Valensia



Valensia - Photo by Neils van IperenThe following interview was conducted with Valensia by email and as such is not the perfect interview as issues that were raised through the answering of these questions could not be discussed or remedied as per the limitations of the format. Thanks must nevertheless go to Valensia for providing such detailed answers to all questions and in that way, it was the next best thing and did save me the boredom of transcription. V makes a couple of unprecedented revelations about his future ambitions and expresses his opinion on such pertinent topics as innovation within modern music and the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour. Additional comments by the interviewer George Heron are accompanied by parenthesis “*”s.

 


GEORGE: Why did you decide to make another Metal Majesty album?

VALENSIA: I had all these songs written for a hard rock album I've wanted to do for years. These songs actually were recorded right after the first Metal Majesty. For me it was more like one project, although it has been spread out over two separate albums.

What would you say is the difference between the two Metal Majesty albums?

"Metal Majesty 2005" is the first album ever I didn't use any synthesizers, samplers or computers. It's all vocal-chords, guitar-strings, bass-strings, drums & cymbals and a violin doing the orchestral manoeuvres.

The production has improved significantly on "MM 2005". What has happened to bring that about?

The use of real microphones and real guitar amps, the old-fashioned way. It sounds better, but still doesn't sound how it should be. I need a couple of million Euros to redo my studio. Build a new one for example. I won't record another album until I've got an A-class studio in my garden.

Why did you not have a whole band contribution for the whole album of 2005? Why use them just for one track?

Only David, my brother, could add something to the albums. The rest of the band -which wasn't actually a band, but freelance guys- was difficult to get together. Like Paul & John did drums on several Beatles tracks they were working on because Ringo had to drive 100 km to the studio. Think of The Ballad of John & Yoko or something. The plan was to get everyone together, but there was too much waiting involved. Plus I could only deal with a combo of Steve Vai and John Sykes or something. That was the sound I had in mind for this album. This John Sykes is the BEST rhythm guitarist with the richest sound I've ever heard. And what a singer he is. Now there’s a guy I'd like to carry his guitar case for and bring a beer. Same goes for Vai. I love his choice of notes he plays on a chord. Too bad he doesn't know what to do with his voice. He could have a great voice. He sounds a bit like Sting. These are highly talented musicians. It's either them or myself.

What was behind the decision to not use any synthesizers on 2005?

I'm fed up with all the computer simulated bullshit. It's really a big mistake, all these computer generated noises. I really grew to dislike it a lot. Especially because it fools you… At least me. You're plugging into a computer which says: Marshall JCM 800 top, Marshall 4 X 20 celestion speakers, you can choose which mike you want, in which kind of studio you want it. Hell, you can download all A-class studios of the world nowadays: Ambience simulators; works with pulses released in the original studio floor; calculating how your instrument would sound in that particular studio. Amazing! With the "plug-ins" from Protools, the PODS, Amp Farm I thought: "This is it. This is heaven." It's bullshit. Not when you're editing, but if you want to make a good sounding record: Forget it. You NEVER get the real thing. I threw it all in the dumpster. An SSL console I have. I still have to get me good analogue recorders. I heard that Brian May from Queen was selling his analogue Studers because he wanted to switch to hard disk recording. Ha-ha! Will he be sorry. The damn thing about this whole phenomena is that your ears are deceived very easily. Whether you're a pro or not, all ears are equal in this particular case. It takes at least a year of comparing your old stuff to your new stuff. I heard David Coverdale wants to remix 1987.. With today's possibilities, this must sound great he thinks. Forget it. Not unless you want to make it an R&B version.

There seems to be rawness in the vocals on 2005, almost as if they were done in one take. They’re not as perfectly executed as usual e.g. 1:35 on Hold on the Night. Is that intentional, or have I stumbled upon a musical typo so to speak?

