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Interview: Egyptian Lover

Interview: Egyptian Lover

Wednesday 21st December, 2016 1:47PM

For more than 30 years Greg Broussard has been going strong as his alter ego Egyptian Lover. Broussard, who originally started out as a dancer in the Los Angeles hip hop scene in the late 70s, created the charismatic Egyptian Lover character after being inspired by the imagery of Earth, Wind and Fire and from a trip to see the treasures of Tutankhamun's tomb when the exhibition toured the States.

Eventually moving from the dancefloor to behind the decks, Egyptian Lover DJ'ed as a member of the legendary Uncle Jamm's Army, which also counted members like Ice-T and DJ Pooh within its ranks. And it wasn't long before he started churning out his own bangers - 1984's 'Egypt Egypt' being one of the most popular.

Widely regarded of the King Of the 808 because of his influential and ground-breaking work on Roland's TR-808 drum machine, the electro pioneer recently worked with Stones Throw Records to release an anthology of his material recorded between 1983 and 1988. But to add another notch to his belt, Broussard has released a new record titled 1984, an album that throwback to the sound of his heyday and was made only using his much beloved analogue equipment.

Ahead of his appearance at Splore 2017 and a one-off sideshow in Wellington with Awesome Tapes from Africa, we got Egyptian Lover on the phone to talk about his obsession with the 808, his collab with Stones Throw and the new project he's got on the boil...

UTR: Hey Greg, where are you at the moment?

I'm actually out shopping for Christmas, hahaha.

So you're going to be home for Christmas?

Oh yeah for sure.

Have you been touring a lot this year?

Always touring since 1984, hahaha.

It must be a real blast to see constant waves of new generations of fans coming through and digging your sound?

I love it, definitely. I noticed that in about 2004, there was a lot of younger people coming to the shows. I guess because of the YouTube and the internet more of younger people can find out about artists and then they go to the shows. I love it. They give me the energy to keep it going.

Earlier this year Stones Throw released an anthology of your earlier works, how did you become connected with them to get that project off the ground?

Well, me and Peanut Butter Wolf have been friends for a while. And he did a greatest hits on Arabian Prince, and I actually went up to the studios and talked to the people and they were really nice and they had a different audience and a different crowd then what my record label had, so I thought it would be a great idea if I did a greatest hits on there. And then things went on and on and on, and I was going to produce the anthology on my label, and I couldn't do it because I was actually doing a new album called 1984 at the time and Chris/Peanut Butter Wolf was like "I'll do it. If you're happy for it to be released on our label, I'll be happy to do it". So we worked it out and he produced it on his label.

Are you happy with how it all turned out?

Oh yeah it's amazing. It came out better than I ever thought I could do it, hahaha. The booklet is nice, a lot of work went into the booklet. They used an old picture I drew back in 83-84 and they made that as the cover and they put it and gold on top of black and it just came out really beautiful.

Oh you did that picture? Amazing. I've got to say I love the video for 'I Cry (Night After Night)' which came out earlier this year..

That was fun, hahaha.

I love the aesthetic of it. How did that all come together?

That was all Peanut Butter Wolf. He had an idea to do it for that song, and the director and Peanut Butter Wolf are really good friends. They talked about it and finally did it. Actually, the girl in that video is Lady Tigra from L'Trimm.

Oh cool! And you've got another for 'Belly Dance'...

Yeah, I've got four videos dropping before the end of the year. So we have 'Belly Dance', we have 'Killin It' coming out, and 'Popper's Anthem', and I also just released one called 'Into The Future', which is like a computer animated old school Nintendo 64 kind of vibe.

Oh I didn't see 'Into The Future, as soon as I get off the phone I'm going to look that up...

Oh you'll love it, haha.

So, Egyptian Lover is a name you took up in the 80s or even late 70s, right?

Yeah, late 70s.

Would you say Egyptian Lover is a completely seperate person from Greg?

