Danny Ashenden is a DJ and producer who makes music under a couple of different aliases. He’s one-half of established London duo the C90s and he also made music with Daniel Avery as Say Yes To Another Excess. But more important than all of that is: he drinks a lot of tea. You can often tell a lot about a person by what they drink, or don’t drink. For example, I hate all hot drinks on a general point of principle.
Danny is so enamoured by tea, and its socio-economic implications, his new alias is homage to all things green and leafy (no, not that). Basically he probably likes tea as much as we like Daft Punk – so that’s a lot.
His debut EP has just been released on La Belle Records, they’re a boutique label from Paris who have brought us the return of The Supermen Lovers, Golden Bug, The Deadstock 33s, Ilya Santana and so on.
They deal in the left-side of the electronic dance spectrum, this essentially means there’s little or no drops, no air horns and almost certainly no donks. It’s very much beard-scratching electronic music. So as you’d expect Earl Grey is a perfect fit for the label.
Earl Grey’s new EP, the aptly name ‘Not Everyone’s Cup Of Tea’, isn’t going to win any awards for “best use of a drop” or “cleverest us of an air horn”, but it’s something a little bit different to your average disco music. It’s cut from the same cloth as Moroder, Jarre & Vangelis. It’s full of epic soundscapes that are sparsely knitted together with toe-tapping percussion for greater impact. You could even go as far as saying it’s not a million miles away from ambient minimal disco.
‘Through the City’ is a case in point, it’s full of lonely synths and shimmering robotic vocals; the whole thing just screams minimalism, but it’s not cold or uninviting – in fact it’s quite the opposite.
‘Just Clap’ continues in a similar vein, although it’s quite a bit more buoyant with much sturdier percussion to send you from synth stab to doughy keys with ease. If ‘Through The City’ was a winter’s day, then ‘Just Clap’ is a summer’s day in Oslo.
‘Regents’ is a based around a gorgeous arpeggio, and then layered with chatty percussion lines to give it a blues-y disco vibe. Our favourite track from the EP has to be ‘Pong’. We’d probably go as far as saying it’s one of the best tracks we’ve heard this year. It’s a pychedlic roller coaster of shiny-happy keys, plucky basslines and snappy tops, and just when you’ve fallen in love it goes to another level with the well executed synth flourish towards the end. Just sublime in so many ways.
HBF Rating 4/5
Listen the whole EP on the Earl Grey Soundcloud here.
As you’d imagine we were keen to get the Earl of Grey to take part in our Introducing interview series, and as you could imagine Danny took this almost as seriously as his tea.
HBF: Give us five words that best describe Earl Grey?
Not everyones cup of tea…
HBF: So for those of us who already know you from the C90s, how does the music of Earl Grey differ from the C90s? Or do you just see it as a natural progression?
Well, with Earl Grey I guess the main difference with the music is the range of styles/sounds it will encompass. With The C90s, although I think most of our remixes are different sounding they are kinda tied in somehow with the same aesthetic of live disco drums, up beat synths and melodies, guitars and a rawer more ‘performed’ sound. With Earl Grey so far the stuff that has seen the light original wise is a more darker and slower sound, I have tracks/remixes waiting in the wings to be released that are for the clubs, more in tune with the Moullinex remix it kinda all started with. Also the funny thing is all that faster/harder stuff was made before I did the EP, but is tied up with labels schedules. I love to make music to listen to at home but I also like to make harder clubbier stuff to play out, so I’m eager to get that stuff out too!, like I did with Say Yes to Another Excess. I only have myself to answer to so I can do whatever I like and use any sound i like.
HBF: So are the C90s no more – or can we expect a Stones’ like reunion in a few years time?
The C90s are still going! Everyone asks me this question, we have another single almost done but since we lost our studio there has just been so much stuff delaying our output. I mean we still have like 3 C90s remix to come out, again label shit holding things up like crazy. Drives me insane. We did a remix for Midnight Magic over 2 years ago now and no one has heard it, but its probably the best remix we’ve done together. Maybe one day it’ll come out.
HBF: So you just released you first EP via La Belle – what should we expect from the EP? How long did it take to make?
So, all in all the tracks didn’t take too long to make, I make music fast (usually) and then spend ages mixing them, but intertwine that with LIFE, doing remixes and label schedules it took the best part of a year. With the EP I wanted to make a slower pace bunch of tracks, there is so much music coming out aimed for the clubs nowadays that I thought I’d try my hand at doing something more introspective. Something for home listening, traveling, drinking, smoking, bathing, stroking your cat too etc etc.
HBF: La Belle has always been at the forefront of very unique electronic music – did you always think that the label would be a good fit for your music?
I’m very happy with La Belle releasing my first EP, I think they are an awesome label run by really cool people (especially Gennaro, he’s a babe and has an awesome dog that does tricks). They are willing to take risks and support new, upcoming artists. I think my EP is the most non-club thing they’ve put out so I’m very grateful they have taken that risk on me. Also for me the fact they liked my music and wanted to even release it was amazing so it was the perfect fit to do so!, a very natural and easy going affair to release with La Belle.
HBF: Clearly you’re a fan of Tea, if your music is tea, what drinks, hot or cold, do you think would describe house, techno and dubstep?
Haha, this is hard to answer… maybe
House: JD & Coke
Techno: Red Wine
HBF: What else can expect from you for the rest of the year? What else are you working on including C90s and with your work with Daniel Avery?
Earl Grey wise I’ll be working on my next EP/singles and more remixes. I have 3 remixes waiting to come out, the latest is one for the band Decibels, one for Riptide and one for a chicago band called Clique Talk via Space Rangers label. Also I wanna get some serious djin in as Earl Grey. C90 wise, new single and more originals is the plan, maybe an EP?! and Dan Avery might be too big time now to hang with me, hahaha. But seriously, we’ve said we would make some more stuff but that will all come naturally. Also I will probably be collaborating with a few mates and do some random releases – so it’s gonna be a busy year hopefully.
HBF: What the weirdest thing you’ve seen whilst DJing?
So hard to recollect some of the things you see whilst playing, people do some crazy stuff. One of the funniest was some dude up in Scotland when we played at Rockness festival. Was about 1pm in the afternoon, slightly raining, and some guy had his top off gurning like a madman, dancing like I’ve never seen before, all of us on stage just had to video it. I think I still have that video somewhere. Legend.
HBF: If your studio was on fire and you could go back and save one thing what would its be and why?
I knew you’d ask this, so I was thinking of an answer. I wish I could say some crazy expensive or rare synth or something cool but I live in London where the rent rules my life. I’d have to save my actual computer as that has all my songs on it! Why does no one answer like this?
HBF: Tell us a secret about yourself that nobody knows?
These type of questions are always hard to answer, do you go comedy answer or serious answer? So I secretly wish I was black…