Where I sing: "My Vengeance is sweeter than a sugar-coated sword"? Between "is" and "sweeter" I jump a total octave within a quarter of a second. I'm already singing a high G, so it goes up even one octave more. I think you stumbled upon a musical stroke of vocal virtuoso if I may say so, humble and modest.

*The above question is a terrible question to ask a professional musician. The term “Musical Typo” implies lack of professionalism and a tendency to overlook mistakes and cut corners. I never intended to make such a point with this interview and asked the question more as a joke than anything. The backlash below was warranted in this case*

On "Hell Hounds on my Trail" (at 4:37 into song) is there a deliberate reference to the first song on "This Is Not a Drill, Grim Reeper" in the harmonized guitars?

No, I just like these passages, that's all. I already did it in a song called "The Moon". Funny: Silly Dutch reporters went: "Ah, Brian May." but it's the kind of harmonies that John Sykes does on "Still of the Night". With two strings. Playing quarts and then dubbing it with 3rds. Grand sounds you get.

But you have to understand: These are the things I try explain to people, and they don't understand because they lack knowledge. I'm not really active in the music business anymore. When I still was, I just kept silent. But the power of these interviews is making fans ask the same questions to me: "Hey Valensia, you made a mistake on your album while singing." Pardon? Reporters have to do better than this. Listen to it again, and get used to it. Your ears don't expect this sudden take-off of the voice. Within a year you discover it yourself, but then the interview already is on the internet. People think: "Hey: Valensia made an error." I don't mind if they do, but I prefer making an error firstly. I do mind if it's caused by a vocal highlight which can't be done by most lead-singers.

*That’s me well and truly told ?*

In the beginning of "We Rocked", how do you get your guitar to go so high when the pre-verse riff kicks in? Is it a whammy pedal?

To me (and I suppose to any other artist) questions like this one are the most interesting ones. These aren't standard questions, these are real questions, simply because you're wondering. I'm always surprised people don't ask me how I got that guitar sound, what some lyrics mean, why some musical parts are the way they are etc.

Anyway, the thing you hear in the beginning of We Rock is a string hit with the pick and part of the thumb, so you get a high note instead of the actual note. This is done by almost any rock-oriented guitar player, but I learned to play melodies with these ultra-high notes only. So it's not an effect, just the way you hit the strings. It's precision playing, because when you move your thumb just 0,3 mm you don't get this sound. Interesting eh? :)

It has been stated on your website that "Aurelia’s Night" was meant to be in the next V album (i.e. follow up to "The Blue Album") and "Burying Heather" and "Zenith" was on your nonplugged album. Why are these two tracks on the new MM LP and did they need to be changed to fit in with the MM set of songs? I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of listening to the “Nonplugged” album, being a poor student.

I didn't have enough songs for one album and I was well, a bit too lazy to hook all up again for two songs.

On to your previous MM album, "The Magic Chemistry" appears to be about Queen and what they should have done after Freddie died. What do you mean when you sing, “Hear the voice of your sweet sister”?

I refer to Brian May's song "Sail Away Sweet Sister". Brian's got a voice that sends shivers down your spine. To hell with this nonsense he can't sing live. He only writes too high..! Just like Freddie Mercury, Steve Vai, all caught in that I want to be a heavy rock singer-trap.

What Queen is doing with Paul Rodgers, it's a stab in the heart of the very essence of Queen. I know they can't fill a hall without using the name Queen, so by all means: go ahead and make that final tour, but it's a rather poor finale of such a legend. Paul Rodgers has a good voice for the straight-forward rock 'n roll stuff, but he cannot do songs like "We Are The Champions", let alone "Killer Queen", "Bohemian Rhapsody" and all the songs Freddie wrote and making Queen this legend. It takes more to perform these songs than singing "yea-ee-yeah, baby" each 10 seconds. I wished Brian and Roger would have taken on the lead vocals themselves. But I know they couldn't make that comeback without having a lead-singer. It must have been difficult. You've got to be with somebody of your own age, of the same era. As a fan, I just prefer listening to the voice of Brian May instead of the voice of Paul Rodgers. That's what the song says.

