Live sound pioneer Bruce Jackson was killed on January 29, 2011, when the single-engine plane he was piloting crashed near Furnace Creek, Calif., in Death Valley National Park.
At an early age, Jackson was intrigued with electronics and sound. In his first SR venture, then 18-year-old Jackson co-created JANDS, a lighting and sound rental firm with an electronics design and manufacturing division, along with his partner, Phil Storey, in their native Australia. There, Jackson helped build column P.A.s, guitar amps, power amps and simple mixers. “We even made the printed circuit boards,” Jackson recalled in an interview with Mix in 2005. “It was a great experience.” Three years later, Jackson sold his share in JANDS, traveled to the U.S. and joined a young Clair Bros. Audio (now Clair Global).
“We came to know Bruce back in 1969 when he introduced himself to Clair Brothers co-founder Roy Clair during Blood Sweat and Tears’ Australian tour,” says a statement from Clair Global. “Roy noticed quickly that the young Bruce was smart, knowledgeable and extremely interested in everything about the audio industry, and invited him to visit the next time he was in the U.S. Bruce would eventually accept the offer—not only to visit, but to work for the company.”
“Bruce and I became instant friends and had a lot of great times both professionally and personally,” Roy recalls. “He had the ability to think through problems and always come to a resolution. Bruce brought us a fresh perspective and some cutting-edge ideas while we were still a young company, which were, quite simply, integral in setting us and our systems apart from others in the business. We were fortunate to have had someone like him on our team.”
While at Clair, Jackson mixed for many Elvis Presley tours, designing and building equipment during his down time. Jackson helped develop the first hanging sound systems and a sophisticated mixing console that folded out of the case and was the first to use parametric EQ. This board became a Clair mainstay for more than 12 years.
After the passing of The King, Jackson hooked up with Bruce Springsteen from 1978 to 1988. Jackson remembered: “I hacked into Bruce’s favorite guitar to install special waterproof pickup selector switches and an electronic buffer to drive his 100-foot-long guitar cord so there were highs left at the end. In places with poor acoustics, Bruce supported hanging curtains and other acoustic improvements most acts would never consider.” Jackson “founded” other companies in-between tours, including promoting and setting up distribution for Fairlight’s first music sampler.
Jackson’s next venture was creating Apogee Electronics, where the company was the first to create Soft Limit, low-jitter clocks, UV22 dither, reference-standard AD/DAs and more.
In the early ‘90s, Jackson began working with legendary performer Barbra Streisand, who, at that time, hadn’t toured in more than 30 years. But while on tour, Jackson missed “playing with digital audio” and so suggested to Clair Bros. that they work together. He pulled friends Dave McGrath, founder of Lake Technology, and Ed Meitner into a partnership with Clair Bros. Audio that was named Clair Technologies LLC. “We wanted to be able to create any-shaped EQ curve with non-minimum phase response. I always felt that the basic parametric EQ with frequency, shape and boost/cut controls was too limited: The shape of the classic parametric EQ spills over into neighboring areas you don’t want to affect, regardless of chosen shape; and why should you be stuck with just a bell curve when it would be great to EQ whole areas of the spectrum as one?” And the Clair iO processor was born. Lake Technology went public and purchased the proprietary technology from Clair LLC.; in 2005, Dolby Laboratories acquired Lake.
“It seems the more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know,” Jackson said. “The more you dig, the more you find needs attention. A true perfectionist’s dilemma.”
“We were incredibly fortunate to witness first-hand how Bruce’s talent and abilities were able to literally change the whole live event experience,” says Troy Clair, Clair Global president. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to Bruce’s family; he was an incredible friend and will be dearly missed.”