"Less is more. Nothing is everything. It’s a great excuse."
Egypt: Pharaohs With Blue(s) Jeans
Egypt is a UK blues rock three piece band formed in 1987. Egypt is best known for its close connections to 1960s/70s band The Groundhogs and, just to add to the confusion, had a very different style and line-up in the early days, making many people believe they were two different bands. Egypt's original line-up first got together in a squat in Shepherds Bush, London in late 1987, but the story really begins a few weeks before when ex-Groundhogs bass player Alan Fish and ex-Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker were asked to record the very first album. Also included was guitarist Don Greer (ex-Bachman Turner Overdrive and others).
This initial plan got as far as some recording sessions (unreleased) before Clive found himself unavailable due to other commitments and Don decided to move back home to the States and was unable to continue, though he would later fill in for a broken-thumbed Eric Chipulina whilst Egypt were in the US for a short while in the early 1990s. Alan was determined to carry on but was now on his own with recording and gig commitments to fulfill. Having difficulty finding the right musicians he began looking for a suitable ready-made band instead and met the first Egypt drummer Peter Chichon at one of these auditions. Peter was also there to audition but opted to pitch in with Alan instead.
Alan Fish started off his musical career (as guitarist initially) playing skiffle at the age of 12. As a teenager during the 1960s he had been in bands in the Far East supporting The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks and other names of the era before relocating in the UK where he was again, during the 1960s/70s, supporting many name acts including David Bowie. He had recently left his bass playing job with bike rally favourites Dumpys Rusty Nuts and had played since the mid-seventies with the legendary Tony McPhee recording several albums. In the 1980s he joined Tredegar and was involved in many other projects including a European tour with Chuck Berry and a couple of albums with Billy Boy Arnold. In mid-91 Peter Correa who had already played in bands with Eric in the dim and distant past decided to uproot from his (and Eric's) native Gibraltar and take the plunge with Egypt. This is probably where the band in its current form started; recording Preserving The Dead in 1994. The Egyptians are: Eric Chipulina on guitar/vocals, Alan Fish on bass/vocals and Peter Correa on drums.
What do you learn about yourself from and Blues music and what does the Blues mean to you?
Eric: Less is more. Nothing is everything. It’s a great excuse.
Peter: I become a different person when I'm playing whether its Blues or Rock, to me the Blues represents the foundation blocks of all modern Rock.
Alan: All my early days were based on Blues music with skiffle and rock n roll; I grew up listening to Lonnie Donnegan and Don Lang plus early Elvis and Little Richard and the great Eddie Cochran.
How do you describe Egypt Band’s sound and songbook? What characterize band’s philosophy?
Alan: Blues based rock and songs which tell a story. Our philosophy is to enjoy what we play and hope that others do as well.
What are some of the most memorable gigs, jams and open acts you've had? Which memory makes you smile?
Eric: So many gigs - jamming with Wilco Johnson, Geno Washington, Paul Samson and others (not all at the same time!) Every Groundhogs or Egypt gig was/is to certain extents a jam and sparring guitars with Tony McPhee can be quite an unpredictable adventure as it should always be when you are jamming.
Sharing the bill with the Yardbirds, Buddy Guy, Nazareth, Screaming Lord Sutch, Man, Amon Duul, Climax Blues Band, Eddie & the Hot Rods, Caravan, John Wetton and…Boy George & Captain Sensible (true story honest).
Peter: Too many to point towards any single one. Memories of good gigs always make me smile.
Alan: Stonehenge and Reading festivals. Playing with Chuck Berry and supporting the Who. Keith Moon turning up late to a Northern gig in a London taxi and saying leave the meter running I will be right back.
Are there any memories from Groundhogs and Egypt band which you’d like to share with us?
Eric: I once did a gig in a gorilla suit… never again. Some interesting conversations and anecdotes from Tony McPhee about his days backing John Lee Hooker & other blues artists or the British blues & rock or even pop artists who were around in the 60s. It’s great to hear stuff from the point of view of someone who was actually there mixing with these artists when this was happening. We once did a gig with the Counterfeit Stones (a Stones tribute band) and I remember Tony saying something about déjà vu as he’d toured as special guest with the real Stones back in the days when they looked just like that.
Alan has quite a few stories of his days with Chuck Berry, Budgie, Billy Boy Arnold, etc. One funny memory of him was when he once had a load of teenage musicians sitting on the floor, lapping up everything he said as he told them of his experiences. He only needed a long beard and it would have looked like Gandalf and a bunch of hobbits.
Peter: Again too many to mention but I suppose touring as guests to Nazareth in Germany(1995) was a very enjoyable and memorable experience.
