On a cold, rainy Thursday night in Atlanta, I went backstage at Smith’s Olde Bar with three fourths of Atlanta’s own, Kickin Valentina, a new and exciting band that has been gaining popularity around the world. Having already shared the stage with well-known acts Eve to Adam, Pop Evil, and most recently Queensryche, Kickin Valentina have already shown they have what it takes to make it on the big stage. I sat down with guitarist, Heber Pampillon, drummer Jimmy Berdine, and bassist Chris Taylor to find out just a little more about the band that caught my eye and my ear a few months back.
HHM: Who is Valentina and why does she need Kickin….?
Heber: The name came from a pornstar in Europe named Valentina. It’s like a fetish site and she kicks guys in the balls for money, so it just kind of went right there.
HHM: Yeah, uh, no further description necessary with that one… How would you describe your music?
Jimmy: There is so much influence that comes from so many places. It’s just straight up old school, fun Rock and Roll.
HHM: Yeah, I definitely hear that. I know the first time I heard you guys was at the Masquerade and I got into to it because it was so much like the music I grew up listening to. It’s a kind of a flashback to a time before the music changed.
Chris: We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re just playing what we like, what we feel and just have fun with it and hope that people enjoy it because that’s what it’s all about.
Jimmy: Even during the writing process, if someone comes up with an idea, we’ll just go with it and we just kind of go back and forth. What do you think about this, what do you think about that. I don’t really think we’re looking any particular style of music. Obviously we want to have a modern tone to us, but definitely our influences come from the late 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
HHM: You can feel that in your music. Who or what would you say had the most influence on Kickin Valentina’s music?
Jimmy: I would say old KISS, the Blues, the bluesier side of Tesla or Cinderella. I’m the metal guy. I like all the double bass stuff, the Motorhead’s, the Volbeat’s and a lot of the European Progressive Metal bands like Hammerfall and Evergrey, but then again, I love all the 80’s shit. Ratt is my favorite band on the planet. Old Motley Crue, Tommy Lee and Tommy Aldrich of Whitesnake are idols of mine. Then you have his side (Chris) which is more of the Punk like New York Dolls, you know that gritty, dirty, sleazy kind of stuff.
Chris: Yeah, I’m more into the sleaze Rock, glammy Punk kind of stuff. Like early Faster Pussycat, LA Guns, to the Deadboys and things like that.
HHM: So it’s really a compilation of styles.
Chris: I guess you could say it’s a mish mosh of influences
Heber: I’m kind of on the pure end of the scale.
Jimmy: Yeah, and our singer’s idol is Elvis.
Heber: You can’t go wrong with that.
HHM: You really can’t go wrong with that, can you.
Chris: We can’t really be pigeon holed into one sound.
HHM: Well that kind of leads right into this one. If I took a sneak peak at your Ipod’s recently played list, what would be your top five?
Heber: For me it would probably be KISS, obviously, LA Guns, Kix
HHM: Oh yeah
Heber: Yeah, I’m a big fan. I have been for years. Spread Eagle, and hmm, mine’s is all over the place. I’d have to say Lenny Kravitz.
Chris: I’d have to say Hardcore Superstar. I love Backyard Babies. Then there’s the older bands; like Faster Pussycat, LA Guns, and Slayer. They are one of my favorite bands. Stuff like that.
Jimmy: I’d have to say Volbeat is number one because I can’t get that damn CD out of my car because it’s so old. Then old school Johnny Cash and old school Metallica slammed together. Pretty Maids out of Denmark, Volbeat out of Denmark, Hardcore Superstar out of Sweden, Ratt, and for shits and giggles let’s throw in some Dokken.
HHM: There’s nothing wrong with that. Who would be the most surprising song or artist on there? You know the one that would be the most out of character for you. Mine would probably be Johnny Cash. Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about Hard Rock and Metal.
Chris: For me it would be a band called Flicker Stick. They were kind of a Pop Rock band that did this VH 1 Bands on the Run thing years ago. That’s where I discovered them. It’s kind of a spacey, Pop, Rock type of thing. It’s really different than what I normally listen to. I even love Mazzy Star and old David Gilmore. That kind of shit.
Jimmy: Yeah, mine would definitely be old school 70’s country music or some Funk like Earth, Wind, and Fire or something like that because it’s got a groove to it. I like Waylon Jennings. I’m kind of starting to sound like a .38 Special, Blackberry Smoke kind of guy huh. For some reason I’ve been YouTubing that kind of shit lately.
Heber: I guess mine would be more like Lenny Kravitz. He’d be the one that is kind of out of my usual.
HHM: You have had several big shows in the last six months with some major national acts like Eve to Adam, Pop Evil, and Queensryche. What is like to share a stage with bands like them?
Heber: It’s an honor. It was great. Everybody was great to work with. It was definitely an honor and a blessing.
Jimmy: It was pretty fantastic. Those guys are up there. They are legends.
HHM: How is the music scene in Atlanta for local bands?
All Three: laugh
Jimmy: I’m gonna shut up for a while on this one. You guys go ahead.
Chris: You know what. Atlanta has some cool Rock bands, but it’s primarily a Metal or Hip-Hop city. We are playing with a couple of cool Rock bands tonight (Halls of Jupiter and Ledfoot Messiah). The Rock scene in Atlanta is small but it’s cool.
