(interview by Kristi Wachter)
Derek Osiecki is the bass player for Big Umbrella.* He seems a little quiet and maybe even a little shy in contrast to big brother Russ, but like the rest of the band he clearly enjoys a good time.** His steady bass lines form a deceptively simple foundation for Big Umbrella's swirling, seductive sound.***
** Totally subjective over-the-top description
*** Reasonably objective description
I interviewed Derek over the phone on Friday evening, July 7, 1995. This is one of a series of interviews with Racer artists intended for online publication.
Racer: What's your birthdate?
Derek: September 13, 1963.
Racer: Do you have any brothers & sisters?
Derek: Yes, Ruscular Dystrophy is the only one.
(Russell Osiecki is also in Big Umbrella.) Racer: What's your marital status?
Derek: Single, baby!
Racer: Do you have any children?
Racer: Do you have any pets?
Derek: Actually, no, not anymore.
Racer: Where did you grow up?
Derek: That would be a combination of Las Vegas, and then a whole lot of growing up here in L.A. after I flew the coop.
Racer: Where do you live now?
Derek: In North Hollywood.
Racer: What's your favorite color?
Derek: Oh boy ... now you're getting into the hard stuff. I think it'd probably have to be blue.
Racer: What's your favorite food?
Derek: That is absolutely impossible to answer. All of it. I love all food, all walks of life, every food I can get my mouth around.
Racer: Do you have any favorite books or authors?
Derek: Edgar Allen Poe, The Best Of - all his short stories.
Racer: Do you have any favorite movies?
Racer: Do you have any hobbies?
Derek: Yeah, ice hockey and any sort of hiking and all the outdoorsy type stuff.
Racer: What hockey position do you play?
Derek: That would be the left defenseman.
Racer: What instruments do you play?
Derek: Bass guitar, and at one time I was using Moog bass pedals, and I strum around on my brother's guitar whenever I can keep from breaking strings.
Racer: What previous bands have you been in?
Derek: I was in a band called the Generics out of Vegas - Edward was the drummer, and a band called the Enemy - that's basically the notable ones (or unnotable) (laughs). Just in and out of different bands out of high school.
Racer: What day jobs have you held while being a
Derek: Mostly being in heating and air conditioning installation and service, and sales. Actually, I cleaned carpets for a small company here called ZZZZ Best. Down here it was a pretty huge deal - it was a scandalous company. "Rug sucker" is the official title of a carpet cleaning technician.
Racer: Who would you cite as your major musical
Derek: Like band, or personal musicians? You know, I'm like hot and cold water. I just listen to different stuff and I'll enjoy something and pick up little parts here and there. As a kid, Rush was a very big influence on me, and - this is going to date me so bad - I really used to like Blue Oyster Cult a whole lot. And nowadays, there's just too many bands to choose from. There's no stay at home rock and rollers anymore, so it's kind of a mosh posh of everything.
Racer: If you were going to be stranded on a desert island
and could only take 10 albums or less, which ones would you
Derek: Oh boy ... it would have to be Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon;
Roxy Music's Avalon;
Rush, All the World's A Stage;
probably an XTC album, Oranges and Lemons;
any of the Police albums - Zenyatta Mondatta;
and Midnight Oil, Blue Sky Mining;
and Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream -
how many have I got left?
Racer: I think you've got two left ...
Derek: Well, it wouldn't be Fruit, but I think Guru would be one of my choices ... of course, that's always going in my head anyway, that's one I'd have to keep fresh on;
and then probably Elvis Presley's Greatest Hits.
Racer: What's your recollection of how Big Umbrella came
Derek: Absolutely none. (laughs)
Racer: You were unconcious at the time, eh?
Derek: Absolutely! Well, that's kind of difficult because Russ and I have obviously always been in a band, since day one ...
Racer: How old were you guys when you first started playing
Derek: Man, we're talking ... we were actually playing in bars in Vegas when we were too young to even be in there. We had to get sheriff's cards to even be able to go on the premises to play. I'd have to say like 15, 14 ... I need to find a new job! This is getting old! (laughs)
Racer: So you guys have always just been playing together,
and I guess from your perspective that's pretty much the whole
Derek: Yeah, because you're dealing with probably six or seven different band names, and it all just runs together into one big hairball. It's a blur since high school. We've been going at it pretty hard since then. But Big Umbrella came about I think after we got Eddie back. He was doing some other music in Japan with this, I guess a top 40 soul band? I don't know if it was disco or not ... but we had played with him out of high school, he went on to do bigger and better things at that point, finally hooked back up with him in Hollywood here, he moved from Japan - he lived in Japan for like five years, I think. It's been like ... when did you sign us? I think maybe a year before that, we were in a band called Great Rivers, it didn't work out with the producers, we kind of split our ways with them and became Big Umbrella ... you're going to have to get kind of colorful with that.
Racer: What are your favorite Big Umbrella songs?
Derek: That would have to be "Sunflower," "Bring on the Rain," and the new song, "Bait," which hasn't come out yet, and then "Lifter." That's it. I hate everything else. (laughs) It's really hard to say; since we try to keep everyone happy with everything, they're all pretty much favorites. But those are the four that are my favorites.
Racer: If you could put together the ideal band, who would be
in it? Who would you want to play with?
