Egyptian Lover: "I'm Bringing Back the Old School, Be Ready to Dance"
Most of the club rats getting down to electro and booty bass these days are too young to remember the scene's old-school pioneers like Egyptian Lover, AKA Greg Broussard.
After all, most of us were still learning how to crawl (or hadn't even been born yet) when Broussard was already mastering the art of beat mixing and juggling breaks. This was right at the beginning of the '80s, when he helped kick-start the West Coast hip-hop scene as a DJ with L.A.'s legendary Uncle Jamm's Army collective.
Of course, Egyptian Lover's biggest contributions to the development of old-school electro were in the studio. He would release some of the very first West Coast rap records, while honing his signature 808 bass-infused electronic funk on chart-topping albums like 1984's On The Nile.
Lucky for us, Egyptian Lover is still very much active in 2013. He's even working on a new album. And since Miami is the undisputed booty bass capital of the world, that pretty much makes his arrival for Nightdrive Miami's Scaramouche party at The Vagabond a homecoming. Show him some 305 love this Saturday with a good round of ass-clapping.
Crossfade: You started DJing in 1979, when it was still a relatively new art form. How did you first get into it? Did you have any mentors or role models in the beginning?
Egyptian Lover: When I used to go out and party, I went to the Uncle Jamm's Army parties, and the DJs played the best music. There was this one DJ named Bleeps that used to be really good starting the record over, making the song sound like an instrumental. I had to learn how to do that. This inspired me to become a DJ. I fell in love with the party scene and the music.
What was the early hip-hop scene in L.A. like when you were first performing with Uncle Jamm's Army? What are some of your favorite memories of those days? And what do you miss the most?
I loved the beginning of hip-hop, and being a part of it still blows me away. Making that uptempo dance music for the L.A. freaks to dance to was my goal. All the Uncle Jamm party freaks would dance "the freak" to every record. Playing Prince and all those "Planet Rock"-type songs would always keep the party going. I miss finding those records at the record stores and playing them first in L.A. Searching for records was the best part of being a DJ.
As a pioneer of West Coast hip-hop, how much of what you were doing as a DJ-producer in those early days do you think was directly influenced by the original East Coast hip-hop scene? And how much of it do you think was experimental and attempting to create a unique West Coast sound?
I was influenced by Kraftwerk and the song "Planet Rock" -- never knew where it came from. I was never one to say East Coast/West Coast -- I loved the world, Planet Earth! So when I heard good music, it was just good music. Like Cybotron, Pretty Tony, Hashim, Planet Patrol, Jonzun Crew, Twilight 22 -- it was just good music to dance to. I didn't research where it came from. I just liked it! The music I made was made for the Uncle Jamm's party crowd, but grew to become bigger records than I ever could possibly dream they would become. I created the Egyptian Lover sound, I never thought it would be the "West Coast sound." I still create songs with my sound even today. It's just what I like to hear: a combination of all the records I used to play when I was DJing for Uncle Jamm.
Along with your Egyptian Lover moniker, many of your album and song titles also reference Egypt. Where does your fascination with Egypt come from?
Growing up in the hood, my imagination just took me as far as I could go from the hood, and I chose Egypt. Because King Tut was a young king. I was young at the time and I also wanted to be king of my own. And so I worked hard to do so. Egyptian Empire Records was born.
The Roland TR-808 has obviously been your signature tool in the studio. Do you still use strictly analog equipment? Or has digital technology found its way into your production work? What are your thoughts on modern "bedroom producers" who make all their music on computers and have never programmed a hardware drum machine?
I still use analog equipment, and I love the old stuff. It's very rare that I will use a plugin. I just like the sounds of the old stuff. Jupiter 8 is my fave. To all other producers: Do what you can to get your music out there. Everyone is different and the way we record it represents us all as individuals. Do your thing! Any way you can!
You didn't release music for an entire decade -- 1994 to 2005. Why did you take this hiatus from production, and what prompted your return?
I chose to spend more time at home with the family and my new wife. The Internet and reading all the fans' remarks made me realize that my music meant a lot to them, and I wanted to give them more.
You've been around long enough to see the evolution of modern dance music, from the early days of disco, hip-hop, and electro. What are your thoughts on the way dance music has evolved? Which are some of the newer post-millennial sounds and artists that turn you on the most?
I mostly listen to the old-school stuff. [There are] only a few new artists I listen to and work with, like Jamie Jones, Jimmy Edgar, Peanut Butter Wolf, James Pants, Soul Clap, Alden Tyrell, Dexter, Private, Luke Eargoggle, Tiger Sushi, and a few more. As long as it makes you dance, I like it. But my personal favorite music is '80s old-school.
You have a new album entitled 1984 reportedly in the works. What can you tell us about it? Any potential release dates yet?
It's called 1984 because it will be recorded like I recorded music back in 1984. That old-school way using old-school equipment. I have a Facebook page archiving the sessions and going through the whole album step by step.
What else have have you been up to in 2013? And what can fans expect from you in the near future?
2013 is a prep year for 2014, my 30th anniversary. Stones Throw is putting out a box set for all my true fans with unreleased music, rare stuff, and remixes. It's going to be amazing. Also, 1984 will be released and this will be an all-new electro/old-school collectors' item that will last the test of time.
So what can Miami expect during your performance at the Scaramouche party on Saturday?
I'm bringing back the old-school. Just be ready to dance. When I play my beats from the 808, I want you all to understand I'm doing this for you. Dance!
Egyptian Lover. With Lazaro Casanova, Bonnie Beats, Laura of Miami, and Patrick Walsh. As part of Scaramouche. Presented by Nightdrive Miami. Saturday, June 15. The Vagabond, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 plus fees via wantickets.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-379-0508 or visit thevagabondmiami.com.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.