Are there any memories from Groundhogs, Billy Boy Arnold and Chuck Berry which you’d like to share with us?
Alan: Playing in Italy with the Groundhogs on the end of an airfield and planes taking off over us. With Billy Boy we had to get a roadie to start breaking up a club when the owner refused to pay, eventually he decided that it was cheaper to pay us. With Chuck Berry, seeing him standing on a pool table playing pool like golf.
What do you miss most nowadays from the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?
Eric: Although my roots are firmly in the music of the past I am actually very happy in the present. Even though age might have its disadvantages there’s something to be said about having several decades of playing experience under your belt when you do a gig and we have well over a century between us. I have no particular fears for good music in the future (blues or otherwise). I reckon there will always be good & bad stuff and as a general rule if you want the good stuff you’re going to have to look a little bit harder for it.
It’s great to see younger kids coming to our gigs often with their parents or even grandparents who are fans, We have often helped along some very young bands with support slots, etc. Some of these bands are playing stuff which was around many years before they were even born.
Peter: Descent hard working live Bands. I hope to see more youngsters embracing Blues and Rock and I fear all the electronic rubbish you hear nowadays will keep people from wanting to play real instruments.
Alan: The music scene has all but gone now in England compared to how it used to be which is my biggest regret and bands expect to be famous overnight without any experience. I hope that live music with prevail and not backing track bands but I fear that in England the new and exciting and innovative bands and clubs may be gone forever.
"Skiffle and Rock n Roll and old RnB are so closely linked and even a bit of Country, Elvis and Johnny Cash and even Jerry Lee Lewis all played a variety of styles stemming from Robert Johnson and Howlin Wolf plus of course John Lee Hooker etc. Janis Joplin covered all the styles very well." (Photo by Nicolas Delgrange)
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Eric: A new set of bass strings for Alan, he’s been using the same one for 38 years.
Peter: More talent less looks.
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Rock and continue from US to British Blues boom?
Eric: I think because of the circumstances and limitations surrounding the blues as it developed the artists had to be imaginative and had to make up their own rules. This tradition seems to have been inherited by the various offshoots of the blues such as rock n roll, blues rock, progressive blues, etc.
Peter: I would say guys like Hooker and Muddy Waters etc. influenced everything in the old days but now nothing coming out of the USA really impresses me much.
Alan: Skiffle and Rock n Roll and old RnB are so closely linked and even a bit of Country, Elvis and Johnny Cash and even Jerry Lee Lewis all played a variety of styles stemming from Robert Johnson and Howlin Wolf plus of course John Lee Hooker etc. Janis Joplin covered all the styles very well.
In your opinion what was the reasons that made the UK to be the center of the Blues Rock searches at the 60s?
Alan: The British bands were the first to bring the blues to the UK and so many new bands sprang from that with the Yardbirds, Animals and Free and eventually Led Zeppelin.
What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?
Eric: I have met many really great people over the years, kindred spirits who love their music and I have had some great laughs often making fun of the strange predicament we find ourselves travelling all over the place from Dubai to Budapest to Billericay so we can play the same 3 chords in exchange for a round of applause/drinks (and some money hopefully). It’s been nice to have the opportunity to meet and maybe chat with musicians I respect, from John Renbourn or Lemmy to Chris Dreja & Big Joe Turner. There were always band members from various well known bands turning up backstage.
Three hours of drummer jokes from Lindisfarne in the bar after a Groundhogs gig. I wish I could remember all of them. The obligatory after gig drinks with Pete Agnew (Nazareth) were hilarious.
Peter: Playing with Egypt is enough to keep me laughing and emotional most of the time.
How has the music industry changed over the years? Do you believe in the existence of real Blues nowadays?
Alan: The music business is its own worst enemy, everything has to be instant nowadays and musicians are trying to be famous rather than create good music. There are a lot of real traditional blues bands around but they risk all sounding alike with a chance of being boring. They new blues bands are putting their own style to the music which will help to keep blues vibrant and interesting and very much alive for new blues lovers.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
Eric: I was a bit too young to really appreciate the golden eras of blues, blues rock and late 60s early 70s explosion of experimentation by what were once blues bands. As to where and when exactly, I would have a big problem deciding. Perhaps if I could borrow that time machine for a few months. I won’t damage it too much.
Peter: Never got to see Led Zeppelin play live so I would say Royal Albert Hall 1970 and watch them do their thing.
Alan: Back to Singapore 1964 to spend another day with the Beatles, or the Cavern in Liverpool. Their early music was all based on blues and they took it to new levels in their own way eventually branching out to various other styles of course.
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