Four years ago, Egypt Central — a five-piece hard rock band named after a street in Raleigh — seemed to be the best bet for local rock stardom. Their style of hip-hop- and alt-rock-tinged metal was ascendant, and the band was snatched up by major-label subsidiary Lava Records (an Atlantic-connected label that also boasted Kid Rock). They seemed on a clear path to follow local success story Saliva out of the New Daisy-centered local metal scene and into arenas and rock-radio playlists nationwide.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to stardom: Lava dropped the band shortly after they finished recording their debut album, and Egypt Central was set out in the rock-and-roll wilderness, victim to the fickleness and upheaval of the major-label music biz.
This month, the band is back, with a remastered version of their debut album (the Lava version was self-released locally in 2005) available nationally for the first time. Egypt Central will play a homecoming show at the Hard Rock Café next week. The Flyer spoke with lead singer John T. Falls about the band's rebirth.
Flyer: So, you guys have been on tour since right around New Year's, right? How's it going?
John T. Falls: It's been great, dude. Every day the crowds get bigger, so things are definitely growing.
This is a small-club headlining tour, but you played big tours — Ozzfest and Family Values — last year. What was that like?
They were awesome. Not only were the bands really good to us, but the crews were amazing. It was a great experience to see how the other side does it, you know? Until then, we'd only done smaller shows and smaller tours. So, to become a part of two of the bigger summer tours that happen was great. And to be accepted, especially at Ozzfest, by some of those metal bands [was gratifying].
Who were some of the headliners on each tour?
On Ozzfest, it was obviously Ozzy and Lamb of God and Static X. On Family Values, it was Korn and Evanescence. The coolest thing that happened on both tours was we started on the "B" stage and got moved up to the main stage [as the tours progressed].
Let's backtrack a little bit and talk about the journey the band's been on over the past few years, since signing to Lava initially in 2004 to finally seeing your album get a proper release four years later.
We did the deal with Lava and went out to L.A. [in the summer of 2004] and made the record with [producer] Josh Abraham, who has worked with Korn and Staind and Velvet Revolver — a lot of "A" bands on the rock scene. So it was a big deal that Josh was doing our record. We went out there and thought we'd made a great record. We came back home and were really excited about it. Then we got a call one day from the label saying they thought we had four or five singles. Then a week later, we got another call saying we were being dropped.
We've come to learn, over time, that basically Elektra was being closed and folded into Atlantic and almost every new artist was being dropped. Even if you were already in stores, if you weren't banging out multi-platinum sales, you were on the back burner.
At that point, we felt like our heart had been ripped from our chest. We didn't know what to do. It took a week for everything to sink in and to regroup.
You guys didn't really have much experience in the music business at that point.
Yeah, we were all really young. We'd only played eight shows when we landed that deal with Lava. It happened really quick, and we didn't know how to deal with it [when the deal fell apart]. But our band is all about perseverance, so we couldn't walk away just because somebody said no.
We put the record out in Memphis on our own and got a lot of airplay through 93X. [Program director] Rob Cressman took a chance on the band. We started selling lots of records locally and that generated more interest from other labels. We started flying all over the place showcasing, and people came to Memphis to see us. We did that whole song and dance over and over, but, for whatever reason, we couldn't put another deal together.
We finally decided to revamp everything. We got new management about a year ago and decided we wanted to do it to the beat of our own drum. One of our managers started his own record label and partnered with ILG, which is through Warner Bros., and here we are now, finally. Three years later, we finally have our record out [nationally]. It's just one of those stories for other bands: Don't ever let the suits tell you your music isn't good enough or it won't work.
What's different about the version of the record that's out now compared to the one that sold locally?
We remixed it to bring out some elements we thought were missing on the old version. It's finally the record we wanted it to be. If you compare them, you can really hear the difference.
You've lived with these songs for a long time. Does that make it hard to promote them as new material?
No, because we really believe in them. And the people we're playing them to on the road haven't heard them. So it still feels like we're playing them for the first time.