Amr Hassan exposes more in Part II! He talks openly about Rock Festivals and how the idea of satanism occurred to him. He discusses the old line up for the band and their reunion. Amr Hassan tell us more in Part II of his interview.
Let’s get more involved about the festival…
Amr Hassan: Sure…
Are you considering taking this festival international?
Amr Hassan: Yeah! I was talking with Deep Purple’s Agent to join our festival, but as you know these people has a annually arranged schedule. So when I asked him to be in Egypt next October, he laughed and said let’s think of 2011! Of course the festival will be with another layout and the crew doesn’t have enough experience. And as I mentioned before; if I’m doing something, it should be perfect, and people shall witness something real good!
What problems did the refused bands faced as they sent their demos?
Amr Hassan: They weren’t actually problems. While listening to a band you get a good feeling about them, and you don’t get that feeling for another band! You could find a very good band but their vocalist destroys everything they have. And I have seen many good bands whose vocalists ruin their work. So in the festival; we chose the best 16 bands, maybe some bands felt disappointed because we did not select them, but everyone is welcomed to apply again! For example, Divine, did not apply in the first festival, and in the second festival, they became the winners! And as I am one of five juries, I believe that we have experience enough to judge! Another example; when Kayan band came up everyone objected. But I really like their idea and we gave them a second chance, but seriously, there was no band better than Kayan to be chosen!
A lot of people were wondering if Andromida gave prizes for bands that have their same style. What’s your comment?
Amr Hassan: On the contrary; people argued with us because a band like “The Public” did not win. And others said that we are jealous of “The Public”, that’s why they did not win. And let me ask you something, does Divine has our same style? They play heavy metal. The Jokers, Circus and Synergy all those bands don’t have our same style and yet they won! In the 2nd Vol The Public got the third place, and they were so close to getting the best original prize, but they did a mistake, in which we gave them second chance but it was useless!
In fact, we were thinking to give them two prizes but this is out of El Sawy Culturewheel rules – our second partner in the festival. The Public lost some scores because of really strange things such as; presenting an instrumental track but suddenly finding lyrics and this conflicts with the festival rules! But for the second time it was real good, and they won.
Do you think the “Satanism” issue still affects the Egyptian rock scene?!
Amr Hassan: In 1997, there were only Christians and Muslims in Egypt, and they were friends with each other. Because we are Egyptians and this is our identity. Egyptian Jews lived with us too. But then the internet was introduced. And many strange online chat rooms started on Paltalk through a group called “Diaspora Copts”. And if we talk more religiously rational; you will never find people as religious people as Egyptians. I have traveled abroad and no one even visit a church!
People’s opinions differ between whether Egypt is a secular or a religious country; I believe that we are not even close to either!
Amr Hassan: I see that the main reason is the internet indeed! When Paltalk started you cannot imagine what “Diaspora Copts” did. They are like terrorists not Muslim Brotherhood, because M.B gave advice, not starting a war, and you have to know there are two parties of Muslim Brotherhood; the first; are so peaceful and just advise, the second one are banned and looking for blood! And for example; they threw a bomb in Tahrir sq and 17 person died and they were all Muslims, or throwing a bomb in front of a school in Misr El-Gedidah (Heliopolis) to murder the ex-minister “Atef Sedky”, and sadly a young girl died called “Shaimaa”. And another murder happened targeting the ex-minister of information “Safwat El-Sherif”, and we all know that those people are bribed from abroad to do these terrible murders. But the real Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni people what they want is to let all people understand and apply the Islamic Shariah.
But if the Islamic Shariah got applied, won’t that ban Andromida and the rock scene in Egypt?!
Amr Hassan: Better than to be against God’s precepts! And if you care that much then go and play in anywhere else!
Yeah! But if I am able to work my own way and not harm others…
Amr Hassan: Exactly! If anyone follows the Ten Commandments correctly; like; not to kill, steal or commit adultery then all those strange parties as Muslim Brotherhood, Diaspora Copts and others will disappear because they will not even find someone to talk with. But they work on some uneducated people to control them and they do it, like in the Egyptian movie “The beginning” there was a scene saying; “He is democratic, so he is an atheist!” *laughs*
Okay, let’s now talk about Andromida and its members…
Amr Hassan: Okay; like?
Um, how many musicians participated in Andromida? If we can name some.
Amr Hassan: A lot actually, besides the current members we can say about 10.
Tell us more about Mr Yasser Shaaban and Mr Ihab El-Qalie and their role in Andromida…
Amr Hassan: Well, Ihab was the one who started this project for 16 years (1987– 2003). Yasser joined in 1991 till 1995. And for now; Yasser joins as a guest, but actually Yasser in the time that he was with us, he was so effective because there was no one like him – and till now, I think – he has a very unique voice that none of the others have.
What conditions did you chose for the new members of Andromida?