Definitely. Totally different. I mean Greg is more, uh I like family, I like doing things for my family like going out Christmas shopping and having Christmas parties. I raised a lot of my nieces and nephews, they're always coming to my house and I always have a lot of fun with them just being a family guy. Egyptian lover is the one who is always touring and repping in the music and DJing and performing - he's a totally different person.

If you were to start again would you still choose Egyptian Lover?

Oh definitely.

He seems like a fun character to take on...

Oh he definitely is. It's been fun for over 30 years.

So, I understand when you were making 1984 you used all the same analogue equipment you were using back in the day - back in 1984 I guess - the 808 being your key tool of trade...

Oh definitely. My 808, my vocoder, my Roland SVC 350, and also my Jupiter 8. Those are my favourite instruments that I used for the album. But I also brought in the Oberheim Matrix 12, we have a Prophet-5, an SH-101. But the main things were the 808, the vocoder and the Jupiter 8.

Obviously the 808 has been a hugely influential piece of equipment that's made a lot of music over the decades. What about it appealed to you?

The toy-ish sound. It's not like a real drum. It's not like anything else that I've ever heard. When I first heard that toy-ish sound of the snare and the cowbells and the real thin hats and the kick, and you can also put decay on the kick and make it really big and BOOOOM - it was just like the perfect song to dance to, even without any music - just the beat by itself. And I fell in love with the sound, and I've been making beats with it ever since.

Were you tempted to use other equipment for the album, or are your a purist?

I've tried the LinnDrum, I did songs with the LinnDrum like 'Freak A Holic' and a song called 'The Alezby Inn'. I've used a 707, I've used a 909, but it seems like I always go back to the 808. Even on the anthology I took the old drum machines off and put the 808 on for this one song called 'Kinky Nation (Kingdom Kum)'. I took the 707 off and put the 808 on, just to hear what it sounded like with the 808, and it came out the way it should have back in '84 when the song originally came out - but I didn't do it because I had wanted to try something new, because everyone was saying [in an Urkel voice] "you should try a new drum machine", and I tried it and you know what, I should have stuck with the 808. So I went back and fixed it - and now it's just the way I wanted.

I might be putting you on the spot a little bit here, but I was wondering if you could share some of your favourite songs by other artists that have used the 808?

Oh yeah, 'Planet Rock' is Number One. 'Electric Kingdom' by Twilight 22, I love that. Hashim 'Al Naafiys' (It's Time), the 808 on there is huge - I love it. And those songs actually inspired me to have my 808 as clean as possible. When you run the 808 to the tape it sounds really dirty, so you have to clean it up by using gates, so that's what I did. I listened to those songs and I said: "I want my 808 to sound this clean", and we did it. And there was one guy called Tyrone Brunson, who had a couple of songs off of the 808 like 'Fresh' and 'Sticky Situation', and those 808 beats just sound so goood. And then there's another one called 'Looking For The Perfect Beat' from Afrika Bambataa and Soul Sonic Force, and that was just so good with all the delays on the kick. Oh, every song that's on the 808 I just fall in love with.

Haha awesome. Obviously you're busy and are going to be touring a lot over the summer. But are you working on any other releases?

Oh definitely. While working on 1984 we recorded a lot of other songs and we were halfway finished with another album, so we said "let's just do 1985", so we're actually working on 1985 now. We've got a few more songs to do, so it'll be out probably next year.

One last thing I was curious about, have you ever played in Egypt?

I've never even been to Egypt! I'm trying to get there, but every time I try to get there something happens, it's just like "wow my luck".

Well, we can't wait to have you here for Splore next year...

I can't wait, the last show I did there was so amazing, and the people were so amazing and the crowd was loud and they begged me to come back, so I knew I had to come back.

Egyptian Lover will be performing at Splore which takes place 17th - 19th Feb at Tapapakanga Park in Orere Point. Head over here for more information.  He also plays Meow in Wellington with Awesome Tapes from Africa on 17th Feb  - click here for tickets. 


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Fri 17th Feb
Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
Fri 17th Feb
Meow, Wellington
Sat 18th Feb
Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
Sun 19th Feb
Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland