Ability to adapt to changes is key to longevity in one’s chosen career – Alex O, veteran pop artiste
When the massive crowds are done cheering, it seems to most artistes that their careers have gone up in smoke. However, that is not the case for Alex O, a music star that held sway in the 1980/90s. He simply reinvented himself.
Even though his melodic voice might not be heard on radio everyday or his face seen on our TV screens, he works behind the scene in music/content and creative process. With his latest homecoming project, which is in collaboration with Europe-based Nigerian artiste, Prince Amarho, Alex intends to remind us that he’s still got a lot more of talent to entertain his fans. In this interview with The Nigerian Xpress, he discusses music and more.
Many people believe your time as “Alex O the musician” is gone for good. But you are back with Prince Amaho in a “Homecoming” project.
Well, the talent has always been there and has not gone away. While I was outside Nigeria, I never left music. The only thing that I was not doing was releasing new songs, even though I was writing and recording down new materials. I was always doing live performances and doing a lot of studio work. I have been able to write and record down over 200 songs. I think that this is now the time to start putting them out. I sing a lot better now, I am a better producer now too, and I understand the industry much better now than when I was a lot younger. There is a lot of greater music to come.
That is good to know. Could you tell us more about the homecoming project, highlighting how you came to be part of it?
The Homecoming project came up after years of brainstorming and looking at the possibilities of working together between me and Prince Amaho. Prince is very popular in Europe but not well known in Nigeria and Africa. We think it is the right time for him to come home, bring in some of his musical experiences and see how we can contribute positively towards the industry in Nigeria and Africa. We have always wanted to work together.
We are setting up the Nigerian branch of the German Powersonic music label in Nigeria. There is song collaboration; we will release the second single of Baron D, who is already an artiste on the Powersonic music label. We are also working on a musical tour of Nigeria’s major cities and the African continent, which will come up later in the year. Prince and his manager, Rabih Rabea, The Soul Bros and the entire team will be flying in from Germany for the project. It will be an exciting time for all of us coming together. I am excited and can’t wait.
A few years ago, you promised to do remix of your classic songs. What is the state of that project?
The remix of my old songs is still in the works. It will be completed and ready for release after this Homecoming project.
Music is more lucrative these days than in your heydays and the music landscape has changed too. How would you have adapted your music if you were still active as a recording artiste till now?
“Once a musician, always a musician”, and adapting to changes is key to longevity in any chosen career or profession. One has to look, study and figure out what the buying public wants at any given time and place, and then adapt. Nigerians want to party and dance at this time; so, producing anything different might not work out well. Don’t forget that we started what gave rise to the music that is being produced in Nigeria today. We laid the original foundation for the musical fusions, pidgin rap styles, mixing local languages with pidgin and English into song styles. As long as the music produced is good, any musician can make new hit songs at any time, whether younger or older.
You still have your fan base who are interested in knowing what you are doing presently. Tell them what has been keeping you busy, especially in the past three years and what you have in stock for them?
I thank God Almighty for my fan base. They have been so supportive towards my music career all these years, and I am grateful to them. Besides my career as a singer/writer, I produce music for other artistes, both home and abroad. I produce soundtracks for film, Tv commercials, jingles and anything sound production.
I am also into film and animation production. This, I studied while I was outside the country before returning home. I now run an audio-visual company and studio in Lagos.
I have been busy in the studio, with the above mentioned activities, plus visual effects, film editing, colour grading and sound for film producers in Nollywood. I have also been producing music videos for artistes. For my fans, I still sing and perform, and it will be of interest to know that my new songs are coming up soon, including the song collaboration project with Prince Amaho. The song and the video release is coming up. It will blow their minds. I can’t wait for it to come out.
If you look back, what is your best memory as a performing musician in the 1990s?
Every part of our performances those days were all memorable. The band and I were a group of very young boys and girls, who had great passion and love for what we were doing. We enjoyed every bit of it. We toured Lagos, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Warri, Benin, Calabar, Uyo, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Umuahia, Jos, Abuja, Kano, Markurdi, Gboko, Asaba, etc. We performed in these cities and more, many times every year. It was great and beautiful, memorable too.
With the way music has changed radically in Nigeria in the last two decades, what is your advice to youths, who might want to take music as a profession?
The music business, just like other businesses, is a challenging one. They should just work hard, continue to improve on and upgrade their skills, to increase their chances of being more successful. And also, making a major breakthrough and reaching the top is one thing, being able to remain at the top is even more challenging. So, it is important to be grounded with a lot of experience and skills while on your way up. Lastly, commit all you are doing into the hands of the Almighty God for His blessings and favours, in order to succeed.
Your film and animation company Digi Audio Visuals is based in South Africa. Any plan to incorporate it in Nigeria?
My company is already incorporated in Nigeria, the studios too. We also have ProMedia Productions, which is set up to expand more on the film and animation projects.
Nigerians regarded you as one of the successful musicians of his generation. What made you to decide to study further and what informed your choice of film and animation?
In life, you need to continue to learn, upgrade yourself in terms of skills, knowledge and experience. That’s the only way to continue to stay relevant in our ever fast changing society. I have always been fascinated about how movies are made, the visual effects, the film tricks and intrigues. So, when I saw the opportunity to go into it, I jumped at it. It is paying off now. I produce music, produce the videos. I feel lucky and happy to have gone that route, considering the fact that it is what many people are now trying to do. And as new technologies come up in that field, there is one crucial thing to do… continuous upgrading, which I am very passionate about.
You are widely travelled; in your travels, can you recall some of your most memorable experiences, good or bad, as an African/Nigerian in a white man’s country?
Yes, having been to many countries, experiencing different people and different cultures, one is bound to run into things and situations, good, bad or ugly, plus the obvious, one form of racism or another. Also, it can be challenging to get hold of things when you find yourself in another country. Different environment, different culture. However, great music performances places an artiste above some of these challenges. People take their minds off the things that make us different from one another, which in most cases is the beginning of the negative experiences one encounters. I must say that great music performances did that for me. For that, I am grateful.
Could you share with us your biggest life lesson and how it changed your worldview.
One of the most memorable life-changing moments I experienced, was when I encountered the late President Nelson Mandela. I learned a lot from the power of forgiveness, being slow to anger, patience and perseverance. I thank God for that experience. It has made me a better person in life.
If you had the benefit of turning back the hand of time and correct some mistakes you made as a pop star, what would you do?
I agree that some things could have been done or handled better, but I see whatever they were, as lessons and blessings to learn from and become a better person. I love the genre of music I was playing then, and still love it till today. Also, the fact that I succeeded means that not all the decisions I took were wrong. I am grateful to God for making it work out for me then, even though it was at a difficult time in our country. I am grateful to God.
As we await the release of your songs this year, give us a hint of what to expect.
The new songs have to be dance songs. People are not much into slow jams these days. Nigerians want to party and dance. That has to be taken into consideration during the song writing and production process. I sing a lot better now than the past years. The music is more mature and exciting now, better than before. We are working with experienced producers and sound engineers within and outside Nigeria. So, expect the best of materials in the package to come.
Also at this point, I would like to say to my lovely fans, thank you so much for your support and love towards me and my career. God will continue to bless and reward you and your families abundantly. Thank you so much for the support and love.