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

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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. "Night Terrors," sans rowing:

I read that you donated a kidney to your dad a few years ago. How are you both doing? I'm doing great. He's doing great. It took him awhile, but I was fine the whole time. I just needed my incisions to heal and I was fine. For him it took a little longer but now he's doing good. He's adopted a new little dude, so now I have a new little brother. That's helped him get through it, I think, with being depressed and being sick. It'll take it out of you. He was sick for a long time before that. It's good. It's good to see him back, having an appetite. It's a world of difference. Hopefully people see that. It didn't stop me at all. It didn't make me flinch. If you can help somebody by doing that, it encourages other people to do the same. It has. People write to us all the time, tell me that they either have had someone do it for them, or they did it for someone because they saw that it really is a miracle surgery.

No problems with one kidney from Venus and one from Earth? Right. We weren't even matches, but it works from sheer positive operations. [laughs]

What bad movie recommendations to you have for us? I just put up a review yesterday. It's hard to do them on the road because I'm so busy. I'm taking a break today because I drove all day yesterday. I'm actually sitting in the back of the van now, eating a pizza and driving through South Dakota from Fargo. But yesterday I did one for this movie called Deadly Prey. You can't buy it. It was only released on VHS. Came out in 1987. Terrible Rambo-meets-The Deadliest Game mash-up. It's really, really bad but really, really funny at the same time. You can watch a couple of clips of it on my blog. If it's something you can buy, I don't download it, but if it's out of print, I don't mind downloading those kinds of things. I don't mind if people download our first album because it's unavailable. The other four, they're out there, buy them. I want to support artists in making a living. But this is an old movie, and it wasn't that good, so you can find it on the torrent sites. Deadly Prey. I highly recommend it.

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