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Trevor Jackson: “I don’t do anything for people to like me, and popularity is way overrated”

Trevor Jackson has been working at the forefront of audio and visual culture for over 20 years. The London based Creative Director, moving-image maker, producer and DJ’s work includes countless classic record covers, and has been exhibited at prestigious international galleries/museums like the ICA, the Barbican, and the Guggenheim.

Following PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED – the critically-acclaimed run of 9 12” vinyl EP’s released this summer over 9 weeks by Trevor Jackson’s much loved PLAYGROUP project – a 23 track album edition of highlights from the vinyl will be released on December 2nd, via Yes Wave records.

The music featured is a collection of reworked demos and unreleased recordings that still sound as relevant today as they did when initially recorded for the debut PLAYGROUP album during 1997 – 2001. The sold out run of ‘PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED’ vinyl has been supported by numerous DJ’s including Four Tet, James Murphy, Gilles Peterson, John Talabot, Optimo, Pedro Winter, Heidi, Laurent Garnier and Red Axes.

We were lucky to chat with Trevor ahead of his album release. Here’s what he had to say…

Electronic Groove: The music you play today on NTS is darker and more esoteric than the PLAYGROUP material. What was it like revisiting an old headspace when tweaking the tracks for PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED?

Trevor Jackson: Playgroup has always been the lighter side to what I do musically. These tracks are all old demos from 1998-2001 and things that didn’t fit on my original album, they’re much dirtier and darker than the ones I finished.

I’ve made many styles of music in my career, but all of them are connected; my NTS show is mainly brand new music so working on this stuff made me more eager to finish them as quickly as possible and get on with something new. 

Electronic Groove: What was Sasha Crnobrnja from In Flagranti and Ed DMX’s roles in the tweaks you made when reworking ‘PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED’?

Trevor Jackson: Sasha helped me finish a bunch of  tracks I was sick and tired of listening to after 15 years. He tweaked them with a well needed fresh pair of ears. Ed worked his magic on ‘I Want To Believe’.

All the tracks were finished stereo files, and couldn’t be remixed from original parts (I didn’t have the original sessions anymore), so we were limited to either re-editing them or adding additional parts.

“Clubs were dirty, sweaty, and often dangerous”

Electronic Groove: The PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED press release describes a better, past period in clubbing. What’s wrong with clubs now and what would you do to rectify it, if you could?

Trevor Jackson: You could go to a club without being strip searched, you could DJ without someone holding a mobile phone in your face, you could have sex in a toilet, or have a fight if someone trod on your shoes. Clubs were dirty, sweaty, and often dangerous. Sound systems were loud and warm, the air was full of smoke, and you’d be able to hear a great record that no one knew what it was and wouldn’t find out for months. You can’t change anything now – times have moved on – but I have my memories and that’s enough. 


Electronic Groove: Electroclash seemed to inject a lot of fun and flamboyance back into dance music. Do you think dance music is a bit urbane and serious now?

Trevor Jackson: I never had anything to do with electroclash. It was fun for a year or two but i wasn’t interested in being part of it. My ‘Behind The Wheel’ remake was a pisstake of electroclash; I called it the ELECTROCA$H remix, but a lot of people didn’t get the joke. I’d much rather hear serious dance music than stupid big beat and all that shite, which made my skin crawl. Tons of brilliant music is being made right now thats smart, creative and fun, which is the right balance. 

Electronic Groove: In past interviews you’ve been very forthright in your opinions and have not minced your words. Has this honesty ever had a negative outcome for you?

Trevor Jackson: I’m not scared to tell the truth, and have never kissed anyone’s arse to get where I am today. If people don’t like what I say I have no problem with that. I don’t do anything for people to like me, and popularity is way overrated. 

“Personally I want to hear a diverse selection of music, full of drama and surprises played by a DJ willing to take risks”

Electronic Groove: On your Boiler Room Collections you say it’s easy to make people dance nowadays. With today’s easy access to music and easy to use DJ equipment, what does it take to be an inspiring DJ?

Trevor Jackson: Some people are happy to hear a linear mix of music blended seamlessly that sounds the same all night. Personally I want to hear a diverse selection of music, full of drama and surprises played by a DJ willing to take risks – a selection based on personal taste, not based on what they think people want to hear them play.

Electronic Groove: As evident by your Science Fiction Dancehall Classic compilation for On-U Sound, you’re a big fan of Adrian Sherwood. What is it about his music and label you like?

Trevor Jackson: On-U Sound’s ethos is ‘disturbing the comfortable, comforting the disturbed’ and that resonates a lot with me. Adrian is a sonic genius; he took a genre of music, twisted it and made it his own.

He recorded and released so many timeless pieces of music that helped guide my own musical journey, so working on that compilation was an honour. It’s something I would never of dreamt of happening as a teenager addicted to the label and his production. 

Electronic Groove: Are you ever tempted to make hip hop again and if so, what new MCs would you like record with?

Trevor Jackson: Honey G. 

Electronic Groove: You don’t drink, smoke or take drugs. ‎Did you ever and if not, why? 

Trevor Jackson: I used to drink and take drugs but when you get older, life gets a little more serious and your responsibilities get bigger. I’m a lightweight and I get a hangover for days. It doesn’t work well when you’re over 30.

Electronic Groove: Tell us something about yourself that’s never been written about before.

Trevor Jackson: I’m Burial. 

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