Indianapolis-based DJ Action Jackson (given name Ben Jackson), performed at the 1st annual WheelHouse Festival, a two-day electronic dance music event held outdoors at Opti Park with after-parties indoors at The Vogue in Broad Ripple on Friday, September 13th and Saturday, September 14th, 2013. Action Jackson delivered an impressive 41 minute set that did not stray from his written biography, "specializing in genre bending mixes that span multiple styles of music; equally comfortable spinning hip-hop, house, dubstep, moombahton, indie rock and everything in between." He performed during WheelHouse Festival on Saturday afternoon in Opti Park. Unfortunately, as was the case with all acts that preceded him, his 2:25pm start-time meant he went unnoticed as very few fans had yet to arrive. However, his passion was not lost. He showed a true love of his profession and a complete dedication to his craft with his performance.
William Kelly Milionis: You were very strong in your performance, but unfortunately an early start time (2:25pm) found very few fans in attendance. Certainly disappointing, did you have a choice of stages; main stage or after-party?
Ben Jackson: Kind of, yes, but I have gigs tonight, so I had to play today. But, I would rather play here [Opti Park main stage] anyway. This is cool. I have done Vogue several times and it's always fun to come play a new venue or a festival. At the end of the day, even if there is one or fifty, you don't want to not go as hard as possible because there are not a million people here. But, even if there are people here at all, they came to see me so you don't want to short change them. If it's not crazy packed, it almost means more to the people who are here because it's much more intimate. You never know who is in the crowd. At the end of the day, they came to see you. They paid good money and you need to give them a show. If there's a few hundred here or a few thousand, it doesn't matter.
Kelly: You covered so much musical ground; even adding Elvis Crespo and his big hit 'Suavemente'.
Ben: [Laughing] When you're outside like this, I know you're supposed to play a hardcore EDM set, but people looked at me for trap-stuff so I did re-mixes of that. When the sun is shining, it's nice to play some Latin and House stuff.
Kelly: How long have you been a professional DJ?
Ben: I guess I started about 10 years ago. I haven't had any other job in probably six years or so [laughing]. But I just DJ. RAD Summer started out as our promotion company and a name for our parties. We thought two years and two months ago we started releasing music and expanded into a record label, so I do that and DJing; we don't make any money selling music [Laughing].
Kelly: Do you play a musical instrument?
Ben: I played the violin for a little while. I wish I would've played an instrument that I would've been more into. I wanted to play bass. Piano would've been so useful now. I'm trying to teach myself piano now for production samplings and stuff.
Kelly: Were you raised in a musical household?
Ben: My family wasn't very musical at all. My Mom has Kenny G CD's...literally. I always, when I was little, listened to everything and I like playing all different kinds of genres. I would get bored if I did the same party every night. I've done Yacht rock parties, where it's Hall & Oates and smooth music. I've done nights that are all '80 or '90s. I've done nights that I'm always banging out heavy trap. Any genre you'll find there is good and bad stuff. Yeah, I would get bored playing the same set or listening to the same set all night.
Kelly: Do you sing?
Ben: No. Oreo Jones is a rapper on our label and we did a mixtape called 'Black Fabio' and I rapped on one of the songs. I think my voice is awful [laughing] [more laughing]! I haven't really expanded much into doing vocals myself.
Kelly: Do you release original material?
Ben: I have only done four originals, but I've done a ton of remixes. Me and Lemi Vice, who is on our label too, he lives in Louisville [Kentucky] and we do tons of remixes together. We have a four track EP
coming out on Monday, a bunch of freebies, a bunch of bootlegs. It's all twerk music which is basically trap music sped up to 100bpm with hi-hats and drums, hip hop influenced. We're putting out four of those and we do tons of remixes. We work well together. We get along great and like the same stuff. I go down to Louisville once or twice a month. We knock out a bunch of tracks in the day, then we go out at night, have a couple of drinks, and argue about the direction to take stuff. Then, we go to bed and wake up the next day with fresh ears and finish everything.
Kelly: Maybe you find yourself visiting Chicago for 5 or 6 days?
