The day after their Saturday set, we managed to sneak into a nice quiet room (there aren’t many in Wiston over the Wildfire weekend!) and have a chat with multi-national outfit Cairo Son. We almost avoid the topic of politics, cover a fair bit about songwriting, realise the importance of groove and find out what other band they think you should be listening to right now (if you’re not listening to Storm Clouds of course).
You’re a London-based band, but I’m right in saying you’re not all from London originally?
Magdy: I was born in London, but my parents are foreign – I’m half Egyptian, half Polish. They’re immigrants! Gah, politics!
Rico: I’m from Germany.
Dave: I’m from Israel.
Ah, I spent some time in Jerusalem. Beautiful city.
Dave: I absolutely despise it, but I can can get how people are in awe of it. I’m from Tel Aviv and it’s like a feud. Jerusalem with all the antiquities whereas Tel Aviv is just more modern. Everywhere in Israel is different from everywhere else and it’s not even an hour’s drive.
Enough about global politics for now! Cairo Son… you have two albums out. The first in 2012 and you followed it up with Storm Clouds in March this year. How do you feel you’ve progressed musically between the two albums?
Magdy: Musically it’s been a big progress. Predominantly because you could look at it as a solo album from me – Dave and Rico weren’t in the band at the time. It was a different project. It was my first attempt at writing my own songs and trying let that artist side of me out. As you become more efficient with your instrument then meet other musicians, you develop and hopefully become better. The progress between the two albums is quite obvious in many ways.
Storm Clouds is more of a band effort, though I’d brought about 90% of the songs to the table and Dave replaced the original drummer that joined myself and Rico. I met Rico and the other drummer at a Harley Davidson event a couple of years ago. In fact, this month is our two year anniversary! We spent some time just getting into the flow.
Rico: We gigged a lot just to get to know each other on stage. It’s very different to being in the studio. We had a tour to get the songs ready and right after the tour we got into the studio.
Have you managed to be here all weekend for Wildfire?
Magdy: No, I was gigging Friday night so we set off early on Saturday morning to get here. I’m a working musician – it pays my bills. Not to say that these guys aren’t working musicians! Cairo Son is a full time project, but it’s not paying our rent… yet! So we all jumped in the car at a stupid time in the morning, seven hours in the car and had our set at 6pm. And I started drinking at 7pm. Hence why I am sat here with a coffee and wanting to put my sunglasses on even though we’re indoors! No, we’re not those kind of rock stars!
Your PR material states that your lyrics are “brutally honest”. What subject matter do you write about and what makes the writing so honest?
Magdy: [sings] Me me me me me! I I I I I! We will talk about anything we want to talk about, anything I choose or feel I want to. It’s got me into trouble… especially with the ex! I had written a song that was part therapeutic for me about my previous partner. My partner at the time heard it for the first time at a gig and she was very upset. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Well, because I didn’t have to – it’s an artistic right. I choose how to express myself and sorry if I hurt any feelings, but it’s not directed at you.
So we’ll talk about whatever we want, but we have agreed that we’re not a political band and we don’t want to be one. It’s easy to fall into that trap of “hey, you’re half Egyptian/half Polish, he’s German and he’s Israeli… you guys must all be talking about what’s going on in the Middle East and all this stuff with religion…” Well, no we don’t. We wake up to that crap every day on radio, TV, facebook… My father father’s Muslim, Rico’s parents are Christian, Dave’s are Jewish. We want to do music because we like doing music. We all have our own particular views about stuff, so if anyone wants to write something, or bring ideas to the table then it’s very welcome but I’m generally the songwriter. The past two albums have, I guess, been about me.
Rico: the lyrics on Storm Clouds are all about experiences we’ve all had. Things we’ve all been affected by. We don’t sing about a particular topic. It’s not just about heartbreak and pain!
David: We’re writing about what we want to write, it’s a very… vomity process! Just sudden outbursts of ideas, then Magdy goes away with these thoughts and writes lyrics about them. It’s not all him, though. Rico came up with the lyrics for “Lion in a Cage”, then Magdy and him worked on it together for a while.
Magdy: What’s interesting about “Lion in a Cage” is that it’s the last song written before we went into the studio, about 2 weeks before we went into the studio. It stems from Rico’s experiences, feelings and so forth. I joined in with the writing and I could relate so much to what Rico was saying that when I added my bit to it, it made sense. We’ve had people come up to us and talk about those first three words of the chorus: “How dare you…”. The song can be about something the listener feels – they don’t need to understand exactly what it is that I am on about, even though I do get people coming up to me and hugging me.
If you were to describe the band to someone, to sell your sound, how would you do so?
Rico: Awesome! One of the ladies that came up to the merch desk yesterday said “You guys are massive Black Sabbath fans, aren’t you?”, but I think we’re all grunge kids. We grew up in the nineties.
Magdy: I think there is some Sabbath in our sound, though. We all have our tasted. Dave comes from a very eclectic metal background, I love my metal too. I’ve got a “DOWN” tattoo on my wrist. I loved Pantera, and Phil Anselmo, Pepper Keenan and so forth. Their inspiration for Down is Black Sabbath. There’s a lot of Down influence in there for me. I might not deliberately write Down riffs, but I have Down in my veins… quite literally! The same as Alter Bridge, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains…
Dave: Rico’s quite a funky bass player – he plays with soul.
Rico: I think the key element to our sound is that it has to groove. In the early Soundgarden you had a very riffy sound, but it always grooved. That’s what we want to implement in our songs.
Magdy: If you look at Down, and Sabbath, and Alice in Chains… those bands grooved. The rhythm section, the backbone… it may have been a hard, heavy sound but it grooved. We all listen to other music. I love reggae – I always wanted to be in a reggae band, but didn’t think I grooved enough.
Can you tell me a band I should have heard of? One you’ve toured with, or a friend’s band…?
Magdy: Planet of Zeus from Greece.
Dave: Awesome bunch of dudes. We had the chance to open for them when they came to London the last time. Put on an awesome set. Our manager at the time was Greek.
I have to mention, when I asked the question you all looked at each other, didn’t say a word, nodded and then Magdy named Planet of Zeus. I’ve never seen a band agree on an answer like that before!
Dave: Their new album is fantastic. Do yourself a favour, Spotify it!