Interviewed by Rick Screamer Lindner
Date: July 2011
Memphis, Tennessee modern/heavy rockers EGYPT CENTRAL have been on a tear since the release of their current single "White Rabbit" dropped a few months ago. The band shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon with their subsequent full length release of the same title produced by Skidd Mills that dropped 5/31/11. It is obvious there will be no chance of a dreaded sophomore slump here. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be inevitable for EGYPT CENTRAL. Current members John Falls (vocals), Jeff James (guitar), Joey Chicago (bass, vocals), and Blake Allison (drums, live speech inspiration) appear to be on the verge of something very special with "White Rabbit".
Read on as we catch up with EGYPT CENTRALís singer and front man extraordinaire, John Falls at the Wheelhouse in Cedar Falls, Iowa at their first show of this tour leg that includes support from BURN HALO and RED LINE CHEMISTRY.
Rick/Rockeyez: John, first congratulations on your fabulous new release "White Rabbit", which just dropped the end of May!
John/EC: Thank you so much. First off it was quite a process to get to the second record so weíre happy that we got it done, got it out, and all things are positive.
Rick/Rockeyez: John, I have to imagine you are not only extremely proud of this record, but have to be thrilled with how your first single "White Rabbit" has taken off as quick and as strong as it has on rock radio?
John/EC: Yeah, we dropped the single in February and here we are in mid-July and it is still kicking. It took off right away and itís still going strong. It is an exciting time with a song that is sticking around like that and continues to be strong all the way through. Itís still at its peak position as we speak and it looks like it is going to move a few more spots. Itís a great feeling.
Rick/Rockeyez: Is it one of those songs that as you wrote it, you felt like it might have that type of potential?
John/EC: I knew it was going to be a little different of a process to break the song then our first single off the last record with "You Make Me Sick". That song was a straight down the pike radio song that fit the format for radio. This wasnít one of those that we felt like the first time people heard it they were going to fall in love with it, but one of those that would take more than one listen. We felt it was going to take a little more hard work and a little more grinding to get it there. For it to do what it has done, impacted the fans like it has, and to really catapult us into the position for the second single at this point is awesome.
Rick/Rockeyez: One thing that really stands out with this new record is the amount of songs that have a chance at being big radio singles as well. Songs like "Goodnight", "Change" and maybe even "Enemy Inside" ring of possible Top 40 cross over singles that could open up a whole new world for you. Then on top that of you have "Kiss Ass" which is almost a gamblerís lock to be huge on rock radio. You might just break this bad boy wide open. That is what I see happening, what do you think?
John/EC: (laughs) Ė That is a pretty good assumption! There are songs on this record that have that possibility to cross over to that world we havenít tapped into before. With that said they are still us with a deep element and they still kick in and just rock out. We were able to straddle the fence a little better on this.
Rick/Rockeyez: Without selling out.
John/EC: Right! The whole idea was to still be who we are. At the same time show the growth and maturity of the band through the songwriting. You hit it right on the head. "Kick Ass" is going to impact the rock crowd and I think even more so then what "White Rabbit" has.
Rick/Rockeyez: I agree. I think it was wise to release a strong track like "White Rabbit" knowing it is a good song, but not throwing your main card first.
John/EC: Right again! It was a tossup whether to go with "Kick Ass" or "White Rabbit" as the leadoff single. We knew going into that those two songs would be the two rock singles that we went after. We decided to go with "White Rabbit" first to re-introduce us back to the fans as we had been gone awhile. We wanted to deliver to the fans a little bit deeper of a message first and then we just wanted to come back and hit them right in the mouth with "Kick Ass".
Rick/Rockeyez: I think also from a business standpoint with "White Rabbit" your market has already expanded and your getting to people that may not have known about EGYPT CENTRAL with the S/T (2008) release. So by using the song "White Rabbit" which is the same title as the record, when the fans go out to find it whether it be in the store or at Itunes, etc, BAM, it is right there and easy to locate/remember.
John/EC: Exactly. Whether they knew the name of our band or not, they knew the name of the song. So yes it was easier to find. It wasnít really planned that way, but it looks like we did (laughs). We really picked it because it encompassed the whole transition from the first to the second record. The second really is like a book with chapter after chapter. Basically it is everything that we went through between the two. It just worked out that way. As it worked out they could just walk into the store and say how do I find that "White Rabbit" band?
Rick/Rockeyez: As good as your first record was, in my opinion as a music fan having Skid Mills in your corner (and production) took you to another level as a band.
John/EC: It didnít hurt!
Rick/Rockeyez: He has done 12 STONES, SAVING ABEL, SKILLET, SALIVA etc. What kind of impact did he have as far as maybe song structure if anything, so on?
