INTERVIEW WITH KICKIN VALENTINA BASSIST CHRIS TAYLOR
Date: October 2, 2019
Photos: Joe Schaeffer Photography (all photos except the album cover)
MANY BANDS DON’T SURVIVE ONE CHANGE IN LEAD VOCALIST, LET ALONE TWO IN THE SPAN OF SIX MONTHS, BUT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT KICKIN VALENTINA HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO. AFTER THEIR LONG-TIME SINGER JOE EDWARDS DECIDED ON VERY SHORT NOTICE NOT TO ATTEND THE BAND’S GIG AT THE PRESTIGIOUS BANG YOUR HEAD FESTIVAL IN GERMANY IN JULY 2018, KICKIN VALENTINA PARTED WAYS WITH HIM AND LATER ANNOUNCED THAT STRADLIN’ ROSIE SINGER BRIAN BEZOTTE WOULD BE THE BAND’S NEW LEAD VOCALIST. THAT ENDED UP BEING SHORT LIVED AS ABOUT 4.5 MONTHS LATER, KICKIN VALENTINA ANNOUNCED THAT FORMER JETBOY SINGER D.K. REVELLE WAS REPLACING BEZOTTE. ALMOST A YEAR LATER, KICKIN VALENTINA CONSISTING OF REVELLE, BASSIST CHRIS TAYLOR, GUITARIST HEBER PAMPILLON AND DRUMMER JIMMY BERDINE WILL BE RELEASING A NEW EP TITLED ‘CHAOS IN COPENHAGEN‘ VIA DANISH LABEL MIGHTY MUSIC ON DECEMBER 6, 2019. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH TAYLOR TO FIND OUT WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING SINCE THE BAND’S LAST INTERVIEW WITH SLEAZE ROXX IN JULY 2018 SHORTLY AFTER EDWARDS’ DEPARTURE.
Sleaze Roxx: So, Kickin Valentina have a new EP coming out in December. Before we start talking about the EP, it’s actually pretty impressive that you were able to get an EP out after all the turmoil that you had with your singers. You had two different singers…
Chris Taylor: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: …in the last year and a half [laughs] and here you are with an EP. Are you pretty happy with how things have turned out?
Chris Taylor: Yeah. We are very happy with how things have turned out and it’s been a crazy fucking year for us to say the least. We’ve been writing. As soon as D.K. got into the band, we just kind of started bouncing ideas off of each other. We got a ton of songs. The EP came about very unexpectedly. We weren’t planning on doing it. We happened to be in Denmark for a show and we had a couple of days off, and the label was like, ‘Do you guys want to get in, record and knock out at least three songs in a day?’ So we were like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ You know, ‘No problem.’ When we went in, we didn’t know what we were going to do with them. We didn’t know whether we would save them for the full length [album]. We really didn’t know what the plan was. We just knew that we would go in and record tracks while we were there. Once we were done, the label decided that they wanted to put it out as an EP. So it was very… This whole thing was very unexpected. We weren’t really planning on putting anything out new until probably early next year but so, here we are. But you know, it turned out great man! We are really happy with where things are going.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! How did you come up with the three songs to record?
Chris Taylor: Ummm. Those were kind of, out of the batch of the songs that we had written, those were kind of three of our favourite ones. So we just decided those would be the three. We had been playing two of them live already. It was kind of, ‘These are the three we like so let’s go in and do those.’ So that was about it.
Sleaze Roxx: You also decided to put “Get Ready” — a live version on the album. What made you decide to add that one in?
Chris Taylor: Well, we wanted to do something a little more than three songs and all we had time to record were those three. We knew that we had [the] Bang Your Head [Festival in Germany] coming up and we were already filming it. There’s going to be a video coming out soon, hopefully in he next couple of weeks of the entire show from Bang Your Head. So we knew that we were already recording that show. We were like, ‘Let’s throw a live track on there’ and “Get Ready” seemed like the perfect one to use for the EP.
