Formed by Bob ‘Derwood’ Andrews and Mark laff from the fallout of Generation X, Empire released an amzing album that has slipped through the cracks of music history.
What has kept the band’s name alive is the few people who were heavily into them have gone on to create some of the most influential music of all time.
The band’s chorused guitars and fractured rhythm,s somehow affected the early Stone Roses whose guiatr player John Squire and bassist pete Garner were massive fans of the band. listen to the early Roses now and you can hear Empire all over those guitars and even on some of the fractured drumming.
At another point on the music spectrum, Empiure were also huge in Washington DC. I remember Ian Mackaye from Minor Threat once telling me that there was one copy of the Empire album in town and how it was a massive influence on him in Minor Threat and especially on Fugazi, Henry Rollins has talked about them and their influence permeated through the DC hardcore scene and on into Emo c/o the original emo band Rites Of Spring. The chiming guitars were not only a massive influence on the early Stone Roses but I can swear I can hear the early Smiths in there as well.
It’s a bizaree legacy, two quite different scene inspired by along lost band.
Now living in the Californian desert, Derwood is one of the most inventive guitar players to come out of punk, discovered as 16 year old by Tony James and Billy idol;, his guitar playing in Generation X was stunning, tight solos, sharp riffing and he took this into another place in Empire.
Before Billy Idol left Gen X Derwood and drummer Mark Laff had already quit Generation X, dissatisfied with the third album demos to form the cult band Empire along with bassist Simon Bernal. At the age of 21, Derwood was writing and singing and playing guitar.
Empire was short lived, only releasing one album Expensive Sound and one single, Hot Seat. The trio played four gigs, before Bernal left. After many replacements and more gigs, they then morphed into New Empire with Babel Wallace taking over on vocals, Mike Gregovich on bass and Crispin Taylor as drummer. This outfit released only a white label 12 inch, but toured in UK a lot (supporting artists like John Miles and Roman Holliday) and later in Spain, where the band enjoyed an unexpected degree of success. New Empire disbanded in early 1984.
Derwood went on to for Westworld where he had big hits and currently in Moondogg but it’s with Empire that he is fondly remembered the real conneisuers of punk rock.