Workshop sessions | Jeff Jackson opens up about helping Common, Kanye West and the internet complete their albums
When Jeff Jackson enters the studio, it usually means that the sound engineer is ready to help you bring your record to its final level. The meticulous sound architect has worked with some of the game’s greatest artists.
In this episode of “Studio Sessions”, the accomplished engineer talks about flying to the Dominican Republic to work on the Brent Faiyaz film. Probe son, helping Kanye West update Pablo’s life, and see Babyface make great music like it’s second nature. Read below.
Who is the first famous artist you collaborated with in the studio?
I have worked with a bunch of artists who are on the verge of becoming one. As an assistant, I worked with artists like Common. I met him at the studio. He was cold and mellow. He was just a human, and I think that’s what the studio is doing. We know these artists, but the studio has to be a safe space for them to be what they are to create. They just wanna be humans and make records … It was a great project that we worked on.
Why was he there?
At this point we were mixing, so he was listening to the records again. It was cool because I’m from Chicago and I got to share that moment. Every time I have a bad time I work Find forever and To be. They refocus me.
When did you start working with Brent Faiyaz?
We started working around 2015/2016. I connected with him through a producer by the name of Paperboy Fabe. I worked with him as an engineer for a while.
You worked on the realization of his Probe son album. How did you all work together to get a certain sound for this project?
We all fed on each other. Everything was organic. We packed our bags, took a flight and went to the Dominican Republic for three weeks cooking from scratch. The producers were laying drums and building on it while Brent wrote. I remember the first night of recording we had there until 6am. It was a cool setup and I had no idea what to expect.
How did you work with the Internet on their Beehive Spirit album?
It was cool. Syd is a great person in the studio. You have artists who are not friendly to engineers because they are trying out a new barber. It was really stupid to shut himself up with them. It was easy. Engineers Syd, so she’s already cool with ProTools and stuff. We just made sure everything was okay. I was hanging out with the group and everything.
What is their creative chemistry together in the studio?
Everyone was playing other instruments in the studio. It was very collaborative. If someone heard something they liked, they would add it, no matter what instrument it was. I was there for a week with them.
Jimmy Douglass is not only a legendary engineer for artists like Missy Elliott and Ginuwine, but also someone we have spoken with on “Studio sessions. “How was your time together?
I did a Mix With The Master series with Jimmy. It’s a company that brings these legends out of the mix and you can spend a week with them in the south of France. You wake up, you all go to the studio, and you are able to choose that person’s brain. I was a fly on the wall. He actually used my speakers for this episode. He was a great guy.
One of the most intriguing projects you worked on was the song remix for the Calm sleep app. How was this process different from what you usually do?
Universal was partnering with Calm. The idea was to take Post Malone’s “Circles”, Jhene Aiko’s “While We’re Young” and other songs and slow them down so people could relax to fall asleep or meditate. It was cool to do that. My job is usually to present a song to you and make you feel emotions. With the Calm stuff, it was the opposite of what I usually do with a song. For Calm, I would start with the loudest part, and over the course of an hour it gradually fades and becomes more filtered like background noise.
You had an interesting involvement in Kanye West Pablo’s life with Mike Dean.
I never spent time with Mike Dean in the studio working on Pablo’s life. I had a FaceTime with it to fix something in a song because it was already posted on the streaming services. I had to do a last minute backup. I worked on this project as an engineer assistant. I was studying with, and helping, the guy who mixed it, Manny [Marroquin].
What special session did you attend?
It was cool to be in a session with Babyface. It was amazing how a song is made from a legend. It was a collaborative process. Seeing artists, songwriters, producers and engineers let go of that ego was great to watch. There was no ego in the room. You can tell he perfected his creative process until it was second nature.
What do you have to come in the future?
I moved my studio to a new location and I’m pretty excited about it. I am delighted to have new artists, to meet new people and to work on new projects. I worked with this Hush Forte cat, he is tough. Reggie Becton, he’s tough. Frank HaveMercy, he’s tough. I’m just going to cook with people who make great music.