Amr Hassan: There were no specific conditions for new members, and all of the members came through me, in which days Ihab didn’t know Sherif El-Sharkway or Yasser, so I got people to know each other. What I really care about is their character. And I prefer to do things that last, so character is more important to me than their level or how much professional are they, and of course, their love for the project too. Some people joined but they weren’t like that, so they come and go – join for a concert and that’s it. It happened a lot indeed, so there are no special measures. First the character, and then the level, and we’re just very normal musicians, maybe we have good experience, but our level not that brilliant, I think!
And of course, this is modesty…
Amr Hassan: No really, I mean it; I never said I am the best musician to consider myself the greatest!
But in our music scene, everyone knows that Andromida are one of the most professional and experienced musicians…
Amr Hassan: No! As a musician you have to be like anyone. And you have to know that we are all equal, the one who is playing and the one who is watching. But if you think that you are better than who is watching you on stage, then God will never give you a good return. As simple as that!
And when the band reunited in 2002 how was people’s feedback?
Amr Hassan: Actually, we get back to stage by coincidence. Mr Osama Kamal of 90s Rock-in Festivals, asked us to play in the Telecom Egypt event as a celebration of free internet access and it was a huge official show with ministers and stuff, and we said “why not? Guys let’s play this one and that’s it” *laughs*
And this is the fate… *laughs*
Amr Hassan: Exactly! *laughs*Actually we had a really good show and sound on stage that time, it was about 30 minutes or so. We were not the same members, it was Amgad, Sherif and I, plus a female vocalist called “Mona”. And we had a different style, so we had a good feedback and our sound on stage was good as well, so we determined to continue.
Previously, Yasser was the lead vocalist, but now we all sing. And by time, when we felt that there is some progress, we gave a demo to Cairo Opera House, and they accepted it. Then we got a concert in July, and the stage was full with audience, they missed us, I think! The concert was very good, so the Opera putus in their schedule, which are four concerts per year. So this is how we got back to stage. We then had many disbanding issues, and we even planned a concert entitled “Goodbye”.
And then Ihab traveled, so we asked Sherif Watson to join – we saw him before at Cairo Jazz Club and was very good. Ihab and I asked him to play two songs, then Ihab traveled and we said this was our last concert and then no Andromida was no more, so we asked Sherif Watson “Do you want to replace Ihab?” he accepted, as it was a chance for him to make a career and name, and that helped me for Pink Floyd’s way and Sherif was in the same mood too.
I thought of Pink Floyd since 1993 and it happened in 2004, when I felt that I am capable to play Richard Wright sounds, and Sherif has a very unique imagination in Pink Floyd sounds, so we were playing just a few songs for Pink Floyd not a whole concert.
And for singing with you…
Amr Hassan: Look, I am not a singer, but there are some songs, that I really feel for when I sing. I cannot consider Sherif ElSharkawy as vocalist, but he can sing, and others that are not appropriate, so each one of us is the same.
And maybe Sherif takes the singing issue seriously way more than I, but I still cannot consider him a singer, because I feel he still needs as many vocalist skills as I do. But there are some songs that you really feel when you sing them, and if the audience still accepts it, then its fine. And of course, from time to time we say that we need a vocalist but then we realize no we don’t! Just get a guest, so we go between yes and no. For someone to join he has to really feel it, not just that he is going to perform with Andromida, no, he has to feel it, and if it wasn’t only for a good vocalist, there are many I know I can ask, but for someone to understand our music and feel it, and understands why he is not going to sing this song, just like that.
RE: A lot of people observed the appearance of the old members; is it a preliminary step towards the old Andromida?
Amr Hassan: No! When Ihab El Qalie joined us he was just on vacation – because he works oversea, in Ras Shoqier. And for Yasser, we are always in touch, and he joins us in the Festival as a jury. He is essential for the festival, but Yasser’s style now is more into hard rock, and we are now into Pink Floyd, Camel and progressive music, but Floyd is not Yasser’s style. He was raised on Deep Purple, Yes, and this kind of music which is not so similar to our style but when we play something for these bands, we ask Yasser directly.
As your vision for the Egyptian rock scene future; is it auspicious?
Amr Hassan: It is so auspicious indeed! As you see in the festival, we really have good bands. The Festival exudes many brilliant bands.
RE: The festival itself is something we really are proud of, that is the real music scene that we have…
Amr Hassan: Exactly! It was an idea that came to my mind. I thought that we had to do something for all these good bands, and give them good opportunities and facilities, and will not let them face these bad situations that we faced before. Musicians now will find an appropriate set-up. Previously we played in the desert, you find nothing, and no one was dealing with us as we deal with people nowadays. So I thought to represent our bands, and in the end it is something to face the media with, previously if something happened no one knows anything, but now if you are going to click with your fingers, everyone will shoot you and everyone will talk.
What do you think, is missing the magazine to be worthy of the level of the current teams?
