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Robby Valentine

Na een stilte van een kleine vier jaar laat Robby Valentine weer van zich horen. Op 16 juni wordt zijn nieuwe album ‘The Alliance’ uitgebracht. De weg naar ‘The Alliance’ is niet makkelijk geweest. De titel van zijn vorige album ‘Bizarro World’ bleek profetischer dan hij toen had kunnen bevroeden. Passie, geloof en overtuiging hebben Valentine weer terug gebracht in de spotlights.

Door: Wim R. | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

band imageYou were confronted with a writer’s block? When did you notice that something was wrong?
I try to come up with something creative every day, but there was a moment I thought ‘there must be something coming now or not?’. I recorded ‘Bizarro World in 2010 and it was released in 2014. You just want to continue to progress and come up with new ideas. I was tingling away on the piano, but every time I thought that it is not good enough to record. When something that you create feels good, other ideas will come instantly. But that process just did not happen. It never became more than a tiny piece of music .very frustrating to say the least.

Could you tell a bit more what exactly happens when this happens to you as a musician? Panic?
Yes, there was some form of panic. Our daughter was born in 2012, and half a year before that I recorded about ten Queen songs. I wanted to do that as good as possible and really dove in the Queen material. At a certain point I thought that it could turn in to a full album. Busy times as I was asked to perform on Queen conventions in England. In the end I recorded more than twenty-five Queen songs. I was busy enough, but that did not require any creativity from my side. Just listening and reproduce what you hear. I was not very smart in doing it, as I took several hours to find out what was exactly going on. When I finished it someone I know told me I could find all vocals, instruments etcetera as isolated tracks on YouTube (sighs). That would have saved me a lot of time

Did this writer’s block turn into some sort of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’?
You could be right about that. I was not happy where I was living and thought that was an influence. But after I moved to this place, it did not change that much. Then I was confronted with the problems with my eyes that only got worse and worse. I only have some sight left in my left eye at this moment. In the end I am happy to have some sight left. I had to take lots of medicines that did not make me feel any better, I felt really sick. Most of the time I was in bed. But it somehow resulted in getting musical ideas again. I had a little recorder with me and started useful material again. So all the problems with my eyes led to me seeing thins a different way and get creative again.

After hearing all the trouble you went through, was ‘The Alliance’ your most therapeutic album?
Not really, but it made me feel a lot better mentally when I started to get out of bed and record material again. Older albums were about heartbreak and had more therapeutic value to me than ‘The Alliance’.

But a song like ‘Black Dog’ for example, is about depression, something you have to deal with also, and that you cannot get rid of it?
Yes; that is a quite personal song.

The lyrics are very somber, but the music is very upbeat and happy. Almost schizophonic?
True, the music is quite positive, but the lyrics leave you no hope at all. In the lyrics there is no hope in getting rid of that Black Dog, the symbol for depression. When a song like this is working out like I hope and want, I get happy and the negative and dark feelings go away. So that’s pretty therapeutically (laughs), guess you are right after all.

Is your mental state something that constantly influenced and still influences your life and career?
Yes, since my youth I am struggling with these mood swings. Nowadays, it is a bit less, since I have a daughter. She gives me a happy feeling most of the time.

The title ‘The Alliance’, what does it stand for? In the liner notes for the song ‘Masters Of Our Minds’ you mention the Reptilians. There is a theory that they are ruling the world here and now. Is the Alliance the movement that wants to stop this?
Yes, you are right about that. Most of the people think you are crazy when you mention conspiracy theories. I follow some people that are really in to this conspiracy theory. It is a subject that gives me a lot of inspiration. The theory about the Reptilians is one of them. It is also about people standing up against that, that are awake and want to warn all of us that we are living in some kind of police state at the moment. We are all under control of something. We are getting limited, for example musicians. They are slaves to the systems. If they stand up, they will be shot. Tell me why George Michael died during Christmas when he has a song ‘Last Christmas’, why did Prince die in an elevator, when he sung about that? How could it be that Whitney Houston and her daughter died in identical circumstances? But I do not want to go on and on about it.

You’re not, but it is interesting to find out what influences you and can be found back in the songs you write
In my songs I try to tell you that we are getting poisoned from the moment we are born. Myself, I have been battling an immunity disorder that really wears me out. I get my blood checked every year when I feel really exhausted. Specialists found out that my immunity disorder is being caused by the vaccinations I had when I was a baby. So some sort of control or manipulation already started there in my youth. People are not really open to this kind of thoughts, I am fully aware of that. But, being a dad now of a six year old, I am concerned what the world will be like in thirty years from now. When you look back for thirty years, the world has not changed for the better, did it? But bands like Queensrÿche or Muse are bands that also write or wrote about the manipulation of mankind and the Illuminati. When I have someone around me that has a cough or cold, I will avoid them. A normal person will maybe be sick for a few days, but for me it means I will be sick for a month.

when did you had the feeling that you were able or ready to write a new album?
I started with three to five songs. One of them being ‘Sons Of America’, the chorus of that song really stuck to me. But I had trouble to write additional lyrics for it. Then Japan showed interest in me to play some live shows, which halted the writing process for a while. But the shows in Japan and getting back to normal life had a negative effect on me, depression came around again for a few months. The shows in Japan were phenomenal, and there I was back in the chilly north of Holland. But after listening to and watching Prince on the subject of conspiracy theories, that got my creative juices flowing again. From there on, the songs followed each other up rapidly. It felt like everything fell into place. We all know that the chances to break it in the music industry nowadays are close to zero. You have to be on a major label and agree and follow what they want from you. Otherwise they will replace you in the blink of an eye. Being aware of this, gave me a feeling of liberation, that led to my, aforementioned, creative explosion.