Derek: These three yo-yos I work with now. I think each of us has had opportunities to go do other things, and it's just such a headache to start over, and I don't think you could ever find ... let's say I wanted to go play with Alex Lifeson of Rush - which I'd love to - but there would be such a clash. It comes back to kind of a selfish "Oh, I'd like to play with this person", whether or not it's a style you even like playing or not. It popped right into my head ... it truly is our band. Through the years, we've gone through several member changes and just like any other band I'm sure, but you kind of evolve and grow up with guys you hang around with so much, and it either works or it doesn't, and now it's working. I mean, I don't want to pick out drapes with any of the guys, but I do enjoy their company.
Racer: Well, it's pretty interesting to me that you spend
time together playing hockey, too. It kind of implies that you all
do get along pretty well outside of music.
Derek: We actually do. And/or get out our aggressions pent up against each other. (laughs) Yeah, we really do. We get along real well.
Racer: How did you get started playing music?
Derek: One day, in junior high school, Russ all of a sudden - a band came out that was called KISS. And everybody in the world - all the kid musicians - were influenced by them. And at that point I think Russell decided, "Hey, I want to be in a rock band." So he got a guitar, and said "Derek, you're going to play bass, man." And I said, "Okay! Cool!" And my mom, god bless her, went out and bought our guitars, and amps, and basses, and we went to a local pawn shop and got the good deals on everything. And I took lessons for about three months, and hated it - hated the lessons - and from that point on decided I was going to just jam. And Russ was taking lessons, and that went very well for him. He picked up on it. I'm kind of dense at that kind of stuff - it's not my forte. But basically from that point, I've gotten in and out of it - it was very much too young for me to become so dedicated to something that I thought was really nutty. I didn't feel that I could ever be a rock star, so to speak, and when you're seeing bands in junior high and high school like KISS that are just mega stars in your eyes, you think, "Man, I couldn't do that! There's no way I could do that." So I went on to race motorcycles and do all my camping and outdoor and fishing stuff, and then just got back into it and then out of it and into it, and finally decided to stick with it, 'cause it was really cool in high school having a different date every time we played ... and that pretty much sums that up.
Racer: So you got into music for the girls?
Derek: No, not really ... maybe I stuck with it because of the girls. I've always enjoyed playing.
Racer: What's the longest you ever went without being in a
band or playing?
Derek: I would say no more than three months, and that might even be stretching it. 'Cause I did get pretty seriously and heavily into racing motocross. In and around Southern Nevada and Southern California there's a circuit. And then I lost interest in doing that, cause there was no chicks (laughs), and got back into the music.
Racer: If you were doing an interview like this, what
questions would you ask?
Derek: What on earth gives you the energy to just keep hanging in there and keep trying and just keep going? Cause with us, it's all four of us just bonding together and saying "We're going to make this work, period", and I would like to know other musicians' attitudes on what makes them keep going. And "How do you get the big deal?" would be one of the main questions I would ask someone who would listen. And I'm sure they'd say, "Keep trying, bud."
Racer: Do you think it's easier to hang in there while you're
trying to get the big deal, or after you've gotten it?
Derek: I think it would be easier after, because all this immense pressure of making that step would be off of you. Then you've got to sit down and really learn how to manipulate the business and keep pumping out the hits. God knows how the Stones do it, they just keep evolving as they go; that would be a pretty difficult thing to do, as a mainstay, like that band has ...
Racer: What other things do you feel strongly about or feel
passionate about, besides music?
Derek: That would have to be - I'm really twisted - fishing! I absolutely love to fish. It's something I do quite frequently here. I went on a really killer salmon run this year, catching a lot of big, big salmon. The ocean is mainly where I fish here. When I go back home to Vegas or whatever, all the fresh water, there's all kinds of lakes and stuff that I fish at, but here there's mostly salt water. That's a main passion that I have.
Racer: Do you have any other questions you'd like to answer,
or anything you'd like to spout off about?
Derek: I guess no, really. ... When is that hit gonna come along?
Racer: How would you characterize your contribution to the
Derek: Not very much to anything, to be quite honest with you. If there's something that really turns my stomach I'll voice my opinion, "Hey, this won't fly", and I think I've finally gotten everyone's respect and attention to that - OK, this is the contribution, if something really stinks he'll say "Wait, we cannot do that". And you know, you put your own little flavors in, like the bass parts, I pretty much have my freedom with that. But it's hard, with Russ, in such a feverish pitch writing a song, to crank out a song in like ten minutes, and he has the idea pretty much in his head, so for me to come up with all original stuff would take away from his basic idea for one thing, but it would take me like a month of really woodshedding to come up something better than his basic idea. So I just put a little icing on his cake, if you will.
I wrote lyrics to one song in high school - I don't even remember what we titled that song - we played it, and it went over pretty well, that's about as much as I remember about it. So basically, no.
Racer: Russ mentioned that he never goes back and listens to
Big Umbrella albums after they've been finished because he hears
things that he doesn't like.
Derek: I look at it like - when you're in the studio, and you pull the trigger, and out comes the album - you've done your best at the time. To me, to listen back to it is enjoyable, because you've sunk so much time and effort and money and all that other good stuff into it - that's my shot in the arm, that's my medicine, to be able to hear it. And on the opposite end of what Russell feels, I start picking out all the really cool things about it, and the bad stuff is like "Oh yeah, but we'll fix that the next time." I just look at everything as a stepping stone.
Any errors are the sole responsibility of Racer Records.