Robertson, Mark (Cairo) (August 2001)

The Road To Cairo: An Interview With Mark Robertson

Cairo (© 2001 Magna Carta)They have signed with a great prog label like Magna Carta, are brilliant musicians, yet they still remain anchored to the underground scene ... they are Cairo, one of the many bands that, unaffected by the image-driven music that rules the world today, still play good, old prog rock, in the vein of the great bands of the past (Yes, ELP etc?). We took advantage of the recent release of Time Of Legends, their third album, to talk a little with their leader: keyboardist Mark Robertson.

Igor Italiani: Hi Mark. The first thing I would like to ask you is what happened with your past guitarist (Alec Fuhrman) and bassist (Jamie Browne), 'cause they don't appear in the line-up of Time Of Legends. Have you replaced them, especially for the live dates that will support the album?

Mark Robertson: Alec has moved on to working in his own studio here in Northern California. He is a fine guitarist and works on several projects. We, as Cairo, have decided to just hire different musicians for the studio projects just like we did on this last CD.

Cairo - Time Of LegendsII: Speaking about the album, can you tell me the meaning of the title, and how it is related to the beautiful photograph that graces the cover?

MR: I do not think that the two are related at all. We only wanted to have a different style of album cover and the one we have chosen seemed to fit the mood of the music on the CD. The name was an idea of our singer Bret. It relates to the lyrics of the songs within the CD.

II: I think that listening to songs like "Underground" or "The Prophecy," your love for Yes and seventies prog rock clearly arises. Can you tell me when this love started and how, even with the impending technology of today, it still lives within the sound of your keyboard parts (they have great "vintage" sound!)?

MR: I was a classical pianist and organist before I ever heard of Yes, ELP, Genesis or any of the other prog bands of the 70's. I then heard of Yes and ELP on the radio in Seattle, Washington. I loved the way that they merged classical licks and rock 'n' roll, and from that point on I started doing the same.

That was in 1975 [What? How old are you? -II]. Talking about the present, I still love many of the vintage sounds in the synths that I use, and in fact, to this day, I still utilize the Moog and the Hammond C-3 organ for many things.

II: Recently I've also interviewed Rick Wakeman and I asked him what were his feelings about the bands (and I mentioned exactly Cairo, because I was listening to your promo in the morning) that still implement very well the sound he "unofficially" created. He said he liked this a lot [what a great guy! -II], and he also added that it's natural that artists tend to look to the past for inspiration ? what's your opinion about that?

MR: Well, I am happy that Rick liked it. I agree that the sounds of the past are inspirational for today's music. Frankly ? I liked the music in those days much more than what I hear on the radio today.

Cairo - Cairo (1994)II: Mark, however do you think there's a huge difference between Time Of Legends and the other two Cairo' works?

MR: Time Of Legends is a heavier sounding CD to me. I wrote more guitar parts for more of a rock crunch guitar sound that Luis (Maldonado) and Brian (Hutchison) played on the CD. They are both great guitarists and played the parts I wrote as well as their own parts and soloing. The songs are shorter and more to the point I think as well. I like being able to say the same thing musically in a shorter amount of time.

II: Now we move to music business. Can you make a comparison between the progressive movement in your country and in Europe? I've seen that recently something is moving in the States (like the NEARfest), but I also know that in Europe there's a large audience for Dream Theater in a lot of places, and prog sells well in Germany?

Cairo - Conflict And Dreams (1997)MR: I really do not know that much about what is going on to compare. I do like Planet X and a couple of new projects that have just come out such as the new Kansas album and the Steve Walsh solo record produced by Trent Gardner from the group Magellan [excellent choices! -II]. On the live scene I just have not seen that much, unless you want to include Ringo Starr with Greg Lake playing bass for his band. They are on tour!!!! [No thanks! -II]

II: Considering this, do you think that Cairo will be able to perform an European tour soon?

MR: Well ? if we are asked to go to Europe on tour, which we actually have been, there would have to be enough money involved to make it worth it. If we had a whole tour set up it would be much more possible, so far that has not come about.

II: And how about playing with an orchestra. Would you be thrilled to record something with one?

MR: Sure, I have already played classical piano concertos a few times with orchestra, but to do it with a rock band would be interesting for sure!

II: Mark ? play (for a moment) the part of Nostradamus and tell me where is the music world headed?

Cairo (© 2001 Magna Carta)MR: Boy ? good question! I think it may be getting back somewhat to the more raw rock 'n' roll and maybe with some more progressive feel to it, but rap is still here as well, so I just don't know. I have never been one to follow trends myself so I guess it does not really matter to me what's the answer to the question, except that, if prog returns as a tendency, it would help Cairo' record sales.

II: OK. I think that's enough. There is something else you would like to add before saying goodbye?

MR: I just hope everyone that buys our CD will enjoy the music and that maybe someday we will be in your hometown to play [that would be great! -II].

II: Thank you Mark. All is left for me to say is good luck for the future and I hope to see you live here in Italy soon. Really soon. Goodbye.

MR: Thank you Igor for the chance to do the interview with you. Have a good time and hope to see you soon on tour as well. Hello from California.

Cairo (1994)
Conflict And Dreams (1997)
Time Of Legends (2001)

Added: August 16th 2001
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

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