Interview with Kickin Valentina drummer Jimmy Berdine

Date: February 23, 2021
Interviewer: Olivier
Photos: Joe Schaeffer Photography (first, third and fifth photos)


Photo by Joe Schaeffer Photography

Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your new album ‘The Revenge of Rock.’ I know that everyone says that their latest album is their best album but is that how you feel about the new one?

Jimmy Berdine: Oh, 100%! The writing is a little better. The song structuring is better. It’s probably our most diverse record with all the songs having a different kind of sound and feel to them so yeah, we’re real happy with ‘The Revenge of Rock.’

Sleaze Roxx: I noticed from an interview with Chris [Taylor] with Hard Rock Haven where he had indicated that you are the ‘melodic’ guy in the band in terms of music taste.

Jimmy Berdine: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: It feels like you’ve won out on this album because the record is a lot more melodic. There’s big choruses. So you must have had a lot of influence on this album?

Jimmy Berdine: Hmmm. You know, I don’t know if it’s influences from me. I don’t think so. I think that it’s just our writing style with D.K. [Revelle] has changed a little bit. His voice is a little easier sing with. He also likes the melodic stuff. He likes the big choruses and the anthem-y sing-along songs. It’s just the direction that we went with when we were writing. That’s just kind of how the songs matured with big vocals on it. I’ll probably acquire a head set microphone here soon and probably have to start singing and what not [laughs]. I’m not a big fan of doing that while playing the drums but…

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Jimmy Berdine: We’re just trying to grow. Expand our horizons if you will [laughs].

Kickin Valentina‘s “Somebody New” video (from The Revenge of Rock album):

Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough.

Jimmy Berdine: Also, we do well over in Europe, in Europe theatres. The bands over there that are doing well — the H.E.A.T’s, the Eclipse’s, Crazy Lixx, Hardcore Superstar — not so much Hardcore Superstar on the melodic side of things. You know, melodic hard rock in Europe is massive and we do well over there so throwing in some melodic tunes along with our dirty, nasty, sleazy kind of stuff, it doesn’t hurt.

Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned that D.K.’s voice is easier to write to. What do you mean by that?

Jimmy Berdine: He’s just a little more diverse with his singing. He can sing melodic. He can get nasty and gritty. He can sing Queen. It’s just a different sound for us. I don’t want to get too much into the vocal thing [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Bursts into laughter]

Jimmy Berdine: I’m not even going to comment on the past singer [Joe Edwards]. It’s done and over with so we are just going to move forward from that [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: Well, if you listen to your previous albums, there wasn’t that many big choruses or things like that. It was mostly — and we will just call him — your previous singer’s voice. So it is a bit of a departure when you hear the new Kickin Valentina album. Wouldn’t you agree?

Jimmy Berdine: Errr. Yeah, pretty much. I mean, Joe had a great voice. I am not taking anything away from him. We found D.K.. Actually, we knew D.K. even before we put the band together. He was actually our original first choice back in 2012 or whatever but money and him living in California, and a bunch of other things just didn’t work out at the time. How many — seven or eight years later — here we stand with the guy that we originally wanted so all good [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: Yes but D.K. is still in California. So how did you make it work this time with him?

Jimmy Berdine: You know, when we write music, we record it at rehearsal and send him ideas. He puts a melody to it, his ideas, sends it back and we tweak it. It’s a lot of back and forth. It’s not the easiest process in the world but you know, it gets done and when he comes out here, if we have shows on a weekend, he’ll come out on a Sunday or a Monday, and we get three of four rehearsals in before the show, which allows us time to work on the new material. We’re in the process right now of writing new songs for another record next year sometime so we can get ahead of the curve. We’ll be sending him some new stuff in the next couple of months for him to work on. I know that he’s been writing too so its a group effort. We love ’em. He’s our brother.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! I know that you played a couple of shows for the release of the album and it’s always interesting now because of all the Covid stuff happening. How were the shows different this time around compared to previous ones given that you probably had to abide by some Covid restrictions?

