Dave Mullins recently reviewed the debut solo album from Chazz Valentine and absolutely loved it. Chazz was nice enough to catch up with him for an interview to discuss the new album!
The Punk Archive: For fans of The Rabble or Flirting With Disaster how would you say this record differs from your other projects?
Chazz: I suppose the biggest difference is that this album is a lot more personal than albums released by The Rabble or Flirting with Disaster. There is also no limits to what sounds I can create. With a full band, each member brings their influences in their instrument, so naturally ‘a sound’ comes about through playing styles and so on. I feel like I can be a little more creative with my solo project and therefore a little more ‘schizophrenic’ (for the lack of a better word) with the styles that I play. If you compare a song like Dear God with something like Generation Y, you’ll see what I mean. Very contrasting styles, but somehow they work on an album as a whole.
The Punk Archive: Does the writing and recording process change when you’ve got no other band members to bounce ideas off? And how?
Chazz: Writing can change quite a bit. For a band situation, it usually consists of us just jamming in a room until someone plays something catchy, whether it be a drum beat or a guitar riff; then the songs progress from there. Most of my solo songs begin on my acoustic guitar, usually with a riff that I like the sound of. Then I’ll start singing random words to it until I hear some melodies that excite me enough to turn it into a song. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak with writing music, so I do like being able to put ‘whatever I want’ to the songs, but I definitely always miss the edgier side my brother Rupe added to The Rabble.
I’ve always had the ability to hear the ‘bigger picture’ of songs in my head in the very early stages of writing a song. The hardest part for me is always writing the lyrics. It feels like my Achilles heel. I really have to be feeling strongly about something in my life for inspiration for lyrics to come about. I don’t like to force lyrics or songs. If I’m not feeling something within about thirty seconds then I don’t carry on with it!
The Punk Archive: Did you record and produce all of the various parts yourself?
Chazz: Yup. I have a home studio where I play and record everything I do. Every so often I’ll get a friend of mine to play some keys on a track if I feel like I want a different perspective on them (or someone that is amazing at playing the keys), but usually, I can figure out the notes well enough to add the ideas in. I often compare myself to a pocket knife. I can do a lot of everything, but nothing particularly well!
The Punk Archive: The Brightest Star is a real stand out track on the record. I’ve heard that you wrote the song for a friend who was getting married, which is really amazing. Could you elaborate on that story a little?
Chazz: That’s interesting that you picked that song out as a stand out track. It’s one that I don’t get any enjoyment from hearing now, but probably because it’s the oldest track off the album. Yup: I got contacted by a friend to write a track for his wedding. Two weeks prior to the day this song came together. Taron (who was getting married) also added a few lines of lyrics in as well to give it a personal touch. I remember being in the shower when the drum beat idea came into my head. I had to rush into my studio and start pasting drum samples around the place to create it. I didn’t have any drum samplers back then, so it was a manual task putting it together from single drum samples I’d taken from Rupe’s kit over the years.
The Punk Archive: Are there any other songs that have nice stories to go with them?
Chazz: I wrote the song Dear God when I was feeling fed up with the way we treat this planet. A week after sending it to my close friend, he told me to check out the documentary Cowspiracy and said that the lyrics feel very relevant to that documentary. I watched that and it changed my life (for the better). I don’t eat meat any more and have a very different perspective on the world. I really recommend it to everyone. It’s powerful! I’m not sure that’s a ‘nice story’, but it’s something that has changed my life.
The other song that I feel is important to share is Life in a Heartbeat (Dustin’s song). I received this post (below) on my Chazz Valentine page. The song was part of my response.
“Chazz I have no idea how to explain this. My brother and I have loved your music since we first found The Rabble back when we were teenagers and have followed your work since then. We even use to cover a few Rabble songs in my parent’s house when we were in high school Seeking and Start Again. He sang and played guitar and learned everything by ear I played drums and sang your brothers parts. On the 25th of August you shared your bad moon rising cover, my brother direct messaged it to me and we talked about how much we hated the fact we never got to see The Rabble perform as we live in America. Later that evening after we talked online as we live in different states now my brother unexpectedly passed away. You are the last thing my brother and I ever will speak about. I don’t know why I feel the need to tell you this but I do. I hope you, your family and loved ones are well. I will carry my The Rabble tattoo with an even heavier pride now that my brother is gone thank you for all you created and gave us.”
The Punk Archive: Do you remember what first made you start listening to punk music?
Chazz: My parents used to listen to The Sex Pistols and The Clash quite a bit when I was growing up. My dad has a great record collection and was always listening to music. When I was about ten I remember getting into The Prodigy. I loved the outrageous look and the attitude in the songs like Firestarter. But the more I listened to them, the more I realised that I liked the tracks that were more ‘punk’ sounding than the techno side. That made me investigate this style of music more, and then my brother Rupe and I dove into Dad’s record collection, pulling out The Sex Pistols and more.
The Punk Archive: How did you go from there to being in bands?
Chazz: I started playing guitar at a young age. I am left handed… well, more like ambidextrous, and there was only one left handed guitar at school which someone else was using, so I grabbed a right handed guitar and went from there. Starting out, I was learning Anarchy in the UK and Clash City Rockers and quickly realised how important the power chord was. A couple of years later, Rupe got a drum kit and we started pissing off the neighbours on a daily bases with our jamming sessions. This is where The Rabble was born. We got the name from a Peter and the Test Tube Babies live album where the singer calls the crowd a “filthy rabble”! Great album!
The Punk Archive: Do you have any particularly fond memories from playing or attending shows?
Chazz: Witnessing the first time I saw Dropkick Murphys was ridiculously amazing. They were so loud that I couldn’t hear anything for days after, but it was a life-changing show. I was about 16 at the time. The Rabble have played so many shows that it’s hard to pick out my favourite… Rebellion Festival in Blackpool would have to be up there as one of the best. The last time we played there the crowd was fucking insane! It was the best feeling ever, and everyone knew the words to our tunes. Good times!
The Punk Archive: What are your plans for 2017?
Chazz: Honestly, at this point, I’m just trying to promote this album. So much time went into getting it together that the last thing I want is for it to fall under the radar. That’s the really hard part about releasing an album without a label. You have to pay people to take your songs to the radio. Talk about pay to win. It sucks, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles (or something!?).
I’m feeling really inspired by bands like Good Riddance at the moment. Stuff that is hard and fast but has great melodies to it, so who knows, maybe the next Chazz Valentine album will be faster and edgier. The last thing I’d want to do is put myself in a box and limit my creativity, so I’ll hopefully keep people guessing.
The Punk Archive: What are your plans for the record? Is there touring on the horizon? If so, how would that work?
Chazz: Your guess is as good as mine. I’d just get a few friends together to play shows if something came up that was worthwhile doing in New Zealand. But I’m not exactly the ‘flavour of the month’ here, so I don’t think the chances are high of me playing shows locally. If I got offered shows overseas in the UK or USA or something, I’d probably just find band members over there that could play the parts. ‘Rent a friend’…!