Popular DJ, Patrick Imohiosen, better known as, DJ Neptune narrates his fascinating journey in the entertainment business; from DJ to mainstream music. Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, DJ Neptune was lounging with his wife in their living room. Well, his real name is Patrick Imohiosen. Nobody really calls him that. Everyone calls him DJ Neptune. I was going to interrupt their intimacy, for a while. They knew I was coming. When I arrived, Mrs. Imohiosen was all charm and hospitable. I accepted some slices of cake and water. It was the First Sunday of the year and the celebratory air was still blowing. She served the snack before taking leave of her husband and I. But the television was still tuned to E! which she was watching before my arrival. Neptune was wearing a track pant and a T-shirt. He looked like one who had been reminded of a pressing appointment. I would never know if he had second thoughts about the appointment. After the initial welcome formalities, he kept his gaze on the laptop, until I said I was ready to proceed with the interview.
“I started out on the street like any other DJ and then I got the opportunity to be on radio. That was when everything worked. That was 2004.”
Now, we can peg his professional career as a DJ, but the rest of his statement was cluttered; so I needed more light to understand where he was coming from. “I was understudying someone. My boss then, DJ Douglass. He had a studio in a fast-food outlet at Egbeda-Lagos. We were playing there and people came around to book us to play at parties and events. The opportunity to be on radio came from a friend whose father worked at DAAR Communications, owners of Raypower 100.5FM. He put in a good word for me. I was put on a test. I did well and was hired.”
That really isn’t the beginning of his story. The journey goes back to 2001. The entertainment industry was different. DJ equipment were very expensive. And not everyone could lay hands on them. To gain access, you had to work with one who had these equipment turntables and records, not even CDs. It was like serving a period of apprenticeship to become a mechanic. All that has changed. Today, people can easily download songs off the internet.
There is no doubt that Neptune has profound interest in entertainment, particularly, music. His passion for entertainment actually started with singing. Back then, he had an uncle who came on a routine weekly visit to give him voice training tutorials. His father did not fancy this at all. When he passed, Neptune who was 16, at the time, had the opportunity to do what he wanted. Between completing his secondary school education, he ventured into the DJ world, while allowing the singing part to recede a bit. His plan was simple: start as a DJ. Grow it to a stage then introduce the other creative side of you out. So far, everything is working, according to plan, even faster than he thought.
When he started working as a DJ, he was driven by the passion. Originally, he just wanted to play so people could listen and enjoy his selection of music. Then he began to understand that as a DJ, what mattered was for him to play what the people love. That is what makes a good DJ.
It was not about making money. There was really nothing to make. It was what gave him joy. Daily; the pump of the music. The gyrating bodies on the dance floor. The cheerful atmosphere. He loved them all beyond explanation. Along the line, he became mindful of the business of the trade. He cleaned up his act, took part-time tutorials for a degree in Mass Communication from the Lagos State University and things became better.
Residing in a plum estate in Ajah with his wife and daughter may be a pointer to the good times that Neptune is rolling in, but his thoughts are clouded with visions of improved deals for DJs. “People have not really settled down to accept that DJ is an act on its own and that DJs should not be neglected the way they are being neglected now. If you have someone putting an event or a show together, the least person on their mind is the DJ. DJs are key in whatever event you are doing, be it concert, wedding birthday, child dedication. If music is not there, no matter how good your food is, no matter the kind of drinks you have, if the music is not there or if the music is not that good, people will not have fun like they want. It is not that people cannot be in their house and buy drinks and invite their friends, but they will rather go to the club and listen to how DJs play the music and everything surrounding it.”
However, on a good day, you are not likely to find Neptune in a club, except work takes him there. His reason: “I am a very private person. I don’t fancy that lifestyle. Hardly would you find me on red carpets and such places. It may be good for visibility, but the brand managers and those tasked with such responsibilities know who can deliver.”
Given a choice, Neptune said he would rather not work as a club DJ. “The club owners don’t pay and it is not worth my time. I am not going to play three nights in a week; 15 nights in a month and you are paying me between N80000 and N100000. I am one of the reasons the guys are in the club popping, the girls are shaking and making their sexy moves and obviously if the music is good the guys are happy and requesting for more bottles and some of these bottles are going for between N30000 and N40000 and some are as expensive as between N200000 and N300000, but there is so much suffering that some DJs accept anything. To be honest whatever platform you have at a particular time, hold on to it and while you are at it, give your best because you never can tell who is listening and who is watching or who is monitoring you. You can be a club DJ and a radio station owner will come and hear. Wherever you are, do it well, even if you are not getting what you are supposed to be getting. Light is going to shine on you someday.”
From being a DJ, he is making fruitful incursion into mainstream music. To date, he has released 13 singles, largely collaborations with established artistes, both Nigerians and non-Nigerians. He has been releasing tracks from as far back as 2010. Some of the artistes he has shared performance credit with include, but not limited to MI, Naeto C, Dagrin, Sarkodie, Mr. Eazi, Davido, Olamide and Ycee.
