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  • Baz Francis: British Rocker Speaks About His New Album, Flying Solo & His First Time in Egypt


    Cairo Jazz Club has hosted musicians, bands and DJs from across the globe over the years, but none quite like Baz Francis. Set to perform on Tuesday 16 May – a night that will also see The Meteors Project take to the stage – the British singer and musician arrives at The Jazz as part of a rather ‘alternative’ world tour to promote his first solo album.

    But Francis is no rookie; the mohawked musician has released three albums, two EPs and a string of singles as part of rock band, Magic Eight Ball – a group that has been compared to the power pop acts of the 70s and 80s. He’s not just another guy with a guitar, either, as we found out when we got the lowdown on one of the most unique musicians you’ll see in Cairo this month.

    -Describe Baz Francis in five words.

    Shaken, stirred, taken, heard and trying.

    -Nice – extra points for making it rhyme. How do you feel having just released your first solo album – excited, nervous, exhausted?

    All of the above! This has been an intense process that I had not seen being this complicated at the start, so it really feels like a beautiful release now that it’s right and finally here.

    -How does your solo material differ to that of Magic Eight Ball?

    The first obvious difference is the lesser degree of distorted guitars on ‘Face That Launched A Thousand Shipwrecks’ compared to the Magic Eight Ball albums so far, but that would be wrong to summarise with that point alone. I think that my song-writing here and on future solo work too will continue to lean more on my soul and folk-based influences than my rock ones, but no album of mine tends to stay in one lane for too long.

    -So does your solo flight mean the end for the group?

    Oh, no no. Magic Eight Ball is stronger than ever right now, my solo work is just another string to my multi-coloured bow. I want to take the band further down the heavier rock route and continue touring as such a outfit for the next Magic Eight Ball album, but I also want to simultaneously establish myself as a solo singer-songwriter and soul act as well, hence why now was the right time to begin a bona fide solo career as well having the band.

    -You’re performing at Cairo Jazz Club as part of a rather unique world tour that will also see you visit places like Iceland, Turkey and even Macedonia – what’s the thinking behind these off-the-beaten-track locations?

    Everywhere is always close to someone I like. Ever since the momentum really picked up with my music a few years ago, it has afforded me opportunities to try my luck in increasingly more distant lands, so I didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to play in places that I’d always wanted to visit. There is nothing wrong with the ‘beaten-track’ as you put it, but I was keen not to leave out other places. The Balkans and Africa have been overdue a musical visit from me and the enthusiasm from people for me going that extra mile this year has been so heart-warming.

    -Oh, so this is your first time in Egypt? You’re in for quite the ride – do you have any expectations?

    This is my first time in Egypt but my third time in any part of Africa, so I’m really looking forward to coming out to you! Your home country has been somewhere I have wanted to visit for a long while, and my Mum cycled for 200 kilometres down the Nile a few years ago, so my expectations are high following her own tales of Egypt.

    -It’s a clichéd question, but you (and Magic Eight Ball) have such an eclectic sound – who do you consider to be some of your biggest influences?

    If I were to list them all then I would be here all day! To pick a few though, it’s a huge hosts of acts from Guns N’ Roses to Marvin Gaye, Queen to Parliament, Metallica to Hall & Oates, Manic Street Preachers to Squeeze. I’m obviously excluding many of my favourites still, but the majority of them exist on the rock/soul end of the musical spectrum, I’d say. I feel that eclecticism is what keeps music interesting, not just for myself, but for my favourite other acts too. Probably the best example of someone’s level of artistic variety influencing me (in theory if not always literally) would be Queen. Freddie Mercury is my favourite songwriter, and his completely unique and multifaceted musical ability is a constant source of reference to me.

    -What differences have you found between writing and recording music with Magic Eight Ball and doing so by yourself?

    Well I don’t write with Magic Eight Ball, I write for the band, so writing a solo album is no different in that sense, as I do both alone. The ways in which this album have been different to Magic Eight Ball ones however are the recording methods we used this time, working with new people is always an experience too, plus having a different musical agenda for this record has given the whole album a new feel to me.


    -You’re no Helen of Troy, but you’re a pretty handsome fella all the same –what’s the significance behind the album name, Face That Launched a Thousands Shipwrecks, then?

    You're right, Helen of Troy would kill for my cheekbones! I think the emphasis on physical appearance in music can sometimes detract from the art itself, and sometimes that is quite a relief, but I would rather be one of those people who makes his music from the heart but has the face that launched a thousand shipwrecks.

    - Some musicians like to entertain, some like to raise issues and some just do it because they like doing it – why does Baz Francis make music?

    I think that it's easy for musicians to sometimes forget themselves and regard their wisdom as greater than it really is. I tend to steer away from politics in my own songs and write about personal experiences instead, but a subject of protest that has become more of a prominent issue on this latest album of mine has been the violation of animals' rights. I also think that it's healthy to cover a variety of topics in my lyrics in order to express what I want to say on the subjects at hand, and music is my platform to do that whilst enjoying my particular veins of creativity.

    Catch Baz on stage at Cairo Jazz Club on Tuesday 16 May. For more information, click here.