Q+A: Jesse Rogg Drums Up Point Blank LA
Mack Sennett Studios recently celebrated two years of non-stop photography and film shoots, top-notch events, after parties, intimate music sessions and Angeleno-driven festivals. We’ve been to plenty; touting our attendance to epic parties and posting news about our best covers and spreads shot on these stages mark experiential notes to our relationships, and of course, our social media feeds. It’s easy to be inspired here.
Bringing our ever-so-curios interest full circle was news about new happenings: studio owner, celebrated music producer (and super homie) Jesse Rogg had brought a music school straight out of London to Mack Sennett called Point Blank LA. From getting schooled on Ableton and successful music industry guest speakers coming through, to being surrounded by productions and entertainment industry folks, students acquire a multi-dimensional music education—all while an up-close-and-personal networking opportunity constantly presents itself. Any excuse to head to the studio left us questionable, so we scored a note-worthy session with Jesse:
LA CANVAS: Tell us a bit about how this partnership between you and Point Blank LA came to be. We have time:
JESSE ROGG: For starters, Point Blank LA adds another layer of creativity to the space. The cool thing about it is that it all came to be when I was on tour with Sam Sparro in Kopenhagen in 2011, the last tour I had with him. We played this show in London, (Love Box Festival) and shared the main stage with the craziest lineup ever: The Rapture, Chic, Chaka Kahn and Grace Jones. I thought, ‘After this, I might have to retire from touring, cause it doesn’t get any better’ and although I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, I knew I wanted to be back in LA. My girlfriend came to visit me on a day off after the Kopenhagen show, and we walked the streets on a beautiful day—it’s my favorite city! During that walk, I thought about what I wanted to do. Mike B. and my girlfriend are best friends, and we talked about him and how he was doing a DJ academy for kids or something having to do with music and schooling. That’s when I was like, ‘That’s it. I want to be involved with some type of music school situation!’ So, that was the original thought for everything.
LAC: What happened next?
JR: I then came back and started looking for spaces—from DTLA to Hollywood and everywhere in between. I knew I wanted to find a space where I can have production studios, music focus and generally thinking of ideas. I then came across Mack Sennett, and that kind of blew everything out of the water. That’s when it all clicked! Even though this set up was slightly different than what I originally had in mind, it was perfect in every way. The original thought (after I got Mack Sennett) was to convert the downstairs area (called Mabel’s) into a music production space—but then, within the first month of being in here—my old manager Caroline put me in touch with Rob Cowan, the owner of Point Blank London, who was in town for NAMM. I met him, showed him around, and mind you, we were still getting our bearings with the space, but we hit it off and talked about producing some content, master classes and things of that nature, with the end goal of actually starting a school here. And here we are! Two years later we are up and running.
LAC: How long has Point Blank London been around?
JR: Point Blank London has been around for decades and has definitely earned their stripes.
LAC: What is your role in the LA chapter of it?
JR: We are a technically a franchise and work very closely with them. Point Blank London, along with a huge online community, and their first school in the U.S.—we consider Point Blank to be a global school. The connection between London in LA is just so cool to me personally. My music career started in London, and I love LA, so I couldn’t think of a better city to partner with.
LAC: When we heard it was going down at Mack Sennett we knew that something delicious was brewing. What are you doing to bring the Golden Touch to it?
JR: Just the fact that it’s at Mack Sennett, and there are a lot of things happening here makes it unique. A lot of other places are either in an office building, or in a regular space. Here, we combine the school with our events and general productions. We had A-Track perform here recently for a Jack Daniels party, then there was the Grammy after party with The Black Keys, then a super cool Damian Lazarus performance. These are all parties and happenings they have access too.
LAC: So, they get to be involved.
JR: Yes, absolutely. And if it’s a super private situation or booking, at least the students are in close proximity and they hang out and get to network with artists and producers. It’s a hub of creativity here at the studio, so they get to benefit from it constantly. Also, the fact that I’m a music producer and have been around for a long time, my friends and colleagues come and get to speak to the students directly.
LAC: Tell us more about your guest speakers.
JR: We have people like Todd Edwards coming in. He’s the sweetest guy with so much talent. Jimmy Mac (Lorde’s keyboardist and programmer) was recently here to chat about his process. Behind the scenes guys like Travis Holcombe from KCRW, Laura Escude who’s Kanye’s live music producer, music business colleagues from ASCAP and Soundexchange come to talk about the business side, Mark De Clive Lowe has been here to head up a master class. What’s cool about this too is that our partners like Native Instruments, Ableton, ASCAP, Sound Exchange, and a handful of other software companies we’re working with are also some of the people that come in to speak and run discussions, so our students really get a broad scope of the business. Richie Hawtin, Pete Tong, Carl Cox, Mark Ronson, Annie Mac are all associated with the school as well.
LAC: Sounds like you’re running a multi-dimensional music genre.
JR: For sure. We definitely don’t want it to be a one genre avenue. There’s Hip-Hop kids, House and Techno heads, traditional musicians who want to learn the platform. In LA, our main platform is Ableton. In London and online, Point Blank also teaches Logic. But, we’ve identified Ableton as the go-to program for producers in the states.
LAC: What other things can we expect from Point Blank LA?
JR: We’re starting a DJ school too and will keep expanding from there!
*Sign us up.
LAC: What happens within each course?
JR: The main course is 6 months split in two, 3 month blocks. We offer evening courses too, where we try to include as much as possible. Plus, we have specific courses over the weekend, like weekender intro to Ableton sessions etc. But as mentioned we are continuously adding more.
You really learn everything. It’s starts off with an intro to Ableton—students also come in at different stages in the music game—so we do the basics for the first few weeks and get into the fun stuff almost immediately. Our instructors are amazing and have taught in various capacities and have worked as producers and composers in the industry. We also offer a bit of composition training so the students learn some music theory, since it’s important to know the general scope of things. There’s mixing classes, performing classes, production techniques, sound design, and more.
LAC: So, someone can come in to add another notch on their belt in music if they’re already well versed?
JR: Absolutely. Having worked in the music business for a long time, I know what the landscape looks like. There’s a lot of scope for a lot of new things now. People don’t necessarily buy records like they used to, yet, there’s a huge touring market, a huge composition market, or TV. There’s a bigger market than ever for dance music, especially in the states! There’s a lot of new places where people can make a career in the music industry. We definitely identify that and help our students get to a place where they can make money and succeed and build a life off of music.
LAC: Where in the studio is the school located?
JR: It’s in our Mabel’s speakeasy under Stage 1.
LAC: Yeah, we love Mabel’s. When’s the next run? Any special humans coming in to speak?
JR: July is the month for the new semester. We have a whole list of amazing people, some of who I can’t speak of right now! Just my friends alone and friends of the school are a good bunch.
LAC: Do you place or help students get placed? Do you intro them to anyone in the industry?
JR: We’ve launched an awesome online community called Plugged In which you can find on the Point Blank homepage. It’s the PB online community, where the students can collaborate, keep in touch, help each other out. That’s also why we have so many people coming in to guest speak or teach, so the students can meet them and introduce themselves after class.
LAC: Did you go to music school?
JR: I went to a music school, yes, and after every class, I was the guy who went up to the guest speaker and gave them my card, talked to them and tried to stay in touch. That’s what it takes. Otherwise, you can just stay at home and take an online course. The entertainment and music business in general is still about who you know so it’s important to be in a brick and mortar school where you can physically meet.
*Stay interactive, Jesse.