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BOB DERWOOD ANDREWS: ‘LOUD GUITARIST' - JUST‘GIMME SOME TRUTH’ INTERVIEW BY MELANIE SMITH

Bob Derwood Andrews has been playing guitar for over 40 years, he was at the forefront of the Punk scene in London in late 1976. He was discovered by Billy Idol at the age of 17 whilst playing in another band and was soon drafted into Generation X. They performed on 21st Dec 1976, at ‘The Roxy Club’ in London (the first band to play at the club). He played lead guitar with them until 1979.

After Generation X Der formed bands such as Empire, Westworld, and Moondogg. Derwood now finds himself living in the Mojave Desert. It’s great to be able to talk to a an old crush of mine not, but not forgetting a dynamite guitarist, who played in my favourite band Generation X.  It’s been 31 years since our paths crossed, sharing quite a few chats in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, way back in 77 & 78. I think its time I caught up with Der to find out what’s new on the horizon.

Hey Der how are you today…it’s great you decided to join us for a little chit chat. I guess we should start with the early days first and foremost.

Mel - I know this question has been asked before but for the people who don’t know why did you leave Generation X after the Japan tour in 1979.

Der - I actually left twice. The first time was around May ’79. I started getting that feeling of dread (like when you have to go to the dentist) when we would meet up. I really couldn’t stand being around the other guys anymore. It all seemed so phoney and so different from when we started. I agreed to return ‘cause Japan was booked and everyone wanted to go. 

We did a little tour of England and a few odd gigs after that, but it felt pretty desperate and the others were going to sign with a new manager (X Kiss!) and I didn’t want any part of that, so I quit for good at the end of ’79.

Mel - Do you remember any special gigs you played with Generation X, any great moments at the club Eric’s in Liverpool you can recall through the haze of time?

Der - The early gigs were the best, apart from the violence, but you really felt a part of something special, something new.

We never had anything but good things happen at Eric’s, a very nice crowd.

Mel - Are you in touch with any old Punksters from the good old days? 

Der - No, not really. I consider Rat Scabies a friend. He was out here last year and stayed for a while. He’s a good soul.

Mel - How did you feel at the time being a pin up boy for the likes of ‘Oh Boy’ which incidentally I have in my collection still :-)

Der - At the time it was pretty cool, seeing your face in a magazine, was a buzz, but unfortunately, the more times it happened and the type of magazines labelled us a certain way, which we paid for dearly.

Mel - Who taught you to play guitar at 10 years old? And if you were to start all over again at 17, which band might you be playing in and would you do anything differently?

Der - My older cousin taught me the 6 or 7 basic chords and everything else was learned by listening and trying to figure out how it was done. I used to play records over and over until I understood. Bands like Deep Purple, Status Quo, Bowie, Hendrix and Free.

I always wanted to be in Joy Division, I thought the misery was great! We played a show with them in Manchester once and I remember thinking ‘Fuck, I wish I was in that band’.

Mel - You say that success is overrated and detrimental to creative processes and you don’t seem to be interested in fame and all the trappings which go with a musician’s lifestyle but was it always the case?

Der - Yes, pretty much. I used to sit back and observe and it was interesting to watch people I thought I knew chasing that carrot. On a Thursday night after being on Top of the Pops I would go down the local pub and hope that no one saw it. I was embarrassed as to how our band came across.

David Bowie once said that his most successful time (as far as record sales and fame) was his worst music. That really has an effect. It’s hard to name a band or solo artist that has made better music once success and fame came along.

Listen to early Rod Stewart records, and then… ‘Do ya think I’m Sexy’!

Mel - I personally think you carved a niche for yourself as a brilliant punk guitarist who could turn his hand to most types of playing  but do you think you have been successful, in your way of thinking? Any regrets about things not achieved?

Der - Thanks. I think I was a real asset to the band, but no one at the time agreed and tried to quite me down as far as the playing went. They were worried about the Heavy Metal tag. I was a loud rock’n’roll guitarist, nothing to do with Heavy Metal. I think I was successful at my job, although I’ve never been paid for it to this day!

I have a few regrets but just trivial things. I never got to play Hammersmith Odeon (where I’d seen tons of bands as a kid) and I wish I had bought Paul Kossoff’s Strat when I had the chance.

Mel - Can you think of any instances where people in the media have got you all wrong and written misinformation about you? If you could speak out to those people what would you say?

Der - Just things like getting my name wrong! Bob Dagwood Anderson is a favourite. I just think if you’re going to do something, do it the best you can. Most writers just plagiarize what has been written before until it’s said so often that it MUST be true. That’s just lazy.  I read something on line the other day about Generation X. It was very intelligently written and you would of thought, this guy really knows his shit. But there was so much wrong information and the final kicker was- quote, “I mean, let’s be honest. Who’s ever heard of Bob Derwood Andrews”? That’ll bring you down to earth1 Ha ha… 

Mel - You’re currently writing your autobiography ‘Loud Guitarist’ which is a guaranteed to be one of my favourite books to own – what has been the hardest thing in starting this mammoth task? 

