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Trevor Jackson / Playgroup

Related: UK music - dance


Trevor Jackson began a convoluted career in music by designing record sleeves. Fresh out of art college in north London, he met the legendary owner of Champion Records and offered to design a cover free of charge. In the next few years he designed classic, instantly identifiable sleeves for Raze, Todd Terry, The Jungle Brothers, Eric B & Rakim and a host of lesser lights. Then came his trademark cover designs for the Stereo MCs, the distinctive logo and cover art for Neil Rushton's techno label, Network, and, after a chance meeting at the Wag Club, Mark Moore's first S-Express single. He was one of the main featured designers in Cynthia Roses's best selling Club culture/Design book 'Design after dark' and went on to have work published in numerous other publications and had his work shown in many exhibitions worldwide.

Originally a fan of Soft Cell, Human League and ABC, he started venturing out to New Romantic nights, moving through the Colin Faver/Eddie Richards nights at the Camden Palace, hip-hop at the Electric Ballroom, hearing Afrika Bambaataa mix Prince's 'When Doves Cry into 'Shout' by Tears For Fears and feeling things click into place, experiencing Jay Strongman's funk sets at the Mudd Club, Dave Dorrell and CJ Macintosh's eclectic selections at Raw, The Watson Brothers mix of Hip Hop into House at Delirium, The London classic warehouse parties organized by the Mutoid Waste Company, Family Function, Shake and Fingerpop and Soul II Soul, The birth of Balearic with Paul Oakenfield at Spectrum, Danny Rampling at Shoom, and the enormous outdoor raves at Sunrise Raindance, & Biology "The most important thing was being inspired by the music," he says. "I've never taken a tab of E in my life. 'The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On the Wheels Of Steel' was like an adventure in sound to me. I'd put my headphones on listen to the Art of Noise and it was a journey, I would dance to Phuture's 'Acid Trax' and would be taken somewhere else. That was my release. I was always stimulated by the dynamics of music and sound. Excited by Double D & Steinski's collage records, Martin Rushent's extended pop mixes, the electro of John Robie and Arthur Baker, Razor sharp Latin Rascals edits, Marley Marl productions on the Pop Art label and the maniac bonus beats that came with every New York 12 inch single during the early 1980's, Jackson started making his own mix tapes, using the pause button on his cassette machine.

Next came a Commodore 64 computer and a little sampling program, finally a 4 track recorder. T hen in 1990 Morgan Khan, notorious owner of the Streptolysins label, ran a British Hip Hop talent competition.

"These friends of mine round the corner," says Jackson, "Had formed a hip hop crew called the Brotherhood". They knew I had a 4 track. We worked on some tracks and entered the competition" Nothing happened but we had enjoyed working together, and began to create more music.Trevor decided to start a label called Bite it! (Named after his design company) specially to release the bands first E.P. After releasing two more records on the label his production work began to gain attention from major labels who began to commission him to remix their most important acts.

Striking up working relationships with Massive Attack, New Kingdom, Shara Nelson and even U2, Underdog remixes began highly anticipated as well as respected. Via his remix work, the Brotherhood eventually signed to Virgin in 1996. Once signed Jackson spent nearly two years of his life creating the music for their first album 'Elementalz'. Striving for originality Trevor scoured the racks of Europe's 2nd hand record stores for undiscovered music to sample. Once released the albums reception was astounding, Cited by many as "The greatest UK rap album of all time". But eventually tensions between backroom producer and frontline vocalists surfaced. The band split and Jackson embarked on another long term project, producing The Emperor's New Clothes for Acid Jazz.

Fired up by the band's live performances, he was reminded of the records by, Can, Gong, Nucelus and Soft Machine he discovered whilst searching for samples for his Hip Hop creations. A year in the making the groundbreaking album never saw the light of day due to problems with the band's label. Trevor's taste in music was becoming more eclectic, with both his productions and remixes notable for their unusual choices of sample sources. For his first remix he had used KRS-One along with Sting and for one of his label's early releases, raided Julian Priester's electric ECM jazz rarity, 'Love Love'. Hanging out in Honest Jons in Portobello Road, talking music with James Lavelle, buying obscure European progressive jazz records and weird electronics, hearing PIL and Material, his perspective had gradually changed.