Kickin Valentina‘s entire set at the Bang Your Head Festival at Volksbangmesse in Balinger, Germany on July 13, 2019:
Full ShowLive at Bang Your Head festBalingen, Germany 2019
Sleaze Roxx: Now when I saw you guys playing at Rocklanta [in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on March 30, 2019], you also played a new one called “End of The Road.” So will that one be appearing on the new full-length?
Chris Taylor: Yeah. That will definitely be on the full-length.
Sleaze Roxx: Why did you decide not to put in on the EP?
Chris Taylor: Man, I don’t know. To be honest, like I said, we didn’t know what we were going to do with these songs when we initially went in. The original plan was that these songs would go on our full-length so we just kind of picked out three favourites and those were the three that we were all really liking at the time. If we had a chance to record another day, we would have definitely recorded “End of The Road.” We just didn’t have the time.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you feel any pressure having to record all three songs in one day?
Chris Taylor: Not really. Not really. A couple of songs — “Sweat” and “Easy Rider” — we had been playing for a while already. The new song “Shakedown” — I don’t even know. I don’t think that we had even played it live at that point and we kind of had to play around with tempos a little bit more while we were in the studio because either, we were playing it too fast or too slow. We couldn’t find the right groove. That was probably the only one that gave us any problems while we were in there but we ended up being in there for about 14 hours that day. It went smooth you know. It went smooth. No pressure. Like I said, a couple of them, we already knew. They had kind of been in out set for a while already.
Sleaze Roxx: So obviously you guys have made amends with the Bang Your Head Festival because last year, you cancelled at the last minute. This year, you’re back and you’ll even have a track on your EP [from their live performance at the festival]. How was it cancelling on the festival and that they were obviously gracious enough to have you guys back he next year?
Chris Taylor: Yeah. Obviously, it sucked having to cancel it. You talked to us right after all of this so you kind of know [laughs] our feelings on all of that. It was actually — we were surprised that they asked us to come back and we thought that that bridge has been burned but it was cool. We even sat down with the owner Horst and talked to him for a little while. Kind of laughed about it. He was telling us some stories — just crazy things that have happened over the years at the festival and weird reasons bands have pulled out, things like that. He wasn’t mad. He was kind of… He thought it was kind of funny. I mean, I guess that he was kind of pissed at first [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Chris Taylor: But after a while [laughs], he kind of thought it was funny. We laughed about it. Everything is cool. They were great to us. They were great. It was a fun show.
Sleaze Roxx: Now will there be videos coming out in support of the new EP?
Chris Taylor: There will. The first single is going to be “Sweat.” We are filming part of it on October 12th and then it’s going to be a compilation of just us playing and a bunch of live footage. D.K. is flying in on the 12th of October. We do the video on the 13th and then we started demoing on the 14th for the new album.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And what’s the timeline for the release of the new album?
Chris Taylor: Ummm. Dude, I’m not sure. We would love to have something out in the spring but I don’t know. We go back to Europe in May and we would love to have it out before then. We’ll see [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Chris Taylor: All I can say right now is “We’ll see.” We don’t know yet.
Sleaze Roxx: How has it been having D.K. [Revelle] in the band? Obviously, he’s an experienced singer. He played in Jetboy for a little bit. What does he bring to the table that maybe the other guys didn’t, in terms of your previous singers?
Chris Taylor: Man, he brings an enthusiasm to the band and that we love. It’s like me and Heber talked about it. He’s just like us. He kind of lives and breathes playing rock music. It’s who he is. It’s what he’s done his whole life. He brings a lot of ideas into the band. He’s the one that designed all the artwork for the album. He named the album. It’s been cool having somebody involved in other aspects of the band beside just writing lyrics. His enthusiasm has been awesome! We love him. We love having him.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you guys get him in the band in the first place? What’s the story in that regard?
