Fireworks Magazine Online 66 - Interview with Robby Valentine

Robby Valentine

Neil French caught up with Dutch maestro Robby Valentine to discuss his various projects past and present but most importantly the imminent release of his new album. Welcome to the ‘Bizarro World’ of Robby Valentine

So Robby the album’s called ‘Bizarro World’ is that a DC Comics reference in there?

RV: Yes exactly. I'm not really a big fan but I just liked the story behind ‘Bizarro World’. I don't know what year it was, like an early 60s thing, but everything's opposite [to how it is on earth] and that's mainly how I kind of felt, and still feel, these past twenty years or so. Everything I like and I do, the way I present myself, the music, I feel kind of alienated and trying to figure out what's the ‘Bizarro World’, my world or the world outside. That's kind of the main theme behind it.

You've been playing a couple of gigs and a few months ago you did a small showcase gig to tryout some of the new songs and you also released a limited edition EP. What was the thinking behind that?

RV: It was kind of a teaser but we planned that gig maybe three months before. We wanted to do the presentation of the new album but it wasn't right, I didn't think the time was right to release an album right before the summer and the festivals. We thought, we haven't been playing for three or four years, it's a nice little warm up for the new band and for people to get into it again and that's why we also put out the little teaser with three tracks from the album and two tracks that won't be on the album.

I have to say I'm loving the new material, perhaps a little more immediate than the last couple of releases.

RV: Yes I think it's a bit more radio friendly. The thing that surprised me a lot was the track called ‘Deadbeat Boy’, it was received so well. Nobody knew it at the shows and still they were clapping along. It was cool. Last month we played at Metalfest in Rotterdam and there were a lot of Metal fans screaming in between songs, “Slayer, Slayer” and then I thought this is for all the Slayer fans, they were doing this little dance, a strange Pogo, I’m not really making fun of it, but it even worked with them, it was cool to see.

As you mentioned you have a new band, tell us who's in it right now.

RV: The drummer is Andre Borgman he's originally from the Dutch Gothic band After Forever. Then Johan Willems, Jay Jay, I've known him since 1984. We started demoing little things, his tracks, my tracks and we found that our voices fit together pretty well. If I need the choirs to be a bit thicker I ask him and it’s been that way since the late 80s. Then you've got Paul Coenradie. I actually stole him from Aniday, the band of Marlies, my girlfriend, because my previous guitar player Cyril Whistler totally fell out of love with playing live. Paul stepped in for five or six concerts so that was an easy choice. Andre came up with his friend Luuk van Gerven, the bass player from After Forever and it's fantastic. He has a lot of energy on stage, lots of attack. It comes so easy to him. It’s a joy to play with them.

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You briefly touched on Aniday there fronted by your partner Marlies. You finally put the album out earlier this year. Tell us about Aniday and how it came together.

RV: Well the drummer, Danny, he thought they should get better songs and told them, “I know someone who may be able to write us some songs.” I didn't know Marlies at the time, of course I'd seen her on TV with the Idols show, but we got together and I wrote one song called ‘Lost The Way’. I had a lot of songs written before that for a project called Kyssmet which was kind of dead. Right at that moment Marlies and I became acquainted. She started to use maybe eight of my songs. I wasn't in the band yet as I didn't feel like being in a band as a keyboard player. They started recording my songs and I didn't want to have anything to do with it but I heard what they'd done and I wasn't happy with my babies, the songs. So I stepped in and said “OK you can use my tapes.” Then we put real drums on it, Marlies re-did the vocals and we did a remix that became the album. For some reason we were not successful finding a suitable record company and things got in between, so that album was shelved, but after a few years we thought it was a shame. We are playing with it and it should be out, so Marlies decided to put some energy into it.

And you went down the route of self releasing it via your website and I think a couple of other websites in Europe. You're going down the same route with ‘Bizarro World’. Is it so difficult to get a deal?

RV: It is difficult, especially in Holland and always when they take a chance to hear it they look at the picture and think, well the long hair and make-up, we don't think we can put it on the radio. To be honest I haven't really looked too hard for a label because I know the situation. It's not ideal because by doing it yourself you will never get on the radio, that chance is very small, but we're doing a very limited release, so we're hoping at some point somebody may step in because doing it by ourselves it's just too much work.

You're coming over to the UK to play at the Queen Convention again but this time with a full band. It's more or less sold out, so it should be good.

RV: Yes I'm really excited. Of course it's a lot more fun to do it with a band than to do a one man show going to the piano and the guitar. Actually we did ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at a Bizzaro World show and for me it was a dream come true to do it with a full band.

Going back in time can I ask you about your old friend Peter Strykes from 1st Avenue. What do you recall about that time and how did you get back with him to put out the Peter Strykes ‘Sings Robby Valentine’ album?

RV: Yeah in ‘87 I started 1st Avenue and then Peter joined the band. It was quite promising for a while but after about a year and a half I was getting quite frustrated at just being the main writer and the lunatic behind the keyboards, so I thought it was time I took the step to be a solo artist. I got some opportunities with some record companies so in ‘89 I quit. Later Peter and I became friends again and he was stepping more into the Pop Classical world. I thought his voice was very suitable for that so I started to write in that atmosphere. We did four songs but we didn't do anything with it until 2006 when I picked it up again and we did the Peter Strykes Robby Valentine album but then again nothing happened with it and he became a member of LA: The Voices.

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