I still remember when they first performed in El Sawi Culturewheel a few years ago, I stood there in wonder and what I saw made me think: about time we had some Post-Rock music in Egypt. Yes, people, we have a talented instrumental band in our very own hands, offering us a genre that bewitches you in just staying there and listening. I interviewed The Chicken Came First bassist Eslam Salem who shared some intersting facts about his band.
First of all; the name! Previously you guys posted a note clearifying the reason behind the name, for us to find out in the end that there is no explanation still!! So, give us an exclusive explanation on The Chicken Came First?
Eslam: Well, that explanation in the note is pretty much all that it is to the name, I guess it just stood out in comparison to all the other names we had in mind, it seemed intriguing and controversial enough at the time, so we settled for it.
The standard question everyone asks, when and why did each member start playing his current instrument?
Eslam: At the age of 16 Omar realized that his only hobby was football so he wanted to give music a shot in ordered to occupy his time, so his parents were supportive and bought him a classical guitar for beginners.
Moataz is kind of a veteran, around 14 years ago he started playing drums, he first started playing guitar but he found himself more attracted to the drums and he was basically drumming on everything, he even setup an imaginary drum set consisting of books and pillows at some point.
As for myself I was at a concert for some local band when I was 16, I didn’t even know that bass guitars existed but then I was overwhelmed by how skilled the bassist on the stage was and when I got back home I picked up my brother’s classical guitar and started playing simple bass-lines and then I’d go to the studio and play those bass-lines on an actual bass guitar until I bought one sometime later.
How did the band come together? In other words how do you all know each other?
Eslam: I knew Omar from school and I met Moataz at some concert, so Omar one day wrote that he wants to jam something within the lines of alternative and funk-rock with new people because he used to play in some other be he thought it wasn’t progressing, so I sent him a message saying that I’m in and that I know a drummer, the funny thing is that until this day I have no idea how to play funky music. The band is originally a trio, only the 3 original members are involved in the process of compositions and arrangement but in live performance we have extra members, we mostly perform with Mustapha Kamel also known for his project Deciphering Stars
What are the band’s main influences?
Eslam: Musically the variety of the things affected us is overwhelming, we only come out with the sound that we all fancy but it can be pretty chaotic in the studio, we can play stuff ranging from disco and ambient to progressive metal. But to give an answer there’re very few bands that we have in common like Caspian and Tool for example, given that Moataz’s taste is very different than ours.
Omar is influenced by the more alternative/post-rockish side of music, he was heavily influenced by The Red Hot Chili Peppers for example. Moataz is more into metal than us, he’s also into progressive music and also ambient stuff. My taste is somewhat very similar to Omar’s, except that I lean more towards progressive rock and ambient post-rock, I also have a thing for orchestrations. Also Omar and I are very big Coldplay fans but let’s just keep this from the hardcore people.
The most notable thing about the band that it doesn’t have a front man/vocalist, which is unlikely for the Egyptian music scene. How did you get to decide this?
Eslam: We started this band at first as some sort of a musical outlet, we just wanted to play music, we tried contacting a few singers before but it didn’t exactly work out until one day in the studio Omar played some post-rock riffs, I remember my reaction was “Did you just play post-rock?”
And that’s basically how we took that shape and it’s still evolving.
Congratulations for the Cloud 9 Festival! Talk to your fans about the whole story? And what’s with the “Stoned Bedouin”?
Eslam: Well, someone contacted us saying that there would be a festival in Sinai and that they would like us to perform. They basically had us at Sinai, given that it’s our favorite spot in Egypt. It was rather a very friendly and cozy atmosphere, we performed around 2 AM I guess and we spent so much time doing our sound-check because there were certain malfunctions but the crowd was laid-back, those who weren’t asleep already stayed to watch us perform that late and those who couldn’t stay outside (because it was somewhat cold) listened to us from their huts which is really convenient to us. I’d like to believe that Bedouins know how to enjoy their time better than most people; I mean did you see the smile on that guy’s face?
Any on-stage awkward / funny moments you can share with us?
Eslam: Our performances are basically awkward moments accompanied by some music. But to give an answer: we used to play a song called “You guys suck!” and then one time some guy wanted to start a fight with us because he thought we referred to the crowd, he took it personally.
I think some bands in Egypt face the toughest crowds sometimes, as if people attend the shows to evaluate your musicianship and your skills and are not attending to just enjoy the show.
According to the official page, your genre is “Ambient Indie-Alternative”. However the fans call you a “Post Rock” act, why is there such difference?
Eslam: Well, we’re not exactly genre specific but to tag the band with “Alternative” is an easy way of making people know what to expect.
Ambient-Indie was just a tag that was given to us by the people from New Wave’s concert and we actually liked it. It’s not exactly for us to point out what is the genre we play and in all honesty it doesn’t matter for us, the people get to interpret our music whichever way they want.
We’re highly influenced by the post-rock movement but we wouldn’t want to limit ourselves to this particular tag.
Isn’t it time to treat your fans with a full album already?
Eslam: Well, we have rough drafts of the songs we perform live lying on our laptops but we’re a little concerned with the quality, we think we can do much better than this but we lack the access to proper equipment so we’re currently in a wait-and-see kind of phase, hopefully we’ll get access to the equipment we want sometime soon.
We’d like to thank Eslam and The Chicken Came First for this fun, fruitful interview. Go check their cool music out!