The Bite it! label grew, but he found the business dynamics of hip-hop too fraught. Whilst giving birth to UK rap stars such as Lewis Parker, and the Scientists of Sound, the narrowmindedness and backstabbing of the Uk rap scene eventually caused Trevor the shut down the label. But in it's demise a series of influential record sleeves, designed by Trevor and Photographer Donald Christie broke all preconceptions of how UK rap should be marketed. Stark black and white photography devoid of any typography, look as powerful today as they did nearly 10 years ago, After the collapse of the Brotherhood, The Stress of running a UK Hip Hop label, The disappointment of the Emperors New Clothes album never being released, and worse of all the sudden death of his close friend and manager Marts Andrups, Trevor took time out to decide what to do next.

In 1996 he decided to start a brand new record label Output, free of any preconceptions or expectations and now able to release any genre of music he wished Trevor felt inspired again, the label has released over 40 releases to date. Keiran Hebden's Fridge and Fourtet projects both began on Output, Electro duo 7-Hurtz and New wave pop siblings Sonovac, Paris Nu-wave Goth's BlackStrobe, Prolific Atom Heart's LB project, and the gentle electroacoustic melodies of Boy Lucas have all released outstanding eclectic records which equally excite and intrigue as they do confuse and perplex. The majority of Output sleeves are still designed by Trevor along with Photographer's such as Jason Evans, they continue to appearin publications and exhibitions around the world.

His also rekindled his remix career and constructed some of his the best works of his career from Peshay, Data, and Unkle tracks featuring Ian Brown and Thom York.

Djing since the mid 80's starting at Oxford's Caribbean club with Tony from Attica blues, Trevor became a regular at the legendary Mo Wax Blue Note sessions 'Dusted' and as well as playing many other club's in europe, he still throws his own highly anticipated parties. He was asked to DJ on Massive Attack's 1998 European tour and any excuse he gets to be invited to a city with second hand record shop's to search through he'll be there.

An avid collector, Trevor has a huge collection of records, books, comics, toys and 20th century icons. " I have a strong fundamental belief in the power of ideas beyond, style and fashion, I am convinced that the simplest well executed innovative ideas and concepts will outlive those transient market based creations, the strongest of ideas live on, and hollow concepts soon fade. That applies to video games, comic books and pop records as much as serious literature, and high art. I share an equal love of low brow culture and high brow culture and detest snobbery and narrow mindedness on any level"


  1. DJ Kicks - Playgroup [1 CD, Amazon US]
    Playgroup producer Trevor Jackson has compiled the latest in the critically acclaimed DJ Kicks series.
    "I never went to the Roxy or Danceteria, but I went to the British equivalent of those clubs," producer Trevor Jackson has said, discussing his Playgroup project. Essentially, it's an English kid's grown-up homage to his teenage fantasy of early-'80s New York dance culture, a vision—filtered entirely through records and the music press, but not inaccurate—of downtown Manhattan as a polyrhythmically perverse utopia of sexual/racial border-crossing, rootless cosmopolitanism, and all-night parties tinged with noir sleaze. -- Simon Reynolds
    The next installment will hit the streets through Studio K7! on July 1, and features tracks from Maurice Fulton, Random Factor, Metro Area and Ralphi Rosario.
    Previous DJ Kicks releases have been compiled by luminaries such as Nightmares On Wax, Truby Trio, Stereo MCs, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Carl Craig and Stacey Pullen.
    Maurice Fulton presents Boof - We Ana Rago - You're God (I:Cube Remix) Material - Ciquri (Discomix) Harlequin Fours - Set It Off Impedance - Tainted Love Random Factor - Broken Mirror Cultural Vibe - Ma Foom Bey (Love Chant Version) Metro Area - Caught Up Tiny Trendies - The Sky Is Not Crying Smith 'N Hack - To Our Disco Friends Zongamin - Tunnel Music Charles Schillings - No Communication, No Love (Salt City Orchestra Mix) Nigo - March Of General (Chicken Lips Conquest Dub) Jay Walk - Buggin' Becky (Fully Bearded Mix) KC Flightt - Let's Get Jazzy (Dopy Dub Mix) Human League - Do Or Die (Dub) Parallax Corporation - Anti Social Tendencies Ralphi Rosario - Get Up Get Out Bobby O - Still Hott 4 U Dexter - I Don't Care Wanda Dee - Gonna Make You Sweat (Acapella) The Rapture - House of Jealous Lovers Flying Lizards - Money B
    Very enjoyable, harks back to early eighties electro music, mixing it up with newer shit, while sustaining the same vibe. 4/5


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