The DeRellas are a glam tinged sleazy punk’n’roll band from London that have been going strong for almost 10 years. They are a group of amazingly funny and talented musicians and I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the band and I think their music and live shows are astounding. They are playing Sunday, August 5th at Rebellion and I video chatted with Timmy DeRella about their upcoming single, his rescue dogs and why British restaurants need to stop trying to be so American.
Erin: Good Morning!
Timmy: How are you?
Erin: Good! How are you?
Timmy: I’m alright. I’m surrounded by dogs! It’s a bit chaotic! (Timmy has two adorable, black dogs with some of the most soulful eyes I have ever seen!) Here they are! This is Sammy and this is Rusky. And this down here is Alfie. (Pans the camera so I get to meet all of them!)
Erin: Oh! Look at their adorable little faces! (Sammy keeps shoving his face in the camera and trying to snuggle and fit in Timmy’s lap.)
Timmy: He was just dumped by the side of the road near a pub in Ireland. He was obviously a family pet. But he got big. He’s really big and clumsy. I think he was a puppy and then something maybe happened in the family or they couldn’t handle him being so big and clumsy. He was in the rescue for 6 months because he is big and not a puppy and nobody wanted him.
Erin: Rescue animals are the absolute best. All my pets back home were rescues. I think there’s a special place in hell for people that dump animals because when you take them in, they become family. Just because they grow up and aren’t little fluffy kittens or puppies doesn’t mean you get to chuck them out the door!
Timmy: They dumped him. It was in a very small community in Ireland, yeah and they dumped him next to a pub and they were about 5 miles away from the rescue and there’s only 1 in the area and they couldn’t even take him there! Anyway… He’s here now so all is good.
Erin: So, when did your dream of becoming a musician or forming the band begin?
Timmy: Since I was a little kid! Since finding a Slaughter and the Dogs record at Oldham Street Market haha. It was right around that time actually. There’s a big market in Oldham, which is a little town right outside Manchester, part of greater Manchester, it’s known for its markets. They had a couple of really good record stalls there and we used to get so many singles for like 50 pence or less than that. So good! I got a couple of Slaughter and the Dogs singles, The Flies who were another Manchester band, The Buzzcocks. It was all very Manchester oriented. I don’t know why they just got the Manchester stuff there, but they did. I was like 14, 15 and I always wanted to do a band but I was at school and my parents had split up and I was being tossed around from one to the other, evil stepmother, the whole bit. So it felt like it was never going to happen. I didn’t start a band until I was 21. So I didn’t play my first gig until 1985! That’s how late it started. I was going to gigs as a kid and loving it all, being a snotty little punk rocker, but it took that long. I couldn’t play anything! Originally, I got a keyboard and it was around that time that Human League and all that synth pop was taking off and it was like I don’t ACTUALLY have to play anything. So I tried to play keyboard and it was like “what the FUCK do I do with THIS?” Got no fucking idea! So I got rid of that and I got this really awful second hand bass guitar and the action on it, I’m not kidding you, I didn’t know any different, I thought this is how they were supposed to be-it was struggling to play like a cello! I was struggling to keep the strings down, you know? But luckily there was a guy that worked in the kitchen and lived in the back of the hotel as well (Timmy’s father managed big hotels, so he grew up living and working in hotels,) who played guitar and he showed me a few chords and he just goes, “this is E,” and I went from there. It took forever.
Erin: But you obviously were persistent and persevered because you play really well now!
Timmy: Yeah… Up to then it was like what can I do? I know! I’ll be a hair model! I don’t need to do anything I’ll just walk around a catwalk showing off different hairdos! Or I’ll help someone make clothes. I can’t do anything, but I could just HELP. (Laughter ensues between the two of us.) I think it was anything but get a normal job! You know what I mean.
Erin: Hey, a hair model is a real job!!
Timmy: I know! Why isn’t everybody doing it?
Erin: It’s like, how does one get into that? You really gotta know people!
Timmy: I don’t know. You know what it was like. Punk kind of opened the doors for everything and that was kind of my attitude. Why can’t I just do anything? Except work! I was brought up in hotels; my dad was a hotel manager for big hotels. So it was the only thing I was ever going to go onto. I was working in the kitchen of this hotel at the time that had a combination round the back. I had a ball really. And then eventually I met a couple of mates who had started a band and I just jumped in and went on the dole. We rented a house in Doncaster, Yorkshire and you think Manchester is grim, fucking hell! So we rented a house for around £16 a week and went from there really. This band, The DeRellas has been going nearly 10 years now. This all happened when I got back in contact with our old singer from one of those first bands who I hadn’t seen in over 10 years and he’d ended up playing bass in the Vibrators and touring the world and we totally lost touch but then reconnected. But I had had this name for years and originally the DeRellas was going to be a band a bit like the Bell Rays. We were going to get a girl singer and be a kind of punky/bluesy dirty band and the first rehearsal we ever had was going to be with a girl singer and we had a line up but no singer and it kind of just never got out of the bedroom, yeah. So that’s kind of how it started and it’s kind of gone on and I don’t want it to finish really so I’ve just carried it on. There have been plenty of opportunities to let it go haha.
