Earl Grey

Manchester based producer and DJ, writing drum & bass/jungle under the Earl Grey moniker for the best part of a decade. We catch up with him to find out more...

Q1) Thanks for your time out! Can you go back to growing up and what music you listened to?
A) the first album I bought was Bassment Jaxx's Remedy on tape. After that I had a few Cream and Gatecrasher compilations, basically listened to Radio 1 a lot before discovering John Peel's show and hearing Radiohead for the first time. There were other bits of classic/prog rock which I have my Dad to thank for.

Q2) You're based in Manchester now, have you lived there all your life?
A) Yep, Stockport originally. Have moved all around south Manchester and bits of Cheshire too but basically I've always been Manchester based. I had considered moving to London this year but I'd be sacrificing all of my Manchester privileges!

Q3) What made you get into producing and what DAW are you on?
A) It was partly because around 18/19 I had to move away so I wasn't getting the opportunity to play too often with the group I was with at the time (I was a guitarist). The other reason was that I was just becoming more interested in electronic stuff generally, and the idea of being able to produce everything yourself was pretty exciting at the time. I've pretty much always been using Ableton. I don't have any hardware (although I have my eye on a couple of things), so I mostly rely on a lot of DIY sampling along sometimes the usual folders/packs that producers tend to share with each other, and Ableton's own soft synths (Analogue and Operator). I would like to move beyond this but it's sort of a comfort zone really.

Q4) You're into your breakcore, who are your favourite artists?
A) Breakcore was a proper eye opener to me when I was a teenager yeah but it's not really something I listen to now, although I made so many friends in that scene it's difficult to let go completely. Too many names to mention, but myself and Gore Tech go way back. L3ft Lucas is probably my favourite DJ to see play. Junglord has some sick edits too.

Q5) What was your first release?
A) Wow, this is really old and quite terrible! Toxemia was a label in Miami that picked up two tunes of mine when i was 19 or 20. I would have been pretty happy with it back in the day, but wouldn't say I was proud of it nowadays!

Q6) What's been your favourite release so far?
A) Probably the records on Pinecone Moonshine last year, with Phuture-T (first 12" I was involved with). My track started out as one of the War Dub things for fun, but Nic TVG asked me to make a full track out of it. I'd say it's the happiest I've been with an amen tune of mine, and especially receiving the master back from Bob Macc (Subvert Central), that was pretty exciting.

Q7) What's been your biggest release so far?
A) Undoubtably the album 'Headwinds' on Inperspective Records recently. It was a long time in the pipeline so I'm very happy it's now out there and people can hear it because there was a lot of graft involved, from both myself and Chris INP.

Q8) You played your debut set at Technicality. Can you tell us a little more about that?
A) Yeah that was the biggest night I'd played, and the first time I'd been outside of Manchester. Chris had heard my stuff on Myspace (remember that haha) and played some of it on Jungletrain so went ahead and booked me. I remember feeling pretty elated to see that Breakage was on the lineup as he was partly responsible for me making this sort of music in the first place anwyay. Ricky Force, Genotype and Andy Skopes were on there too, at the Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel.

Q9) What is your preferred DJ set up?
A) I spent a long time doing the Ableton thing on a laptop with a controller, but with loads of added custom tweaks and live edits which has always been pretty fun even though it sounds a bit gimicky to talk about. More recently I have been playing vinyl out, and even more recently than that using USB/CDJ which as a combination is actually a more satisfying way of mixing for me, so yeah probably a mixture of vinyl and CDJ.

Q10) Clubs or festivals?
A) Depends on the weather! Festivals when everything goes smoothly are great but way more effort, and sometimes it's debatable whether it's all worth it. So yeah probably play it safe and say clubs.

Q11) What's been your favourite festival to play at and any dream gigs?
A) The couple of times I've been to Boomtown have been great, playing for what was originally the Prohibition Den, now called the Sewage Works (ran by Jungle Syndicate and Amental). Some really strong lineups with top company and jokes all weekend, not to mention the amount of graft that they put into the build etc. Glasto would be great to play at but from what the rumour mill has been saying, its days are apparently numbered.

Q12) How did the link up with Subtle Audio occur?
A) Similarly to how the linkup happened with Inperspective, Code heard some of my early bits on Myspace back when that was a useful thing and we started talking. The first thing that Code signed was Smouldering Fury just as a standalone digital thing. There were two tracks on the Vol II compilation, Asthma Trim

and Hazel Grove

After that there were another two tracks on Vol III, Bob Dub and Bermuda Triangulated the second of which had some support from Loxy around the time it came out. More recently I had a hand in a remix of Alpha Omega's Know How for the Decade In Breakbeat compilation with Aroma Nice.

Q13) You now run Hyperchamber? How did that start off and what releases have been out so far?
A) Hyperchamber is kind of just a little side thing really, mainly free/pay what you like releases from myself and a couple of close friends/people whose tunes I'm into, and another way to get non-D&B tunes out there. One of my favourites is the Uncool Fill EP from Aftawerks, who makes really fun breakbeat-ish wonky acid inspired stuff. The most successful would have to be the track Winter Symptoms, which thanks to a few helpful reposts from people got a heck of a lot of plays and also managed to make a few quid for the label despite being a freebie.

Q14) You had your first picture disc on Inperspective. Is it hanging pride of place on a wall?
A) Yeah it's not very often you end up on a picture disc! Part 2 of the 3-part trilogy, along with Infamy and Andy Skopes on 1 and 3.

I couldn't tell you what the concept is or was, you'll have to ask Chris about that although I seem to remember it being inspired by some weird dream he'd had a good while back.

Q15) What has been your most successful release to date?
A) Not sure!

Q16) Favourite moments?
A) getting a text from Bane (Eastern Bloc Records) a few summers ago to say Fracture was playing my track Winter Symptoms on one of the Outlook/Dimensions Festival boat parties. Getting pissed with Breakage at Hannah Djinn's Formless night last year. Playing for local crew @ the Amented, Relapse, and more recently the EXE parties in Manchester.

Q17) If you could take one track on a desert island, and you could only listen to that track forever, what would it be and why?
A) Christ, what a question. One track I will never tire of is Squarepusher's My Fucking Sound. ( https://youtu.be/krgxaMOvnyU ) A bit of a mad one as the time signature changes a few times but this one just blows everything else out of the water in my opinion. The drum edits between 4 and 5 minutes especially, even having caned this tune as much as I have over the years, just....wow.

Q18) Top 5 producers?
A) Djrum, AFX, Squarepusher, dgoHn, Breakage

Q19) Fan of MCs?
A) Yeah sometimes. Probably Chunky, Deepo, Black Josh, Dialect, and obviously MF DOOM.

Q20) Thanks, been interesting, have you any shouts and thanks?
Yep, shouts to all of the following and all related; Chris INP & Aitch (Heresy Beats), Subtle Audio, Next Phase, Pinecone Moonshine, EXE Project, Plush, Love Love Records, Foz Relapse, Aroma Nice, Jungle Syndicate, Amen-talist Movement, Junglord and UKJ crew, Kid Lib & Percussive P, Dwarde & Tim Reaper, Ruff Cutz, Marlon, Djinn, Eastern Bloc Records, Rupture, Dead Man's Chest, Mothers Against Noise, Tantalum, Dutch Uncles and all from Marple, everyone in Manchester, anyone else that I've missed out, and all making beats for the right reasons. Safe x


Interview by Aliina Atkinson Sept 2017