John/EC: SKidd pushed us a lot. He really pushed us the way we always wanted a producer to push us. Skidd pushed us with song-writing, and dynamics. We had been a fan of his for some time already so that was great. He used to live in Memphis and made records alongside Paul Ebersold. Paul did everyone from 3 DOORS DOWN to SISTER HAZE. We couldnít believe he was in Memphis back then and not in LA or NY. We had discussed for like seven years, maybe longer that we were going to work together and make a record. It just never happened. He was doing 12 STONES "Anthem for the Underdog" and I went in to see Justin Rimer and Paul McCoy to say hi and see how that record was coming and started talking with Skid. He asked what we were doing and I sent him some demos. He said there were some things in there that he could do with them. From that point it was almost a year delay until we actually started looking to solidify a producer and go in and cut the new record. Our manager who also manages 12 STONES he had a strong relationship with Skid and asked if he wanted to work with us. Skid said letís get them in and write a couple of tunes or maybe demo some songs. Anything, I want to work with the band. I like the band a lot. So, Joey Chicago and Blake Allison went up and they were there for like a day and half and then I came up and got there that night. They had already laid down a song. As it turns out that song was "White Rabbit". The second I heard it, it was obvious that Skidd got it and he understands what we are as a live band. He knew what we had recorded on the S/T and he knew there was a way to capture both.
Rick/Rockeyez: To add a little more commercial production value without changing who you are?
John/EC: Yes. And add to that, the new record is even more aggressive then the first record.
Rick/Rockeyez: Yet, every bit as catchy, maybe even more?
John/EC: Right. Catchy is something some people just try to be. Others just happen to write that way. We just happen to be the formula of the way we write. Anytime we write something, we want it to be something we want to hear over and over. Sometimes I think bands misconstrue what the process of making a hit is? What makes a hit just that is that it is such a good song, so honest, so real and itís put together in the right way you canít stop listening to it. I think some people try to take the approach that "I need to write something catchy", it doesnít work that way. If it is so good that you want to hear it, that means somebody else might as well. It has got to be honest. It has to come from the heart. If not, it will be one of those songs that might blow up and then it will be gone. And then where are you?
Rick/Rockeyez: And people are smart enough to see through that.
John/EC: That is the thing. Every single song that is written and put out from EGYPT CENTRAL is first honest, two it has been lived, and three it has a real message. The point of EGYPT CENTRAL has always been to bring the masses together because we feel a huge responsibility to the fans to be their voice when they might not have that voice. Also to give a deep message that is real. Life has a tendency to beat you down and put you in places where you just feel like you have no control and you canít change anything. You know, life just sucks sometimes, but life is truly what you make it so we always try to take anything negative we have been through and put a positive spin on it or a way out on it to let the listener know we feel the same way and we are still fighting so you should too. That is really the point behind the band. We want to get that message to the masses because I feel like there are so many bands out there that just donít embrace first, the responsibility and second, the opportunity to really connect to somebody.
(FYI: at this point in the interview guitars start rocking on the stage during initial sound check).
We definitely have barriers of what we will do and what we wonít do. There are certain paths that we wonít walk down. It is not worth compromising yourselves. It is also part of the music as we want people to realize that they donít always have to compromise either or just settle for second best. Go out and get what you want.
Rick/Rockeyez: That has to be a fine line as a musician as you get into the band with the hopes of being successful, yet at the same time you want to maintain your integrity?
John/EC: That is why our idols are who they are. You take RAGE, THE CHILI PEPPERS; you take U2 and bands of that caliber really brought the message to the masses. They didnít create a fabricated message that wasnít who they were and just feed it to the fans. They are genuine and they wanted to make a difference. That is something you canít fake. There are plenty of bands that have had hits over the years. When someone asks you where they are now you have no idea. However, if someone asks you were U2 is, you might not know exactly where they are, but you know they are still around and they have another record coming at some point. You also know Bono is going to go and change something in the world. That is what we want to be.
Rick/Rockeyez: I feel that connection with your music and it talks to me. It can either provide inspiration when I am down or even a little extra lift to get through something during the day.
John/EC: It is an escape. That is the whole thing for us. We all had some crazy childhoods and music really is what saved us one way or another. When I first got into this band and met the other guys I had never been in a band before EGYPT CENTRAL, this is all I have ever done. For me, this became my way out from where I was. I hope it can become a way out for a lot of other people.
Rick/Rockeyez: Regardless of where someone has come from, music has that special ability to speak to all of us in a number of ways that can be motivating or inspiring. We all come from different backgrounds, different interests, yet this is our melting pot where we all come together and we share this as a family.
