Interview: Valient Himself of Valient Thorr on Rowing, Donating Kidneys, the Avett Brothers and a Special Motorhead Birthday

Feb 16, 2011 at 11:30 am

It's been nearly a decade since Valient Thorr arrived on Earth - Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to be exact - from its home on Venus. This Sunday the band will make its second St. Louis appearance in six months, opening for Motorhead at Pop's. In September Valient Thorr headlined at the Firebird to a sweaty, enthusiastic crowd that didn't hesitate to drop to the floor and row at leader Valient Himself's command. He took a moment to talk to A to Z while whipping across the Great Plains from Fargo to Minneapolis.

Robin Wheeler: You had a birthday last week. How did you celebrate? Valient Himself: In the past it's been celebrated for a whole week instead of one day, but we just did one day this year. It was celebrated this year in Calgary, my Earth birthday. Just hung out and sang. Did our show and sang with Motorhead and got a song dedicated to me. Got to sing "Kill By Death." That's pretty much all you could ask for.

Sunday on Twitter I saw that you gave a little shout-out to the Avett Brothers, wishing them luck at the Grammys. What did you think? I only got to watch the beginning of it this morning [Monday]. We were playing last night in Fargo while it was happening, so I didn't actually get to check out the whole thing, but I'm proud of those dudes. We're good friends and both started in North Carolina, here on Earth. We've been friends for a long time, and they've come a long way. I think we have as well. It's fun to see where our lives are headed now, after living in Greenville together, living with those guys, competing with those guys, and seeing where things have taken us. It's pretty crazy.

How excited are you about opening for Motorhead? It's awesome. This is our fourth tour with them. The very first time was just incredible. Now we've become good friends, so it's nice to interact with them and not be uncomfortable, knowing that they're our buddies, and hang out and share funny old stories. We sort of have a history. It's been five years since our first run together, and to be asked back time and time again, it's a great relationship we've created. It's an honor to be out with them every night, to make new fans and make new friends with people who've been watching them for forty years. This will be our tenth year anniversary. I can only hope that thirty years from now we'll still be rocking and people will show the same respect that they show those guys. It's awesome.

Was this something that, as a kid, did you dream of opening for Motorhead? Never dreamed of it. Never dreamed it would happen. But yes, it's just like, wow. What did I do right to make this happen? It's a really good feeling. You can count on your fingers the bands that you want see, much less meet, or play with, or tour with, or become friends with. It's something that you never think would happen and all of a sudden ... it's wild as hell.

At the Firebird in September ... I don't know if this happened at other shows, but at one point about half the audience sat down and started rowing. What was that? That's a new thing for this album. It happened in Stuttgart, Germany. These guys just started doing it, and I thought man, that's amazing. That's such a good move. I'm going to see if I can get the whole world to do it. We've been doing it since then. This last summer, during "Night Terrors." Sometimes you have things on your mind when you go to bed and you take it with you. You're on a journey and it could be a bad dream, or a nightmare, but sometimes they come out to be night terrors. To me, crossing that path, crossing that weird nightmare river, it's like crossing the River Styx or something on the way to Hell. You've got to row faster and faster to get across. So that's why I try to get the whole audience to row the boat with me.

I've been reading these books called "A Song of Ice and Fire." I'm on the third one. I think there's going to be seven if he'll fucking hurry up - it's George R. R. Martin. The books are great. They span this world he's made up called Westeros. Across Westeros there's epic battles. I'm thinking about all these guys, rowing across this massive river and these big ship captains ... I don't know. It's all tied into these things, thinking about these people working as one, when there were no steam engines to get you across and all you had was manpower.

We do different things at different times like that. That just happens to be what's going on right now. We used to get people down on the ground, but we stopped doing that for three or four years. This just seemed like a new spin on that, that also tied in with our thoughts on the new record about manpower and getting through it with old ways of doing things instead of relying on technology. Relying on manpower and your dreams at the same time. It connects a bunch of different weird images together in my head that's really appropriate.