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Bruce Jackson: A Life In Sound

He's mixed for Elvis, Streisand and The Boss (among many others), and has been at the forefront of audio technology development for more than three decades.

By PSW Staff February 2, 2011

Bruce Jackson

imageA Life In Sound
by Bruce Jackson

Over the short history of live sound, we have continuously benefitted from improving technology.

I’m lucky to have been there from the beginning of big touring PA systems. I’m also a little unusual because I’m both mixer and equipment designer. It makes for a different perspective.

As a kid, I had an electronics lab under my house in Australia. A small group of kids from school enjoyed electronics – we would go to the Army/Navy disposal stores to scrounge for components.

Our group built an AM radio transmitter with a ridiculously long antenna stretching from one end of our school to the other that we operated after school, right along side our favorite pop station.

We didn’t realize that we had made a super-efficient combination of antenna, funky old tubes (valves to us), resistors, capacitors and inductors. Instead of broadcasting our student radio show to the neighborhood, we were broadcasting over most of Sydney. Then the Aussie “Feds” busted us!

Two of us from that same high school group went on to start our own sound and lighting company at age 18. Phil Storey and I dropped out of university, and with $50 each, registered the company at my home address. We operated out of my bedroom (in a boat shed) before we could afford to move to real premises above a nearby shop.

An early production line at fledgling JANDS, which went on to become Australia’s largest sound and lighting company. (click to enlarge)

The company was initially called J & S Research Electronics, until someone suggested the name JANDS. We designed and manufactured all sorts of lighting, guitar amps and PA gear, in addition to starting a light and sound rental division.

Our PA system consisted of full-range loudspeaker columns and amplifiers with simple tone controls. No crossovers necessary, and what passed for equalization (We didn’t even call it EQ back then.) was just bass and treble knobs. If you couldn’t do it with bass and treble then you were out of luck mate!

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Peter Maurer says

I spent many hours in that Santa Monica garage with Bruce showing me all what he describes in the above story; and then so many more amazing projects he developed. Bruce, we will miss you and never forget you; R.I.P.

Anisa says

I love you uncle Bruce. I will miss you so much!!!! I still can’t believe I was just talking to you 2weeks ago. You always talked about how I’m growing up so fast and asked me about school.  You were the only man that I could call the wizard of electronics.It came as a total shock to me when I found out. I’ll be praying for you and of course my aunt and cousins. I feel so awful. Thanks for taking me ice skating for the first time you know how much I wanted to go. I appreciate everything you ever did for me. I can’t stop thinking about you and I love you. Sooooooo much <3 );
anisa/ aj

David Gibbons says

I had the pleasure of knowing Bruce for about the past 10 years. In my experience, he was everything people have said about him-warm, funny, egoless, brilliant, gentlemanly-and if you worked in pro audio, inspirational. I always felt privileged to know him, but he was so easy-going, you just felt glad to be with him. He and I talked about digital console design from time to time while I was working through the design cycle for the Digidesign VENUE consoles. He was working on the Lake Contour at the same time, and I could tell he was itching to do another mixing console design. It’s really too bad for the world of live mixing that he didn’t get a chance to do so. His legacy will guide us into the future; a better one for his having been here. Farewell Bruce.

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