Interview with Kickin Valentina guitarist Heber Pampillon

June 24, 2022
Interviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato

While 2020 and 2021 will forever be remembered for the hard times that they brought down on the world of rock n’ roll, Kickin Valentina put that time to good use and made lemonade out of the lemons that they were handed. That’s not to say that they didn’t suffer the same trials and tribulations as other bands due to the incapacitated market for live music, but rather than curling up and dying they made use of the downtime by writing and recording what would become one of 2021’s best albums in ‘The Revenge of Rock‘. With the concert industry now back in full swing, Kickin Valentina are making up for lost time out on the concert trail both home and abroad in support of the album. The guys recently returned from a wildly successful, month-long European tour and are back at it in the good old U.S. of A. too, with domestic and international shows lined up throughout the summer. I sat down with guitarist Heber Pampillon for the rundown on current happenings within the Atlanta-by-California quartet. Towards the end of the interview, we were joined by frontman D.K. Revelle as he finished up with soundcheck prior to the band’s recent show in Baltimore, Maryland.

Sleaze Roxx: Kickin Valentina just returned from the European leg of the Revenge of Rock tour. You guys were over there for pretty much the whole month of May. How did it go?

Heber Pampillon: Fantastic. We love being in Europe. It was an amazing experience. It was great going back to Europe. It’s always a good time.

Sleaze Roxx: Were there any highlights that stood out for you?

Heber Pampillon: All the people, all the fans, you know? Just the amazing amount of fans that we have over there in Europe and the new fans that we have that we get to meet. Those are always great highlights. When you get to meet new people and new promoters that have been dying to get us over there and it’s been rescheduled & rescheduled. It’s been fantastic. You know and then the highlights are just the four knuckleheads being together doing crazy shit.

Sleaze Roxx: The European fans are just fanatical for rock n’ roll.

Heber Pampillon: Yes, they are. They’re amazing.

Sleaze Roxx: The European leg of the tour was delayed significantly due to the pandemic. Did that make audiences over there even hungrier to see the band?

Heber Pampillon: Absolutely. Not only that, but I remember meeting a couple of people that were like “oh my God, I’ve been dying to see you guys for seven years”. And then Covid hit. ‘Cuz we were over to Europe like every year, twice a year [prior to the pandemic]. It was incredible. Hearing all of the old fans and the new fans singing our stuff is just a great highlight, you know?

Sleaze Roxx: A lot of U.S. bands are not able to tour in Europe, but Kickin Valentina does extremely well over there. What do you attribute that to?

Heber Pampillon: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a magic formula or we’re just lucky that we appease them. I don’t know. Maybe the way that we treat our fans? I just don’t know. I mean, besides playing kick ass rock n’ roll [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: That could be it. It could just be the music itself that appeals to them, and you have that specific formula that they really dig. And rock n’ roll seems to be really thriving in Europe with [Iron] Maiden, Guns N’ Roses and KISS pulling in record numbers.

Heber Pampillon: There are so many great bands in Europe too. It’s not just American bands going over there. Just great bands – some of the opening bands we were with and festivals that we played. Some of those bands, we became fans. It’s just good music.

Sleaze Roxx: There are a lot of European bands that I wish would tour in America, such as D.A.D. Playing larger rock festivals such as Call of The Wild, do you ever see any inter-band drama or rock star tantrums going down?

Heber Pampillon: Well, you know, there’s always gonna be that but we don’t take part in that stuff. We don’t take part in any of that. We don’t really care, you know? That’s our attitude. We’re there to do our job and our goal is to entertain people and meet our fans. We really don’t care if other bands are rock starring each other. We don’t care. That’s just not our thing.

Kickin Valentina‘s “Somebody New” video:

Sleaze Roxx: Being on a European-based label, do you feel that has ratioed your success or broadened your appeal overseas?

Heber Pampillon: I think it definitely helped. And not taking anything away from the U.S., we do very well here too. It’s just that when we’re there, we’re there for longer periods of time. Whereas over here, we’re doing three shows. So, we do things like that here. We don’t do full blown tours here. Also, a lot of the clubs that were here, they’re no longer around. The scene is a little bit different. I think it’s gone more underground. Rock n’ roll is more underground now.