What kind of songwriter are you? Song by song, more songs at once?
Normally, I write song by song. When I am working on one song, it is enough work getting it done the way I want it to.

There seems to be a difference in the songs you write, some of them are like anthems, on the other hand you write songs that are stripped down. Do you already know from the start what kind of song it will be?
Yes, in most cases I already decided what kind of mood or direction the song will go.

band imageI was wondering if talent can also be a obstruction? That al the ideas and creativity might get you confused?[ for example ‘Masters Of Our Minds’?
Sometimes, I wrote some great backing vocals for ‘Black Dog’, but when I started mixing it felt like they were in the way of the song. In the end I do not see myself as talented. I rather call it messing happens more than once, when I finish a song, I tell myself that the end result is awful. The best way dealing with that is to let the song rest and pick it up at a later moment. That will work sometimes. Due to my eyesight getting worse, I am lightyears behind in recording technology. Pro Tools and other programs are way ahead of me. I still work with a twenty five year old mixing desk. Sonically, everything could be way better than what I put out now. But I am terrible with computers to be honest. I have a real new system ready to operate, but I did not get to use it up till now. I am not a tech geek at all, I just want to play. And I like to work alone, no involvement. I hated it when I got a new keyboard and it took me ages to get the right sounds. I just want to play and write songs.

Talking about working alone, do you ask feedback on songs you finished or working on?
No, never. I once heard Prince say that there is a chance you hear music in a very different vein when you work with others. It is distracting. If you are writing, you are connected to the music directly. It almost feels like a divine experience. When you work together, it might turn out disappointing in the end. On the other hand I am quite uncertain when writing music. That uncertainty resulted in my first album being quite disappointing to me. The producer of that album was a young and very gifted producer. But he was quite harsh. ‘That is crap!’ or ‘Play it again’. That did not work for me at all.

So working alone is the best way for you
Yes, it is. I worked with a lot of outside producers, engineers and studios. But, in most cases, my conclusion was that my own self-produced demos sounded better. So to me that was a waste of time and money. Years ago I invested in my own home studio, and still working with it. Although, now it almost falls apart. Some channels do not even work anymore (laughs). I am happy it kept functioning to create ‘The Alliance’. I have to start saving up money to get this one fixed or get a new one.

So you will stick to the process of recording?
I will, there is more than enough software to make things easier or polish stuff up. Nowadays, most singers get their vocals fixed or straightened out. I would not even know how to do that. I record everything myself. Of course I will fix things, but all you hear is played by me. If my singing is not good enough, I will just record it over and over again. This is the only way I can work. For ‘The Alliance’ I did get some help from my former guitarist Rob Winter. He has some very nice and modern sounds. They sound really good.

If you had to plug or promote your new album, what would be your story?
I would definitely say the songs are some sort of stadium rock. Made to be played live. For example ‘The Bitter End’ and ‘Judgment Day’. This is a more consistent album, my former albums were more diverse in songs and lyrics. On my older albums you had heavy tracks and more pop like tracks.
I tried to make a nu metal album round 2000, but after two songs, the inspiration was gone. So I quit. Diversity in my songs is important to me. Prime examples for me are The Beatles and Queen. I just want to things that make me feel good.

How are you going to promote the new album?
Well, in Japan it will be released through King Records. They also released ‘Bizarro World’. In Europe we will release it ourselves. The album launch will be on June 16th in Purmerend. From there on we will see how things will go.

Are you a touring guy?
Not anymore, I love playing live, but seeing my daughter growing up is far more important to me. You can see me as a dad who rocks out at home when my little girl is at school, hahaha…on the other hand my physical condition does not allow me to tour extensively. But two shows a month in a nice club would be more than welcome. Places where I feel happy.

Feeling good and happy, is important to you, isn’t it?
That is right, and being a good father is something that is the thing that makes me happy and feel good.

Your band does not want to play live more?
No, they all have their jobs and other obligations. Next week I will be playing on National radio, and the guys have to take time off for it. They agree with me that they only want to play shows that make them feel good.

Your band has been quite consistent for a long time now
André Borgman is with me for about ten years now. Paul Coenradie has been with me for some years and Luuk, our bass player, joined us around 2007. All of them are very skilled musicians and great to be around. Yesterday we rehearsed for the first time since April. But these guys will prepare new songs before rehearsal and nail it at the first time we practice together.

Does the loss of your eyesight have any effect when playing live?
I think I will be fine, the band knows it and I have always been someone who bumps into things. Nothing new there, hahaha.

Any dreams left for the future?
No, not really. It would be nice if my music was a bit more known and sold a bit better. Playing live is only great if you have the right audience. Twenty four years ago I played the Mega Music Experience. A big outdoor festival with Aerosmith headlining. We looked forward to that. But in the end the audience threw all kinds of shit at us. So that was a big letdown. Musically, if a song just falls together as you wanted beforehand, that is my ongoing ambition. And shows for our own fans that know all the songs, that is where I live for. That makes me happy.

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