If you’re a DJ who loves proper techno and acid sounds, Superfreq is no doubt on your radar.
The indie label, which began as an event brand in 2002, was co-founded in 2005 by the London-born/L.A.-based Mr. C (aka Richard West) and has been a force on the underground since its inception. And these days, the label’s not-so-secret weapon is studio wiz/DJ, Noël Jackson.
His artistic output on Superfreq has been prolific and impressive, from 2014’s “Acid Test” EP to his current “Gratitude” EP, not to mention his superb remixes for Mr. C singles like “Celebration of Life” and “Radical Inclusion.” For proof, just check tough, yet spookily melodic acid tracks like “Visions” (from his latest EP), which deliver plenty of late-night possibilities.
In addition to his voluminous work on Superfreq, he’s served as a mixing and mastering engineer for projects on labels ranging from Warner Bros. to Ghostly and by DJ/artists as diverse as David Guetta and Kevin Saunderson. We recently caught up with the Detroit-based tech/studio talent.
DJ Times: What were your musical inspirations?
Jackson: It started with R&B, hip-hop, trance, and rock from the early ’90s, including pop and even cheesier stuff like The Venga Boys, Biggie, 2Pac, Nas, Bel Biv DeVoe, Ace of Base, BT, Paul van Dyk, Nirvana, Butthole Surfers, Daft Punk, etc. I was born at a weird time, and land squarely on the edge of Gen X/Y territory.
DJ Times: How’d you get turned onto the Superfreq label?
Jackson: Thanks to the internet, I got a hold of some Superfreq material that Levon Vincent made. It was a single called “The Thrill of Love.” I think I was 13 or 14 years old when it came out. That was huge to me. Superfreq is the epitome of acid, and Mr. C is the boss. I’m flattered and grateful to be releasing music with the label – Mr. C has vision.
DJ Times: What music are you feeling these days?
Jackson: The last Future album is mega-dope, and the new Lil Baby album is literally out of the world. Ariana Grande is absolutely a legend, and Taz from Internet Money is one of the craziest, hardest-working people out there. In terms of musical taste and inspiration, I get around like a millennial with a trust fund and a NetJets card.
DJ Times: How has Detroit informed what you do, artistically?
Jackson: It’s everything. I met Art “Pumpin’” Payne when I was about 15 or so, and that changed my life. He was essentially the man who taught “The Belleville Three” how to spin records. This is the place where I would see Aaron Carl spin deep house on Wednesdays, Carl Craig spin on a Thursday, and somehow ended up building and acoustically engineering Kevin Saunderson’s personal studio.
DJ Times: It’s a place where the artistry always seems to be respected.
Jackson: I love Detroit – you can’t not. In the best of times and the worst of times – it is a gem. It gave me every tool I needed to help me grow and figure out what kind of person I am, and what kind of artist I want to be. It’s a tough place and it makes you tougher. But it’s also a beautifully loving place. As a city, and as a music scene, there is nowhere that competes, and nowhere as authentic.
DJ Times: What’s your typical DJ set-up?
Jackson: Best mixer for me is the Allen & Heath Xone: 92 or equivalent. I love the faders on this mixer, and I like how the headphone gain stage is set up. For inputs, the Pioneer DJ CDJ-2000 and, of course, some Technics 1200s are essential. I haven’t played a gig in a while; but in the future, I’m planning to have a hybrid live and DJ setup together, using some solid MIDI clock syncing to keep everything together.
DJ Times: In the studio, what’s your set-up?
My ultimate gear set-up for a studio is really simple: amazing acoustic engineering, and Quested monitors, a JL Audio Fathom sub, with Avantones as backups. Acoustics is No. 1 for me. Any speakers in a great room are usable for me, but I love Quested most. I always use a spectrum analyzer and testing mic in my room, to set up my speakers and get the crossover just right – for that, I use the free REW software.
DJ Times: DAW? What else?
Jackson: My DAW of choice is Ableton Live. I could use it for everything. I do use other DAWs like Pro Tools for certain tasks. Even with the luxury of a perfectly tuned room, I love great headphones. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and the Samson SR850 are my go-to headphones. I mix and test everything with them. Also, UAD plug-ins are a savior, and I use them on every mix and master.
DJ Times: What about hardware?
Jackson: I try to rotate what I have, instead of keeping lots of gear around, as I find I go for VSTs more these days. Aside from my 303-esque boxes, which I always keep within reach, I currently have a Kurzweil K2000R for making luscious sounds.
DJ Times: And for getting those wonderful acid sounds?
Jackson: I use fake 303s, real 303s, hardware, software, multiple brands of VSTs. Anything acid-sounding I love to tinker with. There is something so versatile about that good, old acid box with it’s fabulous filter that allows you to create everything from a bubbly, liquid sound to an angry, ripping sound that could tear the cone off a speaker.
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