Erin: So who are your major influences and who inspires you today?
Timmy: Personally or band wise?
Erin: Band wise and personally! All of it!
Timmy: Quite a lot of major influences, one of them which is more recent than anything is Manic Street Preachers on a personal level, I really hooked onto them back in the day. It was all anti-Nirvana because that’s all we had over here, you know what I mean? It was all the grunge stuff. And as good as Nirvana were, it was just kids walking around with long hair and plaid shirts and it was like, for fucks sake! Then the Manics came along and they were smothered in make-up and they loved The Clash and it was just like “fuck you.” I’ve always loved them and still love them now. Our new single has got a lot of kind of Manics stuff in there. So, the Manics, obviously Slaughter and the Dogs (we laugh as The DeRellas opened for Slaughter and the Dogs last year on their UK tour at the 100 Club and are opening again on this year’s tour at the 100 Club and Wayne and I always try to catch the DeRellas when they play if we are in England or if they come by France, and he and I have developed a good friendship with the band,) any side projects Wayne’s ever done, (more hysterical laughter,) it’s a bit dull really, the Clash and the Sex Pistols, a lot of glam rock as well. I’m obviously younger than Wayne, so 1977 I was 13 and the first thing I ever heard punk wise, well I was living in Scotland this is just before moving to Oldham and the first thing I heard was “Pretty Vacant” on Radio Luxembourg. What’s weird is, you know the whole radio under the covers thing at night time, we all did it, I liked music a lot and I used to look down the listings of Radio 1and always at about 10:00 there was thing called “The John Peel Show,” I never turned it on because at school I knew of an old folk song called “D’ye Ken John Peel” (about the nineteenth century English huntsman,) so I thought John Peel was some folk program! So I listened to Radio Luxembourg! And it took me ages to discover John Peel’s show and it was by accident, I stumbled on it and heard something great and I thought, have I been missing out for years?!?! I really thought it was a program with ol’ diddly-diddly music with flutes and men in tights!
Erin: Isn’t it funny as a kid or when you’re younger how you get that idea in your head based on something small or silly, like it’s some stupid fat, old bearded hippie show and you’re stuck on that and then one day it’s like, wait a minute! Why did I even THINK that?
Timmy: So I ended up hearing “Pretty Vacant,” which didn’t come out until 1978, I’m not sure but it was quite late and around that time I was English living in the highlands of Scotland and would get the piss ripped out of me at school quite a lot. Then the Pistols did Bill Grundy or something because punk was all over the front pages of the papers yeah and my dad, now this is all coincidence, my dad used to make me have my hair cut really, really short, but if I towel dried it, it would stick straight up and everyone at school was taking the piss out of me saying, “Tim the punk” and all this and it was an insult and I didn’t know anything about it! Then I heard this Pistols thing then it connected! It clicked. Then I kept doing it and my dad’s going, “what are you doing with your hair like that?” and I’m going, “you made me cut my hair this short!” I’d go to school like that and then played into it and it all went from there. So, again, a load of accidents! Because I was the outsider in Scotland, I played up to it. I’ve always been the outsider just because I came from a broken home I suppose. Get the violins out!
Erin: So what inspires you today then?
Timmy: Defiance, I think. Obviously I love writing songs, it’s my big thing, love performing; don’t really like the grind of doing everything, but who does? I do everything-record company, the club nights, promotion, so I’ve created this THING where I’m just doing everything. It’s a bit of ‘you want it done a certain way, do it yourself’ but no one else has shown as much enthusiasm for what I do. The new album is just gonna be about defiance. Defiance and hope. The new single is called “High Rise Supersize” and the title kind of sums it up. It tells you what it’s about! The front cover is the Statue of Liberty with her eyes crossed out, that will probably be banned in the States haha. So defiance and hope.
Erin: I know you’ve got a new singer, Joey. How is it working out and how has it changed or improved the band?
Timmy: It’s working well. We’ve done a LOT. He’s only been in the band since August. We had 3 rehearsals and then took him to Germany. And we’ve kind of not stopped really! Just done the single, doing a video next week for the single, we’re writing the album, so hopefully the album is out towards the end of this year/beginning of next year. Joey is much different. When we first met, we both had Johnny Thunders t-shirts on! He was in a band called The Breakdowns for 15 years and then they split up last year and they were kind of a garage-punk band. We came from the same side of the tracks. It’s working out well!
