Derek W. Brand (NTOs)

Derek W. Brand and Willie Nile Derek W. Brand and Willie Nile

Derek W. Brand and Willie Nile

By Joe Gagliardo

Derek W. Brand had been listening incessantly to Jimi Hendrix since early in his teens, in particular, side one of the iconic guitarist’s legendary performances as captured on the historic Monterey International Pop Festival LP.

One day, Derek flipped the record over to side two, and when he heard Otis Redding’s live version of “Try A Little Tenderness,” and Donald “Duck” Dunn, he decided to play the bass guitar.

Within a few years, after responding to an ad in a music store, Derek was playing professionally with older, more seasoned musicians. It was an experience that prompted a shift in his focus from soul / rhythm and blues music to roots and Americana music of The Band, and similar artists.

Looking to study music in depth, Derek enrolled in the Chicago Music College, however he was forced to study piano as the school did not yet have a curriculum for the electric bass.

A chance encounter with Chuck Rainey led Derek move to California where he became a student in the first class of the Bass Institute of Technology (BIT). Derek studied with Rainey, who served as BIT’s first director.  Note that BIT was among the first schools in the country to have a full-time curriculum dedicated to the bass guitar.

Returning to Chicago, Derek was playing with Jim Desmond, who was popular in local music circles. This choice gig afforded Derek the opportunity to share stages with U2, Captain Beefheart, John Cale, Nico, and other notable national and international acts.

After working with Desmond, Derek commenced did an eight-month run with a show band, playing four to six sets a night, six days a week.  Derek credits this time as a significant learning experience.

In 1983, as the show band was concluding their engagements, Derek and a high-school friend by the name of Nicholas Tremulis, began a collaboration which continues to this day, and spans about a dozen album releases, including two for Island Records, and scores of live performances.  Nicholas Tremulis remains among the most prolific and active songwriters and performers to come out of Chicago.

Although the band has gone through a few changes over the years, the NTO’s continuity of core of musicians still make them the among the premier ensembles on stage and in the studio.

Derek W. Brand and Bun E. Carlos Derek W. Brand and Bun E. Carlos

Derek W. Brand and Bun E. Carlos

Based on the strength of the band’s musicianship, the Nicholas Tremulis Band / Orchestra has performed a series of shows as the back-up band for a number of artists, including, Rick Danko (The Band, solo), Peter Wolf (J Geils Band, solo), Willie Nile, Blondie Chaplin (Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, solo), David Johansen (New York Dolls, Buster Poindexter, solo) Hubert Sumlin (Howlin’ Wolf), Maceo Parker (James Brown, solo), and Charlie Sexton – among many others.

Derek W. Brand and Hubert Sumlin Derek W. Brand and Hubert Sumlin

Derek W. Brand and Hubert Sumlin

As I, Joe Gagliardo, am witness, the term “back-up band” does not describe the experience!  Derek and the band absorb the artist’s music so deeply that they are at one with the performer.  If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know!

Derek has also maintained a busy schedule with projects such as playing “house music” along with producing and playing bass with The West Sidewinders.

Derek’s playing style is influenced by Willie Dixon, Duck Dunn (Booker T & The MGs), and other players, most of whom started on upright.  Not surprisingly Derek’s sound is rooted in early Chicago soul / rhythm & blues / blues music, and Stax records. He plays to serve the song and recognizes that what he plays touches the other musicians in the band.

Brand’s brand of playing style has also been affected by the fact that he has worked as an engineer in recording studios and run stage monitors for live shows.  Over the years, Derek has played numerous instruments, including his 1966 Fender Jazz bass, and a 1962 Fender Jazz bass which he removed the frets and had the neck epoxied. Sound familiar? If not, refer to Jaco!

Derek’s go-to bass for the past fifteen years is a Lakland double-pick up hollow body, which he tried at the urging of fellow band member and multi-instrumentalist, John Pirucello, an owner of Lakland.

If you get the chance, catch Derek and the Nicholas Tremulis Band / Orchestra live.  It’s a show you don’t want to miss!!!

Listen to the Brand…  

Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra with Billy Corgan and Bun E. Carlos, playing Roxy Music’s “Out of the Blue”

“Give Me Tomorrow” by Willie Nile and The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra

The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra with Charlie Sexton

The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra with Alejandro Escovedo

A “short” list of Derek Brand’s Credits: Charlie Sexton, Lonnie Brooks, Sugar Blue, Ivan Neville, Rick Nielsen, Alejandro Escovedo, Billy Corgan, Blondie Chaplin, Sir Mack Rice, Bob Mould, Chris Whitley, David Amram, Jeff Tweedy, Jay Bennet, Bun E. Carlos, Liz Carroll, Marianne Faithful, Graham Parker, Steve Earle, Sonny Landreth, Ronnie Spector, Hubert Sumlin, David Johansen, Mavis Staples, Ian Hunter, Kurt Elling, Peter Wolf, River Phoenix, Maceo Parker, and Rick Danko, to cite a few!

Derek’s Weapons of Choice: Lakalnd Hollow-body bass, Ashdown ABM 500, SWR Goliath Cabinets (Various), Polytone Mini Brute III, Retrospec DI.

Derek’s Influential Albums List: Monterey Pop – the Otis Redding side Natty Dread – Bob Marley and The Wailers Graham Central Station – any record 88 Great Original Motown Hits Jazz Winds From A New
– Hank Garland

Derek’s Favorite Bass Players: Duck Dunn, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Larry Graham, James Jamerson and Jimmy Garrison.