Amr Hassan: Nothing! You are very good. I don’t see anything wrong, and the idea is brilliant. I see the interviews with bands and everything and I really like it so much. It is really a good magazine. And you write the questions in a innovative way, which makes people talk freely, so I see no problems indeed.
Oh, thank you so much we are honored to work for the Egyptian music scene. Well, any promise for your fans for an album…
Amr Hassan: Well, we were supposed to play an original in our last concert (2nd Rock Festival) but it is Finale wasn’t complete. And everyone has to know that we face a big problem, Andromida band plays Pink Floyd’s music in a specific way, so when I play an original it has to be in the same level, and I have seen many people even outside Egypt witness that we are really good to play Pink Floyd like; I was in Italy once and there was an American guy told me that “Hey, I have seen a really good band in Egypt called Andromida” so I was going to say; “Are you kidding me, I am in this band man” *laughs* So I see many good comments, so when I present an original it has to be in the same level, not in Pink Floyd’s level, because they are masters of course, but you have to listen to this original in a concert and then the tune would stick in your head because you really liked it and felt it. But the current problem; you have the band it contains a physician: Dr. Sherif El Sharkawy, and Prof. Ahmed Anwar who works in two or three universities, so people have no time to stay together and compose something, and we all have to stay together to make something really good, and to proudly say that we are Andromida. So if we have no time, I am not sad to play our tribute for Pink Floyd, I can simply create another band that play originals, but for Andromida the band has to stay all together for lyrics, composing, arrangement and everything to present something unique.
How about an advice for the young musicians?
Amr Hassan: Egyptian bands are divided into two; the first who play to show off and play for girls and this is complete nonsense. The second who are respectful bands like; Simplexity, Jokers, Circus, Azraq Samawy, and others who deliver real art, because these guys who will be masters after all. But you know what the real problem is? The young musicians are always in a rush, even to compose originals. To be honest I did not see a band that I really consider it has an original track. I have heard a lot, but I think Simeplxity and then The Public who has the brightest originals.
So it is not about to start originals or covers.
Amr Hassan: As they prefer, in which Simplexity, most of their songs are originals but they are really amazing. Azraq Samawy is a master-piece, and Massar Egbari too. But I am commenting on many bands, even international bands such as; Deep Purple and Scorpions started covers and still, like; Deep Purple playing “Hey Jude” and Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Scorpions, so you have to get some experience from covers first before starting doing your originals.
We have a huge problem to understand and differentiate between a cover and a tribute, like no one can say that Andromida are a cover band.
Amr Hassan: Yes! And by the way, Pink Floyd songs that we play are in the frame of Pink Floyd, but many riffs and details we change through, even if Pink Floyd listen it they will make us a Chapeau! But of course it has to be framed as Pink Floyd. We do not copy/paste, which rarely happens, but many people attack us that we do copy/paste and we have no imagination and we are not able to compose, so we just say “okay, compose and show us!” We just make festivals and we see you, and at the end you come to us and ask us to join! Like when Divine band won, someone came and had a fight with me, and he was wondering “why they won although they play heavy metal” so I did not give him a comment. But after about two weeks he sent an apology message saying sorry that he was upset because his band did not win!
A band is a respect party more than just performance on stage.
Amr Hassan: Well, the band is all about characters. Andromida band is not that young. We don’t jump on stage or something, but we do have a charisma, while I am play on stage, I see people looking. I do not know why, in which I do nothing, I just play music, Ahmed Anwar (bass) he does nothing on stage, just plays, in which he is the most on popular in the band, he is not even a rocker, he is more into Jazz music and for Sherif Watson, his guitar is his personality, and people like to watch him too.
So this is the band’s behavior, you can see many bands are so professional but their personalities are bull-shit, and that makes you think “Enough, I won’t see you anymore” The way to talk to your fans is even a way of art, and you have to be simple, and talk wisely and nicely, but if you see someone is showing off and on stage “Hey guys”, “come on”, “and this f**kin’ song” he will just find an idiot audience just like him and wondering for his nice accent. No dear we have a better accent, before you born, so it is not about showing of. Sometimes you have to talk in English when you have a foreigner guest to understand you, like presenting the band in English, but names will be in Arabic at the end. But if I will present something related to Egyptians; I will say it in Arabic and I will care only for the Egyptian audience, and you have to respect your country, identity, and nationality as well! And by the way, for whom of the people “hey guys” and “hello” these who are the real copy/paste bands. Yea I sing in English okay, but I talk to people in Arabic not in English all the time, and not act in English. And I cannot even understand, why should I do this, in which my audience are; Mohamed, Ahmed, Mena, Botros. So what a nonsense!
Finally, we thank you for your time and such a fruitful interview and we were enjoying our time so much with you.
Amr Hassan: Me too, and thank you so much.
Interviewed by: Mena Ezzat and Yasser Mohamed