Not many fans know about your first band Helium, and many more don’t know that it’s been reincarnated into Bullet in Jeans. Do tell us more about Helium, how you joined, and the idea behind Bullet in Jeans.
That’s quite an interesting question to start with. Well, the shortest version of the story is that John Henry (guitarist and co-founder of the band) believed that it was time to start our band. John wanted the band’s direction to be more into rock instrumentals while I was looking forward for more Heavy Rock songs. We both thought that there was no need for two bands sharing the same members just because we had two different directions, so we decided to blend them under one roof and Helium was born.
A few years later, after Helium disbanded, I missed performing rock music, so I called up some of the guys back from Helium; along with Sherif Watson (guitarist) and I proposed that we form a new rock band, only we’ll be performing originals in addition to “Recovers” this time around. We were all excited about it and we called the band ‘Bullets in Jeans’. ‘Recovers’ is just a name we gave to what we did to the covers we chose. We pick Pop, Motown and Jazz hits and instead of just covering them, we rearrange them to a Hard Rock sound. Sometimes we even rearrange classic rock songs.
This band introduced many sub genres to the music scene in Egypt, why did you split up?
Well, Helium was a great experience to all of us, we enjoyed trying out different stuff and most importantly, stuff that we liked. But the thing is, when John Henry decided to stop playing music for good and quit the band, we thought of disbanding Helium, because he was one of the main pillars. Next thing, each one of us started joining other bands and projects, exploring the vast oceans of music and expanding our horizons.
However, a couple of years later when we met Sherif Watson, we tried reviving Helium, but with a Blues/Rock direction. We did perform a few gigs as Helium for a few months, but the band disbanded again. We enjoyed performing Blues Rock BIG TIME, but we believed if we were doing that, then we should be using a different name. I know it sounds crazy, but we felt like Helium wasn’t actually Helium without John with us. Moreover, we felt that Helium was the band that screamed Vai, Satriani and Alice Cooper…So we realized we had to get over that band’s name and start over with something totally different.
Your father played a huge role in your musical influence. Tell us about that.
That is so true, God bless him. He was a musician himself. Since I was 8 years old, he’d taught me everything from singing to music composition. I remember how he explained every single detail related to music; his body of work and his singing have always been a source of great fascination to me, and I actually learned a lot just from listening to his music.
So you’ve been engaged with Wyvern as a metal band for a while, now you’ve shifted to Funk and Blues in different bands. Why the radical change?
Well, believe it or not, I’ve never considered myself as a metal singer in the first place. Of course, I’ve surely enjoyed performing with Wyvern, it was such a rocking experience and we had a good run together. But regarding your question in specific, all my life I’ve listened to and been fascinated by Blues, Jazz, Funk, Motown, Rock and such. So it is not much of a radical change, more of like sticking to what I love doing the most.
Tell us, who created that kickass logo?
That would be me!
How did you get the idea of creating it?
Well, I got a bunch of papers and pen, starting drawing down some ideas but I wasn't liking any of them. So I thought, since I love my zodiac sign, which is a Scorpio, by the way - so why don't I include my zodiac sign with the logo. And while thinking about it, the image of the logo just popped into my head. I drew it on a paper to see how will it look like, and I felt that this would actually be my logo. Next thing, I went on Photoshop and started working on it and here it is!
How do you think you developed musically and lyrically in the past 10 years?
Very interesting one you got there. Well, the direction of expression has shifted, speaking in terms of change. Over the past 10 years, I believe I’ve undergone this transition in writing, whether lyrically or musically. I’ve changed from handling issues from a grey perspective to handling it with a much more positive attitude.
My songwriting and music composition were towards New Age back then and had a dark tone to them, like ‘A Psycho’s Dream’, ‘The Dancing Truth’ and ‘Facing the Truth.’ And then around 2010, I started writing and composing with a more positive vibe, much towards Funk Rock like ‘Get the Funk’ and ‘She Ain’t the Girl.’
In terms of progress, then I’d have to say I believe there is no ceiling for development. The knowledge and inspiration out there are just vast! I’m always seeking knowledge whether through books or online, or through fellow musicians. Besides acquiring proper knowledge, one should be exposed to a variety of music. Just turning on the radio and listening to it, plays a developing role on its own as well. Most of the time I feel like that some songs might be crap, but then again, usually one realizes and learns something or another while being exposed to different genres and songs. So, I believe it’s a natural process, as time goes by along with the accumulating experience and knowledge, one’s perception and expressive pathways keep on expanding.
In 2007 you had a vocal injury that caused you to put your work on hold for a year. What happened there?
Vocal abuse. I didn’t realize it but I used to perform daily with this band and after the performance I used to rehearse with another band and then there were other days when I would even have two performances in addition to two rehearsals. I would strain my vocal cords like it’s nobody’s business. In addition to not taking proper care of my voice, by smoking, shouting a lot and so on, all in all gave me a serious vocal injury. I took vocal therapy sessions and thank God I regained my voice, and it’s even more powerful than before, in about a year. And of course I eventually got rid of all the other abuse factors that could affect my voice and I’m proud to say that I’ve finally quit smoking too.
