JERK - 'Some Cosmic Shifts' in life (Feature Interview)
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
'Some Cosmic Shift' is the latest project from JERK, the creation of the young American composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Joshua Kinney. Ally got the chance to talk with Josh about his latest project as well as the forces and changes in his own life which formed the stimulus behind the record, released through the indepedent London-based label DeepMatter.
Some Cosmic Shift is JERK's fifth release and the project's second album, which is pretty remarkable since Josh's debut release was only in 2017. Reflecting on the origins of the project, Josh tells me "it's always been quite hip hop forward, but in my life, I’m not quite as hip hop focussed as I am now. I was thinking of it more as a side project.”
Having a very traditional jazz and music education at college, Josh's mind was opened to the possibilities which jazz and hip hop can bring with one particular moment in 2015 when Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was released. Josh warmly recalls "that was the first album, in my mind, to bridge what hip hop could be outside of its own thing. I grew up with hip hop...But, I’d never seen it reach so many places before. And, that was my avenue to get into it like, a jazz-hip-hop fusion; so a Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and onward. That was the gate that opened my mind.” Soon after discovering To Pimp a Butterly, the JERK project was born, allowing Josh to explore this love of matching hip hop beats and the realms of jazz.
As many young people face the plunge into the wider world can often be disorientating and somewhat frustrating, particularly for young creatives, as ambitions aren't fulfilled or artistic outlets are harder to satisfy. Meditating over this time, Josh outlines that “When you go to music school in America, really, the plan is to be a musician for hire – it’s not to be an artist. So, my plan was to work in theatres, wedding bands, club bands, and that sort of stuff. Basically, you’re not writing anything, you’re playing. I was doing a lot of stuff like that, I was teaching private lessons during the day, I was playing at a wedding band agency, I was doing a club band and playing a few theatre gigs here and there. It wasn’t really for me.”
For many, this is a safe root to employment and stability, but many creative spirits find it unsatisfactory. Josh was one of those figures, “I don’t want to say soul-sucking, as there’s a lot of people doing it, make a living off it and enjoy it. But for me, it stripped away everything I wanted with music ".
Some Cosmic Shift is much more jazz-orientated than JERK's other projects. Previously, Josh's music focus has been more beat and production-heavy, but this latest record conveys something else. The project channels feelings of frustration, reflection, introspection and existentialism, something we can all relate from over the course of the past year.
Evaluating his mindset and change in worldview at this point in his life, Josh recollects this shift, "So, there were kind of two parts of to that, a lot of the music, about half of it actually I wrote at a piano at the one teaching studio in between lessons I had. So, while I was going through the transition, part one [of the album] was written at this one piano. That was when my mind started to turn...I figured I needed some time to process... [Some Cosmic Shift] is a product of actual work, and while all that was going on, there was this actual mental transition. It’s what I wanted to do, rather than working in a wedding band. It resonated with me.”
Diving deeper into these feelings, Josh cites that "it definitely reflects frustration and rage which went into it. Just from unconsciously not knowing that was why I was unhappy to begin with. And also, adding that on top of your regular frustrations, being human, being a working person, having come out of college, all those sorts of things. So, I’d say it’s the first release which anger has made it’s way on to it. Everything else has been more on the chiller side, this is the first one which is like… cathartic… Working through that anger and whatnot with my situation is what a lot of this music came out of”.
This change of heart and of mindset can be felt throughout the project, as it secretes a sense of irritation in the first half, with the second-half feeling more liberated and free. On what he learned after having gone through this experience, Josh believes he discovered a deep sense of the "relationship between arts and commerce... realising that art is so much more than that, just paying the bills, shifting towards something that represents me from my core being. And, maybe the commerce part isn’t quite as important as being true, to what I feel and what I am and putting that out into the world". Truly, the eternal struggle of the artist in contemporary society.
Along with these emotional feelings felt throughout, the record is seething with spirit and vitality, which is the product of Josh's tight relationship with his band. He tells me, "We know our tendencies and kind of developed a sound together and we were able to explore a little bit more now. So, we only practised some of those songs, like two or three times... I think a lot of the edginess… came from that, we were all a little nervous going into it. Just because we hadn’t played it that much… it was a very unique sort of experience. Everything else I’ve done has been very contrived and planned, and very produced... We all knew the shape of what it was going to look like, but all the nuance and detail were left up to the moment”.
Harnessing this nervous, live energy to convey the emotions, reflections built into Josh's compositions has led to a distinctive and engaging record. After putting so much of yourself into an album like this, some might take the decision to take a break, but this simply doesn't cross Josh's mind, with multiple projects in the pipeline. It seems that with Some Cosmic Shift, JERK's creative spirit has well and truly been unleashed.
Some Cosmic Shift is out today via DeepMatter Records.
You can buy and listen to Some Cosmic Shift here:
Keep up-to-date with JERK here:
Some Cosmic Shift personnel
- Joshua Kinney on Saxophone,
- Carey Ozmun on Trumpet,
- Jean Matthieu Carvin on Keyboards,
- Mikey Migliore on Bass,
- Martine Wade on Drums.