By Matt Okarmus. Posted December 30, 2010.
Andy Jackson does terrible things at the park.
Far from a criminal, that actually applies to the musical associations of the Montgomerian, currently a member of both the rock ‘n’ roll band Terrible Things and the indie rock band Death in the Park. However, before he was terrible, Jackson was just making a name for himself with Hot Rod Circuit, the first band he had major success with.
Born in North Carolina, Jackson’s family moved to Birmingham when he was three, and relocated to Montgomery when he was five. A graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, Jackson is now a father of three daughters who attend school in the city their father grew up in.
“I liked Montgomery’s cool, small-town vibe,” Jackson said. “It was one of those places where you could run around the neighborhood as kids.”
Jackson began his foray into music during his teenage years. He and his friends played in a variety of places, including skating rinks and house parties.
“I tried sports — football, rugby — but it just wasn’t my thing,” Jackson said. “I was a skater and I hung around kids with different views. My love for music came from the skater scene and it drove me to do something different.”
On the suggestion of Jim Marrer of Zero Return Studios in Millbrook, an 18-year-old Jackson met guitarist Casey Prestwood of Auburn. Jackson said he was “blown away” and the two merged their bands together to create Antidote, which later became Hot Rod Circuit.
“We just heard it on an episode of the ‘Simpsons,'” Jackson said of the band’s name. “I think one of the characters said something about being on the hot rod circuit and we thought that sounded cool.”
At one point, Jackson went with his now ex-wife to visit her family in Connecticut. While there, the seeds were planted for the band’s move out of Alabama.
“I picked up the paper and I saw all these shows being advertised in places like New York, Boston, New Jersey,” Jackson said, “and I realized that’s where I needed to be.”
Jackson told his bandmates that he wanted to move to be closer to the type of music scene they were trying to break into. They all agreed, and thus the life of a struggling musician began. Jackson recalled sleeping on his mother-in-law’s floor and the band pitching in to get an apartment together.
The sacrifices paid off as Hot Rod Circuit enjoyed a decade-long career, releasing six albums and appearing on various soundtracks while touring countries such as Australia. After years together, the band members decided to go their separate ways.
“Everybody spent so much time on the road … we all just wanted to do something different,” Jackson said about the breakup.
Before saying goodbye for good, however, the band took a hiatus. It was during that time that Jackson began exploring other aspects of music, eventually opening The Jackalope Studio and playing a role in the early stages of the careers of local bands such as The Escape Frame and Evolett.
“Anything I can do to get my hand in the music,” Jackson said. “When it comes to music, I like to know everything there is about it.”
Jackson was the main songwriter for Hot Rod Circuit, as well as the lead vocalist and a guitarist. He also wrote everything for his solo project, Death in the Park, which gets its name from a song by Archers of Loaf, a band Jackson admired growing up.
“When people hear the name, they think dark and heavy,” Jackson said. “But look at The Killers. They have an even darker name but come off classy.”
While there are some darker elements — Jackson credits the TV show “Dexter” as an inspiration for the music and the album artwork — he describes Death in the Park as “indie rock with a darker, melodic somewhat dancy feel.”
At first, Jackson was insecure about showing his material to anyone, but after receiving positive feedback, he began recording and the solo project turned into a band. However, after a chance meeting with Fred Mascherino, Death in the Park once again became a side project.
Mascherino, formerly of alternative rock band Taking Back Sunday, was in Montgomery playing a solo set at a venue where Jackson was helping out. The two had crossed paths before, but after hearing Mascherino’s music, Jackson told him that if he “ever wanted to do something” to let him know.
A short time later, Jackson received a phone call from Mascherino who said he was indeed interested in working with Jackson, and after securing former Coheed and Cambria drummer Josh Eppard, Terrible Things was born. As the band featured members of former bands, fans of the various groups began buzzing about what the three musicians would sound like together.
That attention helped Terrible Things achieve something Jackson had not experienced before — signing to a major record label, Universal Motown.
“It’s crazy, a different world,” Jackson said. “Having a label rep calling you saying you’re not tweeting enough — it’s kind of funny.”
Jackson said he feels support from Universal Motown and feels like the label believes in the band. The label set up a music video shoot for Terrible Things’ first single, “Revolution,” off their self-titled album.
That same support is something he wished there was more of from his hometown, not just for his bands but for an entire music scene.
“Montgomery’s not a music town, it’s not known for its outbreak of music like Nashville and Atlanta,” Jackson said. “There are people that care, but there’s just not an urgency for local music. There are a lot of musicians and a lot of good bands here that if local radio were to give a listen to, they would actually like.”
When Jackson moved back to Montgomery, he said the decision was easy because his family is here. His daughters are no longer the fans they used to be, which he thinks is “awesome,” as he believes it shows they have embraced their individuality.
“Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think they’re impressed anymore,” Jackson said with a laugh. “They would have been so excited years ago, but now they are just like ‘cool, thanks for the copy.'”
Jackson is now on tour with Terrible Things, promoting their album that came out in August. They are currently finishing their winter tour and preparing to hit the road with Bayside and Streetlight Manifesto in early 2011 before embarking on the summer music festival, Warped Tour.
“I rarely take a day off,” Jackson said. “I like to work and I hate sitting around.”