Hank Jackson’s music has been notoriously difficult to pin down, as his shifting sound has stretched in simultaneous directions over the years. Nevertheless, a constant thread in his productions are their explorative nature, defying genre conventions to forge a personalized path. Over the course of his releases on defining US electronic music labels such as Mister Saturday Night, Proibito, and most recently, his own label, anno, Hank Jackson has continued to craft his own vision of techno, one both texturally multilayered and evocatively introspective. His DJ mixes are no different, defying expectations with every set to deliver captivatingly creative selections. He’s captured the attention of both local NYC clubs and international DJs alike, sparking a recent set at New York’s renowned Sustain-Release, and most recently, an upcoming DJ tour in Japan. We’re excited to showcase his singular sound, as Truancy Volume 258 ventures into “psychedelic zippy vibes” in an intoxicating thrill-ride through experimental, techno, electro, UK garage, grime, glitch, and dub. Provocatively trippy with its hypnotic percussion and moments of ceremonious chanting, Hank Jackson’s mix is a dizzying dream that resonates long after you wake.
Hey, Hank! So excited to finally have you in for a mix! How are you and what have you been up to lately? “Hey, thanks for having me on. It’s a pleasure! I have been well. Just laying pretty low, working on some new music, and preparing for an upcoming US tour with James K and Solo Termite. It’s my first time doing a proper tour in the states, and playing live as a solo act, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
You grew up in California, correct? What was your transition to NYC like? Are there aspects of your music or personality that you feel were specifically influenced by these two areas? “I did indeed. Back and forth between LA and Ojai to be precise. I moved to New York nearly 10 years ago now, so it really feels like home for me at this point. Ojai is a small town, and I think growing up there definitely had a big impact on me. There’s a long history of hardcore/punk/metal in the area, and I got involved in that scene pretty heavily during high school–playing in bands etc. Having been part of a tight-knit music community from that age just stuck with me I guess, and has remained something that I find really important to this day. I think moving to New York was in a lot of ways an effort for me to find people who I could connect with on a creative level. I had a really hard time finding a community that was on the same page as me in that way in California after moving from Ojai.”
How have your relationships with other NYC-based artists informed your music? Would you describe your approach to music making as more introverted or do you prefer collaboration? “My friends and the other artists around me here in NY are always influencing me and keeping me going. Like I said before, being involved with a community creating things, throwing and going to parties etc, is super important for me. I like to think we’re creating a space that exists for people to share ideas, experience the effects of music, and celebrate in a way that you don’t typically have access to in society at large. Having that openness. I’m always having this thought that ideally club music, and “underground” electronic music represents in some form a contemporary folk music. That being said, the club music world is obviously heavily commercialized, and the way things like instagram disseminate so widely the ideas and aesthetics of the so called underground, and turn them to trends and commodity, is always pushing against this idea of folk culture.
As far as my approach to making music, I’m usually working on things by myself. I have a few people that I will send works in progress to for feedback. So yeah, I’d say that I’m more of an introvert when I’m making work. I’ve been working on a lot more collaborative projects in the last year though. I think it’s something that I always wanted to do, but I for some reason didn’t feel like my process when it comes to electronic music was well suited for a collaborative environment. I’m always spending a lot of time on editing and getting really into the details when I’m on my own. Working with other people in a way feels like a challenge for myself to break up that process and flow with things more. When you have someone else you’re in a room with, you end up being forced to cut the bullshit and just go for it. Not to mention just making that type of connection with someone and having the experience of communicating musically feels exciting, liberating, etc. And you always come up with interesting results you wouldn’t come to on your own.”
What is your process for producing a track? Have your methods changed over the years and how important is the gear you’re using to the sound you’re pursuing? “Things have changed over the years for sure, but not radically. I think more than anything I’ve just gotten better at knowing what techniques and sounds work for me, while still seeking out new ways of doing things. I think I used to get hung up on things that I would spend forever trying to “fix,” that were probably just better left behind. It’s easy for me to get attached to ideas and endless tweak them. Spending time learning new methods for making sounds, sequences, rhythms etc, helps to keep things fresh and exciting.
My process is basically broken up into a few parts. I’ll record jams, and sounds, whatever really, on some of my studio gear. I got into using a modular synth over the past few years, and basically replaced all my other gear just to focus on using that with my computer. I found the modular really gives me the sort of tactile and gestural approach that I really like for generating ideas, and then taking those into the computer you can get the tracks more fleshed out. I have a big folder or just long random jams that aren’t really tracks, but have some good moments or ideas in them. I’ll then usually start either start layering those jams over one and other and seeing what works, then add some drums on my computer if it’s that kinda track, or I’ll start with the drums and see what kinda sounds are working on top of them. From there it’s just a lot of trial and error till I start getting something that I like, and sometimes it turns into a track. The gear that I have certainly makes the process more fun and unpredictable, but I think if it came down to it I’d still just be making music on my laptop if that’s all I had access to.”
Is there any one track or release that you wish you made yourself? What artists have inspired you most over the years? “I used to think about how I wished I could have made this or that track that I heard, but over the years I have realized that doesn’t matter. I’m happy that other people are making good music. Of course I still take influence from them, but I think it’s more about hearing different sounds and/or ideas and having them open doors in my mind, rather than just wanting to become them. There have been way too many people to name who have had an impact on me. It’s happening all the time.”
When did you first start DJing? Could you describe one of your favorite sets you’ve done? What qualities do you feel make for a good DJ set? “I first started DJing in 2009 I think. I had just been getting into electronic music for the past couple of years before that, and a friend of mine and I started getting into DJing on Traktor and just making our own mixes to listen to and share with each other. Soon after that, I got a little DJ controller and the same friend and I started to DJ at house parties and stuff like that. I don’t think the sets or the music we were playing was great, but that’s how it started. Over time I got into buying records and bought some turntables. My roommate at the time, and close friend, Elissa aka DJ Suckdog, became obsessed with practicing all the time. My first “real” gig was shortly after my first record came out, so like 2013 I think. Then I was really hooked!
