Interview by Victoria Llewelyn
US rock rebels Kickin Valentina are planning a return to the UK this year – guitarist Heber Pampillon chats about the band, bringing the fun back to rock and roll and their love of their fans.
Kickin Valentina have been tearing up the rock scene with their electrifying performances of ‘loud, unapologetic rock and roll’ since 2013. Having generated a huge international fan base and being renowned for their gritty, hard edged sound and outrageous stage shows, right now, they are one of the most entertaining and vociferous bands around. The UK prepares to welcome them back this summer at the Call of the Wild festival. With promises of further dates, and a new album underway there’s plenty to get excited about.
MGM: Kickin Valentina – that’s an interesting name for a band. How did you come up with that?
HP: Jimmy and I, we were putting the band together and throwing names around, but nothing seemed to stick, until we found there was this porn star named Valentina, a fetish star that kicked guys in the balls. We went, ‘look at that. Kickin Valentina.’ And then we looked at each other and went, that sounds kind of cool. The funny part is that if you would Google Kickin Valentina when the band first started, all that came up would be her and we would just laugh! As the band started getting recognised, her stuff gradually got buried by ours and now we can’t find her. We would love to find her, because we would love to put her on a video!
MGM: For those that are new to the band, how do you describe yourselves and where do your influences come from?
HP: We’re just a fun rock and roll band, right? Just straight rock and roll. We plug and we play, and we just want to have a good time and entertain, to play good music that people can sing along to, hopefully start making out in the audience and meeting each other, having babies, all kinds of good stuff, right? We’re just about having fun.
One of the things we noticed when the band was being put together was that a lot of the rock n roll around was very gloomy. For us it was always about being rebellious and having fun; it was sex, drugs, and rock and roll, right? Now that we’re older, it’s not about the drugs anymore, but we wanted to get back to having fun and enjoying the ride.
As far as influences go, we all have different ones and I think that’s what gives us our sound. I love Motown and I’m a big Elvis fan. There are punk influences, 80s influences, all kinds of different things.
HP: Jimmy (Berdine) and I put the band together. I used to own a natural holistic pet store, and Jimmy used to come in and buy food for his dogs. One day, we started talking about music and he remembered that I used to play in bands. He mentioned that he plays drums. We generated this idea for a band, and we said, if we’re going to do it, we don’t want to be just a regular local band. We’re going to go on tour and go to Europe, South America, wherever and just do it.
We started auditioning people, went through a few, and eventually Chris (Taylor) joined the band. DK was the first singer we decided we wanted, but he lived in California at the time, and we were in Atlanta. He’s finally with us after the previous two didn’t work out; when we called him and said ‘do you want to join the band’ he said ‘are you kidding me? I should have said yes right from the beginning!’. It was meant to be.
At that time, I was out of music completely because to me it had just become boring, it was depressing. I had even shaved my head. All the hair that you see here, it was like a military crew cut. Then all of a sudden, we became a thing and it all got exciting again.
MGM: And how long have you been going?
HP: This is going on ten years; it was 2013 when we started out.
MGM: After the two previous singers, what made you decide that DK was going to be the one? What does he bring to the band that wasn’t there before?
HP: DK is simply a great frontman. He loves to entertain just like the rest of us. He’s got a great voice; that raunchy, gritty voice that we like. And he’s just a good entertainer, he’s a good person. He’s fun to be with, he has the same goals and aspirations as we do. A band is a marriage, so you’ve got to be able to get along and want the same things. Now everybody has the same drive and the same aspirations for the band, and I think that’s what’s making it happen.
MGM: How many releases have you put out so far?
HP: There’s a whole bunch of EPs and three full length albums, we just started recording album number four.
MGM: You’re back with us in the UK very soon, back at HRH and some dates of your own?
HP: We are so excited to be coming back over. We love it in the UK! We’re doing Call Of The Wild festival, there are a few shows that haven’t been announced yet, we have a show at Hangar 18 in Swansea, The Tivoli in Buckley and we have a show with Tigertailz in Camden Underworld in June. There’s gonna be about nine shows in total we think.
MGM: How do your UK shows compare to playing shows in the US?
HP: It’s different. There are certain parts of the US that are cool, and we do very well, and there’s other parts where I don’t even think they bother with rock n roll anymore. One thing we notice in Europe is that rock n roll is still a lifestyle. Over here it just seems like it’s more underground. One of the things that we love about playing in Europe is that people will come and stay from the first band all the way through to the last band. You don’t see that here. You get a lot of ‘what time are you going on? We go on at 10:00, but there’s two other bands in front of us, why don’t you come in and check them out? No, we’re just going to come and watch you.’ You may find the next Metallica, you never know!
MGM: Everybody started out as a support band for somebody, right?
HP: That’s right, so it’s a shame there’s a lot of that over here. But we have some awesome fans out her in the US also. Our fans are something else.
MGM: So I hear! Tell me about the KV Mob!