What makes a “Jazz” singer different from a “Blues” singer?
I don’t believe they’re all that different, specifically when it comes to singing. I believe that they shouldn’t be differentiated or categorized. They are more or less the same person actually; only two different sides of the same coin.
You've been in the music business for a long time. How has it changed since you got involved?
My friends and I have debated a lot about that question. You see, I really do believe that it has really changed to the better. First of all, the underground scene has become largely supported by more than one direction or entity.Not as much as we want it to be, but still way better than how it used to be.
I personally believe that it is Ousso and his SOS Music Festival that gave the underground scene a considerable positive push. One shouldn’t ignore how the independent and underground artists are given more support and are becoming more recognized in the music scene. You got more than one venue now welcoming underground performances, from bookstores to music theaters. You’ve got Nile FM supporting Egyptian artists by dedicating an entire show just to play their songs on the radio! The media has been shedding more light on independent artists too. You got venues and organizers trying their best to come up with and maintain various and interesting music festivals, like ArtBeat Festival and Cairo Jazz Festival for example. The number of people hiring underground bands for their weddings has increased over the past few years. You can now drive around and actually see posters for some underground and independent artists, like Sharmoofers on Pepsi’s Ad or Cairokee on Coca Cocla’s Ad. As for the support addressing the production of records, it is actually quite little and poor, but it is still appreciated. Even the number of proper rehearsing studios is increasing. In fact, there are studios that really provide properly equipped rehearsing rooms and amazing services for underground artists. The most important of them all, is the fact that the support amongst the artists themselves has increased. Of course, I can’t mention all the changes or contributions, but I’m just mentioning a few examples with my utter respect to all the support and reputable contributions that are making the scene flourish.
Who were the first bands you listened to?
Well, a lot actually. It was mainly Ray Charles, Tom Jones and Elton John, followed a long journey of exploring what is out there, then one day my father played this concert on TV….Pink Floyd – Pulse and I was like what the fuck! And the next thing I know I bought all their tapes, followed by tapes for Queen and Whitesnake and I began exploring the world of rock music.
Who did you see yourself as when you were first introduced to music?
What kind of advice would you give to young vocalists?
Practice regularly and properly, don’t burn out and take great care of your voice.
In your opinion, what kind of challenges does a musician face in the ME?
There are a lot of challenges, which is quite a normal thing associated with living. Such challenges vary from ones as frustrating as financial issues to ones as complicated as management. The thing is, musicians cannot be everything and everyone in the music business. Musicians are strictly musicians. Their job in the entertainment business is to express, produce and/or perform art. One cannot be the artist, manager, promoter, marketing specialist, sales person, graphic designer and social media manager all at once…it’s ridiculous! Focusing on more than one aspect will take away energy that should have been exerted on the main picture…being a musician. For instance, artists should not waste their time on promoting an event or a song, this is not their job and this hinders the development of each artist and the scene in general.
We lack the presence of enough agencies that manage each phase of the entire business. Yeah, we do have a couple of reputable agencies and independent agents, but they are not enough. We cannot expect the scene to expand with just two or three reputable agents or agencies. There is a lack of well-structured bodies that execute proper, relevant and presentable promotion for underground artists.
Which do you prefer, writing the lyrics or singing them?
It depends, I’ve written lyrics for other artists and music projects, and it was a great experience to see how another music composer will perceive those lyrics and come up with a different vocal line other than the one I had in mind. Surely, I do enjoy singing my own lyrics. Writing your own lyrics, with your own melody and composing your own music to it, a very logical process. I’ve also enjoyed singing songs where the lyrics were written by someone else, whether if I’d composed the entire song or just the vocal melody. I even do enjoy performing covers where you deliver the vocal line from your own perspective. So you see, it’s hard to pin point which one I prefer the most because every situation is like an adventure on its own, with its own enjoyable experiences and tastes.
Many wonder how you feel on stage with hundreds of people cheering for you and your band.
It’s a great blessing from God to be appreciated for something that you do, something that you believe in and always work hard on.
What are your plans for 2014?
In addition to my music projects, I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons to include composing music for TV ads, shows and films. You can always stay tuned and updated through my website for new work releases, projects, events and so on. adhamroshdy.com
Got some final words for your fans?
I really thank you for your wonderful appreciation and support across the years. No matter what genre, band or project I’m engaged with, your support is always true and deeply motivational. I hope God gives me the power to expand my horizons, deliver and produce even more artwork than before that you will like.
I have a few words for Rock Era as well. Ever since the beginning, you haven’t stopped amusing us with the magnitude of support and passion you express to uphold the music scene. Your prominence is recognizable and I wish you the best in expanding and successfully continuing to support the scene while entertaining and enlightening your audience. Thank you very much for this amazingly interesting interview, I’ve really enjoyed every question…Rock on RockEra!
Interviewed by: NJ Bakr
All photo’s rights reserved by: Menna Hossam and Moustapha Berjaoui
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