Chris Taylor: Ummm. Kind of going back a little bit. When Jimmy and Heber originally put the band together, D.K. was one of the first people that they called before Joe or anything. At the time, it was just Jimmy and Heber. We didn’t really have — there was nothing established. He lived on the other side of the country. There wasn’t really anything there yet and so he kind of passed on it. But we have all known who D.K. is for a long time from when he was in Jetboy. So when Brian [Bezotte] left, we kind of sat back and we were like, “Alright. What the fuck are we going to do now? We don’t want to break the band up. Who do we know? Who did you guys talk to a long time ago that you were interested in? Whose in other bands now that we like and that we can try to like steal or whatever, you know.
Sleaze Roxx: Sure [laughs].
Chris Taylor: D.K.’s name was the first thing out of Jimmy’s mouth. He was telling us again who he is. The problem was that he lived on the other side of the country. How can we make this work? So you know, we called him up. He was like, “Yeah, I remember talking to you guys. I’ve been following what you do. I really like it. Bla, bla, bla. Let’s get together and see what happens.” And we sent him a couple of songs and a couple of weeks later — two to three weeks later. I can’t remember. Something like that. He came in, we flew him over, he auditioned. Man, he had learned like fucking 10 or 11 songs for the audition and nailed it. So we were like, “OK. This is a no brainer. He wants to do it and we’re all on the same page.” So here he is.
Sleaze Roxx: But you still have the distance issue from what I understand. So how is that working out?
Chris Taylor: Yeah. It’s fine. He will come here sometime for a week or two, and we’ll write. If we have a show or something, he’ll kind of come early, stay after the show and we’ll work on stuff. Lately, the three of us get together and we’ll record songs and we’ll just e-mail it to him. He’ll either be, “Yeah, I like this. I don’t like that. Or change this, change that.” So we’ve been kind of writing that way and he’ll take the songs, dump them on a four-track and record some vocals over them and send them back to us. So we’ve been kind of writing some of the stuff, not all of it, but some of the stuff long distance but it’s been working out fine.
Sleaze Roxx: So D.K.’s presence in the band is because Brian Bezotte decided to leave the band. It must have been a real shock for you because you announce that he’s going to be the new singer, and interestingly enough, Brian released an EP with Stradlin’ Rosie before you guys. So are you surprised that he has an EP with a band after leaving Kickin Valentina?
Chris Taylor: No, not really. From what I understand, and I could be wrong about this, a lot of those songs he already had written and he was still in contact with all those guys. He formed Stradlin’ Rosie before he started singing for us and i think that they were still planning on playing shows and things. We were not going to be like an exclusive for him. He was kind of still going to be doing that band. If I remember at the time, they were looking for a drummer. No. it doesn’t really surprise me that they did that.
Sleaze Roxx: At the end of the day, do you find it to be a blessing in disguise with how things turned out the way they have?
Chris Taylor: Actually, we do. We do and we wish Joe and Brian nothing but the best. Yeah. For us as a band, we’re happy. We’re happy with where things are. We honest to God couldn’t be happier where we are right now. We’re good [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: In terms of the three new songs on the EP, how much input did D.K. have in those songs?
Chris Taylor: Dude, he had a lot. He wrote all the lyrics and melodies and everything for them. Musically, it was kind of me and Heber getting together with Jimmy. He would maybe shorten this part, maybe make this part a little longer. He kind of tweaked it out with the arrangements a little bit. Lyrically, he wrote all of that.
Sleaze Roxx: In terms of D.K. handling the older Kickin Valentina material, what do you think of his take on the old material?
Chris Taylor: On the old material, man, I think he sounds good. He’s not trying to mimic what Joe did. We told him when he came in, “Keep it true to the original song but kind of do it your way.” And so, that’s what he’s been doing and it’s been fine. Fans have been very accepting of him.
