latest album ‘Loyalty’. As a film sound producer, he has worked on local films like ‘Nairobi Half Life’ and numerous commercials for major corporates.
He studied Audio Technology at SAE Institute of Technology New York in the US. He spoke to JACKSON BIKO via phone.
When did you start seeing yourself as a businessman?
Working with the Rabar brothers at Homeboyz has been very instrumental in shaping my business acumen. I’d say they have been my biggest mentors. From them, I learnt that music isn’t just about the hype, there is a systematic way of doing things. It’s from them that I learnt that talent is good but it can only take you so far.
I mean there were not the most talented deejays but they were making major moves because of their vision, dedication, taking risks, and grabbing opportunities. At Homeboyz, I was not looked at as the best producer, I was employed and it was clear that even if I left the company would continue the next day.
Most people imagine that they are superstars in people’s companies. For four years, Homeboyz was a great learning ground. I connected the dots there and they inspired me to invest in myself so I went out of the country to study a degree in audio technology.
Does music pay or do you have a side hustle?
It pays me. I purely make a living from my artistes but I have a diversified portfolio, but all in the entertainment industry.
What song have you produced that evokes the most emotion in you?
Makmende's Ha-he. It’s also the one that has earned me the most in royalties. It’s the first Kenyan viral video and I have to come to accept that I might never do another song like this.
Culturally, it was significant, placing an unknown band [Just A Band] at that time on the map. It is an iconic song. It’s the kind of song that I’d put on my headstone; Ha-He Lies Here. (Laughs). But in my career, I have done many other hits.
Where do ideas come from?
Thin air. (Laughs) But most ideas come from experiences and joy and pain. I find that my best ideas come from extreme emotions.
What does your wife particularly find very annoying about you?
A lot of things. I’m very...I’m kind of a dictator. I’m a control freak and a neat freak, I like my things done in a certain way. I will also get on my bike and ride to Marsabit on a whim and I will call her and tell her ‘I’m in Nanyuki," and she will not be amused— 12 years later. I also only wear black clothes. I don’t like looking at other colours, wondering what shirt I wore yesterday.
I have 15 black trousers, 30 black tee-shirts, two black jackets, and five pairs of black shoes. If you see me in any colour, it’s most likely I’m going for a shoot and those are not my clothes. I think people spend too much time thinking about what to wear, I spend that time focusing on other things, like securing the future for my children. I see a lot of my friends in their 40s living lifestyles I wouldn't want to lead at that age. I'd hate to retire when anxious.
How does dictatorship work for you in marriage?
Funnily enough, we never cross paths. She has her space and I have mine. We homeschool our five children. She is in charge of that. I’m in charge of providing and instilling discipline in the children. I’m also in charge of designing the home; what curtains to buy, utensils... She makes the family stable.
What's the secret to a happy marriage?
There is no secret. But respect is the most important thing in a marriage, even more, important than trust.
I’ve known my wife for 19 years, I would never go out of my way to hurt her. Respect is how you relate to each other and understanding your roles. Let the woman be the wife and the man be the husband. When you start mixing roles, problems start coming.
To have five children now, you must work hell-a hard?
(Laughs) They are 11, 9, 7, 5, 3. I love it like that. I’m blessed, really blessed. I think my gardener works harder than me. I appreciate what God has given me and I don’t take it for granted. I think if you seek it, the world conspires to help you. And you have to guard and value your blessings. If I get really broke, I will pack my family and go to the village, and start another life there. It’s that simple. I don’t expect the world to make me happy, nor do I expect my wife or children to make me happy. I have to find happiness in me first.
Don’t get me wrong, my family makes me very happy, but should my children one day resort to doing drugs, lacking discipline, I will be disappointed but I won't be depressed.
You turn 40, your next birthday, what's the greatest anxiety that comes with, for you?
I just want my children never to regret that I was their father. I want them to learn from my principles.
Legend has it that you don't drink and smoke. An uncommon trait in your industry, wouldn't you say?
I’ve tasted alcohol and very occasionally I will have wine. But look at the Rabars, they don't drink or smoke.
For me it’s even more interesting; our grandfather cursed anyone who decided to touch alcohol. People who drink in my family have issues.
Do you ever think of death and regrets?
Interesting questions. I'm a biker. I just upgraded from a BMW to a KTM 1190. It’s a big bike, like the one’s presidential escorts ride, only it’s the adventure version. For me, it was either bikes or women. (Laughs) It’s the same high. I like to wake up, pack a bag, and drive to Bungoma. I came from Malawi in September last year.
We were to ride to Zimbabwe this year, but Covid-19 happened. I have ridden head-on in a truck with my bike. I have been hit off my bike at the bypass. I’ve ridden with a broken leg.
Nobody knows when death is coming but do we stop living our best lives? A friend took his car to the carwash and was electrocuted to death. Car wash! My wife and my children have written our eulogies. That's how much we are aware of and practical about death.
What does a bike represent to you?
Freedom and choice. It also reminds me of both life and my mortality.