You said in a recent interview that not enough people try to make a song in the same format as "Bohemian Rhapsody", but in that same interview you said you would not include "Phantom of the Opera" in your greatest hits as it sounded too much like said Queen track. If that is so, why did you make "Symphony in V-Minor", another blatant rehash of "Boh Rhap", although brilliantly done once again?

I don't know ... I had pieces of music and I didn't know what to do with it so I glued them together. I've written some opera-sections just for fun hither and yonder. I must say that most of the blatant stuff is just leftovers to fill an album because there's some impossible deadline. It's fun to record. Well, it was fun to record. Those songs won't be in my 'Greatest Hits', but actually it was nothing more than a pleasant way for me to fill the album. Plus I kinda like to fuck people up with such a song. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is holy and shouldn't be touched. That leaves me and a lot of people with one "Boh Rhap" whereas The Rolling Stones or this bloody Nirvana could be copied a million times. I always disliked that.

Do you think it’s fair to say your songs have a tendency to have bits of other people’s songs in them, sometimes whole vocal or instrumental melodies? Let’s see if you agree with some of these observations I have made:

Queen’s "The Game" in a vocal melody "Grim Reeper"
Queen’s "Killer Queen" in vocal melody and harmonies of "Ley Park"
Dire Strait’s "Money for Nothing" in "Rock nor roll" (indirect but definitely there)
Pointer Sisters "Automatic" instrumentally in "Life Is A Killer"
Men at Work "Land Down Under" vocally in "Bruxelles"
And The Beatles "I am the walrus" musically and vocally in "Catalepsia"
Nevertheless, I feel your music still has that unique Valensian quality.

If I can make some corrections:

Van Halen's "Unchained" in "Rock nor roll" (direct and definitely there)
Kajagoogoo's "Too Shy" instrumentally in "Life Is A Killer"

I don't know the Pointer Sister's song, but as you notice I agree to any of the stealing I did. I can agree because I know my own idols like the Beatles, Queen and everybody else did the same thing. Even worse in some cases. Freddie's intro from "It's A Hard Life", George Harrison was even sued. There are hundreds of examples I could give you. I was always very uncomfortable until I became aware of this.

Tragic is that people don't see that most acts are stealing entire styles, images, song structures, verses, choruses - everything. Fifty percent of what has been written in the Nineties is all Nirvana and Oasis. Another twenty percent is Alanis Morrissette, the rest is all copied techno. And when an artist tries to make a difference, there comes the list of things a reporter has discovered within your music. After 100 interviews your own fans start to repeat it. Imagine how that makes you feel.

It's nice you mention you feel my music got this own unique quality. As long as people are aware of that, I don't mind giving away the secrets where I got it from. But mostly it's just people saying I'm a Queen copy. I think that's so sadly un-intelligent.

What would you think if I said your music was “progressive”? What is your opinion on the genre of progressive rock?

I don't know what Progressive Rock actually means. I know the meaning of the word "progression" but from what I hear progressive rock is retrospective. Metal Majesty might be progressive in that sense. But when I record a reggae album, it's a totally different story again. Impossible to label. In the real sense of the word I'm making progressive music I guess.

How many instruments can you play? I was well impressed by your performance on the violin in the latest album, particularly in Burying Heather.

I don't know how many instruments I can play. Probably everything, if I practice an hour or so on each instrument. That doesn't mean I master it - I just know how to get a sound out of it, that's all. The violin - yes, I just needed a string ensemble, and I'm fed up with strings out of a can, computer stuff, samples, so I got a violin and started playing. A very difficult instrument! It took me over an hour to learn play the violin! Ha-ha, no seriously: I hold it on my lap... I can't make that flick the wrist has to make when played under the chin. I hold it as a cello, recording short melodies only. But it works.

