Earl Grey's 'Headwinds' album has just dropped on Inperspective Records and we've managed to track down the man himself for an exclusive Organic interview.
Manchester based Jim Ehlinger has been a peripheral figure lurking in the shadowy underworld of modern breakbeat Drum & Bass, releasing as Earl Grey since 2009. His Jazz tinged exploratory brand of Drum & Bass pulls influence from an eclectic range of sources, from Jazz Funk to Prog-Rock to the living sounds of life.
His debut ‘Headwinds’ album has found release through Chris Inperspective’s Inperspective Records. 14 tracks spread across 3 x 12” vinyl, lovingly written and constructed. We’ve been lucky enough to get hold of the illusive Earl Grey himself for an exclusive interview.
You've managed to achieve a lesser won accolade with 'Headwinds', you've delivered a Drum & Bass album that works beyond its genre. How did you envisage the album? Was it always going to be an album or did it reveal itself to you?
Chris originally asked me to put an EP together for Inperspective. The first track we started with was 'Dega & Papi' which is a little older than the rest, and at first I envisaged a six tracker or something, but had my arm twisted a bit (gently, obviously) so it just kept growing. In between struggling to finish some of the Drum & Bass tunes, I found it pretty satisfying and liberating just to make short little beats/skits which felt like they lent themselves pretty well to the project. Chris was feeling them so that's how the whole thing started to take shape.
Where does the title come from?
Honestly? Cycling haha. Cycling to work one day and being pissed off at the wind. I thought it sounded nice and also felt like a metaphor for life stuff, difficulties and hurdles and the like. Sometimes they're present, sometimes not.
'Burnt Cinnamon' opens the album like a montage at the beginning of a 411VM skate video. It sets a tone, an intent for the rest of the LP. How did the track order come together?
That one always felt to me like it should be the first tune (morning), and then the Circadian Skit (#5) felt like it belonged at the very end, in the last few hours of dark/night time. Chris did have some input in it being finalised, but the last four tunes especially I felt were quite nocturnal sounding, so should be in that order.
The album has a cinematic quality to it, almost a scene by scene musical narrative. How much does the final work recognise the original concept?
I think that's probably just down to the sort of sounds I was gravitating towards when I was writing, not necessarily by design or a conscious thing on my part. I didn't really picture a concept per se, it was more that the album as an idea just started to come together the further I got and the more tracks there were to group together and sequence. Most of what I make tends to be half written before it acquires meaning to me, rather than starting with a feeling and working forwards from there.
Amongst the skits down tempo numbers there seems to be a nod to other UK luminaries like Paul White and Bullion. Which influences have played into the album most strongly?
I have a copy of Paul White's 'Shaker Notes' which was decent. I think anyone with a pair of ears can probably hear that I like a bit of jazz sometimes. There are also bits of old film soundtracks, lots of charity shop vinyl and oddities, some Prog-Rock/wig-out music, Jazz-Junk, '60s acapella groups and whatever sounded nice to me at the time. Beyond those, I think it's kinda difficult to talk about Drum & Bass influences without stating a bunch of obvious names, but I really like what Luke Vibert was doing under the 'Plug' name in terms of sampling.
'Headwinds' feels at home on Inperspective Records while still bringing something new to the imprint. How much guidance did Chris give you through the writing process?
Chris was more or less quite hands-off to be honest. The only exception was the dropping of one track (Gilberto Dub) which I didn't think was strong enough to go on the album either. Sometimes those people that run labels have to make difficult requests to their artists to make changes to tracks which is fair enough and they do have their reasons, but luckily Chris was fully behind what I was going for as the whole thing started to take shape, so I'm pretty grateful for that.
Earl Grey 'Headwinds' is out now on Inperspective Records.