Sleaze Roxx: And a lot of the clubs that were around pre-Covid fell victim to it. I can think of a few right off the top of my head. But it seems like the band has a lot of fun out on tour, at least from the fan perspective. Have you ever thought about putting out a DVD or documentary to encapsule that?

Heber Pampillon: We’ve always talked about it, but here’s the thing. Nowadays, everybody gets offended about everything. And we’re like no-holds-barred. We make fun of each other constantly, so we make fun of everybody. Everybody gets treated equally. To us if you’re a dick, you’re a dick. I don’t know, we’ve talked about it. Maybe one day, we’ll take a videographer on tour and just capture the whole tour experience from beginning to end and do something. Right now, really that’s not our goal. Our goal right now is to really just do some more shows here and then start working on a new album. And hopefully this whole Covid thing kicks and we can open everything back up again.

Sleaze Roxx: Kickin Valentina has a lot of diehard fans in the U.S. too.  I’ve even seen a Kickin Valentina car at your east coast shows.

Heber Pampillon: They have license plates, they have tattoos. I’m waiting for the person that’s gonna name their kid [after the band].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Yeah, after the porn star.

Heber Pampillon: Exactly, why not?

Sleaze Roxx: At this point, ‘The Revenge of Rock’ has been out for about a year and a half. Have you started to think about a new album yet?

Heber Pampillon: Yes, we started writing for the new album and we’re kicking around ideas. We had our meeting, while on tour, with our label and we’re talking about some plans to start recording the new one, so we’ll see. At the end of the year, we’ll start buckling down.

Sleaze Roxx: ‘Revenge’ won a lot of acclaim and made several “best of the year” lists. Does that add pressure when you’re starting to think about ideas for the new album?

Heber Pampillon: No, I don’t think it’s pressure. We always put pressure on ourselves and say “This next album has to be better than the last one”. And we always say that. It’s just a natural thing. As a musician, you’re never satisfied with what you did. If I go back and listen to the recordings, and you could ask every guy in the band, they’d say “I wish I would have done this”. At some point you have to say, “Enough is enough”. Otherwise, you’ll never finish anything. That’s part of the way musicians think. But I don’t think it’s pressure. We’re just gonna write what we feel works for us. We have to enjoy it. And if we enjoy it, I think it comes across. We’re not faking it. And it comes across truthful and people just dig that shit.

Sleaze Roxx: To your point, you commented about revisiting things and, as musicians, how you’re never satisfied. Have you thought about taking one of your older songs and re-recording it?

Heber Pampillon: No… You know, some people have asked us that before, and I don’t think so. With D.K. being the new singer, I don’t really think that we want to take anything old, that we did before and just re-do it. We’ll just work on new stuff, and as we gel better, and we get to know each other better, the best is yet to come.

Sleaze Roxx: The songwriting chemistry in the band right now is very strong, as it has always been, and especially now with D.K. in the band. Do you, as musicians, have similar influences or do you write in different directions, and it just works?

Heber Pampillon: I think that’s a good reason why people think that we have our own sound, because we all have different influences. At the end of the day, we all grew up listening to a lot of the same stuff. But I think we kind of tailor ourselves, in having different influences, but I think that when we bring it together into a song, it gives it the Kickin Valentina sound that people talk about. And we don’t sit down and say “We need to write a song like ‘Alone’ again” or ‘Get Ready’.”

Sleaze Roxx: Is it too early to tell what direction the new songs might go in? Do you have any surprises up your sleeve?

Heber Pampillon: It’s gonna be catchy, obviously. Grooving. At the end of the day, I’m a big believer that if you can’t fuck to a song, then it’s not a good song. You know, it’s got to have a good feel to it.

Sleaze Roxx: Having been around for so long, what does the band do with songs that you don’t finish or put on albums? Do you ever revisit those?

Heber Pampillon: Sometimes we do. There’s tons of stuff. Good hooks and good riffs that get put to the side and revisited. “That was a good riff, let’s try it over here” and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But we don’t dwell on it. Sometimes we may just say “Hey, you remember that riff that you were playing for that one song that you tried, and it didn’t work out? It might work good right here.” It just becomes its own animal, and it just continues from there.

Sleaze Roxx: If you were going to throw a cover on your new album, what song would it be?

