Henry Feki, who goes by his last name 'Feki,' produces music that calls forth emotion not normally felt in the electronic genre. The Brisbane native started off making beats from the bedroom and now headlines his own Australian tour. Feki uses music to say the things he can't speak.
“In high school, I watched a video of Timbaland making beats for Jay-Z in the studio,” says Feki. In that clip, the two moguls play through possible instrumentals for ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder.’ Jay-Z and Timbaland bounce to the beats, searching for the right fit. “I didn’t know who I wanted to be as an artist at that time,” says Feki, “but after watching them, I knew I wanted to become a beatmaker.” Henry Feki, known as simply ‘Feki,’ started playing piano over a decade before stumbling upon the ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ collab. Now 22, the electronic music producer from Brisbane recalls his earliest encounter sitting before the keys. “I was with my Mom and Dad practicing scales,” he says. “That’s my first memory of music.”
Experimenting with production in high school, Feki didn’t explore electronic music early on. “I didn’t understand that world,” he says. “I didn’t know a producer could be an artist.” Staying behind the scenes, Feki produced for other rappers and singers. He grew tired of waiting on other vocalists and started producing beats for himself. With a background in piano, he picked up beat-making more quickly than his peers. Flume, a fellow Australian electronic producer, exposed Feki to the power of standalone beats. “Most of his songs on the album Flume [self-titled] were straight instrumentals,” says Feki. “When that project came out, I changed my thinking.”
Expanding his melodies and growing his sound, Feki studied artists like Flume for ideas. “Starting out, I couldn’t make something like Flume,” he says. “I tried to emulate other sounds before I found my own.” Through listening to Flume remixes, Feki discovered Ta-Ku, a producer from Western Australia, who opened his eyes to the sentient side of electronic music. “He shaped a bit of my direction.” says Feki. “I drew on his emotion and musicality.”
Harnessing an emotional sound, Feki entered a weekly cypher contest sponsored by the LA music collective Team Supreme. Every week, Team Supreme released a sample. Then thousands would compete to make the best beat using that sample. “I didn’t care about the submission part at first,” says Feki. “I just used their samples to practice and become a better producer.” Wanting to showcase his skills, he started submitting beats and entered the contest for a year straight. A few months later, Feki’s remix of ‘Do Without’ by Daktyl won the cypher. “I had extra motivation to compete because they [Team Supreme] had a huge fan base,” he said. “My beat got picked up and I gained a following on SoundCloud. I built a community through them.”
Needing a signature sound for his cyphers, Feki recorded the voice of his two year old cousin. “I put headphones on her, then sat her in front of the mic,” he says. At first, she just mumbled. Still recording, Feki cracked a joke and his cousin let out the word “yeah!” He now inserts this same “yeah” into each song as a sonic signature. “It became a thing that listeners could remember me by,” says Feki. “Now that things have grown, I try not to overdo it.” He subtly slips the signature into each track, leaving the flow unstirred. Unlike more noisy signatures, Feki’s blends into the melody while holding its own presence.
As the signature became a staple, composition also fell into place. Feki picks apart the song structure, refusing sell out for easy drops and pop-sounding melodies. “I’ve never been about the crazy sound production,” he says. “I’ve always been more about a good song.” Focusing on sound design, he starts with the chords and builds a melody lead off of the foundation. Gauging the initial vibes, he then adds the drums. “I try to step outside the normal 808 drop that a lot of people use,” he says.
Straying from the traditional, Feki colors the melody with unique progressions. “For chords, I use major 7ths and 9ths instead of just the normal triads,” he says. “Adding two more notes gives it a different feel.” Out of this process spawned Feki’s motto ‘#MakeWhatYouFeel’. The saying started as a joke, but ended up suiting his musical approach. “Just because you’re an electronic producer doesn’t mean you have to make bangers with massive drops,” he says. “I want people to make what they want even when others try to put them in a box.” Jumping into music full time, Feki traded the bedroom for the real world. “When a hobby becomes a career, life doesn’t stop,” he says. “All these things hit you that put more pressure on making music. It can be detrimental at times.” While still at university, Feki made music and worked a part time job. After graduation, he planned on taking six months off from work to focus on production, which rolled into a year. Music remains his livelihood. “The transition phase affects your writing process and mental health,” he says, “but I never let the business side take away from the purity of music.”
Living off of music comes with financial responsibility. Glamour from the outside doesn’t always match reality. “It’s expensive, really expensive,” says Feki. Forking out for flights and hotels adds up, and not all shows pay equally. “Sometimes you play and don’t get paid a lot, but it’s good for the brand,” he says. “It’s a big reality hit. I treat everything like a business trip.”
Starting out professionally, Feki turned down tour opportunities to focus on production. For the first year and a half, he worked on music from home. Soon after, he played his first show with RL Grime, then opened for Paces, and now headlines his own tour in Australia. “I’m playing smaller venues, but it’s definitely a step outside the club,” says Feki. At clubs, crowds crave the big drop. In more laid back venues, the atmosphere demands a greater melodic spectrum. “I can play more of the songs I love,” he says, “but it’s daunting playing music on tour that I would never play in the club.”
On his latest track, ‘Love You Better,’ Feki experiments with an upbeat vibe more suited for the club. He made the beat back in May, but needed a new direction. Teaming up with producer and friend from Melbourne, Styalz Fuego, they messed around with the chord structure. “I normally don’t co-produce,” says Feki. “He helped me finish the last ten percent.” After they finalized the beat, Styalz Fuego turned Feki onto the group Glades, who provided the vocal sample. Glades, on tour with Arizona, loved the song and sent the vocals back immediately. “Everything clicked,” says Feki. “Even with the more pop-ish songs like this one, I want to give more texture and a better chord structure.”
Treating vocal samples like instruments, Feki weaves the voices into the melody. Echoes and phrases accent the beat. “I want people to listen and feel something different,” he says. Helping people think more deeply, Feki’s positive energy accommodates the pursuit of the truth. “I’m not a vocalist,” he says. “I need to be able to say something through the production, through the music.”