Ben: I love Chicago and usually play at Evil Olive. [DJ] Zebo, before he moved to the MID, used to do a Friday there called the 'Booty Up'. Might have been actually my first gig in Chicago a long time ago at Evil Olive; a couple of owners ago, several years ago was with Zebo. Last time I was there, I was at 'Porn and Chicken', which was a Tuesday party that was insane. I used to do the Debonair Social Club a little bit with the Team Bayside High dudes when they were throwing events there.
Kelly: Have you performed at the MID?
Ben: I haven't played MID yet; been there though... a great venue! The sound system is insane.
Kelly: What are your feelings on iTunes vs Beatport?
Ben: As far as our label, if it's an EDM genre, we push Beatport heavier, but we do use iTunes as well. We usually do exclusives to Beatport for two weeks first and that's because [DJ] Figure, who is playing later [on Opti Park stage] he had a good interview where he was talking about he likes to release his music for free. But, he's like, every so often you have to play the game and you have to chart and really put something out there. It all depends on really how big you are. You gotta do Beatport if its EDM. For us, we do Beatport for EDM because you want to chart and we get a lot of features. A lot of our releases get features. It's also a way to reach artists even though it's for sale. A lot of people will check Beatport, go to whatever genre they play, check the features and what's charting, so you definitely have to play that game. It's a great way for people to experience your music. iTunes on the other hand, more people are aware of it. Beatport is more for DJ's or hardcore fans. iTunes is for everybody. If we put out records from bands or hip hop or not EDM basically, we always push the iTunes link first for them. And, the biggest thing too that really irks me about Beatport is they are so expensive now for tracks as compared to iTunes and Amazon. I really like Amazon. A lot of people are using Amazon too. Beatport is so expensive. What I wrestle with all the benefits of charting, features, and people finding your music through Beatport that's awesome. But, when we do exclusives, it's two dollars a track for the base. So, we'll put out a three or four track EP; that's like ten to twelve dollars. Then, if it's an EP that has a Dub or VIP where they're buying two very similar songs, it's money and many people don't want to do that. You can go on iTunes, Amazon, and Juno or whatever and it's gonna be a dollar. Even Google Play has been doing a lot of marketing but I haven't seen anything yet.
Kelly: Have you used YouTube yet?
Ben: We've put a lot of our tracks on there. YouTube is great! A small label like us don't have budgets to do ten thousand dollar videos. YouTube and video is the best way to promote your music. I really think it is. Even if someone doesn't like the song, they will watch the video or vice versa. And a lot of our tracks we'll just put them on YouTube with the album art in the background. I will listen to music a lot and just search YouTube, it's like your own on-demand radio. YouTube is very important. Beatport is very important. Because there is so much diversity, we try to hit so many companies and markets. We try to do the scattershot and hope something sticks. We would never put out anything that we would not stand behind.
Kelly: Your musicality is so vast; extensive...have you looked into providing your talents to video games, motion pictures, and television?
Ben: For me, I have made some edits for local commercials and promo videos. On a national scale I have not done anything yet but I would love to. I think every DJ, the first skill is track selection before mixing or anything like that so I think any good DJ would make a great scorer of films. I would love to do that. As far as the label, we just got a deal for sync licenses so hopefully some of our music will be appearing in video games and movies soon. Licensing is really the last bastion of people making real money off of music. Hopefully, for all the artists on our label, for their sake you'll be seeing and hearing some of their stuff soon.
Kelly: Rane or Pioneer?
Ben: I'm a Rane guy actually. It's kind of regional on how stuff goes. I still use tables and I like to scratch and throw acapella's around. I vastly prefer a two-channel mixer and Rane is just killing Pioneer. Pioneer does have a mixer that came out about twelve years ago they still sell and it's amazing but nobody ever has it. Regionally too, most people in Indianapolis a lot of clubs here you need to bring your own gear in so everybody has their own mixers here. So I am a Rane guy. I love the 57 [Rane] and love the 62 [Rane] and I'm mostly a two-channel guy and I have Technics turntables. But, I'm a Rane guy all the way through.
Kelly: Thank you for chatting with me after your set here at Opti Park during WheelHouse Festival.