As far as Oklahoma DJs go, DJ Neu is one-of-a-kind.
“In terms of female DJs, there aren’t a lot, and I actually don’t think there are any black female DJs in the city at all,” said Keela Candler, aka DJ Neu. “I guess that’s my niche.”
The Los Angeles/West Texas transplant has made a big splash since first dipping her toes into spinning records a short three years ago. Candler was already a sort of music veteran, having toured the world as part of a music conservatory’s brass section in her youth.
After years of practice sessions and band camps, brass instruments lost their shimmer in her eyes; following a foray into video production, she opted for a new, hipper musical challenge.
“I wanted to find an outlet for myself,” she said. “As you get older, you get away from the things you did as a kid. I always loved music and technology, and deejaying seemed like the per fect mesh of those things.”
Candler purchased an all-digital setup and offered her services at public and private events for free to get her name out, spinning hits ranging from the likes of Britney Spears to Passion Pit. The then-mohawked music maven eventually found her dream gig: house DJ at the Oklahoma Victory Dolls’ roller derby bouts.
Providing music for their oft-violent — and always entertaining — matches presented a particular slate of challenges to Candler’s skill set, like finding a way to please the ears of both young crowd members and rollers with names like Jem Reaper and Dolly Dynamite simultaneously.
“It’s a sporting event, so you stay high-energy, of course. It’s also a family event, so you’ve got to turn down the vulgarity. It’s a challenge, because I like the curse words,” she said, laughing. “They want the songs that would typically have that vulgarity, and you’ve got to take those and make them clean and fun for everyone.”
It took the shortest time to find her groove.
“It’s great when the crowds are enjoying themselves, but it’s really fun seeing the refs get into it. I catch them dancing sometimes,” Candler said. “That makes it a lot of fun. I really do enjoy it; it’s been a fantastic little ride with the Victory Dolls.”
DJ Neu quickly proved an indispensable presence to the bouts, and doesn’t look to stop doing them anytime soon. Between bouts, you can find her hosting parties at local bars and clubs, and even weddings, still proving the art of the DJ isn’t dead.
“I love introducing people to new music, and that’s the big thing with this,” Candler said. “It’s a kind of customer-service gig: You really have to walk the line, keeping people happy in terms of what they want, but also showing them new things. It’s a lot better than having an iPod on shuffle.”
Photo by Rex Barrett