“Right now, I’m abiding,” says Valient Himself, between bites of a sandwich, as he enjoys his first real break from touring in years at a brewery in New Orleans. Yes, that’s Valient Himself, not Valient himself. It’s his name. But it’s not so strange after you learn that Valient and his mates are not from here. No, they’re actually visitors from the planet Venus, here to warn us Earthlings of the dangers of war, pollution and not taking care of one another.
The man answers to Valient Himself and he refers to the band’s North Carolina base as their “hideout.” It’s what a comedian might call ‘committing to the bit,’ but the band is no parody act. Sure, a Valient Thorr show is always unforgettable and a great time, but when Valient Himself says, of his current status in New Orleans, “I might be living here,” he really means he’s not completely sure.
The band has been preaching their heavy brand of boogie Gospel since 2001, and they’re getting harder and harder to ignore. Their recent break comes after almost seven years of being essentially homeless, living on the road, playing gigs almost every night and seeing the world. Even in their time off, though, they haven’t stopped working. They recorded a seven-inch split with High On Fire, to be released on the upcoming tour with Corrosion Of Conformity, and have begun planning their next album, which will be the follow-up to 2010’s crossover punk/stoner rock opus, Stranger [via Volcom Entertainment].
Valient Himself is a politically-minded individual, committed to broadcasting his humanitarian message to whoever will listen. The Aquarian was game to listen, and it got an earful. Get yours in the transcription below.
You’re at a brewery today ‘abiding,’ is this a typical day off?
Yeah, you know, we were on for so long. If we had made it till March, it would have been seven years, but we decided to take a few [months] off to do some family stuff. Eidan Thorr, our guitar player, is a brand new father. That happened about two weeks ago, so that was sort of the reason that we took off. Now we’re getting ready to go back home [on the road], but it was nice.
A lot of these interviews ask if we are freaking out because we’ve been on for so long, and it was really nice to have a break. I think, for five years we didn’t really care. It was just like, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s keep going.” Just seeing where the adventure took us. But after almost seven [years], it was very nice to have a little break.
I think we’re back on [the road] on March 1. And that will be exactly four months that we’ve had off. But even in our time off we made a new seven-inch that’s going to come out. We worked on some new songs and played a couple local shows close to our hideouts in North Carolina. It was really nice to have a break.
I try to play it low key when I’m off. I try to relax as much as I can because 99 percent of our time on the road is visiting places we’ve never been, so I like to just stay wherever I am and watch movies and cook in actual kitchens, instead of eating out, and things like that. It’s nice to… be doing all these low key jobs. It’s nice to get out of Raleigh and go check out places and visit some swamps and check out some beer, stuff like that. A nice little break.
Of course the band is known for having a strong political message, but your songs also rock really hard. So I’m wondering, between those two things, or maybe there’s something else, what motivates you guys to keep going?
Current events. I think we’re a current event band. The main thing that keeps me going, the main thing that keeps me interested in rock and roll is not necessarily other music that’s coming out. At one time, I would like to say that I was really up on current bands. Right now, I’m way out of the loop on current bands. I hear about new stuff that’s been around for a while and I’ve never heard of it, at all. And I’m pretty sure that’s how people are about our band. This is our 11th year and there’s still people who’ve never heard of us at all. That’s not that big of a deal. There’s plenty of bands that never get heard of the whole time that they’re a band until way later, if they’re heard of at all.
I think we’ve focused on politics and things that are happening. Not necessarily politics—what’s going on with politics now makes me want to puke. I can’t stand it. Every time I turn on NPR in the morning, the only thing they talk about—you might get a little bit of current events of what’s going on around the world, with the crazy, miserable wars that are happening—but mainly, in the U.S., is the gross circus parade of GOP candidates who are trying desperately to get somebody to listen to their bullshit so that they can get elected. It sucks! It’s like, every day there’s some new clown up there and all you have to do is pay attention for five minutes and you see that they’re idiots.
We’re not trying to go for a certain view by party. I want to say there’s things happening in this world that you should open your eyes to. Hopefully, if we pay attention and open up to things, that will help the human race. If there was a Humanitarian party, that’s where our lines would be drawn. That’s who I would support every time. Help people who are homeless and help people who are sick and help people who are hatin’ it and help people who are dying… things that bring us together as a people, rather than divide us as a people.
Could you explain “Gillionaire,” the first track on Stranger, to me?
