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An Interview with Deke Dickerson & the Ecco-Fonics
Well, Im sure youve all at least heard of Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics, one of the best Rockabilly acts to come out of the great state of California. If you havent had a chance to see these guys yet, then at least get off your duff and go buy their CD on Hightone Records. Dont get me wrong, their CD is great with its all star lineup. But you havent had the full Ecco-Fonic experience until youve seen these guys live. Their stage presence will knock you outta your chair and on to the dance floor. When you see Deke pickin' away at that double-necked beauty he plays, your legs just loose control and you can't help but to move.
Before the show he just played at the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C. with Mike Ness, I met up with Deke and the Boys to hear their thoughts on the band, music, and life in general. Ive been rambling long enough now, so Ill shut up and let you listen to Deke and the boys (Brent: Bass and Joey: Drums)
S.C.: I know that youve been making music for a good while, but just for the record, how old were you when you first started playing an instrument?
Deke: Well, I started playin' guitar at age 13 and had thrown together my first rockabilly band by age 15
S.C.: What band was that?
Deke: It was a really horrible band (he says hangin' his head in shame), based out of Columbia Missouri, called the Rockin' Tailfins this was about 1985, something like that.
S.C.: What were some of the other bands you were in before the Ecco-Fonics?
Deke: Well, I had the Rockin' Tailfins for a couple of years (again, shaking his head rather shamefully) and then I formed a surf band called the Untamed Youth and that lasted for a while...we had a bunch of albums out and then I was in a band called the Dave and Deke Combo, and that went about 91-96 and this band formed in late 97 and the rest is history. All two years of it.
S.C.: What originally made you want to play music? I mean, there are a lot of people that sort of toy around trying to play in bands but just give up. Youve been at it for 18 years now. What is it about music?
Deke: Umhhh.. It would have to be the fact that I was not getting any girls and all the guys, well most of them (flashing a sarcastic grin over to Joey), who were in bands were getting girls.
Joey: Girls is the main thing drivin' me.
Deke: Main thing? Its the only thing, man.
Joey: Yeah anyone that says theyre in a band to change the world or save the rain forest are liars, man. The only reason theyre in bands is to get girls!
S.C.: So did it work?
Deke: Yeah! (his eyes lighting up like a kid looking back on the day he first found the key to the liquor cabinet)
Joey: On the other hand, since I dont know who might be reading this interview, I'm assuming being in a band would also work if you wanted to get some fellas too.
S.C. (to Deke): Throughout your previous bands, to the present, who would you say are some of your musical influences?
Deke: Uhh...you know just all the guys from the 50's and 60's that I thought were geniuses. Ya know, guys like Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, Eddie Cocharan and Gene Vincent, Buddy holly, Bobby Fuller, Link Wray and the Trashmen. I mean, the list just goes on and on and on.
S.C.: How did the band, as it is now, get together?
Deke: Well, when the Dave and Deke Combo broke up I started trying to put together a band, and I mean it took me over a year to find these guys. We found Brent (the bass player) playing with a Western Swing band called the Lucky Stars, Johnny the other guitar player was playing with a rockabilly band in LA called Ramblin James and the Billy Boppers Weve had three drummers so far. The first drummer we actually had to bring over from England and then the second drummer was in a local LA band and Joey here, we got from San Jose, its Joey Myers, by the way.
S.C.: When you guys recorded the album, "Number One Hit Record" how did you go about getting such an impressive line of guest-all-stars for it, Like Claude Trenier (singer of the Treniers) and Joey DAmbrosio (Sax player of the legendary Comets) just to name a few?
Deke: I dont know if youd really call them all-stars. I mean, to me and you they are, but its not really like Claude Trenier and Larry Collins are really doing that much recording
S.C.: True, but some bands would have paid a bundle of money just for the chance to work with one of those guys, and you got all of them.
Deke: Yeah, I see what ya mean. Well, it was weird man. The Hightone recording contract was really the first time I had any sort of budget to work with and then I sort of made a dream list of all the people Id like to have on the record and as it turned out every single one of 'em was like uh YEAH gimme a plane ticket and a few hundred bucks and Ill do it.
S.C.: Nowadays bands tend to be grouped into categories of either Rockabilly or Swing, whether the title be fitting or not. What do you guys consider yourselves?
Deke: I guess the blanket term would be rockabilly, but we do so many types and so many different styles that it doesnt really fit.
Joey: I would say Rock and Roll but term has, over the years, just become so vague and misconstrued.
Deke: Nowadays Rock and Roll can mean anything from the Turtles to Eddy Money, ya know.
Joey: and unfortunately the general public doesnt understand what the difference is. Rock Music and Rock and Roll are two different things.
Deke: I think the rule nowadays is that if you have an upright bass in your band then its Rockabilly.
S.C.: What do you guys think of the recent upswing in the popularity of "retro music"?
Brent: Its great.
Deke: Its just a strange thing ,man. Ive been playing in bands that have been touring around the country for the last 11 years and when I first started doing this music there might be 3 people on the dance floor and a couple of drunks at the bar at shows. Now there are all these kids that are into it and people are really knowledgeable about the music. I mean, I dont know how long it will last, but its been a really great thing for the people that play the music, I guess.
Joey: The thing is, in England and Europe, it never went away and it was never considered dead or anything. I mean, this music will never be dead.
Brent: In terms of people saying that the retro bands that are popular now are sell outs... I dont buy that. I mean, if your doing something you like and your trying to make it appeal to people, its gonna have to be louder... its gonna have to be harder in order for people to really get it. I dont think theyre doing anything wrong.
Deke: OK that was Brents quote and heres Joeys quote now.
Joey: I dont know about "selling out." If people like a band and they get popular then they sold out...I think people would want to see their favorite artists do well instead of staying in little clubs for no money. Heres Dekes quote.
Deke: Let me just throw in my quote real quick. I used to badmouth everybody and basically tell them my true opinions but everything has come back to bite me in the ass so many times I would just like to now state for the record: I love everybody and everything and all types of music.
Brent: This is the new kinder, gentler Dickerson.
S.C.: On Hightones web page, it refers to you as the leader of the retro music movement on the west coast
S.C.: What other bands on the West Coast help that movement out?
Deke: It would be completely unfair to say anything about any I hate the term retro movement when I moved to LA in 91 Id pretty much given up playing rockabilly at that point because I didnt think that anyone could do it properly but when I saw Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys, it really made me wanna do it again. Those guys really influenced so many people on the West Coast to play, that it would not be fair to mention anything about the West Coast movement without mentioning them.
S.C.: What do you guys think are the major pros and cons of being on the road?
Brent: I dont know about cons but for pros, we get to play every night.
Joey: Oh, its just great fun...we meet nice people and get to see different communities. The Cons are that your stuck with the same four guys.
Brent: Yeah, but being with the same four guys makes the band that much better over time.
Deke: The pro is that I've been wanting to play music for a living for so long and now Im finally getting to live it out. It's sort of a trade off. I mean, you give up part of your life, but at the same time I'm getting paid to play music and I dont need to show up at 9:00 in the morning for some stupid job. I run my own bus. There are a million cons like the van breaking down and stuff like that, but Id never trade those hassles for flipping burgers.
S.C.: What advice would you give to other bands?
Joey: Dont quit your day actually scratch that, quit your day job, move in with your girlfriend, and play all the time.
Deke: You only get one life. If there's anything you wanna do, you gotta do it. There's always time to go back to College and get some crummy job
Well there are some words of wisdom to live by, straight from the horses mouth. So until next time, keep up whatever it is you do, and well see you again next month.