Interviews

“It Was My Sound”: An Interview with Egyptian Lover

I just posted an article about the Egyptian Lover over at Intergalactic FM: Nile Style: The Resurgence of the Egyptian Lover’s Empire. Because I know how you guys at ISM love the nitty-gritty details, I’m posting the full text of the interviews I did by phone and email with the Lover here.

Your music, both with Uncle Jamm’s Army and your solo work, has been very influential–you were one of the first artists to blend electro and hip hop, and it has been said that you started the West Coast/LA sound that influenced musicians like Dr. Dre. What impact do you think your music has had?

I think my style of music was just that (My Style). I use to make mix tapes back in high school (1978 – 1981) and record my own raps over instrumentals that I edited together using a pause button cassette deck. I used my head phones as a microphone and simply made tapes that people would like. It’s kind of how I learned how to be a D.J. doing all those mix tapes and pause button tapes.

When I first heard that Kraftwerk album with “Numbers” on it, I lost my mind and said to myself “I need to make a rap over that crazy electronic beat.” But Soul Sonic Force beat me to it and when I heard “Planet Rock” I was like Ahhhh that is what I was gonna do. But it only inspired me more to create a style similar to this. I was also a huge Prince fan so that style of vocal was a must. I loved when he used breathing in his songs. I used breathing in all my mix tape raps. Prince and Kraftwerk were my main influences. That is what my style is, a blending of the two.

When I started making beats on the 808 I knew it was a monster machine. I loved everything about that thing. I made big dance beats and played them at the dances I D.J.’d with Uncle Jamm’s Army and people use to run up to the D.J. Booth and ask “What record are you playing?” So I knew I had to make a record with this drum machine. I made a soundtrack for a documentary “Breakin’ & Entering” and played it at the dance, when people heard it and loved it, it was time to go into the studio and make a record for the radio. Uncle Jamm’s Army and I made “Dial a Freak” and “Yes, Yes, Yes” and the party people went crazy. The radio played it and I had my first record on the radio.

When the other dance promotion groups heard our song on the radio, they made songs as well. Wreckin Kru, L.A. Dream Team and any and everyone who thought they could be like Uncle Jamm. That’s when I knew that I had started something on the west Coast. My sound is being copied just as I had copied Prince and Kraftwerk. It was pretty cool. I’ve heard many songs with my influence in it and it always makes me happy. Even today I still hear it. I guess it will always be called the West Coast sound, but to me it was my sound. The sound I created by combining the top artist I ever heard. Prince and Kraftwerk!

What has been your best-selling record?

“Egypt Egypt” and it is still selling today. I think every D.J. in the world has this record; it’s a must have for all D.J.’s, dancers and producers. The sound quality on this record is by far way before it’s time and it was the very first bass recorded–the breakdown–on vinyl.

In addition to your name, your songs often have themes relating to Egypt, such as pharaohs and the Nile. In the “Keep it Hot” video, you even wear a Egyptian fez. Where did you get the name Egyptian Lover, and how did Egypt become a running theme in your music?

The name “Egyptian Lover” I came up with from two people that I thought I wanted to be, King Tut and Rudolph Valentino. But I wanted to be both, so Egyptian from King Tut (a boy king that ran his own empire) and Lover from Rudolph Valentino (a man that loved women and was not ashamed to let everyone know).

Both your old stuff and your new music is very 808-driven and is in a similar style. Is this deliberate or do you feel that you’re expected to continue to create a certain “sound”? Would you like to experiment more with different types of music?

I make music that I love, and since I heard the 808 sound I fell in love with it. This is my sound. The 808, a keyboard, a chant rap and some breathing. I only make songs that I like, I don’t make records because the style is hot and everyone is doing it. I only do it if I like it. I have tried different drum machines but I always go back to my true love…the 808!

You released a lot of music into the early 90’s, and then didn’t release anything for a decade. What were you doing during this time? Were you still working on music?