“Gillionaire” came out right before the public’s [recognition] of the big financial crisis in the U.S. Right before that happened two years ago… [It’s about all] the people who are tricking people to put money into the money market accounts. Things like 401(k)’s, when they’re like, “Hey, we’re going to make you a lot of bread” and then they take all the bread and they spend it on themselves and then there’s not really any bread at all. There’s a few stories like that. A few go to jail for it, get caught eventually, but then there’s tons that never get caught. And the people’s bread just disappears.
But it’s not just about those four or five people. It’s about the super rich, the super fucking rich, who aren’t necessarily [stealing from people], but are absolutely fucking clueless. It’s about people like Mitt Romney, who have absolutely no idea what goes on and no care for what goes on with people who are totally starving, and it’s about lashing out. For me it’s about lashing out, though, it’s not necessarily a song about lashing out.
The gillionaires have so much that they care about and they do so little. It would take a fraction of what they have to help other people… Gillionaires are people who have so much money that it doesn’t even matter to them what happens to other people. That’s a real thing.
Sorry, tomorrow’s my Earth birthday and I haven’t drank since Christmas, I’ve had only about a beer and a half, but if I’m rambling, that’s why.
It seems like “Gillionaire” could be the theme song for the Occupy Wall Street protests.
I think so. Right before the Occupy movement happened, we played a gig with Pentagram in New York City and we met a couple of the guys who were instrumental in starting the whole movement in New York. They asked us if we could come up. And the fucked-up thing is we’ve been homeless for all of seven years and the only time I actually spend money to get a place to stay (laughs) happens to [be] when we are actually living in a place. We could have gone there; I would love to play a free show for all of those people. We had to wait till our guitar player’s little girl was born, but they’re still sticking with it and we have our stuff that we’re doing, so it’s quite possible in the next few months that we’ll play a show for the Occupy Movement. We definitely support it all over the world.
There are songs that we’ve had—there’s like an Occupy online radio station—they’ve picked up songs like “Tomorrow Police” that they’ve played… when police brutality started happening. It’s heavy, man. These things that we talk about, they seem like they reflect on the times and they’re written about the times, so it absolutely makes sense that they reflect on what’s happening right now. There are thoughts on what is happening and if it’s a reflection of that, that means that the message gets across.
It must be incredible validating as an artist to have your lyrics come true.
Well, I wish I could sing about things that are great that are happening and have them come true. It’s not like a miracle that they’re coming true. It’s things that we know that are already happening. I mean, “Gillionaire,” before the Occupy Movement ever happened, there were gillionaires out there every day.
If you look back through our catalogue, it’s happened with different songs. It’s not like we’re fucking gypsies, looking into a crystal ball. These are things that are happening around you. If you pay attention, if you dig a little deep, you’ll see those things are happening in general. Heavy, heavy, heavy shit is always going on, sometimes in your name. That’s the thing I can’t stand, I can’t stand for people to do things in my name.
I could ramble for hours on things. I’m just trying to think of examples. The game is full of nefarious characters.
If this was like Dragon Warrior, and this was 1986 or ’87, and we just got the cartridge for NES and we plugged it in, I don’t think that there’s any cheat codes we could get out of Nintendo Power or anything to stop them from coming. We just gotta slash and slash and slash and slash… A, B, A, B, A, B, run, cut, run, cut (laughs). They’re just going to keep coming. It’s like one of those games where the levels never end.
When do you think Valient Thorr will come out with new stuff?
We’ve got a seven-inch coming out March 1. It’s a split with High On Fire and a brand new song that we recorded in October. It characterizes the direction that we might be going in right now. It’s a very strange song, it’s a very long song. You’ll just have to check it out; it’s called “Beast With A Billion Eyes.” It might be new direction for us, but I don’t think it’s that different. It seems like a bunch of things mashed together. It seems like four songs in one, but it’s fun. It’s a fun song with fun ideas and we have a lot of ideas coming up and we’re all working on songs and I’m pretty excited on it.
We don’t have any set date as to when we’re going to record more. We’re thinking of doing spurts of six-song 10-inches, instead of one whole album of 12 songs, but we don’t know. We shall see. We’re really into the vinyl culture. I’ve been DJing a lot and playing records and collecting a lot of records, so we’re making stuff for people who buy records for the message and for the artwork. It’d be nice to have three things out, as opposed to one thing out.
Are you going to play that new song on this tour?
Well, it’s a tough song. We’ll see. We haven’t gotten together yet… to decide our lineup. I know we’re going to be bringing back some older things and I know we’re going to be playing some secret covers that I can’t talk about it yet. We’re excited.
Valient Thorr will perform at Gramercy Theatre on March 1 with Corrosion Of Conformity, Torche and A Storm Of Light. For more information, go to valientthorr.com.