Jimmy Berdine: Yeah, we did two shows last year. One was in February [2020] — a sold out like pre-Monsters of Rock [Cruise] that we did down in Fort Lauderdale [Florida, USA]. That was crazy. It was awesome. Then Covid hit and we were able to get up to one of the markets that we do well in and that’s Detroit [Michigan, USA]. And we played a show out there in October and the

Photo by Joe Schaeffer Photography

restrictions at the time were half-house. So the venue that we play up there — the Token Lounge — holds like 700-800 people. So, our capacity was 350 and we put in like right under 300. And then we did our record release weekend, party thing, here in Atlanta [Georgia, USA] and Nashville, Tennessee [USA]. Nashville had restrictions on that venue and then Atlanta was wide open [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Really? OK.

Jimmy Berdine: Yeah. The craziest thing about Atlanta is that you can go to a bar and watch a cover band, or the place that we play is called Dixie Tavern and it’s really a bar. I mean it’s a live music venue but it also has food, a restaurant. It promotes its restaurant. So if you have food involved, they allow live entertainment. If it;]’s just a music venue where it’s just booze and a band, they can’t open. Restrictions are weird but it is what it is. The great thing about it is that all three of those shows, during Covid, not one report of anyone getting sick. We reached out to the promoters, the venue owners, and even asked, ‘Hey, has anybody reported anything, illnesses or is anybody getting sick?’ Nobody seems to have caught the crud from any of our shows. We’re happy about that.

Sleaze Roxx: Well, that’s really good. I saw some of the pictures from the shows. It seems that there was no one wearing masks at the shows but I saw that there were people wearing masks into the shows. So how did that work?

Jimmy Berdine: Yeah, the restrictions were that you had to wear a mask coming in [laughs] but once you were inside the building, you could take the mask off. I don’t get it, but you know, whatever.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Jimmy Berdine: I really don’t know how to answer that question. Every state, every city, every town are different with their restrictions and it doesn’t make sense to me but it is what it is so what can you do?

Kickin Valentina‘s “War” video (from The Revenge of Rock album):

Sleaze Roxx: Do you guys have any festivals lined up for the summer or are you still waiting to see?

Jimmy Berdine: Yeah man [sighs]. We should be landing today, flying home from the UK, Denmark and Sweden. I think that we had nine shows booked starting last Thursday all the way through to Saturday a couple of days ago [February 20, 2021]. The UK was with the band Massive and then we were doing headline shows in Denmark and Sweden. We were going to play Sweden for the first time [sighs], in Helsingborg. And of course, that got cancelled. We have a 13 country, 18 or 19 date tour in May, that’s most likely — we’re 90% sure — that that’s not going to happen, especially with what [UK Prime Minister] Boris [Johnson] just announced in the UK. When it comes to shows and venues, being that ‘Call of The Wild’ is at the end of May [which has since been rescheduled to July 8 to 11, 2021], and then we were supposed to play ‘Wildfest’ also in Belgium. Nothing has been officially cancelled yet but those are the two festivals in May. Like I say, we were doing shows with Bloody Heels, BlackRain and Alia Tempora out of the Czech Republic. And it was going to be our first bus tour, backline, and all that kind of good stuff. So we’re kind of upset that that’s not going to happen in May so now we’re working on shows in August. You know, we have Rhon Rock [in Germany] and we have Hard Rock Hell Sleaze. We’re just trying to be proactive with dates. It’s just that until this thing is calmed down and things open up, I don’t know what to say about it because you know, you’re just throwing your hands into the air.

Sleaze Roxx: I noticed last year that a lot of bands that had slated their album for release in let’s say March or April or May [2020], their album just didn’t get their just due because of the pandemic and not being able to tour and stuff like that. You guys had a little more control on when you were going to release this new album. So what made you decide to release the album in January [2021] knowing that the Covid pandemic is still raging. 

Jimmy Berdine: Ummm. Well, the album was really supposed to come out in October [2020] snd our label, Mighty Music, out of Denmark, basically said, ‘Let’s wait.’ We were hoping that Covid ran its course by the end of the year and we’d be able to tour in the spring and summer over in Europe because that is where we get PR, magazines and promotional stuff. So they pushed us back to January. Granted, we’re only one month in but it was probably a wise thing that we pushed it back.

Sleaze Roxx: Do you think that you should have pushed it back any further or are you happy with the release date now?

Jimmy Berdine: We wanted to get it out. It had been a year since, excuse me, a year or two years since ‘Chaos In Copenhagen.’ I think that was in 2019 so I think that it had been a year since we put out material. And we really needed to get a full record out. Fans were asking for it. We were hungry for it to get out. We were hopeful that this whole pandemic thing would have calmed down but once again, it is what it is.

