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?
After taking a 4 year break, about ten years ago, I had gone out to a club and noticed how much DJing had changed. Technology was introduced, everything became digitized, which raised the ceiling on how a DJ can play. It made it exciting again. When I saw that, I felt like I had to be a part of it. PLUS I can’t sing, rap, or dance, and this comes so naturally for me.
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.
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