I think the best DJ sets have this certain element of seduction. You know, you have all these people there with different ideas, and expectations of what they wanna get out of their experience that night. You have to be pretty sensitive to that–and not just play a bunch of stuff you feel like listening to. So if you can tap into that energy, and bring what you have to offer in a way that the audience can access it, you can take them to a more vulnerable place. I think that’s the main idea, for me at least. Once you get people into that state where they’re really connected to the music, and what’s happening in that room, they have their guard down, and you can do a lot. You then have the opportunity to bring something to the table they may not be familiar with. I think that’s what’s most important at the end of the day–to open people up. It’s all a big feedback loop, because when they’re open, you’re open, and can really experiment and go in all sorts of crazy directions.
My favorite set I can remember was in Oberlin in Ohio, probably 2015 or so, with DJ Python, POI, and a few others. My now close friend, Will Dimaggio had us out to play, so we drove up for the weekend. I’m honestly not sure the set was even that good, but I think it was just the most fun I’ve had DJing. The party just had a crazed energy, and ended up going way longer than we expected and by the end I had completely run out of records to play (we didn’t have CDJs at the spot), and Brian just started handing me records to play from the stuff he brought and maybe even some other people. Super specially energy that night, and I think it was the first time DJing I can remember feeling really free to go all over the place, which was affirming.”
How do you plan for a set or mix, and how often are you searching for new music? Do you collect records? “I’m looking for new music all the time. There have been some phases where I’m not actively looking for new stuff, but most of the time I’m always searching. Online mostly now. I used to buy a lot of records, but in the past couple of years that’s tapered off. I try to keep my collection pretty organized, so I don’t have to prep for each gig individually. I’ll still make playlists for specific gigs, but I find that sometimes my best sets are ones I don’t over prepare for.”
Are there specific music genres you prefer to DJ? How has your style evolved over the years? “Not really. I like a lot of things and I really try to keep an open mind. I’m playing in clubs so obviously I’m aware that many things don’t translate into that environment, so it’s not like I’m just playing everything under the sun, but yeah, I’m not trying to create strict boundaries for what I play with. I definitely go through periods of feeling really attracted to a certain type of sound, but I think I always am thinking about that in a bit more of an abstract way, and will seek those sounds across a variety of genres and histories. As far as the evolution of my style, I think I’ve just learned a lot more about different musical styles and try to incorporate some of those things into my sets.”
What made you decide to create your own label? How do you go about curating artists and how would you describe the label’s sound or ethos? “It was a pretty spur of the moment decision honestly. I had some music that I wanted to release, and was not really having luck with sending demos out. Rubadub had asked me a while back if I wanted to do a white label release for them, so I figured I’d see if they would just wanna do distribution on a label instead. That’s how anno was born. Once I had the platform established, I just started talking to friends about doing releases, trying to support people around me etc. Things feel like they’re evolving naturally, and we’ve got a few releases coming out this year that I’m really excited about from some good people.”
What inspired the artwork for the anno label? “The basis for the design was hatched by Gabriel Berrios, and myself. I wanted it to feel textural and organic, but he really came up with the details. The Funky Doodle record was designed by the artist’s using the same basic layout as the others, and James K helped with the upcoming SUDS record. I always wanna let the artist have as much input as they want in the design process. It’s their music after all, and I want them to feel like the look accurately represents the sound.”
What are you looking forward to most this year? Do you have any upcoming releases planned? “The next record on anno will be out Feb 14th, by SUDS which is a collaboration between Wilted Woman, and Christoph De Babalon. Super excited about this one, it’s been a pleasure to work with two such talented and inspiring artists. I’ve got some music of my own that will probably be surfacing sometime soon. Besides that, I’m going to Japan in April for my first time, which I’m super psyched about.”
TNT Roots – Foundation Mix 2 [BKV 028]
The Octagon Man – Klunk [TRON 1]
Superfície – Dengue Drums [STK003]
Low Budget Aliens – Service Mode [Forthcoming xpq?]
Rex Illusivi – Forced March [VERLP036]
Chevel & Wallwork – Carbon 12 [NHVA001]
Cocktail Party Effect – Quite [COLDR12]
Serwed – Linear [ASYNC-01]
NA DJ x Crazy Design – Que Rico Rave Slaps [Self Released]
Dynarec – Office Worker [ETRX29]
Endless Mow – Re-Curse Dogman [All Centre]
All Stars – Walk On By (Vocal) [BOD 001]
Exium – Fresh Meat [NHEOMA021]
Lechuga Zafiro Feat. Ansina – Suave Pero Rugoso (Tayhana Remix) [STK005]
Shackleton – Wish You Better [SEPTIC 04]
Bitstream – Steel Jacket [TB034]
Microthol – Hostile Invasion [TRUST35]
SUDS – Sad And Done [anno-004]
Color Plus – Eat It [TOW003]
Significant Other – ???
Voigt Kampff – Skinny Cap [PANIC 003]
Cassell – Nasty Knickers [RRV007]
Klart – Squirty [R.G.C 001]
Reeko – Dirty Feeling [AVN038]
qgp – Alarm Bells (If Language Was Pretty) [Present Tense]
Elon Katz – Denizen Friend [LHP007]
Via App – Spawned From Decay [BOOT001]
exael + arad acid – Untitled [Forthcoming Motion Ward]
Teja Schmitz – Säuren [TFG007]