Sleaze Roxx: Kickin Valentina have actually been pretty proficient in terms of releasing material. You have two EPs, your full-length ‘Imaginary Creatures’, then another EP with ‘Chaos In Copenhagen’ and then the new album. So you have five albums in a span of seven to eight years. How do you explain that you guys have been able to do that? Other bands tend to release albums every three to four years. 

Photo by Joe Schaeffer Photography

Jimmy Berdine: I know we’re hungry. We like to write. We have a good time writing material, and we’re always trying to expand, grow and mature as writers. Writing a good song is important to us and we try to put out the best material that we can and we enjoy doing it. We want to stay fresh. We want to stay relevant. There’s a lot of bands coming up with us in the rock n’ roll world and if we take too much time off, out of sight, out of mind [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: I agree with that. I noticed that there are only nine songs on ‘The Revenge of Rock.’ Was that a conscious decision to just release the very best or how come that you didn’t put more songs?

Jimmy Berdine: Well actually, the three songs on the ‘Chaos’ EP were supposed to be on the record. We were going to put out 11 songs. When we were in Denmark hanging out, chilling at our record label owner’s bar, he was like, ‘Look, we really need to get people familiar with D.K.. Let’s go into the studio and record a couple of tunes.” We were like, “OK.” So we took advantage of it. Spent 14 hours in the famous Medley Studios over in Copenhagen. Sting has recorded there, Pretty Maids. In fact, if you want to know what the studio looks like, “Will You Still Kiss Me (If I See You In Heaven)” from Pretty Maids — that video is actually filmed in the studio where we recorded. That drum kit is the drum kit that I used. An old Slingerland, I think it’s Slingerland or Ludwig. Something like that. The label said basically, ‘Give us three songs.’ And those were the three songs that were at the time kind of together. We finished writing “Shakedown” in the studio but 14 hours later, that’s what you got.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Well, that’s cool. That’s cool. 

Jimmy Berdine: It was fun. Long day but it was fun. And then we added “Get Ready” from the Bang Your Head Festival. You know, we had four songs. It was cool.

Sleaze Roxx: Is there any thoughts of perhaps releasing a live album?

Jimmy Berdine: Ummm. You never know. I’m always wanted [laughs] to do a live record. I just think it’s cool when bands put out live albums so that you can feel their energy and hear what they do live. Yeah, hopefully in the future. I would assume that we would put out another record or two with D.K. before we actually consider… But you know, if the opportunity arises and we get to do a big show like Band Your Head or something along the line of a big festival along the line of a Bang Your Head like a Sweden Rock or something like that, if they say, ‘Hey, do you want to record?’ ‘Kickin Valentina live in Sweden’ doesn’t suck.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] 

Jimmy Berdine: [Laughs] We’re waiting to go to Japan though. We want our Budokan, you know what I’m saying [laughs].

Kickin Valentina‘s “End of The Road” single (from The Revenge of Rock album):

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, yeah [laughs]. So where do you see Kickin Valentina going this year? With all the uncertainty, what are your plans?

Jimmy Berdine:  Ummm [sighs]. Well, if you cancel the shows in May in Europe, we’ll probably do a couple of shows here on the east coast. I’m sure that over the summer, we’ll get back over to Detroit and the mid-west. We’ll do some shows down here in the south-east. By the end of the year, hopefully we can do some shows out west. They are a little tighter with the restrictions these days than down here in the south. We’re lucky to live in one of the red States here in the United States [of America]. We’ve kind of been operating at 80%, 90% for the last couple of months so it all depends on what the restrictions are, where we can go. What would be a smart move? We’re kind of picking and choosing where we are playing for various reasons. We are looking forward to doing some shows.

Sleaze Roxx: It must be especially hard for you guys with the Covid pandemic because you’re one of those US bands that headed over to Europe quite a bit. So with all the restrictions, you kind of lose your number one market. 