HP: It’s the perfect name because they are a mob! God forbid somebody says something bad about us, boy, they just jump on them good. They’re brutal! They follow us. We just played a show here in Atlanta. It was December, and we had people from North Carolina, California, they flew in from Switzerland, they just come from everywhere. New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Detroit, they come from all over to go to our shows. We thought about playing a residence for a whole weekend, the owner of the place where we played was keen for us to do it, bring in other bands to open for us on different nights, just because we have people travelling from all over that will come every night.
MGM: One of the things you’re known for is your engagement with your fans, after shows you guys are always to be found chatting to people in the crowd, sharing a beer, smiling for photos.
HP: One of the best things about playing a show is hanging out with the fans! A lot of people say, you guys are so down to earth, and you hang out with us, and you talk with us, and we love that. We don’t go and hide in our dressing rooms, and when we get asked to do a paid for meet and greet, we say no. We never do that. We just go backstage to get changed, then we’re right out with the fans talking, having a drink, meeting people. The way we see it, you bought your ticket to come and see us play. You’re buying our T shirt. You’re buying our album. So, take a picture with us. We’ll take a picture. We’ll make you take a picture with us. We’ll steal your drink. We’ll butt into your conversation. We don’t hide. We just hang out with everybody. I really can’t say enough how much we love our fans. They are family.
MGM: You’ve opened for some legends of the sleaze glam rock scene – Skid Row, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns to name a few. What have those experiences been like for you?
HP: Everyone we played with has been awesome, we had some really good conversations with the bands we supported and we learned from them what works and what doesn’t work so well – like going out and meeting the fans; some bands won’t do that and it’s so important to engage with your audience. Ted Poley was great, and the Killer Dwarves, they were good fun to hang with. We were playing a festival in Italy and Dave Meniketti from Y&T and his wife came to see us. We sat with them by Lake Como all night just drinking wine and telling stories. What Y&T did is incredible, they are a phenomenal band. You do get the assholes as well, people that think they’re still relevant, if that happens, we just go and find a bunch of fans to hang with instead and have a great time anyway!
MGM: Your last album ‘Revenge Of Rock’ – would you say that was your breakthrough album, where the band really hit their stride? Or is there a piece of work you like better?
HP: People ask us a lot ‘what’s the best song you’ve written?’ and I always reply, ‘we haven’t written it yet!’ We’re always trying to do better with every album, and we hope the next one will be even better again. I think ‘Revenge Of Rock’ is more diverse than the others, we’re proud of it, it did well commercially, but we can always do better. We’ll see how this next album turns out, and then I’ll probably be able to answer that question a little more accurately. As far as hitting our stride, I hope we never do, I hope that we’re always trying to raise our game. The sound and the essence of what we’re going for is always going to be there. To me, quite honestly, if you can’t fuck to a song, it’s not a good song. That’s just my attitude.
HP: We just start playing! We don’t say, okay, we’re going to write a song like this, we just start playing. We write songs, and then we put it together, listen back to it. If we think it’s a good song, it’s a good song. If we don’t, then it’s a not a good song. I don’t think there’s a general formula for it. Jimmy, Chris and I write music together, and then we send it to DK, because he lives in California still, and the three of us are here in Atlanta, so we just send stuff back and forth and put it together. When he comes down, we work on them together, we stop when we’re happy with it. My formula for a great song – it has to make you want to make a baby! I was on the merch stand one time and a guy wanted to buy a tshirt for his wife. I said – you get her that shirt, what’s she giving you in return? What’s she giving you if you buy her a patch as well, and this hat over here, and if you buy the CD also maybe she’ll give you everything! They were both laughing, and he bought her the whole lot, and went out of there with a big smile on his face. Great way to sell merch! By the way, if anyone has in fact made a baby to one of our songs, good for you. I’m not paying for it!
MGM: How do you spend your time when you’re not making music?
HP: I have a regular job, so when I’m not working or playing music, I like to play golf, I like to have a lot of sex with my wife – be sure to put that in! I do stuff with my kids, my family. Jimmy, Chris and I are buddies, we hang out together a lot. We got each other’s backs and that’s why we have that chemistry up on stage, we enjoy spending time with each other. We’re like brothers. We get into our little disputes, get on each other’s nerves, that’s part of it, but no one gets to call them an asshole – I get to do it, but I’ll beat your ass if you do it! You know?
MGM: The best thing about being in Kickin Valentina is…?
HP: The fans. I can’t emphasise enough how much we love our fans. The reason why we’re able to do what we do is because of them. They are the most important things to us. We want to hang out with them all the time and hear stories about their cats and dogs and kids and all that stuff. They’re always on our minds; we’re writing our albums and our songs, working on them, and sometimes I can see this particular person just jumping up and down like crazy, because of that song, it inspires us. Next time we’re writing I’ll be thinking ‘would Victoria like this song? Can I see her stage diving to it?’ If the answer is yes, we go for it!
Kickin Valentina are:
DK Revelle ,Vocals ,
Heber Pampillon ,Guitar ,
Chris Taylor , Bass ,
Jimmy Berdine ,Drums ,
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