The latest edition of our Little Talk series welcomes rising talent Air Jackson. We caught up with the Dublin-based DJ & producer ahead of the release of his upcoming album ‘Chemistry’ on July 5. He lift the lid on the motivation behind the launch of his own imprint Ten One Records, and the inspirations behind his eclectic sound and recent release ‘The Beekeeper’s EP’. it’s all below!
WWD: Hi Air Jackson, thanks for joining us! How is life in Dublin right now?
It’s been a pretty quiet existence in Dublin as we have been under a severe lockdown since October. It has taken me a long time, but I’m finally getting used to this slower pace of life and now I’m actually wondering how I’m going to manage the late nights when touring comes back – I can count on 1 hand the number of times I have been awake past midnight during the past 18 months…still though, I’m really looking forward to getting back to doing what I love most and I’d imagine the transition back will be far easier
WWD: Although your first-ever release, ‘Where It Began’ just celebrated its second anniversary, you’ve been active as a DJ for over a decade. Can you tell us about your journey so far, was there a focus on really honing your craft on the decks before venturing into the studio?
I didn’t realize that actually, that’s a nice anniversary I guess! I started DJ’ing at the age of 15 but was around 20 when I first got the opportunities to play to crowds. Circa 2006-2008 was probably the busiest touring period I’ve experienced, playing 12-15 sets a month at many of the major clubs & festivals around Ireland. At the time I was also running a club night in the now demolished Tivoli Theatre in Dublin (one of the most prominent clubs in the city over the past 20 years). Around 2009 I gave it all up for many years to focus on other personal & family pursuits outside of music, before really having my passions re-ignited in 2016 when I moved to Amsterdam. However, when I returned home in 2018 the promoter landscape in Dublin had completely changed. I had to start from the ground up and with social media & online being so prominent, I’ve really had to adapt to this way of operating, a way that is very much outside of my comfort zone. In hindsight, I took the DJ success that I had for granted as I was so young, I didn’t stand back to appreciate what I was achieving, but everything happens for a reason and I think the quality of my music and sets are much higher now as it’s no longer only about the party. Now I spend countless hours refining both my DJ & Production skills and strive to deliver my very best every time that I perform.
WWD: You’ve also wasted no time before launching your own label ‘Ten One Records’, what motivated you to wear multiple hats from the get-go?
When I came back from Amsterdam and started the Air Jackson project, the label idea wasn’t on my radar initially, however my longtime friend & label-mate ACI-TONA kinda talked me into it as a way to contribute to the local scene, build a network and release our own music to the world. I’ll admit, I found it a bit daunting at first but we were expertly mentored by our close friend Magnier who runs House of Disco & Loft Records. He helped us hugely with the setup and ramping period and in all honesty, I found it quite laborious at first but as soon as we started to see success I grew to love it very quickly and now I get so much pride & energy from seeing the label and our artists grow and evolve.
WWD: And what is your philosophy with that label project?
‘Ten One’ refers to the ‘1’s’ and ‘0’s’ in binary code – the most basic elements of electronically coded music. We wanted to start the label as a grassroots project, providing a platform for new & emerging artists and we have been successful with that so far and are now beginning to work with some more experienced artists in addition. Another philosophy of ours is not to be too closely tied to a genre or sound, there is so much great music being made at the moment and we want to play a wide part in bringing it to the world. So far, we have released House, Techno, Breakbeat, DnB & Jungle records.
WWD: How do you see the label developing in the coming years?
We had plans before lockdown to run events around Ireland; we had 4 events and a monthly residency locked down which was due to start in June 2020, but then we all know what happened next….When we get back to normal we’d love to run some great parties with the Ten One brand, staying true to the label ethos and giving lots of opportunities to emerging talent with the occasional international guest. The ideal focus for me would be the quality of the music and atmosphere and not to be in any way centered around ‘bigger name’ DJ’s as the European scene is full of that. I really hope that the pandemic will have emphasized the importance of supporting local artists in Ireland – we have an insane amount of talent on our island and very little of it gets anywhere near the recognition it truly deserves.
WWD: After listening to your recent ‘The Beekeeper’s EP’ it struck me how fast some of the tunes were and with their many melodic layers. What is the key for you for finding the optimal balance in that intensity?