Within the first quarter of this year, Neptune plans a major landmark in his career with the release of his debut album. This full body of works will showcase his resourcefulness beyond reasonable doubt as it will feature fresh materials. With this album, his proficiency will be in two areas – as a DJ and as a producer. For the first time, he will be putting to test the combined power of a DJ and a producer. “I have certain ideas in my head that I try to bring to life. It might not necessarily be what is in vogue at that time or what people love, but by the time I have the finished product people will love it. What I do is I put all that needs to be put in place in terms of the sound production. Sometimes I work with producers to bring it to life. At other times, I just call a couple of artistes together.”
His ability to see beyond the immediate has paid off in the past. “As a DJ and producer, I visualize and say it will be crazy to have a Majek Fashek and a Burna Boy together on a track. They might not see it, but as a DJ and a producer, you are looking at it from different angles. I have been able to successfully do a track like that, that was released in 2010 that had the late Dagrin, MI and Naeto C. When I did that record, these three guys were on top of their game when it comes to hiphop in Africa. I am sure individually they never thought they could be on each other’s song. I was lucky to have done that because Dagrin passed on and when the record came out, I got crazy positive reviews. That is the kind of power I have as a producer to be able to visualize certain sounds or tracks that even artistes or producers are not thinking of.”
Neptune agrees that DJs can influence the direction of music in a particular period. But he conceded that this power is not absolute. According to him, some of this ability to sway lies in the hands of producers. “Different artistes have different ways of coming up with their songs. Sometimes they allow the producer to be the front man in terms of creating the instrument and then add vibes to it, while some artistes come with ideas and share it with the producer. In most cases, when the producer is producing the song they put a lot of things into consideration like what is in vogue now? What is your own style as an artiste. All that put together influences the end product. The producer may say I have this beat that I produced and you lay your vocals on it. It may be a sound that is in vogue at that particular time. If you have, say, 100 DJs in a night playing that particular song, the consumers – that is the people who go to clubs or listen to radio, get stuck to that kind of song. Two years ago, we were into fast-tempo songs. Last year, however, it dropped to mid and slow tempo and you see artistes who do fast songs finding themselves in that bracket at that particular time.”
As it is common with DJs, Neptune has done a lot of collaborations with artistes. He explained how the working relationship develops. “I am cool with most of them. Some are my close friends. Sometimes I get messages from them saying they have a song they think suits my brand. When I released ‘Baddest’ with Olamide, we had been talking about working together. He called me up to come to the studio and I got there and when I listened, there was a bit of that Ghanaian bounce in it. As a DJ and a businessman, I thought about it from another angle, I am friends with Stoneboi from Ghana who at that time had just won Best BET African Act and I was also in touch with him about doing a track together so when I heard it, it came on my mind to visualize him on that track. Though Olamide was a bit skeptical, but he said he could trust my judgment. I sent it to Stoneboi, he heard it and he sent his voice back to me and that is how we had Olamide from Nigeria and Stoneboi from Ghana. That record did pretty well in Nigeria, in Ghana and overseas as well.”
Long after he started performing as a DJ, he was without a nickname. The moniker Neptune came from fans. This is how it happened. “There is this song produced by The Neptunes for Busta Rhymes. There is this part of that song where Busta Rhymes ‘beat-up’ The Neptunes. I was always scratching that part just creating different rhythms from that particular part of the record. There were these set of guys who had been to my previous parties. On this particular day, they walked into a different party and I was the DJ when they came they said this Neptune Guy is here again and sure he is going to do his usual routine, I just laughed over it. When I got home I thought about the whole party and I remembered what those guys said about me, I told myself why not stick to this name since some certain people already know you by it. I did my research and made sure no other DJ from Nigeria and across Africa was bearing that name then. I took off the ‘s’ instead of The Neptunes, I just added DJ.”
One of the strongest things on his mind right now is to leave a legacy that he would be remembered for. “I have had these thoughts on my mind for quite a while now. I feel I am at that stage when it is time to give back to the society. Whether I like it or not, I am still here today among the best because some certain people believe in me. I think it is high time I give back to the people who say I want to be like Neptune, but these things require a lot of funds. This is where I live. I am a family man and I can’t bring in troops because I am trying to give back. I need a place It is going to be well structured you don’t need to be there for long; maximum two months with access to internet and a lot of things we have these days you should be able to learn one or two things and be able to stand on your own. There are plans for that.”
Another dream of his that is materialising in leaps and bounds is arguably the biggest thing he will ever want to do.
“I will love to own my own radio station.”
Having travelled the world as a DJ, he has certain experiences that he is itching to introduce in Nigeria. While he is keeping them close to his chest, he birthed an online radio station – Neptune FM. “I set it up to give people around the world an understanding of Afrobeat and our music. I started it two years ago. In one month I was getting 40000 listeners from around the world. I had to put a pause to it. When I started, I was hoping to partner with one of the Telcos, but that has not happened yet. We will come back to it.”