Erin: I’m really glad it’s going well!
Timmy: He’s way more that New York Dolls/Johnny Thunders kind of thing.
Erin: I haven’t seen you guys play with him yet, but in all the photos and your promo stuff and live videos it looks like he’s got a really good stage presence. He’s got a good ‘look’.
Timmy: He’s thoughtful and considerate, but that’s his demeanour. I do quite a lot of fronting on stage, but that’s never really changed anyway! I was like that anyway. He’s good. I like him. We’re getting on so hopefully it’s gonna work long term.
Erin: Then you’re going to hopefully have the new album out by the end of this year?
Timmy: Hopefully, yeah.
Erin: What would you consider your biggest success as a band so far?
Timmy: I don’t know if there is one haha! It’s a weird question. Being able to get through and record our third album without splitting up! Going nearly 10 years as a band that’s a success!
Erin: Do you have any funny stories to share?
Timmy: I did a radio interview the other day and I came out and the host asked me EXACTLY the same thing.
Erin: Ugh! NOOO! Damn it! I never want to be that person that asks questions the interviewee has been repeatedly answering! I need to come up with new questions! I hate that!
Timmy: Actually, one of the funniest is we just finished a tour in Italy and they put us up in this B&B and it was the last night of the tour and this is AFTER the show and whatnot. It was lovely, like a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere really. This Italian couple literally had just started it up, this B&B and I think they were hoping just to put up bands that played in the venue in this town, an older couple. We were in twin rooms and I was with Robby and Luca and the drummer at the time were in the other room. We all went down for breakfast at different times. Me and Robby came down second. The guys were already downstairs right? We were eating the croissants and stuff and Luca could hardly contain himself, like desperately trying not to laugh. This is basically in this couple’s kitchen, big old farmhouse table and I’m asking Luca, “What’s wrong?” And mind you, we’re all hung over and probably still a bit pissed! Luca responds with, “You’ll see, YOU’LL SEE!” And I’m going, what? The woman comes over with the coffee and we’re sat there and a few minutes went by and then these doors FLUNG open in the kitchen and then our host, the husband, flies through these doors in full kind of lederhosen-shorts, traditional hat and hurdy gurdy! Do you know what a hurdy gurdy is?
Erin: (Stifling laughter at this mental image already,) Yes! But why the hell would he be playing it at breakfast?!?!
Timmy: So this thing is strapped to him and then he starts playing Chuck Berry numbers!
Erin: Oh dear god, NO!
Timmy: This was not meant to be a joke. Because we are a rock and roll band, they were trying to entertain us! He stood over us-he was LOOMING over us, crotch level and you didn’t want to laugh because it would be disrespectful, but oh man. It was HILARIOUS. He did 2 or 3 numbers! And at the end, we just went, ok, APPLAUSE. Then carried on, “another coffee please!”
Erin: OH. MY.GOD.
Timmy: I know! We were just trying so hard not to laugh. It’s a surreal story, isn’t it?
Erin: Well, yeah! I can’t even IMAGINE somebody playing Chuck Berry songs on a HURDY GURDY!!!
Timmy: Yeah. This was obviously his “thing”, because he learnt how to play the songs! And to get dressed up and perform in kind of like, traditional-they were leather shorts! (We both start hysterically laughing at this point!)
Erin: Ok, that is a good story, I will admit! I was going to ask you about your future plans, but we know that you’ve got the album you’re trying to get finished by the end of this year, you’ve got the new single coming out April 6th via CDBaby and the vinyl and CD are officially out April 13th on Rockaway Records. You said you’re doing a video for the single next week?
Erin: What about tours?
Timmy: That starts in April and it’s kind of off and on, but we will be touring until we see you and Wayne in August at the 100 Club. (The DeRellas and Slaughter and the Dogs play the 100 Club in London on the 11th of August. The tour dates can be found on the bands websites.) Then we will have a little break and we’ll record more songs for the album.
Erin: What would you say is the best thing that comes out of your music/playing music?
Timmy: It’s kind of like the question earlier isn’t it? I love writing. I’m not sure why that is, but I like writing lyrics, I write 90+ percent of the lyrics in the band, always have done even when Robby was in the band. It’s being able to pull one over your position in life, isn’t it? I do like performing. Performing is sort of a nonce word, isn’t it? I like playing on stage. Bit of a performer. We played with the Supersuckers when we got Joey and Charlie Harper came to see us and I know Charlie quite well, and I asked him, “What do you think of Joey?” He goes, “Joey is good but why aren’t you the singer?” He’s going, “You can sing! Why aren’t you doing it?” The fact is, I am a front man in every sense of the word but name really. The first person we auditioned when we were looking for a new singer was me and it just didn’t work playing bass and singing because you lose, or we weren’t playing to our strengths. We definitely lost something on that side of the stage. So, I like performing, I like playing live, but I think creating and doing our own record label is the most rewarding.