I was sick of hearing the new stuff on the radio and did not want to become part of that era. I chilled and had fun with all my money and spent time just doing what I wanted to do. Every single day was a stress free day. I spent time with my family and friends and even got married.

I needed a break and it did me well. I made more music after my first show in Europe, the European people loved the music so much I just had to make more jams for them to dance to. I heard so many people trying to do what I knew how to do so I just started doing it again. Now they have new Egyptian Lover songs to mix with the old ones. It’s always been fun to make music, So I’m basically just having fun.

The Egyptian Lover is presented as a very confident, cocky character. How much of this is a part of who you are, and how much of it is the character? How is Greg Broussard different from Egyptian Lover?

That is who I am inside and out. I am one in the same. Yes, I am a bit cocky ain’t I. Ha Ha Ha

When you first began making music, what were your influences? What do you listen to now?

In the beginning as I said it was Prince, Kraftwerk and other artist I use to play at the parties. Rick James, Ebony Webb, The Time, Bar Kays, Soul Sonic Force, Twilight 22, and many many many more. Today I listen to everything, all kinds of music. From the new Prince (Dance 4 Me) to electro artists on myspace doing it for the first time. I Love all kinds of styles and sounds. It inspires me.

Over the years, you’ve played all over the world and probably have some amazing stories to tell! What was your most memorable gig or experience during your career?

The most memorable has to be when I played Portland, Oregon in 2006. We finished our show and the people were still going crazy screaming and singing my songs, They cheered and cheered so much I had to go back out and do more songs. But I had no more songs that I planned to performed on stage so I just started playing any record I could find by me and perform it. I’m glad I had my 808 with me, I played it and made up songs as the night went on, It was an AMAZING one of a kind show.

I’ve heard that the track ‘Girls’ was big in booty clubs in the States. Any truth to that? Are you (or were you) a booty club regular?

Yeah. I’m not a regular. I go to all those kind of clubs. I’m a club entrepreneur in general, but not as many as I went to back in the day. “Girls” was definitely big in the booty scene.

I think it’s easy for people in the crowd to forget that the musicians and DJs they go to clubs to see playing are real people–all we see is the part of your life that revolve around music. Other than creating music, have you ever had any “normal” jobs?

Never. Music was a lot of work.

At the Mantua festival last year, the crowd was chanting “808, 808.” Have you noticed a difference between the European crowds and the LA/US audiences?

The 808 is universal, people love the 808. Playing in Europe inspired me to make records again. The European audience wanted more and more and more so I gave it to them.

When your music first came out, I understand that is was primarily embraced by an African-American audience. Now however, your music seems to be even more popular with white  audiences. Why do you think this shift happened and how do you feel about it?

I don’t mind it at all. I had all kinds of audiences, even back in the day. It was played in house clubs, techno clubs, hip hop clubs, freestyle clubs, everything. Everyone was listening to my music. My old fans are still with me. My black fans just call it old school but the Europeans call it electro. It’s the same music.

So I hear you’re writing a book?

Yeah. I’m just writing chapters, taking my time. It might be a movie one day.

7 Comments

  1. jitterbug says:

    nice stuff lina, always good to see new interviews up. i have nothing but respect for a man so clearly besotted by his beloved 808!

  2. meschi says:

    another killer interview Lina.

    Thanks.

  3. Mr. Twon says:

    i think my favorite quality in anyone is arrogance, and i mean that in a good way. E Lover is chaulk full of that.
    great insight into a living legend.
    Thx

  4. kenny says:

    Good stuff.

    The Lover is a god walking amongst us mere mortals.

  5. Aoife says:

    Really enjoyed this. What a man!

    Thanks Lina!

  6. jonny5 says:

    nice. the lover is the man.

    check him out in breakin’ n enterin if you haven’t seen it already. classic film about the la breaking scene. his dj session with chris the glove is great. all about that crazy dupont track ‘let’s rock’…. here’s the first part on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsLKnLkvjg4

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