For the last installment in our Sound of Solasta series we linked up with another individual who is both on the lineup at Solasta Festival, and vital within the festival's infrastructure; the producer/DJ and sound system connoisseur Jack Whelan. Known on the stage as EasyJack, Whelan is the co-owner and lead engineer for Soundsystem Cultures LLC, an audio production and Funktion One sound system rental company based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The EasyJack project stretches across a number of genres and tempos, but low-frequency is the common denominator. Many folks were first introduced to EasyJack and his diverse presentation when he performed during the Chicago Tipper run in August 2015. His released catalog numbers just below two-dozen tracks, including contributions to Oxidized Vols. 1 & 2, but the quality and intention of each does not go unnoticed. Jack and the Soundsystem Cultures crew have had a stellar rise since launching the company in 2015. They supply gigs with high-fidelity, properly-tuned Funktion One speaker systems. Northeastern heads would have heard them in action recently at the Camp Bisco Renegade Stage. They continue to push upward the benchmark for hi-fi sound system experiences, and they'll deliver that experience all weekend long at Solasta Festival on August 17-18.
The Rust: Tell us about Sound System Cultures. What is the ethos of your operation?
Soundsystem Cultures LLC was originally started by my business partner Philip Irwin. We met through Infrasound Music Festival and various mutual friends. Initially, I was assisting him in acquiring some of the needed equipment for his original set up and during that process we decided that joining together as parters was a much more effective solution so we could build a bigger system. Living in separate parts of the country had a natural advantage because we both had a good number of established connections for bookings in our respective regions. Things kind of fell into place naturally from there. We’ve never come up with any kind official ethos or motto, but our general goal is to provide the highest quality audio experience possible for our customers, no matter what it takes. We’ll go to any lengths possible to ensure that everything has been set up in the most optimal way for the system to operate in the given conditions of the show. If that means re-stacking the rig multiple times to achieve the perfect configuration for the environment, we’ll do it. If we have to dig a 100ft trench in the mud to hide cables so the dance floor is obstruction-free, we’ll do it, and so on… We cut no corners and take everything possible into consideration to truly take our clients' events to the next level.
The Rust: What drew you towards a career in curating sound? What drew you to hi-fi systems in general?
I was a producer/DJ and musician before I was doing sound professionally. Growing up being involved with underground events and playing in various bands, I always had an interest in the production and audio side of things. Eventually around 2012 I met Antoine Kattar who had been working for the Funktion One US distributor in Chicago for a number of years. He was looking for someone to fill an apprentice type position to help him with permanent sound system installs around the region. Antoine has served as the front of house engineer for Tipper and many other prominent acts. He was also a member of the team responsible for a number of well-known installs around the city including Chop Shop, The Mid, and Smartbar which has been referred to as one of the best dance floor systems in world. Through working with him I learned how to tune and maintain these systems. After the first time I experienced a proper Funktion One rig I was certain I only wanted to be working with extremely high fidelity systems and I’ve been hooked ever since.
The Rust: The EasyJack project seems to encompass a number of styles and tempos. Can you talk about your musical output, and the influences that shaped your production prowess?
My early influences came from video games like the SSX series and number of others that feature quality underground music. Later on, I discovered the world of glitch hop through the likes of Tipper, Kilowatts, Opiuo, Vent, (early) Griz, and many others. But the main influence on my own personal sound has always come from my love of Chicago house music. I love incorporating subtle elements of classic house into my glitch hop and dub sounds and I think thats been the main driving factor of developing my sound over the years. Another key influence for me is the idea of making “music for sound systems”… basically producing music that can really show off the capabilities of the high fidelity systems that we work with.
The Rust: Solasta has partnered with some top-tier organizations. What role does Soundsystem Cultures play in the Solasta infrastructure?
We basically handle all things sound for Solasta. We’ve been tasked with coming up with a rig that will compliment the sonic environment to the best of our ability while also working together with the stage design team to ensure everything will be a perfect fit. This year we will have a slightly bigger set up than year one and we hope to keep it evolving as the event grows. Last year the stage incorporated both a waterfall, fire elements, bamboo, and tons of other materials scavenged from the woods around the grounds. Making sure the footprint of our system can fit in within all of the beautiful deco, while still being optimal for sound quality, is crucial to delivering the best possible audio/visual experience for the crowd.
The Rust: What do you have in mind for the future of EasyJack?
Right now my main focus is my upcoming release with Addictech Records. It features some tracks I’ve put years of work into and will technically be my debut EP on an established label. Im also currently in the process of building my new studio which will serve as my creative space hopefully for years to come. On top of that I’ve also been developing a new side project called Frisk that will focus on a psychedelic mesh of techno and house. Most of that music will be four-on-the-floor and feature some pretty ravey vibes. My goal is to continue touring and keep growing both projects as much as possible.
Solasta Festival strives to nail every aspect of the attendee experience, and sound is arguably the most important aspect of all. Fortunately for anyone heading to Sneedville, Tennessee for this special gathering, Soundsystem Cultures will be running the boards all weekend. When Whelan takes the stage for a rare EasyJack set, and an even rarer Frisk set, he'll be flexing his handiwork in more ways than one.