bill bodkin rocks like an egpytian…
The collapse of the record industry has been duly noted. We’ve read about it in every major publication out there — how sales are down, how major tours are suffering, etc. Then there are stories like that of Egypt Central.
The band was one of the hottest commodities in the hard music genre right before the industry took a nosedive. Having been together for under a year the band was signed to Elektra and recorded an album that industry insiders were touting as something that could be one of the most dominant hard rock albums to hit the scene in quite some time. Filled with tracks of ready for radio singles, Egypt Central was on the fast track to fame.
Then the bottom feel out. Elektra was done. The album would not be released.
Most bands would’ve packed up their gear and gone home. However, Egypt Central kept on keeping on and eventually found a new label and through their trials and tribulations they re-emerged onto the scene as a band primed to grab the reigns of the rock scene.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with EC members John Falls and Joey Chicago about their meteoric rise and fall and their slow rebirth in the hard rock scene.
Pop-Break: I’ve been reading about your latest album White Rabbit and people really seem to be into the concept behind it. Can you talk about how you developed the concept of the album?
John Falls: (laughs) Man, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked about this being a concept album, I’d have a bucketful. (laughs). It’s really not. I guess it kind of reads that way like a book in the sense. Each song is about something that we went through. It reads from one chapter to the next like a book. For whatever reason it gives the feel of a concept record when actually it wasn’t at all. It’s songs that we had put together and we sat back we thought ‘Wow this is kind of interesting.’ Then we started coming up with ideas that could make it a little larger than life and that’s where the concept [record perception] came from. It’s really just about the journey from our first record to our second with everything we had to go through to get to that point. To getting the second record out and getting it to the fans.
PB: Well that blows that theory. So let’s talk about your journey from the first to second record. You guys were signed to a label really early in the career then there were huge delays including losing your first deal. Can you talk about the events of the journey and how it helped shape the band you are today.
JF: Everything happened really fast for us early on. We were together eight months when we got out first major label record deal. We flew out to LA, made the record with Josh Abraham, who is a top five rock producer, he’s unbelievable. When we got done with that the label took the record, listened and gave us feedback. They said ‘Guys there’s like seven singles here it’s ridiculous. You guys hit a home run here, congratulations.’ Then, about a week to 10 days later (laughs) that Elektra has been officially closed and Atlantic is folding all of whatever they can keep from Elektra into them. There’s a huge deficit and they’re not proceeding with very many artists.
They pretty much gave us the option of money or the record. We decided to take the recording thinking we’ll take this. They said there’s hits on it and Josh Abraham produced so it shouldn’t be a hard sell. In the time it took to get released and get the paperwork done we had no idea of foreseeing what was going to happen to the music industry. And the fact that every other record label would be going through the same thing they (Elektra) was going through. So it had a little bit too high of a price tag.
We pretty much showcased for every record label. They loved the band. We’d sit down and say okay here’s the live show, we’ll showcase for you guys, we’ll show you what we can do, you know the record. They’d love the band, love the live show and then when you hand them a piece of paper that had an astronomical price tag on it they were like ‘there’s no way we can do that.’ Put us in a difficult situation, we couldn’t find a home for that record. Everyone kept going ‘Oh, why don’t you guys change the name or get rid of this or that.’
The whole thing left us in a messed up spot. It was really hard to find a place to take the record on because the whole thing changed. Budgets changed, the amount they could pay for a record changed for whatever reason it felt like it was impossible that that first record was never going to get out.
But we decided to stick our guns, we weren’t going to change our name, we weren’t going to change the songs, we believed in these songs. We fought for it and finally through Fat Lady and ILG Warner Brothers we were able to get it out. Fat Lady and ILG have been fantastic to use. They fought really hard for that first record and established the band. When we came to the end of that album cycle we had more issues to deal with, internally with members of the team. Things ran their course and it was time to make a change. And when it came time it was difficult but we those decisions. Unfortunately it took longer than we would’ve liked but it gave us time to put together the right songs for White Rabbit and then we went back and get everything re-set-up with Fat Lady and ILG and we let it rip.
PB: So it’s easy to say you’ve learned a lot coming into the second record.
JF: Definitely. Naturally, if you have to work hard for something you appreciate it that much more.
PB: Right now hard rock scene is nowhere where it was when you signed to Elektra. The dominant genres right now are hip-hop, pop, country, EDM. How hard is it for you guys to find fans, sell records? Does working in a non-dominant genre force you to get creative when it comes to making a name for yourself and getting people to buy your records, merch and tickets?
JF: I think that there’s always a way to get it out. At the end of the day, no offense to the other genres, minus country when even the guys hired on to tour with the bands are phenomenal players, I think that people will get tired of hearing a CD in the background and someone doing their thing in front of it. With rock it always come full circle and people want to see people who are truly talented. I feel fortune to be in a genre where my peers and colleagues are all very talented human beings. They play an instrument, they can sing, they have a real ability to entertain and it’s not to something put together in a studio. With all the modern technology it’s like anyone can make a song now. You don’t have to talent anymore as long as the dude behind the boards has got the skills, then all of a sudden of your awesome. I think people will tire of that. People aren’t stupid, they’re not kept in the dark the way they once were. And it’s not like people have gone away from rock, I put more of it on the fact that the economy is sucking and the worse economy the more I see people coming to rock shows to get away from their everyday lives.
PB: The first producer you worked with was Josh Abraham (Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park). On your second record you tapped Skid Mills who’s produced Saving Abel, 12 Stone. Why bring in Skid and how did he influence your record?
JF: We’ve known Skid for a long time and we’ve always talked about working together. We did some demos with him and they were through the roof. So it’s like this makes the utmost sense to cut a record with him. He was very aggressive in the pursuit of excellence.
PB: What band have you toured with that you’ve learned the most from — musically, professionally or personally?
Joey Chicago: Musically, I would say it was actually someone we recorded with that we learned the most. Abe Laboriel, Jr. who plays drums in Paul McCartney’s band was such a powerful influence on us, from arrangement to finding the pulse of a song. Professionally, we learned so much from our tour with Disturbed. They had an amazing crew and they were so kind to us even though they didn’t have to be. They showed us a future that we all hope to have.
PB: Your song “Kick Ass” was used a number of times during the past NFL season and you guys performed before some games. Are you guys big football fans and if so, how excited were you to get your song in front of the massive fanbase the NFL has. Also, silly question, but who do you guys root for?
JC: We love football. We all played when we were younger and it is as close as we get to doing it now. John played the beat for me on the phone when we found out that the NFL was using it in the big game by saying, “We may not be on the field but we made it to the Super Bowl!,” so it was a dream come true. John loves Dallas, I love Da Bears and Blake tends to be more of a college football guy and roots for the Razorbacks.
PB: What are your plans for 2012?
JC: We have just released our third single, “Enemy Inside” and will be doing some touring this summer to support the song. We have also been writing non-stop in hopes that we can make a brand new record later this year. We really don’t want a big gap between records like before.