Starting Afresh: Trevor Jackson Talks
London's Independent Label Market is taking place tomorrow in Spitalfields, and the one and only Trevor Jackson will be hosting a special 'Pop Down Store' where he'll be selling rare items, merchandise, signed prints and exclusive releases. One of those exclusives is a new album called System, limited to 150 CD copies, packaged in a screen-printed case designed by Jackson himself. We caught up with Trevor to chat about the label market, the importance of record labels, and drawing a line under his musical past.
Hi Trevor! Talk us through what you’ve got in store for this weekend’s Independent Label Market.
I’m launching a new album called System. It's the final release from my archive label Pre-, and contains unreleased tracks I originally made in the 2000s. It's a limited edition CD release of 150 copies especially for the label market. I also have another unreleased album called Of The Night made by me in the '90s under my Underdog alias, that's available as a edition of only 50 cassettes. There'll be some A1 prints never available before, the last remaining stock of many of my other releases from the past few years, as well as some merchandise and rare releases from my previous Output and Bite It labels.
How did System come together after you made the decision to compile all this unreleased material?
The past three years I’ve purged my archives with numerous releases, as Playgroup via my Yes Wave label and under various different guises on my Pre- label, as well as my Format release on Vinyl Factory, and RGBPM on Utter. Well over 100 tracks that for various reasons I didn’t see fit to release at the time I made them. It made sense for the final release on Pre- to be by me, it marks a symbolic end to my musical past. I haven’t made a brand new piece of music for so long. Putting a line under everything that's gone before and starting totally afresh is a hugely exciting prospect.
What considerations do you take into account when designing artwork for a particular record?
Most importantly it reflects the music inside, hopefully enhances it and attracts peoples attention at the same time. I strive to try not to repeat myself also.
What does it mean to you for this album to have such a limited release?
Back in the day it wasn’t easy to get hold of what you wanted. Pre-internet you heard about things only for sale in New York, Paris, Japan, with absolutely no way to get hold of them without jumping on a plane. That's the generation I come from. I have no issue at all with making some things I do difficult, it keeps things exciting.
How do you see the role of independent record labels in 2018?
As important as ever. It feels like there's never been a better time for exciting and innovative new music of so many genres, and independent labels are always the first to discover new talent. Since the financial aspect of releasing music changed, so have people's attitudes to creating music. Making music to formula used to be a dead cert income stream, not any more, and when that's removed from the culture there's no reason anymore to stick to a rigid path, there's far more risk taking, that's inspiring for everyone.
How do you go about discovering new music? What are your listening habits?
My main source of discovering new music is record shops, always has been. When I listen to the radio I mainly listen to talk radio – obviously NTS is a highly important to me too – but people behind record store counters have always played a massive part in my personal music discovery. Social media plays a big part too, as much as I hate having to play an active role in it so much, it's a constant feed of great music to me too, so I can legitimise my involvement with it for a while longer yet.
Have you been able to find any mainstream music that moves you in a meaningful way?
Loads, I listen to everything, always have, really don’t have an issue with who makes a piece of music or the label that releases it if it's great. One of the albums I've listened to most over the past few months is Jonathan Wilson's Rare Birds on Bella Union. Not the kind of thing I’d normally be enamoured by, but it's a beautiful piece of work. The songwriting and production are top notch. Not all of it's my cup of tea but there are four or five tracks I totally adore.
If you could impart one key piece of information to your younger self, what would it be?
Nothing, I’ve learnt more from my mistakes than anything else in life.
What do you find exciting right now outside of music?
I’m excited by anything that challenges me, need to experience things I’ve never seen or heard before, there's so much around me that excites me in all fields of creativity.
Having just purged all of this old material, what’s next for Trevor Jackson?
New ventures. I'm about to launch a new website that's almost the visual equivalent of releasing all this old and unreleased music, a complete archive of all my visual and audio work. It's fairly extensive, and when that's online I’ll feel I’ve really put the past behind me. Musically things are totally open, I've always listened to everything yet sadly my output hasn’t reflected that. Things have changed so much since I last released new music. I feel now I can do anything I want, release it how I want with whoever I want, and I couldn’t feel more positive about that. You become overly self-conscious of everything you create as you get older, and it's even more important for me now – surrounded by so much astoundingly good young talent – that everything I do exists for a reason and keeps pushing me forward. I've done a hell of a lot in my life but I don’t want to reflect on the past too much, or rest on my laurels and live solely off of things I've already done. The future is much more important to me.
The Independent Label Market takes place tomorrow (12th May) at Old Spitalfields Market.