Interview with Valient Thorr
Planet Earth in the year 2008 must look like a pretty strange, messed-up place to an outsider. Election year sensationalism, global warming hysteria, and widespread warfare to reality show overload and the latest celebrity meltdowns caught on film, it may seem to some that The End is imminent.
But there's hope for the human race. Just ask the extraterrestrial members of Valient Thorr, the rock n' roll saviors from Venus who crossed the solar system to warn us Earthlings about the error of our ways, delivering a message of redemption wrapped in rock n' roll.
We recently were saved by Valient Thorr at a local club in Delaware and we wanted to inform you guys about the warriors who crossed the galaxy out of the kindness of their hearts to warn us about the world. We got the opportunity to talk to Valient Himself. What follows is our interview with him. We hope that he inspires you, not only to change your life, but to see them in concert.
BnR: How does Valient Thorr record an album? Do you go into the studio and write it together or does it come together in pieces?
VT: Each one has been different. The last record we did, Immortalizer, was done in several sections. We would stop writing for three weeks and test some of the songs on the road. The bulk of it was finished and written in January. We would be at a place all day, hang out, pass out, and then go back and rock all day until it is finished. Then we would go right to a studio. We usually give ourselves about a month in the studio to knock it out. That is the way the last one was written. It was written all in one month in Cosa Mesa and then LA, the 2006 album. This new album Immortalizer was written in Cosa Mesa and then we flew to Seattle. Actually, we drove up to Seattle and recorded it with Jack Endino.
BnR: Wow you drove up to Seattle. That must be interesting.
VT: Yea, we pretty much drive all the time. It wasn't that hard. It was a good drive. There is a funny story. Eidan Thorr and I were just talking about it after we watched Pineapple Express. We were driving up and I was asleep in the passengers seat and I was freezing. He leaned over to cover me up and he ran off the road a bit and there was a state trooper behind us. He pulled us over and kind of shook us down. It was kind of hectic. It was good. We went up there and played a show, like our "Coming To Seattle" show, then we recorded the album, then played a going away show. It was like our "Leaving Seattle" kind of deal.
BnR: Are there a lot of Thorriors up in Seattle?
VT: Yea there is a good number all up in the Northwest and the Pacific Northwest. There is a good amount in Portland. I really liked Portland. I kind of wished we recorded an album in Portland, just so I can spend a month there hanging out. We don't get a lot of time. When you cruise through places, you get about a day, maybe two days at the most. So it is nice to get time to get to know a city. Prior to that [recording Immortalizer] we never got the chance to hang out in Seattle. So it was cool to hang out in some of the neighborhoods and familiarize ourselves with some of the places.
BnR: Did you get the chance to check out Kurt Cobain's house while you were there?
VT: Nah, but we did hang out with some dudes. We got to hang out with some heavies and check out some of the weird neighborhoods like Ballard. And this really radical bowling alley. But I imagine they tore it down by now. All over that city is getting built these crazy apartment buildings and complexes. They are tearing down the good, old shit and people are pissed.
BnR: They are probably putting up more Starbucks.
VT: No actually they are not putting up more Starbucks. [laughs] I don't know if you heard, but they are closing a lot of those. They closed like 1,000 locations or something crazy like that. They are trying to cut like 60% of their stores for some reason. I don't know why, but it is just another business, I don't want to say going under because I am sure they will thrive, but they are cutting their losses so they will thrive. Like Bennigan's and Steak & Ale. Both of those places totally went out of business, totally went bankrupt in the last month. Then you hear about all these other airlines cutting jobs. We are living in a crazy, crazy time right now and people don't want to compare it to the Great Depression, but that is exactly what it is. It is not a recession. If you think about how many people are on this Earth, when was the first great depression, I mean the real Great Depression? You are talking about the end of the 20's into the beginning of the 40's. You know how many people were on the Earth at that time? We only reached one billion people on this Earth in the 70's. Then around '72 all the way until now, there is like six billion plus. We are reaching the six and half billion point. You think about four years from now how many people there will be. There is just so many more people now and comparatively speaking, people are way more worse off. But then in a way, not really. It is just in how you look at it. It is heavy. There are a lot more people than there were in the Great Depression, but people don't look at it like that because there are also a lot more people doing well. There is no middle ground anymore. It is either totally rich or totally fucking destitute. You get what I am saying?
BnR: Uh, I hear ya. Do you think the current way we are living, that the Earth will be able to sustain us at that point?