Erin: What’s your favourite song to play live?
Timmy: There’s a couple. Always quite like “Stick It to the Man” just because. And then it kind of varies, really. You always get a kick out of playing your new stuff live, if you know what I mean. There’s a song that we do called, “Don’t Go” and I think there’s a video of us doing it at the 100 Club when we were with Slaughter and the Dogs and it’s a song that’s got loads of drum breaks in between each line, so they’ll be a singing line and then the drum break, so I perform in between those lines and drum breaks. I can do loads of goofy moves and pointing at people and just have fun with it.
Erin: OK, finally this is my last question and you can go walk your beautiful dogs! Do you think the internet enhances or destroys the creativity of the mind?
Timmy: Ooh! That’s a fucking good question! I think it totally suppresses creativity. I was chatting with Debs the other day (Timmy’s wife,) while we were watching this show, “Synth Bands of Britain” that featured synth bands like Soft Cell and Soft Cell were from Leeds and we used to go to a club on a Saturday lunch time in a shopping centre in Leeds, called The Photographique. I wish we could go back in time and take you there because we would have a ball! So we’d go up to this place about 1:00 in the afternoon in the centre of Leeds, all the grans are doing their shopping and it was a cocktail bar essentially, but someone had obviously had the idea that all the punks could go on a Saturday lunch time and they decked it out all black and really dark and we would be there til about 6:00 at night and then they would kick you all out because then it was going to be a cocktail bar for the evening. You’d be thrown out of this shopping centre, it’s still daylight, completely pissed, dancing to the Clash or Soft Cell or whatever, all afternoon! It was so great! This place held about 50 people and Debs asked, “How did you hear about it if you were living in Doncaster and the bar was in Leeds?” I was like, I don’t know, I can’t remember! But somehow we did and we all went and it’s that kind of pre-internet thing you’re talking about.
Erin: Yes! That word of mouth, kind of treasure hunt thing. I think it’s easier for kids to find a community they fit into today, like punk, by utilising the internet, but that whole you have to work to discover it aspect is gone.
Timmy: Wait! Wait! I have to show you something that is totally irrelevant to what we were talking about! We started doing our very own fanzine (shows me a very cool looking fanzine,) and it’s a giveaway fanzine. It’s going back to what we just talked about. Once a month, we do Rockaway Beach and the fanzine is kind of promoting the club more than anything else, but it’s part of everything you just said instead of just clicking on to everything on the internet, trying to keep it real baby!
Erin: Amen to that! So, do you list different shows or events or what’s all in the fanzine?
Timmy: In this month’s fanzine, all it is basically, is a piece of A4 paper that folds out and is double sided. We’ve got this picture of Joan Jett, a bit saucy really, above Rockaway Lifestyle Tips. This month, Rockaway hits are, beer and/or eyeliner, laughing at pre-distressed denim jeans, aren’t they just fucking shite, those things? Solitude as an option, punk rock, prosecco as a toilet cleaner and chips and mushy peas! Then, these are our galloping shites, things that we don’t like; drug bores, retractable dog leads, wilful ignorance, mushy peas as a side, crap shoes and using the word ‘side’ instead of ‘accompaniment’! On the side is so American! Isn’t it shit? We don’t say ‘side’! You’ve got me on it now-restaurants here have been going all-American, so you go into a restaurant and some snotty kid picking his ass will come and sit down with you and go, “HI GUYS! HOW ARE YOU TODAY! THESE ARE THE SPECIALS!” It’s like, excuse me? Who’s having dinner here? Sat at the fucking table! Pulling up a chair! “Hey DUDE.” Shall I send you one in the post?
Erin: (Trying to breathe amongst hysterical laughter over Timmy’s diatribe,) YES! It’s brilliant!
Timmy: So in this month, there’s also the review of the DeRellas single, there’s a review on Starsha Lee’s new single and then just bits and bobs really. So we are gonna be doing this every month.
Erin: Fantastic! Something that may seem so small, I think it’s a really big and important deal not to lose that kind of working with your hands creativity. I love this! Well, Timmy, thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me. I’m excited to hear the new single and excited to see you and the band in August!
Timmy: Thank you! We’ll see you soon!
Timmy and his wife Debs also head London’s best punk club, Rockaway Beach. They have monthly music events and all the info can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/rockawaybeachuk/ It’s definitely worth checking out and a super cool punk community!