Those melodic layers are the staple of everything I make, and it spans back to when I was 16-20, going clubbing in Dublin & Ibiza when trance featured most prominently. What I loved most about that musical era was that I was really connected with the euphoria & melodic breakdowns. The right track, or even a solo pad can give me goosebumps at any moment. I even get this sometimes with my own music, when I’m creating and that’s how I know that I’m onto something good. My tastes have evolved over time and I don’t listen to much Trance anymore, however I have a deep love for House, Techno, Breakbeat & DnB and when I hear those nice melodies & breakdowns it still has the same impact on me. With regards to tempo, I have always found music below 126bpm to be a bit too slow for dancing, with 128 being the optimum for House. For breakbeat I feel that 132-134bpm works best so when producing the bpm & tempo can very much vary depending on the style I am going for. In an average set I like to start around 128bpm and build the energy & tension, I’ve been known to finish sets with some pretty lively 170-180bpm DnB but that’s only on special occasions and if I feel the crowd are up for that energy; other times it might not get quite that spicy, but my sets are always pretty boisterous and energetic. When I started out producing a couple of years ago I wasn’t aiming to make dancefloor music, but I just didn’t feel that I was connecting well enough with my own music and I was probably making what I thought people wanted to hear at that point in time and not giving myself the creative freedom that I needed, so after my first two releases I started to start to work more so on faster dancefloor music. Making music gives me energy, so it’s important for me that I connect with what I am making.
WWD: It was also refreshing to hear such ease in transitioning back and forth between styles, even in a single track, ‘Well Tempered’ for example. Do you usually know what type of record you want to make before you start to create or do you follow the flow during the process?
For the most part, no I don’t know what I am going to produce until it starts coming together. I always start with some deep and ethereal pads and then decide what type of percussion I should layer over it and the track genre tends to form at this point. I then move onto the leads / hooks and the finer details and layers come later. Occasionally on the album I did consciously decide what I thought the flow needed next and went that direction, but that’s not normally how I work when I’m creating smaller bodies of work. In my sets I transverse genres from track to track but as you mentioned I’ve started to experiment with that a little in some of my own tracks also; switching up the percussing patterns and styles in the middle of a track to keep it interesting. For example, a breakbeat will fit nicely into almost any other style of track, house, trance, techno… so why not keep it interesting and chop and change a bit? I have a kind of philosophy now whereby I challenge myself to make my music ‘interesting’, as there is so much copy & paste music out there and it gets quite boring.
WWD: Judging from the diversity we’ve just touched on, the catalog of your musical inspirations must be vast. But if you had to narrow it down to a couple, what would those be?
Actually, I have just started a Spotify playlist series called ‘The Alchemist Collection’ which I update each month with the array of pieces of music that have sound tracked the past 25 years of my life. Each track having some kind of shaping effect on my Air Jackson sound and offering a particular memory or nostalgia to a point in my life. The playlist spans from classical, to trance to deep electronica to breakbeat and a multitude of genres in between.
WWD: What details can you share about your upcoming album ‘Chemistry’?
The album is releasing on 5th July on my label Ten One Records. I couldn’t be happier that it’s finally about to see the light of day as it was a long 18 months in the making. It was started in September 2019 and a portion of the way through the world shut down and I wasn’t sure what to do with it, whether to strip it back and make it more ambient or ethereal to form more of a ‘listening’ record. I’m delighted that I stuck with the dance floor sound as the pandemic has kind of come and gone in the time it took me to get the album exactly how I wanted it. It’s dance floor leaning with lots of House, Techno along with some Breakbeat & DnB, not dissimilar to the variety of the EP; I wanted to make the album a little more accessible so it has some catchy hooks & vocals woven in which I feel will land well on a dance floor. The album was actually finished before the EP, however I felt the timing was better suited to release the album a bit later when dance floors were opening up again.
WWD: Is there a particular vision or story behind the album?
Most of my favourite bodies of electronic music are albums, I love the journey of an album, it feels like a sustained insight into the artists’ mind. Based on this I always knew that an album would be on the cards for me and in September 2019 I took a few months off work to focus fully on writing and that’s where the album came together. It started with a few key tracks (Burning, Chemistry, Róisín Dubh & Annie) and I built the rest around that spine.
WWD: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us! Before we let you go, any other exciting projects on the horizon?
For me it’s all about getting back touring, it’s what I love about music and it’s the part I have missed most. There will naturally be a continued focus on growing the label and supporting our artists and hopefully getting back to a position where we can run those events, but beyond that I’m not really sure yet; I have a remix coming out on the label at the end of July for a local artist ‘Soul Campbell’ that I’m very excited about and I have another EP in the works for autumn 2021. I’m not making too many plans as the past 15 months have taught me the best made plans can often go to waste…
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