VT: What 40 years from now? I don't even know if the Earth will last 40 years from now. The Earth might last, but I don't know if the actual people will. I like to stay on the positive ship and be optimistic, but with factory farming like 85% of the world are fed through their dairy and poultry...pork, beef whatever. As far as those lifestyles and the way they do the factory farming, if you look at the statistics to keep feeding the populace the way they are feeding, they would have to implement something. You know something to keep the waste products and waste by products from those farms from becoming something crazy. Because you know, with the increase in population, if they don't increase they way they keep up something gnarly could happen. We could have a crazy pandemic, such as avian flu or mad cow disease, but something even worse. It could sustain, but I don't know. What if we get what we want? What do we want? World Peace. We get world peace and no one is killing each other, but people are just fucking and making tons and tons of new kids. Then all of a sudden, 40 years from now there is six billion to the sixth power [people]. I don't know, I mean, we are going to have to think of an alternative food source. I am not talking about Soylent Green. Hopefully, someone will figure out how to grow meat. Or maybe people will be able to thrive off rice and tapioca.
BnR: Well if there is that many people we are going to be living on top of each other at that point. We are going to have to find somewhere else to live.
VT: That's true. I don't know. Especially in the cities. I don't know if you have been out in the desert in a while, there's lots of places to live. I think people are just on top of each other. If you look at where the populations are..there is more places to live. There could be places to live underground. I think we just have to plan ahead. I think people should stop thinking retroactively and start to forward think. Stop worrying about what pants people wore in the 60s and 70s and start thinking about what we are going to be doing in the 20s and 30s. You know what I'm sayin?
BnR: I hear ya. Let's get back to the record for a second, Immortalizer. How have your fans received this record? Have they been really positive about it?
VT: Yea absolutely. I don't want to say I heard nothing but good things. I have heard some people say that it is powerful. But the criticism I have heard, a lot of it sounds similar. The way reviews are written it seems they grab one thing and write exactly what the other person wrote. I don't want to blame people for that, but as far as the positive operations, people have been super good to us. You have to get it out and then wait months before people actually hear it and get some feedback from it. But I think it has been primarily positive. People like the new jams. They like the stories. They still like that it has the socio-political messages and that makes us happy. I do think they say that it sounds better. And that is good. No one wants to make an album that is shittier than their last record. Although, lots of people's favorite bands do that. I am glad that we have consistently gotten better each time with each record.
BnR: You speak brilliantly. Even in between your songs you are a very dynamic speaker. Are you a member of Toastmasters?
VT: Toastmasters? No I'm not. I don't even know what that is.
BnR: It is an organization where they write toasts for weddings and things like that. I think you would be perfect for that. It sounds like a good side project for you because you are a very eloquent speaker.
VT: Thank you very much. I will have to check into that and see what it is all about.
BnR: We got the chance to see one of your live shows here in Delaware at Mojo 13 with the Monotonix. Considering the fact, they bring the show outside and they completely ignore all customs of a classy live show, are they a tough act to follow?
VT: I think they are amazing. I appreciate having them on the tour. I like to climb on things. I like to do a lot of wild stuff myself, but I wasn't able to do that because I have been in recovery from the kidney surgery on this tour. So it was nice to have somebody who ignored the normal show aesthetic. No I don't think they were a tough act to follow. Are we concerned about living up to something. In art and in music and in everything, there's so many people who are doing things that are very formulaic. Once you toss some of that formula out and you are doing something that seems totally novel and out of the ordinary, you know something that hasn't been done before, and you throw these things out of whack, people totally appreciate it. They get so much more out of it; and they think we don't have to sit on stage. We can do whatever the fuck we want. That takes it to a new level. Maybe everyone is not cut out to do this thing, you know? I think it's great. I think it's brilliant when someone can take a little dude who has never seen a show before and show him how it's done. And then someone who has watched a million shows and they have their ass on their shoulders and are jaded about seeing it [the show]. Then take them out of their jadedness go 'now here ya go. This is how it is supposed to be done.' When that happens, I think everyone benefits.
BnR: We still go to the big shows at the Wachovia Center or an indoor arena. But we actually prefer the shows that are inside a smaller bar because you can interact more with the band.
VT: Yea absolutely. That's the way we like to do it as well. The big shows are fun, but it is always more intense when it's a smaller place and it is totally packed and people can feel the sweat and the energy just pouring off of you. And it is probably getting all over them too. That makes them part of the show. They are involved in the show. They are not just watching some spectacle. They ARE in it. They ARE part of it. I think everyone wants to be involved. It is so much more exhilarating when you are in the moment and something out of the ordinary happens and BAM shit's getting knocked over, trash is going everywhere, water is everywhere. Unless you are a total prude and then fuck ya. I think it is good to shake it up. The tighter the better. I always think of splitting atoms. What can you do to get the fusion or the fission to explode or implode? How can we make it happen?
