Egyptian Hip Hop: ‘This Time You Can Hear In Between The Sounds’

George Boorman catches up with lead singer Alex Hewett to find out about their recent debut.

Once one of the most exciting new bands in the UK, Egyptian Hip Hop released a critically adored, Hudson Mohawke produced EP, ‘Some Reptiles Grew Wings’ before slipping away to work on their debut album. Since then we’ve been left wondering whether the promised album would ever come to fruition, with the band laying relatively dormant for the past couple of years.
Or so it seemed; turns out they were hard at work on their album, ‘Good Don’t Sleep’. Finally, it seems Egyptian Hip Hop are delivering on the initial promise shown by the rag-tag group of college students first presented to us. More mature, refined and with an ever-so alluring atmosphere ‘Good Don’t Sleep’ is looking to be one of the most exciting debuts this year.
We caught up with lead singer Alex Hewett to discover what we are to expect from their two-years-in-the-making debut.

Roughly how long was the process of writing and recording the album?
Writing was quite a long time ‘cause we got rid of a lot of music in the process of getting the album to be what we wanted it to be like. We dropped a lot of songs and made new ones, so probably about two years worth of music compiled into the best parts. And recording was probably like two months, but with a lot of gaps in between.

Did you do any of the production yourself or did you bring outsiders in?
We worked with this guy Richard Formby who’s done some Wild Beasts stuff and people like Darkstar. We had an engineer too called David Pie, it was the four of us and two other guys basically.

A lot of your music sounds like the result of you all just jamming and seeing what happens.
Yeah, I think probably half the record was conceived with jamming and stuff and the other half is more things that have been put together as a song. That was one of the main ways we put together the tracks [on the album].

Should fans expect a departure from your older material?
I think we’ve tried to make sure there’s a little bit of a link there just because we never set out to try and alienate anyone. That’s something we were kind of against doing because it could seem immature or arrogant. I think definitely about half the record is quite easy to swallow and lends itself to things we’ve already done in a way but then there are other bits which might have broadened the idea of what we are more than we ever have before.

What were the main influences on the album?
There’s a fair few I think, we listened to a lot of a band called Japan who we were quite influenced by while recording so we tried to incorporate some of their sounds to the wider palette and into the sound we ended up using. There were loads more; Oneohtrix Point Never, some bits were inspired by 1980s era King Crimson, Ariel Pink is another. I think Talking Heads is also quite an obvious one.

There seems to be a real sense of space on the record.
I think it’s just the way the sounds were recorded and where they were placed and stuff. A lot of it we were using more different layers of sound than we were before, but the placement of it seems a lot wider. I think it might just be in the arrangements as well, they lent themselves to this bigger sound and even if you end up putting a lot more sound in there; there’s still a sparseness there. Like I said, we were influenced by Japan whose last album, the one we listened to the most when writing, is one which is just full of layers and synthesisers and stuff but you can almost curve your ear around sound and hear the intricacies of each part. Whereas I think earlier our intricacies might have just been squished together. This time you can hear in between the sounds.

You always had a pop influence in your sound, but on the record you seem to have gone more down that road?
We’ve always been interested in doing more experimental music but that can end up being quite self-indulgent. A big thing for us is being able to do something which is three minutes long and putting ideas into it which seem a little out of place but fit into the track. It’s a good challenge.

Egyptian Hip Hop’s new album ‘Good Don’t Sleep’ is out now via R&S.

Taken from the November 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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