Jimmy Berdine: Yeah, it’s really not a good thing [laughs]. It’s killing our mojo. Not only do we want to go over there to do shows, because we do well over there, there’s so many shows and there’s money to be made. It’s a great market over there in Europe, the UK and Scandinavia. We also miss our friends over there. In the last couple of years, we’ve made some really good friends in almost every country that we go to. We just want to get back over there and see our people, you know what I’m saying?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, for sure. I know that ‘The Revenge of Rock’ is your favourite [Kickin Valentina] album but if you could rank the Kickin Valentina albums and give me your reasons why… We don’t need to do the number one. We’ve already talked about that but your other four albums, rank them and why.

Jimmy Berdine: Errr. ‘Chaos In Copenhagen’ would be number two certainly because adding D.K. to the band. One of my favourite songs that we play live is “Sweat.” Number three would be ‘Imaginary Creatures.’ I think that when we put that album out, it was a little darker, a little heavier. I think that our songwriting matured. ‘Super Atomic’ would be number four. Obviously, that one is kind of our first shot at putting out a record. We still play a couple of songs off that. “On My Side” is probably still to this day my favourite song to play live. I love that song. “Get Ready” has been our closer since day one so that is a favourite of ours. And then I would just put the [first two] EPs at five and six. Number six would be the very first one that we put out. It was at a small studio here on Highway 9. You know, production was ‘blah.’

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Jimmy Berdine: Songwriting was new. It served its purpose. You can see the progression from number six to number one. A maturity in songwriting and an enhancement in production. Yeah, I would have to say ‘Revenge’, ‘Chaos’, ‘Imaginary’, ‘Super Atomic’ and the two EPs, however you want to put them down there [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?

Jimmy Berdine: Aahhh. We have the greatest fanbase on the planet. Seriously, our KV Mob, I can’t brag enough how supportive that whole group of people are. I mean, we’re talking a couple of hundred people that travel from all over the country. We’ve had people fly in for our shows from California, from Michigan, from Wisconsin, from Arizona, from Texas, from Florida, from Maryland… I could go on and on and on about all the  places that people are coming [from]. You know, they travel and they make a weekend out of it. You know, the Nashville and Atlanta shows in January, even with the Covid restrictions, there were 100-110 people that travelled from around the country to come to these shows. You know, so its really humbling to know that you have such amazing fans from around the country that will travel and make sure that they are there. They buy all of our merch. They buy all of our music. They absolutely are the coolest people on the planet. The Mob rules [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] How did KV mob get started in the first place?

Jimmy Berdine: Well you know, our fans are gangsters. Being that I’m from Chicago and Heber is from New York [laughs], the whole mafia thing, you know what I’m saying? Our fans are so dedicated. It’s almost gangster, you know what I’m saying? We’ve had people fly over to Europe from the United States to see shows. And this ‘Wildfest’ and this ‘Call of The Wild’, we had groups of people that were going to fly over in May for that also. They are just amazing. That’s all I can really say about them. We love them.  We appreciate them. They make us very happy so go KV Mob!

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] So last question for you, what are your three all-time favourite albums and why?

Jimmy Berdine: My all-time favourite albums and why? Let me see. Man, how many do you want [laughs]? My top three?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, your top three.

Jimmy Berdine: I would have to say my number one record all-time, it’s either got to be ‘Invasion of Your Privacy’ or ‘Dancing Undercover’ by Ratt because Ratt is my favourite band.

Sleaze Roxx: Those are awesome.

Jimmy Berdine: I would have to say that my second favourite album of all-time would have to be Van Halen’s ‘1984’ because it’s the first rock album I ever bought.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s my first one as well!

Jimmy Berdine: Nice, nice. And then, man! There’s so many great albums for me growing up from Aerosmith to KISS to Rock Springfield to Bryan Adams. I like all sorts of rock. I am going to say this. My last choice for my favourite top three are the last five albums from Pretty Maids.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK.

Jimmy Berdine: Because I’ve got to know the guys and the material that they have put out on the last four or five albums is some of the sickest rock that I have ever heard. I mean, its really good [laughs]! You know, and then I could throw in there an Eclipse record here and there, some Mötley Crüe. I even like early Bon Jovi. Dokken. Anything from the hair band era. I had all that stuff, even the no name albums — the Hericane Alice’s, Junkyard, Slik Toxik from Canada.

Sleaze Roxx: They’re all good.

Jimmy Berdine: Stuff like that. I could list 30 records for my top 30 [laughs].

Kickin Valentina‘s “Sweat” video (from Chaos In Copenhagen EP):