What is your favourite project that you have worked on?

"The Blue Album" I guess. I liked the total control. But to be honest I don't know any favourite project. There are just projects, and they're all interesting in a way. It's a cliché answer, but I just don't know how to answer it, as there isn't really an answer.

What other projects do you have in the works?

At the moment… nothing. I've basically done everything I wanted to do.

Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

I don't know. John Sykes and David Coverdale? Making a great Whitesnake album? From what I heard it's a nasty way David fired John. I have experienced those kind of things… never again. Make a Queen album with Roger and Brian? And let Paul Rodgers sing "Yea-ee-yeah, baby". Speaking of stealing: don't forget David Coverdale stole this Paul Rodgers yell. Steve Vai - to do what? I'd love to work with Michael Jackson. Clarkson/Jackson; that has a ring to it. But we all know where he's at... I just do not know. Look, if for instance David Coverdale would call me saying he wants me to co-write a Whitesnake album, sure… why not. I've got nothing else to do really. I could work with anyone basically. But musically I don't really depend on it. It would be just for the fun. If there's any fun left.

What areas would you like to explore to enrich and progress your music further?

There's nothing other to explore than life itself now. I think I pretty much covered the bases I wanted to cover. Progressing happens automatically. My guitar playing improved over the years without practicing. It just got a deeper touch, more 'soul', more identity. The same goes for the rest of what I do. It's maturing I guess. It just happens.

What is happening with your website? The music section of the website has no links to lyrics or discography section or anything. But it does keep us up to date news-wise. Putting some samples on the site would be a great promotional tool. Is this something you and your webmaster are working on?

No, I specifically told them to lay off promoting. It may sound strange, but I don't care about promoting my music anymore. I'd get warmed up when there's a major company investing millions in my music, like when I first started, but if you have gone through all that, you just know there ain't much use promoting via internet. Not if you want to do things the big way. I either do that, or I do nothing.

What other music have you been listening to lately?

I don't like listening to music that much, unless a phenomenon stands out. That hasn't happened for me since ages. I kinda liked Gwen Stephanie's Watcha Waiting For? but that's because this is a rip-off from Robby Valentine's What In The World I'm Waiting For? Same start of the verse, almost the same title written by Linda Perry; the Four Non Blondes woman who ripped off Don't Worry, Be Happy and turned it into What's Going On.

Speaking of stealing, you know. These songwriters go over the repertoire of artists like us, see if there's something stealable because our songs are obscure enough to steal from. It's how it works... I've recognized parts that I've written in other songs as well. I don't mind; I'm honoured, but it's bitter when people ask me questions about me stealing bits, when you know the other story. The older stuff from my heroes I know by heart. I'm waiting still for some new talent á la Mercury or Lennon. Just let me know when they're here, but forget about acts like Oasis or any act of that sort. I hate it all.

Do you still intend to move to LA? Do you still think this would be a boost for your career?

Not in the upcoming 4 years. I already had everything; a visa for an extraordinary skilled person (it exists) and a location on the North of Los Angeles to build a home. But gradually I found out about the puritan spirit of the US and as long as George W Bush is in the oval office, I'm staying right here in Europe. Too bad though. I think I would have liked the country quite a lot. It's the spirit that frightens me.

What are your aims for the future?

I don't have any aims anymore musically. No realistic aims anyway. Times have changed and are still changing. The only aim would be total independence. This means owning a studio in which I can make music or films from A to Z. They're building it right now. Now I have to figure out a way to get the millions to extend my gear. Thank God I'm creative. I'll think of something.

INTERVIEW FOR DPRP BY GEORGE HERON

Photographs © Niels van Iperen


LINKS:

Valensia - Official Website
Valensia Fan Website
Valensia Music Vault
Sound Samples

DPRP'S Review of Valensia's Metal Majesty 2005
Lion Music

 


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