Interview: Jeff James of Egypt Central Talks 'White Rabbit'

After parting ways with two labels while trying to release a debut album, a lot of bands would have called it a day.

Not Egypt Central.

The Memphis-based quartet — vocalist John Falls, guitarist Jeff James, bassist Joey Chicago and drummer Blake Allison — simply worked harder, managing to get their track "Over and Under" into the 2007 action-movie The Condemned without any label assistance before finally finding a home with Fat Lady Music to release their self-titled debut in 2008.

After touring relentlessly behind Egypt Central, the band hit the studio in December 2010 with producer Skidd Mills (Sick Puppies, 12 Stones) to record their sophomore effort, White Rabbit.

With White Rabbit, Egypt Central have managed to take the best qualities of turn-of-the-century nu-metal, update them for the modern world and add a dark melodic sense to create a sound that's sinisterly catchy.

Just days before the release of White Rabbit, we caught up with Egypt Central guitarist Jeff James to talk about the new album.

GUITAR WORLD: So you’re now the only guitarist in the band now?
JEFF JAMES: That’s correct.

Did you change your writing process at all, writing for one guitarist instead of two?
I won’t say it changed too much. Dynamic-wise, we try to throw as much as we can into our music, so that part wasn’t too difficult to tackle.

Is it harder to maintain all those dynamics in a live setting?
I’d say it’s definitely more difficult to incorporate all the guitar elements in there. We pretty much just rearranged the songs to keep the band a three-piece and vocals, though.

What sort of guitar are you using on White Rabbit?
The new Peavey PX series.

What about amps?
My new gear set-up is everything Peavey. [laughs] I’m playing the new ValveKing 100 through two Peavey cabs. I A/B them, using one for clean tone and one for dirty.

You don't seem to use a lot of effects. What's your pedal selection like?
I have a few Boss delay pedals and a Morley wah pedal, and that’s about it. I try to keep it as generic and simple as I can.

Was the recording process for White Rabbit analog or digital?
Oh, it was all done in ProTools.

Was there much done to your guitar tone in post-production or is what we’re hearing on the album basically the sound coming from your amp?
Basically, that’s right! What you’re hearing is the sound coming out of my amp.

That’s good. I’ve always embraced the philosophy that you get the sound right when you record, and then mixing is just sort of volume adjustment and panning.
Absolutely, I agree 100 percent.

You guys have had a few years off since the last album, 2008’s Egypt Central. How long have you been working on the song ideas for White Rabbit?
Probably since about 2007. It [White Rabbit] is a combination of a bunch of different material we’ve all been working on over the past few years while we had been touring. We finally got the chance to go do the new record, and it’s kind of a mix -- we call it a tacklebox -- full of different ideas we just kind of pulled out and threw together. [laughs]

Do you guys write on the road a lot?
We definitely write on the road. I would say we all write, so, you know, Monday, Blake [Allison, Egypt Central drummer] may come to me with an idea and we work on that. The next day, someone else comes up with an idea.

It’s pretty cool that we have four guys that can all write together and start a central idea and just kind of spread out from there.

Where do you do most of your writing while on tour? The bus, soundchecks ...
Soundcheck, acoustics on the bus, parking lot of a Wal-Mart. [laughs] You name it, we’ve done it.

You guys have been through your share of trouble with labels in the past and have been fighting pretty hard to get to where you are now. After being together for almost a decade now, how does it feel to finally start getting some recognition?
It definitely feels good. You know, we’ve worked really hard. To work hard for so long and to see your work start to pay off is a great feeling.

Any advice to young bands who might be discourage by the ugly side of the music industry?
Absolutely. I know, as cheesy as it sounds: Keep sticking with it and keep believing in yourself. That’s it. Keep your head up.

The new album from Egypt Central, White Rabbit, comes out Tuesday, May 31, via Fat Lady Music. Keep an eye out for the new video for the title track in the coming weeks.

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.