by Chris Nicholson
ROCK STARZ MAGAZINE
In this day of greed and blind ambition, one bands ultimate desire is an audience that loves them. “We want people to come see us for every reason. Because we’re rockers. ‘Cause there’s a lot of energy. They like the way we look, they like the songs ’cause we’re performing them good, in an honest
and unpretentious way, and because they think we’re all sexy and they want to go to bed with us.”
For Rick Derringer, this is what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. After more than ten years in the rock ‘n’ roll rat race, these are the things that he candidly insists he wants for Derringer, the band he formed a year ago with guitarist Danny Johnson, bassist Kenny Aaronson and drummer Vinnie Appice.
Judging from the band’s strategy so far, these goals could well be on their way to becoming realities. After recording their debut album in early 1976, Derringer hit the road and toured diligently throughout the summer and fall, playing small clubs on their own and appearing in stadiums as the opening act for Aerosmith, before as many as 75,000 people. Last November and December, Derringer took off several weeks to record their second album, “Sweet Evil” (Blue Sky). As soon as it was completed they resumed touring, this time as opening act for Foghat. But the real catalyst to the band’s future development was employing producer’ Jack Douglas (Kiss, Aerosmith).
“The whole point of this band is to create a real audience, I mean a REAL audience … even if we have to tour endlessly to achieve it,” Rick stresses. “Not one that comes from a song, one that comes from people who have seen us so many times that they feel like they’re almost our friends … people that come to see us whether or not we’ve got a hit single or a hit album. On the other hand, when that audience is real, then albums become another access. People go out and buy albums just so they can feel closer to a group. It’s an automatic thing. If a band continues to do good music and the audience keeps growing, then at some point, coincidentally, they’re all gonna like one song and that’s called a hit single. It’s a snow-balling process. But it’s all gonna be dishonest if it’s based on a hit single only.” All this explains why “Sweet Evil” contains no obvious single potentials, maybe.
The album is composed of eight songs. The six penned by Rick include the title track, lyrical contributions by Cynthia Weil on “I Didn’t Ask To Be Born,” and Larry Sloman on “Sitting By the Pool.” “One Eyed Jack” and “Driving Sideways” are tunes Danny Johnson wrote while Derringer was on the road with Aerosmith. Danny is responsible for giving the band’s sound what he calls music for the head. He follows in the footsteps of those guitarists that pioneered “heavy” rock ‘n’ roll and names Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page as influences. Danny works in contrast to Rick’s more energetic rock ‘n’ roll approach.
Together they balance and enhance each others playing. While they still leave the band’s direction wide open to possibilities, the combination of the guitarists styles is evolving into a trademark for Derringer with all bases raunchy to rowdy-covered.
Danny came up with the title, Sweet Evil, from an old movie on TV and Rick built words and music around it.
“It has no real, definite, super important message I want to get across,” Rick explains, “It’s just that I think the words help to create the same kind of atmosphere as the music.” The lyrics, “Take me to the bottom/Show me where to sell my soul/ A promise sealed in blood/That says I’m never gonna grow old/It goes on ·and on/It don’t feel so wrong/That sweet sweet evil,” are sung like a ballad accompanied by lucid guitar melodies and bridged with a frenzied guitar solo.
“I think the only message we want to get across is that we’re not crazy,” Rick says, “We’re not politicians. We’re just a band that talks about the normal kind of stuff that most bands don’t. We hope we’re into things that people can identify with; I try to pick subjects that I would like to hear people talking about: ‘Don’t Stop Loving Me,’ that’s the Rick Derringer message.” Rick agrees that he’s written that song before as “Don’t Ever Say Goodbye,” on his second solo album, Spring Fever and “Goodbye Again,” on the Derringer debut. “I’m not afraid of saying something that’s been said if I feel like it’s worth it,” Rick continues, “It’s something I’d like people to understand about me. The longer they stay around, the happier I am, whether it’s friends or fans.” It’s about the mutual love between performer and audience, or it’s about a guy and his wife or friends. Rick was trying to think of a more positive way to rewrite “Don’t Ever Say Goodbye,” so he chose to do it by saying “Don’t Stop Loving Me,” and making the music more up tempo.
Sweet Evil is a truer representation of Derringer than the group’s debut album. Rick credits this to the group’s experience.
“The first album was just a picture of what we thought we were gonna be, so when it came out it was a two months old picture. That record was made when we were really young and all we could do was hope we were right. This one had to be more current. I don’t think. we’ve made any big changes. I think we’re on a real steady path. It’s becoming clearer to us and probably to other people at the same time.
When we first met we had to talk things over, but you know you can’t really put music into words. So, the real music didn’t start happening until we were on the road.”
As for Jack Douglas’ part in the current Derringer sound, Rick explains, “A group uses an outside producer to get his version of what a band should sound like, to bring out ideas that that band might not have thought of on their own. Jack really helped to get the songs out and get them streamlined.” Rick agrees that the result is really a spontaneous sounding record. “If you could create a really hot live concert and capture it on record, that’s the sound you’d get. It compensates for what you lose in transition from concert stage to living room. I don’t know if Jack plans it, but he does control all the factors to get a perfect live sound.”
Since they were on the road with Aerosmith and followed with the signing up of the same producer, it seems inevitable that some comparisons will be drawn between the two bands. Rick is aware of this and even mentions that
“Let’s Make It” sounds like Aerosmith, particularly the instrumentation at the end of the song. “We just happened to write it that way,” Rick comments, “Sure, the tour influenced us, but we all have common roots. That means we’re both drawing on similar influences all the time. I’m sure the particular influences that people see are reinforced in their subconscious and they feel extra good about them.”
“I have a lot of respect for Aerosmith’s position,” Rick replies in response to a question about Derringer becoming as successful as their New England buddies. “We can picture ourselves that popular, but that isn’t gonna make it any better or worse,” Rick explains. “Making it is just a place you go. Everybody seems to place more importance on it than they should. It’s like birth and death. They’re both just as natural and probably just as unimportant as the life in between. For some reason, people always speculate, ‘do you want to be that big?’ I think the whole point is that we really like what we do and if people just give us the time to continue, without hating us, then we just might get there naturally. It’s probably gonna be no different than this place, but that doesn’t matter.” Rick concludes on a promising note, “We’ll keep on anyway.”
RICK DERRINGER DISCOGRAPHY:
1973 All American Boy
1975 Spring Fever
1977 Sweet Evil
1977 Derringer Live
1978 If I weren’t So Romantic I’d Shoot You
1979 Guitars & Women
1980 Face to Face
1983 Good Dirty Fun
1993 Back to the Blues
1994 Electra Blues
1997 Tend the Fire
1998 King Biscuit Flower Hour
1998 Blues Deluxe
1998 Live in Japan (w/Edgar Winter)
2000 Live in Boston 1978
2000 Jackhammer Blues
2001 DBA- Derringer, Bogart & Appice
2002 Free Ride
2006 Live at Cheney Hall
2009 Knighted by the Blues