The Derangers

Photo © Drew Townson

Al, Paul, Drew, Adam

Band Name: The Derangers

Genre: Westermental Surf

Geographical Area: Boston MA

Interview with Drew by email on 12/27/12


1. What is the current line-up of your band (include band member names)?

Drew Townson, Founder, Lead Guitar, Songwriting

Paul Gallo, Drums

"The Reverend" Al Harper, Guitar

Adam Cat, Bass


2. How and when did you get started with your band?

We actually started in Texas in the mid-80s but at that time it was not all instrumental. It was a play on the name "Texas Rangers" but we thought "Texas DE-rangers" would be funny, because we considered ourselves deranged. I (Drew) moved to Boston in the late '80s and by 1990 I re-started the Derangers up here. I had always enjoyed Surf Music as well as Westerns and good movie themes. I was attracted to TV themes like Bonanza, Perry Mason and Star Trek. One day I was watching TV and caught one of the legendary Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns - I think it was "For a Few Dollars More" and the music just blew my mind. I immediately wrote my own western theme called "Rio Sangre". It was picked up by a Boston roots-music compilation which was released world-wide in 1990 called "North by Northeast: Roots Rock Etc." By 1993 we were an all instrumental trio playing original surf, classic surf, and a lot of "Westermentals". So our take on the instro thing had a definite desert-surf cowboy western twang to it. By the time the mid '90s surf revival happened, The Derangers became among the top bands in that scene, playing all these surf shows and eventually going on tour in '96. I produced and released Boston's most famous surf-compilation in 1996, "Tube: Atlantic Surf Essentials". We continued to play and record until Y2K when we finally turned off the reverb, so to speak. In the 2Ks I turned my attention to my other musical love, Country, Alt Country and Tex-Mex and did that for years. I still have a non-surf band called "Los Texicanos."

In 2011, my wife said to me, "Why don't you bring the Derangers back? That was great stuff and the time feels right to do it again." Boy was she right! I had already been thinking about it, and I still play with Derangers drummer Paul Gallo, so I talked to Paul and he said, "Yes, let's do it!" We had our first Derangers gig in over 11 years in November of 2011. We had absolutely NO IDEA there was a new wave or surf happening. We were not aware of the revival, but it became aware of us. In 2012 we had dozens of Derangers gigs and the band has become more popular than ever. We have been wildly received by both our own generation of instro fans, as well as a whole new crowd of younger surf-lovers. The Derangers "Westermental" sound is back!



3. What bands or music have influenced you most?

Ennio Morricone, Dominic Frontiere, David Lynch, Dick Dale, Hank Marvin, The Ventures, lots of movie sountracks, all the usual stuff.


4. What is the break down of cover vs. original material in your live shows and/or recordings?

I'd say at a gig it's about 50/50. We do plenty of originals, and pull out some covers that you don't expect, like "Wichita Lineman", "Hawaii-50", "The Good The Bad The Ugly" and more. We always give everything our own tonal spin.


5. What recording have you done?

1990 - "North by Northeast: Roots Rock, etc" Various Artists, Northeastern Records

1992 - "Boston Gets Stoned" Various Artists, Bo-town Records

1993 - "Son of Godzippah" Various Artists, Zippah Records

1996 - "Tube: Atlantic Surf Essentials" Various Artists, Cherrydisc Records



6. What kind of gear do you use?

My pride and joy is "Daphne," my 1961 Stratocaster in Daphne Blue. Best sounding guitar on the planet and I still bring her out to every gig we play.

Reverend Al uses a James Burton Telecaster and we both use black-face Fender amps. We use lots of pedals and one of my secret weapons is my old Boss analog delay, the rare and sought-after maroon one that people pay $500 for in Hollywood music stores. Adam, our bass-player, uses Music Man or G&L basses (by Leo Fender). So we're basically all Leo, all the time.



7. What is your bandís favorite food/beverage?

Tex-Mex, BBQ, Mexican, Cervesa y Tequila



8. How do you get gigs?

Pretty much wait for offers. Got any? Because we need some right now!



9. What are the difficulties you find playing your kind of music in your area?

It's Boston. There are a million bands and far fewer live music venues than there used to be, so it's tough. We usually end up on multi-band "Surf Nights" and there tend to be at least one of those somewhere every month. Sometimes we find the most fun and surprising gigs are ones we don't expect. One night we sort of accidentally ended up on this indie radio-station all-ages bill where the other bands and the audience were really young. We're all old enough to be their parents. When we got to the club we were like, "Uh-oh." But we got up and played and pretty much took that place to school. Showed 'em how its done. Guess what? The kids LOVED us. They went berserk. Afterwards, they were all like, "What kind of music is that? We've never heard it before!" That was fun, so once in a while we'll do an oddball gig like that. But in-general its really hard to get a gig anywhere these days.


10. What positive attributes does your band have that sets you apart from other bands (of any genre)?

Well the Spaghetti sound really sets us apart in this area, and I think in the whole surf scene in-general. When somebody's putting a surf night together we usually get included because nobody else on the bill is going to do the Cowboy thing. That's our "niche."


11. What have you found to be the single most effective promotional tool youíve used to further your bandís musical path?

Giving away free beer at the gigs! (Kidding!). I don't know, really. Getting radio support is nice. Airplay and wide-distribution of our recordings over the years has made it so we have fans in England and Spain and Australia. Nowadays Facebook and ReverbNation have been great in getting us out there. And NESMA, of course!



12. Whatís the most interesting performance experience youíve had? 

Playing at a dive in New Orleans called "The Mermaid Lounge" in 1996. It was a shack underneath a highway overpass and you had to drive the wrong way on a One-Way-Street to get to it. We got there at 10 pm thinking we were really late, but the place was just opening up. We were the first band up - set-time midnight! At 11:40 there was no one in the place except us, the bartender and the sound guy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, people on foot began converging from all directions. This was a BAD part of town full of abandoned old warehouses and stuff, and out of the woodwork came these silhouettes of people, like zombies. By the time we started playing it was standing room only, and because we were on the floor, not on a stage, the audience was literally only a foot or two away. In fact people kept accidentally stepping on my guitar pedals. One guy lit a joint, turned it backwards and began shotgunning me and the band. We played the most ripping set I've ever played. Blew the roof off that shotgun shack! Good times...makes you wish you had a time machine.


13. What do you hope to get out of being a NESMA member?

To play some good gigs on some really interesting bills with other awesome instro bands.



14. Anything else?

Don't Fear The Reverb!