When snooping around the world of music producers in Imo State, especially in the genres of Hip-hop and contemporary gospel music, one name always remains outstanding.
Even though much is not known about Anthony Mercy a.k.a PenTouch, he has some outstanding works which speaks for him out there.
In this interview with O’town Gist’s Chinaza Ikeagwuonu, PenTouch tells the story of his life in music as well as other things that made him who he is today.
With your name as Anthony Mercy, you must be from River State
No! Just because my name is Anthony Mercy does not mean I am from River State. I am from Imo State, Abor-Mbaise LGA to be precise.
Being such a young producer, are you still a student or are you through with tertiary education?
Well, I did not get a formal education in the tertiary level but I am doing an on-line program on music education, I am actually through with the first phase. You see, after my secondary education in Abor-Mbaise, I decided to go into music production because by then I could play a number of instruments and I had passion for music production but my parents were not able to support my decision and that caused a strain in our relationship.
When did you start craving to be a music producer, and when did you start having passion for music.
(laughs) Right from my childhood, I grew to love music, as at then, I would play with the machete, the kind that has three lines as if it were a guitar and my elder brother would make a drum using an empty tin of milk and plastic bag and I will play it as my band. I am the only one in a family of five children that loves music so much even though my grandfather and my father were also into music. As a matter of fact, my father played with the Late Sir Warrior before he left for the USA. As years went by, I grew and heard so many songs produced by different producers and there were some songs I listened to and the urge to go into the field would sweep through my young mind. By 2002, I started considering being a music producer seriously. As at then, I could play some musical instruments like the guitar, piano and so on. Right from day one, I always wanted to make a difference in the world of music production and by contributing my quota.
What was the firsts hit you produced?
It’s “Relax” by Acharaman and that was when I was trying to put what I have learnt over the years to practice. I actually met Acharaman and said to him, “Menh…, we can actually work together…” and that was how we kicked off. You won’t believe it, but as at that time, I had no studio, so I rented a laptop, did some installations and then made my beats, after which I returned the laptop as well as the owner’s money. At that time, I took the beats to the studio and did the voicing and mixing, and that was how I was able to produce the hit “Relax”.
So how did you feel when you finally produced your first hit and the thought of people listening to your handwork?
Well.. Honestly I felt good… Like great because it is said “never despise the days of your beginning” I saw it as a stepping stone towards greater things because I knew where I was heading to and I also knew that only hard work can get me there. At least I had Mo-hits to look up to and they were the best then because they had their own peculiar style which was superb and then there were others I had to reckon with.
Can you remember how many artistes you have worked with so far and their names?
Well.. I don’t think I can remember all of them but I have worked with Jeda Jeda known as three souls, Acharaman, Ruff Coin Nwa Aba, U-zone of Hot 99.5 FM, Sparkle and so many more.
Among the Artistes you have worked with, which did you really enjoy working with?
Sparkle and Acharaman are my pick because they don’t only learn easily; they do add something to whatever they learn. They understand showbiz and how the producer should be treated.
In the society, artistes are given more credit than the producers. Is that right?
Artistes are the ones being projected to the world, the artistes are who the world see and interacts with not the producer. Although, the producers are meant to be given more credit at least it is so in some other parts of the world like USA and U.K, where you have producers like Dr Dre and some others.
Don’t you think Dr Dre is being recognized simply because he also features in some music videos and he also sings aside being a producer?
Even without joining in the music video, producers are better recognized there than in Nigeria. I am also a singer and I train vocalists.
So, aside being a producer, you are a vocal trainer?
Do you have intensions of producing your own track someday?
Yes, actually I have a track that is ready but not yet out in the market.
Wow! What is the title of this track?
It is titled “Chioma moh”, it is an Igbo gospel song. You can’t imagine it because it is groovy, you can dance to the message of love in it. I produce different kinds of music but on a personal note, I’m a gospel singer.
Starting from the producer’s point of view, what have you seen in some other productions that you think is unprofessional?
Some producers seem not to care if an artiste sings with the wrong key or if they are playing a wrong note, They don’t care and when they are being called to order by a colleague, they dismiss it as a style, an innovation and that is not professional but there are rules and standards for everything. Some producers don’t even mind having an artiste rehearse in the studio and that is not how it should be, before an artiste comes to the studio, he is supposed to do his voice training and rehearse elsewhere, the studio is not a place for all that.
How do you intend to make a difference in the world of music production?
Right now, I am running a free training program for artistes and this is because the idea of an artiste coming to the studio without training and with the wrong voice is not acceptable. The promo will last for one month and aside that I have some other things which I wouldn’t want to disclose now.
Do you own a record label?
Yes, but we have not launched it, we are trying to get a particular number of artistes with the basic qualities that we want and I intend calling it “Pen Touch Records”.
What are the qualities you desire in an artiste?
Well, I want an artiste who can stand out in our local market and also attain the international standard, in that, he can do what Chris Brown does, what Beyounce does and still retains his own style.
Do you think Imo State is conducive for upcoming producers and artistes to fully realize their potentials?
First of all, everybody’s destiny is not the same, Mr A can make it in Imo and Mr B will not and Mr C will make it in Aba and so on. Personally, I think Imo State to be a training ground because there are so many challenges here, for instance, songs produced in Imo State, do not sell much in Imo State and that is what I can call encouraging especially for aspiring producers and upcoming artistes.
How do you feel when you meet people who know your name but not your face?
It doesn’t really feel good when your name becomes more popular than your face. You can’t imagine it, sometimes, people discuss me in my presence without knowing it and it’s funny especially when I will act like I don’t knowwho Pen Touch is, because I am a quiet person.
Being somewhat an introvert, how do you relate with people
I am not an introvert; it’s just that I believe in action rather than talking. I am very straight forward, down to earth and enduring. On the first meeting, people think I’m not real because of the way I talk but honestly, that is the way I talk on every day, I can’t change it because that is just me and my voice.
Being the black sheep of the family at some point, how do you relate with your family now?
You see, at some point, my parents thought they have lost me but when I was able to prove t that my decision was worth the risk, they came to terms with it as they realized that I am very good in what I do. I am happy and fulfilled doing it and there is no way I will sing and you will not fall in love with the song on hearing it, because I sing to capture the listener’s being with my message. Aside entertainment purposes, I sing to drive home a message to the listener.
What advise do you have for upcoming producers and artistes out there.
Anyone aspiring to be a music producer should learn how to play one musical instrument or the other. Upcoming artistes should work hard and make researches to obtain credible information about the showbiz industry, and the artistes should continue with their hard work and remain focused.