For the first edition of our Studio Talk series, we introduce man of the moment, Jacky. Jacky has had a huge last few years signing music to Steve Lawler's Viva imprint, Basement Jaxx’ Atlantic Jaxx and DFTD. I was lucky enough to catch up with Jacky recently to chat to him about the music production side of his artistry, where he has shared with us some of his top tips & tricks with Ableton and also his go to bits of kit.
Talk to me around your studio set up, What are your go-to pieces of Software & Hardware?
I have a pretty basic set up to be honest. Until about 1 year ago my only real piece of equipment was my MacBook! Being a student with very little money whilst learning how to produce forces you to working with minimal resources, and that is just what I am used to! All my equipment is small and cheap - meaning I can travel with it and make music anywhere I am, with the luxury of having some knobs and buttons. I have an AKAI MPK Mini and an AKAI APC Mini - both fit in my hand luggage and are all I need. Software wise, I am a sucker for Rob Papen Blue. Blue II is also wicked but I much prefer the first one. I have just started to get my head around Waves and they have some unbelievable plugins. The Pultec EQP1Q (stereo) is great for bouncing down quick DJ masters. Just whack that on the master channel and have a play around…and thank me later ;)
I saw that recently that you have completed a tour of Australia and North America. We all know you to have a high output of released music. How do you juggle studio time with touring?
This has taken some getting used to, and I still don’t think I have fully nailed it. The summer is difficult, with there being so many more parties (and therefore after parties, and after-after parties). I don’t think I’ve ever had a full week in the studio during the summer months. Saying that, it is important to have some structure. It’s easier for me to have a routine within the winter months. I plan my day to coincide with my other half; we will get up at the same time, eat at the same time, and have breaks at the same time. Effectively I treat my job exactly like a 9-5. That way, I have routine and it helps me to plan my week better and increase my work rate.
Over the years I can tell you have developed a strong prominent sound to your productions. What makes a Jacky track?
Percussion and breakdowns. If I had to narrow it down, it would be those two things. I spend a lot of time building suspense in my breaks and always make sure to have plenty of mad glitchy percussion throughout to keep the listener interested.
When it comes to studio day, ready to start a new project. What would be your structure for making a track? and can you show us some tips & tricks?
Well, when I start a new track I have a pre-saved template which opens up when I open up a new project in Ableton. This makes it way easier than pissing around adding all your FX and returns at the start and will have saved me many hours over the years (SEE PIC 1).
You can do this by setting up your template as you want then going to PREFERENCES > FILE/FOLDER > SAVE CURRENT SET AS DEFAULT (SEE PIC 2)
From there, I will usually start with drums, starting with kick, clap, hats and snare then onto my percussive elements. Making sure all the drums have their own space is so important to the groove. Following on from that I will layer my bass in and then usually work on a vocal loop that sits well with the track. From that point I will take all of that and start arranging the track, figuring out where it goes as I build it. Sometimes I have a vision for the track and it takes that direction, but the majority of the time I just go with the music and it will be nothing like I imagined, but I find the more I let the music develop itself (as opposed to forcing it) the better the end result.
One other tip is set up an Audio Effects Rack (SEE PIC 3).
I have these on each channel as you can see on PIC 1 and I will explain what is going on here. 1st EQ Eight is to take out any frequencies you don’t want. The compressor is next in the chain and (if needed) you can compress your channel to get the dynamic range right to get the sound you’re looking for. The next EQ Eight is to boost any frequencies that you may want more of after the correct compression has been applied. Next to that is the standard Auto Filter which I may need to use for breakdowns or intros and outros as a method of automation. The final step in that chain is my Stereo FX Unit. I only turn this on for certain sections, mainly percussive elements and some drums. It is a Utility joined with a Simple Delay, with the right side delayed by 17ms. When turned on, that minuscule delay between the right and the left creates a widening effect, giving that track loads of width in the mix. I play with the 17ms also, anything between 5 and 20 MS, and I also switch it from R to L so that I haven’t got several parts all being delayed down one particular side.
What advice would you give up & coming DJs and producers wanting to break into the industry?
Keep working! It just takes that one track to get the attention of the right people and then you have your chance to shine. Some people get that within the first year. Some people it takes 5, 6 years, maybe even longer - but if this is what you see yourself doing and you know you can commit to it, don’t give up.
Which artists do you look to for inspiration when hitting the studio?
This may seem like an odd choice given the fact that their music doesn’t really reflect in what I create, but I really enjoy a lot of the guys who play LIVE. Stephan Bodzin, KiNK, Guti…these guys are so creatively intelligent it gives me so much inspiration to be better. Just watching their videos on YouTube gives me such a kick up the arse, because it pushes me to think outside the box and try new things. My latest project, about to drop very soon, demonstrates this very well ;)
Could you name some artists that are set to breakthrough in 2018?
Adison, PAX, Mason Maynard and Pirate Copy are my favourites for 2018 at the moment.
What’s next on the release front for Jacky?
On the 9th February, mine and Max Chapman’s collaboration project ‘Addicted’ featuring Charlie Sanderson will be released on Pete Tong’s imprint FFRR. I also have an EP coming on my label Red Lunar Records, 2 other EP’s to drop over the year and a full album which is still to be announced, and that will drop around summer time, so keep an eye out for those.
LISTEN TO 'ADDICTED' NOW ON SPOTIFY
Max Chapman & Jacky Feat: Charlie Sanderson - Addicted [FFRR]
Buy Now -- http://ffrr.ec/Addicted