BnR: I think just lots of energy. At that show, you went on a long rant about Hush Puppies. Do they have Hush Puppies on Venus, from where you are from?
VT: No they don't at all. I love Hush Puppies on Earth. I have had many a Hush Puppy in many a state.
BnR: Have you found one state to be a better Hush Puppy producer than others?
VT: No. What you have to think about is that it is normally a side. So you have to think about what Hush Puppies go with. So if you want to get a Hush Puppy, you are going to have to go to your states that sell barbecue or fish. A good place that has a fried fish type deal. So you can get them anywhere where you get fried foods or anything like that. You can usually get a good Hush Puppy.
BnR: At the show, we were admiring your fine taste in shoes, specifically those awesome red rasslin' boots. Who inspired you to wear wrestling shoes on-stage?
VT: Nobody really inspired me. I sort of just found a pair of them in California and sort of just wore them. But as far as inspirado comes from, I think, not just the wrestling boots, but the inspiration in the past has come from the wrestling entertainers of the 80's. Specifically in the NWA, which was a Charlotte, North Carolina based organization.
BnR: If you came face to face with Lex Lugar and only had seven seconds to say something to him, what would it be?
VT: Don't do any more prescription drugs. I would just say, 'How long have you been clean brotha? I hope you are stayin that way.'
BnR: You guys have the beards. Did you guys get together when you started the band and say 'we are going to grow Thor beards' or were you all fans of the ZZ Top aesthetic?
VT: Neither. We just don't like to shave.
BnR: Do you ever wake up in the morning and just thank god you are not a particular mainstream rockstar? Like anyone guy that you are like "Thank god I am not him."?
VT: The guy from the Counting Crows. I am glad I am not him.
BnR: Oh with the hair?
VT: Yea with the hair and the songs. No I don't think that I am glad to be anyone else. But there is definitely dudes I don't want to be. That's a weird question, but I like it.
BnR: Do you have any musical influences that might surprise our readers? Our readers are more metal based...Judas Priest, Iron Maiden. Is there any musical influence that might surprise them?
VT: Most classic metal heads would get all the references. It is not like we wear it on our sleeves, but you can tell it is influenced by Thin Lizzy, and classic rock. Are you talking about the whole band or just me. Because I think everyone in the band has been influenced by many different drummers, singers, guitar players. I would say Bon Scott, Jim Morrison. Maybe they don't see Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo, but I love Mark Mothersbaugh stage performance. Devo might be one they don't see in our band. But maybe they do with the political references and stuff like that. I think the poetry of Jim Morrison. You might not see that in the music. But as a stage performer, Bon Scott, you can totally see. Those are the easy ones. There are definitely references that people don't get no matter how big of a nerd they are. I am just a bad music nerd and I try to dig up old records. There is nothing we are going for, our sound comes from us and what we put into it and it just comes out that way. We are not trying to sound like one thing. We never aimed to sound like any band. You could say at the beginning it sounded like MC5. We sort of had some early punk roots with some early classic, heavy sound. But it is always changing and always different.
BnR: Who do you prefer to set the mood with Isaac Hayes or Barry White?
VT: I'd say Isaac Hayes. I would really say Curtis Mayfield though.
BnR: Do you prefer the WCW or the WWF?
VT: Now I don't prefer any of them. But in the 90's, I was a WCW man. But that was because most of the wrestlers from the NWA. In the 80's, I was an NWA man. The WWF was based out of Connecticut and the NWA was based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. I sort of spent some time there.
BnR: Do you prefer Hush Puppies or Corn dogs?
VT: Hush Puppies. I like them better than corn dogs. Now if you are talking about some weird hybrid sausage dog, wrapped in a pancake...well then I would have to go that.
BnR: Finally, if someone asked you, Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight' How would you respond to that?
VT: I don't know. I would get the reference. I love Jack Nicholson, but I don't know if I would just go 'yes' or 'no.' If someone just came up to me and asked me that, I would probably wink at them and do a fucking shuffle.
Thanks to Valient Himself for taking the time to talk with us. The band is currently on tour with the Year Long Disaster and Motorhead. You can find tour dates and links to buy Valient Thorr's music on their MySpace site or their main site. We love them and so should you.
You can listen to the podcast below.
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