Heber Pampillon: We always joke around. Every time we hear a song on the radio, we’re like “We could rock that song out. We could do this. We could do that.” We haven’t really nailed it down. In the past we did “Burning Love” by Elvis [Presley]. I’m a big Elvis fan. And that was great, but you know we haven’t really sat down and said we’re gonna do another cover. I don’t think we nailed it down. Bryan Adams always comes up, Bryan Adams songs, a John Mellencamp song. We just don’t know.

Sleaze Roxx: Those are not the ones that I would’ve guessed.

Heber Pampillon: But you know, we’d put our little twist to it.

Sleaze Roxx: What are some of your favorite bands and albums of the last few years?

Heber Pampillon: Of the last couple of years? My favorite band has always been KISS. They’re why I play music. Last couple of years, I’m a big Hardcore Superstar fan. I love everything that they put out. So that’s some of the more current stuff that I really enjoy. The new Skid Row stuff is great.

Sleaze Roxx: They’re phenomenal live too, with their new singer.

Heber Pampillon: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: What’s your all-time favorite KISS album? You mentioned that you love KISS.

Heber Pampillon: All of them. Especially the live ones.

Sleaze Roxx: Did you hear about that person in the U.K. that found a Gibson Les Paul Standard in their closet, un-played since the 70’s? It’s said to be worth something like $184,000.00.

Heber Pampillon: Well, I can tell you that it wasn’t me. I wish it was me. I would love to find out who it actually was and get to play it. That would be nice. But no, I hadn’t heard about that.

[Editor’s note: Kickin Valentina frontman D.K. Revelle joins in during the interview.]

Sleaze Roxx: I mentioned it only because I know that you play Gibsons. I heard it’s estimated to be worth close to that amount once it’s refurbished.

D.K. Revelle: I heard you have a fascination with midgets.

Heber Pampillon: I do. I do have a fascination with midgets. I think that they need to be bringing me little Jack and Cokes.

D.K. Revelle: Yeah, they’re cutting themselves short [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: D.K., how are you man? How was the tour in Europe?

D.K. Revelle: Oh, it was awesome. We had the best time. We go back in August to hit some more. A run in the UK. Then we come home and…

Heber Pampillon: We’re gonna do two festivals in one day.

D.K. Revelle: Yeah, that’s kind of monumental. The Stone Dead Festival and Hard Rock Hell Sleaze. Both in one day.

Sleaze Roxx: Logistically, how will you do that?

Heber Pampillon: They worked it out, and we’re gonna do it. Stone Dead, we’re gonna do earlier. And then we’re gonna get driven to Hard Rock Hell Sleaze and play that one.

D.K. Revelle: It’s a full day man. But it’s gonna be good.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s great. It brings to mind Bon Jovi’s five continent promotional run where they touched down and played on five continents in one day.

Heber Pampillon: Yeah. We’re gonna do it without a jet.

D.K. Revelle: Our private jet’s in the shop [laughs].

Heber Pampillon: [Laughs] It’s getting an oil change.

D.K. Revelle: But yes, to answer your question, it was a great tour. You know, we love our fans and we’ve got a lot of them over there in Europe and the UK and it never gets old man. We love it.

Sleaze Roxx: I was asking Heber if the European tour’s delay resulted in the fans being more ravenous to see the band live.

D.K. Revelle: Yeah, it was actually a blessing in some way, shape or form because they got to sit with the new record for a long time and they knew all the songs. And they sing them right back, loud and proud right to us when we hit the stage. It’s cool.

Sleaze Roxx: They have the best bands over there and the fans are crazy for live rock n’ roll. It’s a lot different than it is here in the States.

Heber Pampillon: It’s incredible. Not knocking the American fans or anything like that but, I mean, it’s more of a lifestyle over there.

D.K. Revelle: It is.

Heber Pampillon: Over here, it’s kind of more like weekend warriors, and you know… great. We appreciate that you guys come down and support us when we play. But over there, if you play every night, they’ll come and see you every night.

D.K. Revelle: And the festivals are insane because they’re like vacations. They’re like one community. It’s like a town at a festival. There’s so much more to it than just the music. It’s the people and the culture and everything. The vendors. Everybody’s amazing.

Sleaze Roxx: I wish it was like that here. Thanks for talking with us fellas.

Kickin Valentina‘s “War” video: