Man of the Moment: Derek Atkinson
Geordie music veteran Derek Atkinson is starting a new chapter after decades covering classic rock and blues – preparing for the launch of his first original LP ‘Nothing Feels Like The First Time’
We caught up with Derek to ask about his sudden urge to break into the industry with his own original content. ‘I went all the way through until the Hollywood Bees thing really, and when I decided I had enough of playing other people’s material, I decided perhaps I should start writing my own’, he explains. ‘All of a sudden all of these songs started dropping out of the sky. I don’t know where they came from.’
Derek is a classical rock and blues artist, writing songs inspired by his life, the past and the world around him.
‘It’s a very personal LP based on lived experiences, tending towards blues, and heavily inspired by James Taylor,’ Derek says. ‘Three or four songs on the LP are also from old EPs with my older bands, making the project a sort of musical history of my life. My songs mainly come about from very personal things that you just want to have a rant about.’
Staying connected to the people and experiences that made Derek is important to him, from music to friends (usually the two came in tandem). When asked if he still speaks to his old band mates he quickly says, ‘Oh definitely! I’m writing Christmas cards for them now!’
Derek bonded with his old band while on the road touring as a working musician.
’New Direction was the largest part of my musical career. I used to be on the road doing working men’s clubs, when at the time there were just so many it was ridiculous, even the Chronicle was full of different amazing bands. We were the first cover band to go resident in a social club here, we often played at Heaton Buffs following Burlesque who had a hell of a reputation as well.’
When it comes to musical history, Derek has an eclectic knowledge of hidden gems courtesy of his older band’s underground tastes. ‘We had a policy of trying to find really obscure stuff to play,’ he explains. ‘Bands such as The Tubes. The audience at times must have thought “What the hell are they playing?” but over time they must’ve warmed to it. We were just trying to keep our own interest in the music.
‘We did a lot of Huey Lewis and The News, their stuff wasn’t as well known then. And we did a lot of stuff from Bites, a very clever band from the North East. We did loads of Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, all the stuff we were really into.’ Clearly, the soundtrack of Derek’s life is a tasteful collection of rock, blues, funk, and everything in-between (a record collection I’d happily sift through).
Derek’s love for other people’s music is irrefutable, but also a massive part of why he felt the need to move on to more personal music production. Despite the jump into a solo album late on in his career, Derek has always maintained close working relationships with his bandmates and doesn’t ever want that to change. Speaking about his current studio band, Derek is quick to point out the talents of: the ‘brilliant drummer, Paul Smith’, ‘amazing base player, James Brown’, (not the James Brown, though I’m sure he’d give him a run for his money) and Derek’s keyboard player, ‘Ian Stevenson, who just has this real magical touch. I love playing with them,’ he says.
Derek’s new LP, ‘Nothing Feels Like The First Time’ is being pressed on New Year’s Eve and is expected to be on sale at JG Windows in Newcastle at the end of January or early February (Covid permitting, as with everything these days). As a man refusing to abandon the traditional joys of a physical record (rather than relying on cheaper streaming alternatives which are easier to shift and produce), Derek is insistent about creating a tangible piece of art through the medium of vinyl.
‘I record in Broadwater studios in Low Fell, and Paul Worthington the engineer there has helped me massively. He’s become a really good friend.’ He goes on, ‘You see, back in the days of The Beatles, you had to have a vinyl LP. They just came with so much information, you could sit down and read it and touch it – a memory stick doesn’t have that,’ he laughs. ‘So, after Paul remastered all the tracks for vinyl and played them back, they were just different songs, they sounded so warm. It’s a wonderful medium.’
It becomes immediately obvious to anyone that speaks to Derek that music is his life, and looking towards the next chapter his new LP will bring, Derek can be proud – composing enough material for a second LP and hopefully a Christmas single to wave away the negativity left by the previous two years of Covid Christmases.