Jimmy: If we could just get people to get off their couches, come out and pay the minimal cover charge that four bands split so that they can have some kind of kick back, you know, like $30. If they would just come out to the shows in support, I think the Rock scene here would really grow. It’s just so hard to get people off their couches to come out and check out local music. We aren’t saying you have to love us or even like us, just do something other than the norm. You know the norm in Atlanta is like Chris was saying, Hip-Hop. I work in the club industry, I’ve been a bartender for 20 years, I saw when I moved here, the Rock scene in Atlanta was out of control the with the blondes of Jackyl and when the Black Crows came out and then it morphed into Sevendust and now you’ve got Mastadon and Every Mother’s Finest is in there. It’s just not like that anymore. You don’t have the Wreck Room, Magruder’s, or the Edge.
Heber: It’s growing slowly. It’s coming back, but it’s a slow progression.
Jimmy: Hopefully we are helping. We are hoping that it does.
HHM: How important is internet radio to new bands?
Heber: I think any type of avenue where you are being heard is important. So I think for us it’s been great because we are on across about 35 different countries on 250 plus radio stations.
HHM: Well, in my opinion, terrestrial radio around here sucks.
Heber: Well they are kind of pigeon holed to one certain thing, but you know, that’s kind of the nature of the business. You have to play the games that are out there and do the best you can with it.
Jimmy: Hopefully enough people are hearing us all over the world, which is kind of cool because we’ve been selling stuff overseas a lot, so you can’t complain about that.
HHM: What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Jimmy: Being on the road with these dicks.
Jimmy: I don’t know, I guess it goes along with what every band faces, just getting the opportunity to be heard. That goes for any band, not just us. Being given more opportunities in more places to play, especially out of town. That’s tough when you’re just getting started in your own city and you get a little bit of a buzz going and you go to the Carolina’s or Florida and you’re like, we’re on a roll, we’re on a roll. Let’s kick some ass. Then you walk into a place and you’re like (crickets), but hopefully those ten people told their ten friends.
Chris: And that’s how shit goes down
Jimmy: Yeah, you never know what could happen.
HHM: You never know who one of those ten people might be. Along those same lines, I know you are playing a few festivals this summer. Are there any plans in the works for a tour?
Chris: Yeah, we got Skullfest in October in Nebraska and we are going to book a tour around that. We’ve got September in Maryland, Soundwave, and we’ll book some shows around that one. We just got added to Goodfella’s Summer Rock Party in Illinois and we’ll book some stuff around that. Right now we’re trying to concentrate on getting some bigger shows that we can book about a week worth of dates around.
HHM: What is your favorite song to play live?
Jimmy: I like On My Side, just because it’s, well it’s not our opening song tonight, we’re playing it second. We just flipped up the order. They allow me to mess up the sound, so I flip the set list every now and then. It’s usually our opener, but tonight we moved it to second. I like it because it’s got a lot of energy and it is a driving song and with the vocals it’s just like Arrrhhhh!!! I also like our single Get Ready
Chris: Yeah, I’d say Get Ready.
Heber: Which is what we close with
HHM: Here’s the question I ask everyone I have ever interviewed. If you had the chance to take the stage with any musician, living or dead who would it be and why?
Jimmy: I’m gonna go with Metallica. Those guys are just, man, I hung out with them back in the day when I ran a club here, they are just super cool. Not that I want to take Lars’ spot or anything.
Chris: Sure he does!!
Jimmy: It’s either them or AC/DC. I have seen them both and man those two bands own their crowd.
Chris: Mine, just for the simple fact that they were my first concert and they made me want to be a musician, I’d have to go with Motley Crue. I have been a fan since I was twelve.
Heber: With me, there is no question. It has to be KISS. There is no way around it. Just the spectacle that they put on.
HHM: Great bands all the way around. Three of my favorite bands right there.
Heber: Now, for my second set, it would have to be Jimi Hendrix
Jimmy: I was thinking he was going to go with someone like, perhaps, George Michael
Heber: No, No, No, No
Chris: Some old school Wham
Jimmy: Wake him up before he go, goes…
HHM: Yeah, ok…. That’s scary
HHM: What is next for Kickin Valentina?
Heber: The stars man.
Chris: Right now we are getting ready. We’ve been writing some new songs. We are playing a couple of those tonight
Jimmy: We are gonna try them out
Chris: Yeah, we are gonna try them out and see how it goes. Man, just to get on the road and take the band to as many people as we can and turn it on to as many people as we can and just have some fun.
Heber: We have a lot of fans around the country that are very supportive
Jimmy: And they want us to come to their town, so we try to figure out ways to get out there to as many as we can. Economics is a big part of everything, so to try to make things work like that. That’s part of the struggle a band has.
HHM: Anything else you’d like to put out there?
Heber: Just make sure they go download our stuff on ITunes or Amazon. Go check out our website: www.kickinvalentina.com and pick up some merch
Chris: I just want to thank everyone that has been supporting us so far. Make sure you tell a friend.
Jimmy: Support the music. That’s it.
Interview by Gary Flinn HHM
Check out more photos from he show HERE
For More Information:
- photos: Kickin Valentina Live at Smith's Olde Bar
- Interview with Kickin Valentina guitarist Heber Pampillon
- photos: Sunflower Dead live at Rock Bottom 2/20/14 - credit Gary Flinn
- Interview with Michael Del Pizzo of Sunflower Dead
- photos: Bridge To Grace live at 120 Tavern in Marietta, GA
- The Milk Carton Kids announce performance on AXS TV