Just Jack’s Home Recording Ethos Explored

As the stage name indicates, Just Jack is a one-man operation. Working out of a bedroom studio centered around an Akai S950 sampler, triggering beats lifted from funk, jazz, and ’70s and ’80s pop music, Jack Allsopp is a king of lo-fi recording operations—as evidenced by his newest release, Overtones [Universal].

“I like that slightly crusty sound,” says Allsopp, as he sits amidst stacks of floppy disks. “Things that are very smooth, and don’t have that grit on them leave me quite cold. I like the nastiness. I like the tail you get on snares, the bit of stray reverb, or the crackle from the beginning of the next hi-hat hit. I can’t see much point in taking a canned drum sound, putting it with another canned drum sound, and trying to make something that sounds original. I’d rather take a thin snare from an old jazz recording, and boost the low mids to make it sound thick, funky, and hip-hop, than just lift something off of a sample disk.”

Allsopp, however, isn’t one to always rely on what he can muster from the used vinyl bin at his local music store. In fact, many of the drums on Overtones were played live in West London’s Long Island Studios with engineer Jay Reynolds at the helm. Recording to 2" analog tape, Allsopp laid down his drum lines with the mics running hot and all the recording levels in the red.

“It’s not the ‘proper’ way to record tracks, but the tape distortion sounds nasty, and that’s the way I like it,” says Allsopp matter-of-factly when questioned as to why he decided to go against the advice of every reasonable professional engineer. “I keep the mids and lows distorted for a really saturated and heavy sound, but I do cut the highs with my API 560 EQ to get that nasty shrill out. I run the overheads through a pair of Urei 1176 compressors set to a ratio of 2:1 to fatten up the sound, and I’m good to go.”

By and large, Allsopp prefers to keep most of his work in the home-studio realm, referencing the bass-guitar work on “Writer’s Block.” 

 “Ali Love played the bass part in my bedroom,” says Allsopp. “We just ran direct into my Digi 001. Then, we copied the track, and boosted the lows on the clone until the bass sounded like a big ‘woof.’ We mixed that way back behind the main bass line, and it made for a bottom-end monster sound.

“I do a lot of stuff here, because I like to keep a certain amount of control. I like the raggedness you get from working in a bedroom environment with not great equipment. I like the glitches and dodgy-ness you get—which I think gives things a lot of life. If you don’t have that, your recordings can get a bit flat and a bit dead. It’s encouraging for people who think, ‘I’m not technically minded, and I don’t know anything about anything,’ because they can still go and make music.”