Der - Yeah, it sounds a bit pretentious for me to be doing that. But I looked around at other people who have books out that I’ve never heard of and don’t care about. I thought it would be a challenge and even if nothing comes of it at least I did it. The hardest thing was the research. 

Mel - Ha I read your comment about spelling mistakes, we both suffer from that – it’s a good job we have spell checkers…how far into the book ‘Loud Guitarist’ have you gotten? Is anyone helping you wade through the diaries and photo, are they your diaries? Do you have a publisher arranged?

Der - I’m about 40,000 words in. I’m at the age of 21. Yes they are my diaries and my Mothers. I have scrap books, photos, note books all kinds of references. It’s one of the reasons for doing it is to be very accurate with the facts. I don’t come out of it that well, I’m being honest. I was toying with the title “What a Cunt”, but I couldn’t see that in W.H.Smiths.

No one is helping me apart from a bit of advice and encouragement from a guy called Pat Gilbert who wrote a book on the Clash.

No I don’t have a publisher. I was thinking of just making it an audio book, basically another CD. Each chapter starts with a relevant song for the time or subject. It could even be a spoken word poet album! I don’t know, the main thing is to just keep going on it and see what happens. 

Mel - Is there anything so far which you have written about in your book which made you cringe or get emotional about? A difficult period of your life which you found it hard to write or express about? 

Der - Yes, but you’ll have to wait for the book! 

Mel - Favourites list…film? Album? Book? Singer? Place? 

Der - Film- The Apartment/Album- Ziggy Stardust/Book- South of No North- Bukowski/Singer- Andy fuckin’ Williams/Place- The Mojave Desert. 

Mel - I believe you have recorded ‘cum on feel the noise’ the old Slade classic, curious to know how this came to fruition and where can we buy this?

Der - I was asked to do a ‘hair’ band track for a tribute album. I chose that because a band called Quite Riot had a hit with it out here. It’s out on the 9th Sept on a CD called Hair Apparent.

Mel - What’s Der currently working on musically, any plans for the future you can talk about? Do you play any other instruments besides the guitar? Do you ever sing?

Der - I just did a version of Helter Skelter for Mojo magazine. That’s out in Sept. I’m trying to get a show on radio where I’m talking about guitar and showing how to cheat with good effect. Learn to play guitar with 2 fingers!

Yeah I sing, I don’t really enjoy it that much though.

Mel - Throughout your musical career when were you at your most content?

Der - I think contentment only comes as you get older, (If you’re lucky). So, probably now.

Mel - You have been rated as one of the most influential guitarists of your time not only fans but musicians alike. i.e Johnny Marr (The Smiths)rated you as his all-time guitarist hero. Do you have any messages for your fans?

Der - Yeah, you can Paypal me at mabel@moondogg.com No, if I have influenced anyone to pick up a guitar that makes me feel good.

Mel - Der you seem to be content with your lot in life plus a happily married man, how did you meet your ‘Desert Doll’? Do you have any little Derwood’s running around? Is your wife musical or creative?

Der - I met the ‘Doll’ in a bar in LA 12 years ago. I have four Derwood dogs running around. A good friend of mine said (when I told him we were thinking of having a kid) “Get a dog”. So we got a Boston Terrier called Ted, then another Boston who’s deaf called Mabel, then we rescued a mummy Pit Bull called Big Lou and the latest knucklehead is Charlie Bean Sprout who we found on the side of the road.

My Wife is a graphic designer and photographer; she has good taste in music but not musical in that sense.

Mel - What made you move out into the Arizona desert? What do you miss about the UK and when did you last pay these English shores a visit? Has your accent changed, have you gone all American?

Der - I actually moved to the Arizona desert 16 years ago and was paid handsomely to do so. That’s another story though. I’ve been in the Mojave Desert in California now for just over 6 years.

I miss Twigglets and Frey Bentos steak and kidney pies. That’s it.Oh and warm beer. I was last in England just over ten years ago.

No my accent has gotten even more common I think.I use American words, just for my convenience. I got sick of people saying “What!” all the time. “No, the spanner’s in the boot, next to the crisps”. Translation- “No, the wrench is in the trunk, next to the chips”. 

Mel - Finally what do you do for fun in the desert; go on make us sick, it’s raining like ‘cats and dogs’ here, whilst you’re probably in the soaring heat.

Der - To me the desert is an amazing place. It is harsh as hell. When it rains it rains so hard. It floods and rivers appear from nowhere. Then a few days’ later plants, insects and creatures are all brought to life. It gets so hot, if I were to break down on my motorcycle and had no water I could be dead within 3 or 4 hours. It gets so windy the tree I planted 4 years ago ended up a mile down the road. It gets so cold and snowy the dogs have to be dragged out for a shit.

So as far as what do I do for fun? Just surviving all that plus rattle snakes, black widows, tarantulas, coyotes, killer ants etc. is my idea of fun.

Thanks Der, many thanks for engaging with me today, and good luck with your latest projects…I am sure you book will be a big seller. I know I will be buying it! 

Der - You are very welcome. Regards, Der.

Derwood's Myspace: www.myspace.com/derwoodandrews