Deppa used to refer to himself as “the cymbalman” and with good reason. “The first instrument I played in the brass band was cymbals. Endings of brass band music were always a big climax and I have vague memories of waiting for the finale by taking it easy towards the end, so that I could really go for the ending. Hence I became known as ‘the cymbalman’.”
Deppa was born into a musical family. “My grandfather ran the Athlone Brass Band and a choir called the Alpha Choristers – both in Cape Town.” Although Deppa remembers wanting to play the trombone at an early age, he reckons it would have been a step too far. “Just think, one knock on the slide would have rendered the instrument unplayable till it got fixed. So I played most of the other brass instruments, which included the second tenor horn, which I played for many years.” Drums were still very much Deppa’s first instrument. “It was only when my parents uprooted us to England in 1975 that I made the decision to take up the trumpet as my main instrument. Drums are just too heavy to lug about.” The drums may no longer take centre stage, but Deppa still plays and teaches the instrument.
“My first trumpet was a Lark,” says Deppa. “I bought it when I was 17 and from then on I played in all musical genres from marching bands, to reggae bands, to funk bands to big bands, in fact wherever I could play I would and that is where I did most of my learning. I was also fortunate to encounter such great teachers as Cathy Stobard, Olaf Vass and Brian Booth, all of whom guided and encouraged me. But it was my teacher Bob Bell who was my greatest influence. He had a really big sound and that is where my sound actually comes from.”
Two years later Deppa bought his second horn, a B&H trumpet from Rose Morris. “I went from that on to an Olds ‘Super’ trumpet and then bought a Yamaha 731 Flugelhorn at Bill Lewington’s.” Deppa continues. “I really liked these two horns, but they got stolen (Olds Super/Yamaha 731) and I looked high and low to find replacements until I finalIy found the sound I was looking for in the Stomvi. So I replaced my stolen beauties with a Stomvi trumpet and flugel’. Then while I was on tour with In-Co-Motion in South America, the lead pipe gave way and when I went to get it fixed by a Stomvi importer in Caracas I learned that the quality control on the horns was not that good, so on my return to London I had the horns overhauled. Then six months later, while I was in Yorkshire with Abana I walked on stage and my first valve just snapped. As the only horn in the band I just asked for any instrument with three valves. I was brought a cornet!”
Returning to London, Deppa concluded that he needed to find an instrument that would stand up to the rigours of the road. “That’s when I saw Taylor trumpets for the second time. They’re strong and sturdy – an almost unbreakable looking horn. I went to the factory to look at some and have played them ever since.”
Deppa owns three Taylor horns. “The first was a Custom trumpet. It’s a wonderful instrument, really warm and dark. It’s been through a lot in its life. My horns seem prone to accidents. Its last mishap was when my son knocked it off the mantlepiece [Deppa only cases his horns when he’s out and about]. Andy Taylor relacquered it for me in a ‘vintage’ finish, and it’s all the better for it. I have a second Taylor trumpet which has also had quite a hard life. The last time it hit the ground I got Andy to make it more bright, with more edge and bite to the sound – more like a lead trumpet. And he also replated it in silver, which not only looks great, but also sounds good too. My third Taylor is a Flugel Phatboy, which is everything a flugelhorn should be – and more!” Deppa uses Taylor mouthpieces on all his horns. “They stem from my old Bach 10 mouthpiece that I played for over 20 years. I guess they’re kind of copied, but then slightly altered, so now I can’t actually give them a clear number. But they have a cushioned rim with a small cup as that’s what I have always felt comfortable with.” Would Deppa I wondered ever consider switching to another make of horn. “Why should I? I play my ideal horn. But I might get one more if I could find the Taylor trumpet with the serial number that is in between the two that I have now. But I guess that might be a little too self indulgent.”