Sleaze Roxx: Having seen you guys lay live with Joe [at Sleazy Slimey Sunday 3 in Hanover, Maryland, USA on May 6, 2018] and D.K. [at Rocklanta in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on March 30, 2019], and obviously, Joe has a great voice and stuff, but I thought that D.K. had way more stage presence than Joe. What are your thoughts in that regard?
Chris Taylor: [Pause and then laughs] They’re very different singers. They’re very different frontmen and we’re happy with D.K.. So that’s all that I am going to say.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Alright, so what are your plans coming up? Obviously, you’ll be recording the new album soon or going into pre-production. What are your plans for 2020?
Chris Taylor: Right now, first, we have an EP release show scheduled for December 6th in Atlanta [at the Dixie Tavern in Marietta, Georgia, USA]. There should be an other show scheduled for December 7th somewhere — maybe Tennessee, Alabama — I am not sure yet. We’re waiting for confirmation. As far as 2020, we go back to Europe in May. The only thing that I can announce right now is that we are doing the Call of The Wild Festival in England in May. There’s some other festival announcements coming up while we are over there. I am just waiting to get the OK to announce them. We’ll probably be gone for maybe three weeks over there and then we’ll probably play around the US during the summer, and then we go back to Europe in August for the Hard Rock Hell Sleaze. There will be another tour and there will be another festival that we’ll be announcing for when we’re over there for that time too. Looks like right now, we’ll definitely be back there twice, hopefully three times. We’ll see.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking about that a little bit, you guys are obviously a US based band but you’re playing in Europe quite a bit. It seems that there is more of an audience for you guys rather than in the States. What are your thoughts in that regard?
Chris Taylor: Man, we love going over there and playing. We love playing the US and wish that we could get more press over here. We wish that we could tour over here more. Our label is over there. Our publicist, our agent, all of our representation is based there. We wish that we could play over here, tour over here more often bit we love playing one there. Fans have been awesome to us so we just can’t — as far as the press — we can’t get the traction over here that we get over there.
Sleaze Roxx: A lot of people say that the European fans are more accepting of a wider genre of metal bands and that makes for a better scene than in the States. Given that you have played in both markets, what are your thoughts in that regard?
Chris Taylor: You know, I agree with that and we talk about this all the time. It’s like in the US, everything is segmented so much. Genres and sub-genres. If you’re this, you can’t play with that. Over there, we have played with straight power metal bands and death metal bands. The tour that we did with Nitrogods in Germany, those guys were straight Mötorhead type of rock, you know? And the fans were very accepting of us. Over here, I don’t think that we could really do something like that. If you go on stage and it’s loud, and it’s rock, big guitars and you’re honest about what you do, they’re more accepting of it. So it’s been cool.
Sleaze Roxx: I am going to leave you with this. Obviously, there’s a Facebook group that got started to get you guys to play the M3 Rock Festival. To me, it seems that it should be a no brainer that you guys should be on the festival.
Chris Taylor: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: What are your thoughts and will this year  be the year?
Chris Taylor: Dude, I have no idea. I don’t know. We would love to play M3. I have messaged Sullivan about it and we aren’t booked yet. That’s all I can say [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Chris Taylor: I don’t know man. We get so frustrated. We do like little festivals over here. We just can’t get the bigger ones man. Don’t know. It’s either everything is so corporate ran and you have the Rock On The Range and the Carolina Rebellion and all that shit, and you have to buy on to it, or it’s like, “No. We only want ’80s bands.” It’s frustrating for us. We can go to Europe and get on festivals. We can’t do it in our own country. It’s crazy.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Chris Taylor: I think that’s about it. Our new EP is up for pre-order right now and there’s a link on our Facebook page on how to get it. It will be out on December 6th. Go order a copy of it.
Kickin Valentina performing “Sweat” at Rocklanta in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on March 30, 2019:
New song “Sweat” live at Rocklanta 2019. Introduced by Luc Carl and Brad Lee.