DERAPS – Party Like It’s 1984 – A Sitdown w/ Jacob Deraps

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Jacob Deraps

For some, the era of rock and metal that spans the mid-1980s is one that echoes if only from faded cassette inserts and reissue box sets.  The emergence of grunge, thrash, and nu-metal ushered in darker aesthetics and lyrical themes.  Guitar solos and major keys disappeared from songwriting and, to be blunt, the party was over.  Scantily clad women and band members clutching bottles of Jack Daniels gave way to heroin addled rockers locked in a heart-shaped box.  We were no longer hot for teacher.  We were sober under a black hole sun.  The 1990s and 2000s, without question, produced some of the greatest rock artists of any generation, yet that spirit of fun, of non-stop partying, went missing. However, for one band, the time for metal to be fun again has comeDeraps, led by the Canadian-born guitar phenom Jacob Deraps, is leading the charge to revive a time of shredding solos, thundering toms, and no-remorse party rock n’ roll.

Screamer Magazine recently sat down with Jacob Deraps to talk the state of rock and getting the party started, again.

There has been a steady reemergence of older rock styles.  Most notably, Greta Van Fleet has brought that characteristic Led Zeppelin sound back into the contemporary scene with their own unique approach.  In a similar way, Deraps has embraced the party-rock soul and musical acumen of 80s icons Van Halen.  “When I first heard Van Halen I, that was it.  It was the greatest sound I ever heard in my life,” he recalls.  “There is something about that classic Van Halen sound, that guitar sound.  It’s insane!  So natural.  Organic.  It sounds like a wild animal,” Deraps says, with no small amount of reverence.  “It’s so aggressive and raw.  There is something special about it.  It changed my world.”  Deraps, along with drummer and bassist William Lachance, have produced the perfect synthesis of fun and shred indicative of the best bands of the era—not an easy accomplishment.

Deraps, though it might be tempting to do so, cannot be dismissed as a derivative band.  Their influences are many and Deraps’ approach complex.  His work is celebratory rather than imitative.  “I love jazz and pop music as well.  Even Michael Jackson.  Earth Wind and Fire.  I love that stuff.  Steve Lukather (Toto) is one of my favorite players.  I’m influenced by a lot of different players.  Jeff Beck.  Stevie Ray Vaughn.  Stevie Ray Vaughn has had one of the biggest impacts on my playing.”  If one digs into their first album, the influence is obvious.  Tracks such as Wild to the Woman has a deep blues touch more akin to ZZ Top’s Eliminator than any Van Halen hit.  “I don’t think we have a specific genre.  We have a style, a sound, but if you listen to songs like Live Fast to Die Slow, it’s definitely blues-rock.  Songs like On My Mind are more pop in nature…It’s all about making good music and having fun doing it.”  They may not be breaking new ground, but Deraps is exploring well-traveled paths in new ways.

“There is something about that classic Van Halen sound, that guitar sound.  It’s insane!  So natural.  Organic.  It sounds like a wild animal.”

Everything about Deraps reflects their do-it-yourself approach: from instruments, to arrangements, to recording.  “The entire album we did ourselves.  Me and Josh.  The only thing we didn’t do was the mastering.  Everything else: the recording, the engineering, the arrangements, the songwriting.  Learning to mix from scratch?  You don’t know how frequencies work.  EQs.  Compressors.  So, you have to learn to use it.  We like to use analog emulation plug-ins from Universal Audio…They work to recreate that classic [recording] hardware.”  It may seem anathema for a band obsessed with a decades old sound to embrace digital production, but it shows their commitment to use whatever resources available to get there.  And, without a doubt, they do.

Josh Gallagher

When addressing being labeled a ‘Van Halen’ copy, Deraps is clear.  “Absolutely not.  It’s all about playing music that people enjoy listening to, and I enjoy playing.  If you listen to the album, I don’t think it’s a copy of Van Halen. Even if you listen to Greta Van Fleet, it’s so Zeppelin, but it’s great!  That’s what has been missing in music today.  You don’t have that kind of organic classic sound.  Each instrument has its own distinctive sound and tone…and that’s what we were going for: a more natural, organic, live raw feel.”  Deraps is playing a style that defines a particular time—one that connected and still connects with audiences.  Songs like Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N Roll are structurally and riff specific to that period.   Yet, we are also offered the more melodically original piece, On My Mind, which blends dark harmonies and power ballad choruses.  The band is not without surprises and not unable to step out of the constraints of their influences.

This music cuts through the haze of overproduction and autotune.  It’s unfiltered.  It’s direct.  Deraps gear reflects this.  “On the album, I used the Music Man Axis for basically the entire thing.  For amps, I used my Germino Lead 55, which is basically a Marshall Plexi with a 4X12 cabinet cranked all the way up.  No pedals.  That’s what you hear on the album.  I like to plug direct.  I think you get a much more punchy aggression.  When you start adding pedals, you just lose sound.  I like pedals, and I’ve tested many ways [to use pedals], but you always start to lose sound.  So, the Marshall Plexi [Germino], the Axis guitar, and that’s it.  It’s a minimalist approach on this.”  This stripped-down attitude results in a pure tone that allows the playing to shine.  Each sparkling note is clear and distinct.  Not everyone will embrace Deraps’ music, but, in the end, it’s honest.  It’s in your face, take-it-or-leave-it, rock n’ roll.

Approaching a decade that produced some of the most notable front men of any era (Roth, Halford, Dickinson), a band embracing this style needs to have its singer’s charisma turned to eleven.  Commanding onstage presence.  Unhinged, but in control.  Deraps, already handling the guitar, takes on lead vocal duties with that needed throttled chaos.  “I was sixteen when I started singing.  I was always a guitar player, never really wanted to be a singer.  I had trouble finding a singer, so I figured I had to sing if I wanted [a singer],” he laughs.  “I couldn’t find anyone, so I figured I’d try it and see what happens.  I developed my own technique by just trying stuff and messing around…with all these Coverdale screams.  So, at one point, I was like ‘I can do this’.”  This is modest.  It is difficult to believe that Deraps is self-taught.  His vocals have a casual feel.  Nothing feels forced, but nothing feels contained either.  You can’t unleash a lion and expect it to follow the rules.  The guitar and vocals ride the corners of perfection and abandon.  Deraps is uncaged—tightly crafted songs, yet never losing the unpredictable feel of the last stop on a Hollywood Strip club crawl.

Deraps rises and falls on their ability to capture that adrenaline to jugular exhale.  Their songs need to transport the listener into an alcohol and sweat fueled bender of near daybreak partying.  The song Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘N Roll is a breathless rush, not to the mosh pit, but to the dance floor.  “It’s all very organic with that live sound.  We wanted to capture something as if we were playing live even on the album, like Van Halen did.  One guitar.  One track.  One drummer.  One bass.  Not many overdubs.  Of course, when we play live, it’s one big party.  That’s what we wanted to recreate [on the album].  Have fun, you know.”  Track by track.  Lick by lick.  Deraps keeps the drinks full and the volume rising.

William Lachance

Lyrically, Deraps is not taking an introspective deep dive.  This music is physical, not psychological.  We’re not here to understand our problems but, at least for the night, forget them.  Drummer, Josh Gallagher takes the reins as wordsmith for the band.  With riffs like, “Sometimes you know, That’s just how it goes.  You gotta live fast if you wanna die slow,” and, “Her heart begins to race.  She says, it’s just for fun.  But, I can feel her tongue.”  It is tactile. Textural.  Spandex and leopard prints.  “Josh is really great with that.  Good with metaphor.  I’m French-Candadian, and my first language is French, so I’d rather leave that to someone else.  He is very good with that side of it.”  Gallagher’s lyrics fit perfectly with the essential soul of Derap’s arrangements.  It would be a contradiction to have anything but his lyrics put to this music.

“It’s all very organic with that live sound.  We wanted to capture something as if we were playing live even on the album, like Van Halen did.  One guitar.  One track.  One drummer.  One bass.  Not many overdubs.  Of course, when we play live, it’s one big party.  That’s what we wanted to recreate.”

Deraps would never have existed without their online connection.  The band initially formed via YouTube and online file exchange.  The garage band of the past may be history, but the cross-continent intersection of kindred spirits would not have been possible without the oft-maligned monster of social media.  “I would have loved if we had that situation of playing [together].  It’s been very hard, but at the same time, I connected so well with Josh that there was no other way.  He was the perfect drummer for us, and he sings as well.  He’s got that voice.  Kind of like Axl Rose.  The same vocal range, so we completed each other vocally.  And, he’s a great songwriter as well.  We connected on YouTube and started doing collaborations: covers of Van Halen, Whitesnake, and things like that.  AC/DC as well.  Eventually, I asked him to come down here [from Australia] to play some shows in 2017 for the first time.  Then my bass player, William [Lachance], we went to high school together, were in the same music programs.  He was playing guitar at the time.  I asked him to play bass.  He agreed.  We got Josh over here, and that’s how it happened.”  You can’t overstate the obstacles Deraps overcame to create this music.  Self-taught.  Self-promoted.  United by sheer will and a shared love of 1980s rock n’ roll.

It is time, again, to start the party.  Deraps has sent out the flyers and tapped the keg.  We can forget our problems under the decibels of punishing drums and chill-inducing solos once more.  “The music aspect is very, very important to us but having fun is as well.  Getting people to come to the show and not just have to stand there and look at us,” he laughs.  “Everyone has to party and have a blast!  That is what it is all about!”  No regrets.  The hangover is worth it.  Order another drink.  Deraps is buying.

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