John/EC: Here is the reality of life that doesnít get said enough. You donít have to have come from a broken home or whatever to relate to music. Life throws everyone curve balls. Some break harder than others. Who am I to judge or try to figure out the weight of how that has affected someone else? Others have gone through their obstacles and I have gone through mine. For me, I didnít have anything to lose and started at ground zero. So everything was up for me. The kids I feel bad for are the ones who had mom and dad, brothers and sisters, the standard text book life and then at 17 in their senior year of high school and they think everything is great then BAM, here comes their curve ball. Mom has a boyfriend or dad has another secret family somewhere else, whatever. You see this stuff all the time. Itís endless the pain people live with. That is why when we do the songs we make them about what we have been through. How can this apply to them and how can it be broad enough, yet still specific enough it will positively affect others.
Rick/Rockeyez: Changing gears, you guys have been pretty fortunate enough to having shared stages with the likes of DISTURBED, ART OF DYING, COLD, KOPEK and in a few months youíll be out with HINDER and SAVING ABEL. A lot of bands coming out would die for that type of exposure or opportunity coming out. How did that work out for you and what advice would you give a new band trying to do similar things?
John/EC: It is always a crap shoot to what tours you are going to get or where you are going to end up. It is all just about continuing to work very hard and remember that is what your peers are doing as well. If you want it bad enough and you work hard enough, eventually it will happen. It has taken us almost 10 years to get where we are. We had to grind it out for quite awhile to get to this point. Having to headline for 10, 20, 30 people, whatever. I think it is different for everyone. Some bands come out and have a hit right out of the box and then they deal with other issues on their next release. Everyone has their bumps in the road with the music industry. It is just about keeping your head down and moving forward no matter what gets put in front of you. If this is what you really love and you can withstand the beating, it will eventually start to go your way. I donít think it is ever exactly how you want it to be. If you donít have that fire or drive this might not be for you.
Rick/Rockeyez: Right now you are in the string of headline dates now getting tour support from BURN HALO and RED LINE CHEMISTRY (both killer bands in their own right). What do you expect or hope to see with this leg of the tour and what have you done if anything with either/both prior to now?
John/EC: We havenít really done anything with RED LINE CHEMISTRY, except we were both at Rock on the Range this year. I am very familiar with them and love what they are doing. With BURN HALO, James was with 18 VISIONS and did a handful of shows together. I know their manager very well and we are also label mates. I think it is going to be a really good run and everyone is going to have a lot of fun. The fans are going to benefit as well. A lot of times you go to a show and you catch one or two you like. I think that anyone that comes out to see this is going to have an issue with what record to buy or what t-shirt to get which is a great problem to have!
Rick/Rockeyez: If that is the worst thing that happens during the day then I would imagine that life is pretty good!
John/EC: If that is the worst thing, I think that all three of us have done our jobs (laughs).
Rick/Rockeyez: Taking a step back to earlier when you mentioned 12 STONES. They are the band that helped turn me on to you guys. I first learned about you from seeing your name listed in the credits of that "Anthem for the Underdog" record. Now in return, you have now turned me on to another band in return. This time it was Prosevere that was listed in your credits. Is that something you or other bands do to help your peer bands with?
John/EC: The thing with 12 STONES, Joey Chicago actually played some bass on that. We have been friends with those guys for a long time. That is also where Joey got to know Skidd. We all try to help the people we know and we are friends with. We try to promote one another when we can. Prosevere is a hard working band from Memphis. They get it and eventually they will get their shot. There are a lot of good bands from the Memphis area
Rick/Rockeyez: Youíve been at this awhile. Youíre not old veterans, but in the rock scene now you are probably considered "established".
John/EC: We started really young. We didnít do the local thing for very long. We played about eight shows when we got our first major deal with Lava/Atlantic. We made the record came home and then the whole record industry fell apart. It was more so in the middle of restructuring. Everything was just so scattered and nobody knew what was going on. Money was being lost all over the place due to all the illegal digital downloading. It was just having such a toll on the industry. We found ourselves in a spot that we could just sit there and only play Memphis or we could try to get out there and do the same thing we did in our hometown everywhere else. We did that for about six years and built it up to the point where people knew the band. Radio was also getting familiar with us with "You Make Me Sick", a song that took off for us. When started to get some momentum and then when we dropped "White Rabbit", like you were saying earlier it took us to a whole new level. It hit a lot of people that might have missed us the first go around. Now we have more people that support the band and are behind us. We look forward to seeing where this goes from here.
Rick/Rockeyez: So with that strategy now do you punch them in the mouth again with your next single or do you start working one of your possible cross over options?
John/EC: Oh no, we punch them in the face again (laughs). We continue to rock it out. Then we will go with the other side. That is what is cool with this band as you were saying earlier, that even when it is a cross over type song it still rocks and doesnít sell out. We are just really excited. We are fortunate to have this opportunity.
Rick/Rockeyez: Is there anything we missed or anything you would like to add?
John/EC: I had a great time talking with you. This has been an awesome conversation. I would say to the fans to just go to our Facebook, EgyptCentral.net, find us online, go to a show, hangout with us, come say hi, and give the record a chance if you havenít already. I am sure there is a lot on there you can relate to.