On the Record with DJ Neil Jackson
With over 20 years of experience DJing all over the globe in some of the biggest clubs, festivals and venues, it’s no wonder we wanted to feature NYC’s very own Neil Jackson. We caught up with Neil at Turntable Lab NYC, to learn a bit more about him and his career as a DJ.
How long have you been DJing?
I’ve been DJing for about 20 years.
How do you typically prepare before you go into a gig? What keeps it fresh and engaging for you?
I just freestyle everything, I never put together sets. Every crowd is different, so one day I could walk into a hip-hop crowd, sometimes I could walk into a House crowd, or an old-school crowd — that’s the fun of it, you never know what you’re going to walk into.
It’s crazy — it’s like, I’ve done full hip-hop sets and then seen the crowd shift, and it’s now suddenly an 80s crowd. It’s always a surprise.
Do you have a favorite style of music that you encounter when DJing?
I just like to see the crowd’s reactions, that’s what keeps me going. It’s sort of like Christmas, like you get to open a new present each day.
When did you decide you wanted to be a DJ full-time? Was there a specific moment?
I decided that I wanted to do this fulltime about ten years ago — this is my thing. I did take a break for about four years, but had then gone out to a club, maybe ten years ago, and noticed that the DJ had become the focal point. When I saw that, I felt like I had to become a part of it. The energy was bigger than your classic house party — though I do still love classic house. I can’t sing or rap, so this is my thing, this is what I can do.
What’s one tip you’d give someone who’s looking to become a full-time DJ?
One tip I would give a newcomer is — well actually, I’d give them a few tips, since DJing isn’t just about DJing anymore, it’s a lifestyle. I know that sounds cliche, but it is. One is: Learn the basics, especially before you try to go out there and do it in front of a crowd. Another thing is just be cool, be humble. There’s a lot of DJs out there, there’s stiff competition. It’s super important that people who are booking you like you. It may sound strange, but so much of the business and your ability to book gigs is ultimately personality-driven.
What do you do on your downtime, when you’re not spinning tunes?
Music moves fast — it moves faster than I’ve ever seen it before. I just sit there, I listen to music, and I appreciate that this is my occupation, this is my lifestyle. I get to listen to all sorts of different genres, and I just enjoy that.
What are some bands or artists that you enjoy listening to that may surprise people?
Band of Horses, Red Hot Chili Peppers & A Tribe Called Quest.