BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Robby Valentine is definitely a phoenix.
After suffering through years of writer’s block, the Dutch musician was struck by a serious eye infection in 2016 which resulted in a 75 percent vision loss. An unspecified defense disorder soon followed. But, like the ancient mythological bird, Valentine found himself successfully rising anew through the ashes.
“I was ill and in bed for weeks,” Valentine remembered, “but at some point my mind became much clearer than it had been in years. The three half-bins ‘incite to songs’ that I have not been with for years became complete songs. You could say that when I lost most of my vision, I started to ‘see’ more.”
A POSITIVE CHANGE
The result is Valentine’s latest, The Alliance, a 10-track release that has unleashed the power of the musician and is a pure example of his diversity.
Valentine, born under the name Robert Kempe, has had a respectable storied career and his accolades are impressively numerous. His musical talents have been featured in many band projects, such as ZINATRA, and the musician has successfully ventured into the genres of rock, pop, hard rock, and heavy metal.
In the 1990’s in the United States, the now-former MTV Vee-Jay Adam Curry was so wowed by Valentine that he helped him get an American record deal. As a result, Valentine had a giant hit with his debut single, “Over and Over Again,” which launched his career as a solo artist. But, in 2018, that artist has evolved from a heartthrob to a respectable married man and father.
“As a person, you go through different stages in life, and that reflects in the music,” Valentine stated. “Heartache and feeling alienated in the world used to be my biggest source of inspiration on previous albums. But since I’m happily married and became a father, that changed. Before, I couldn’t care less of what’s becoming to the world and where it’s heading towards. I didn’t – and don’t – feel at home in it anyway,” he continued. “But now, I’m worried about my little girl. So, I’m writing more and more with the intention to opening up peoples’ eyes. There are more people needed for making a change.”
The Alliance shows a sense of awakening, according to Valentine. While Valentine took the attitude of “whatever comes out, comes out” in his songwriting, a pattern soon surfaced.
“The first few songs were like that,” Valentine agreed. “I had a song about depression, ‘Black Dog,’ a song about my daughter, one about my illness. But soon I got into conspiracy theories and songs came out quicker than usual. I felt this sense of awakening. So many things suddenly made sense to me. And after years of writer’s block, songs came out with a speed I never felt before. [It was] like finding a new calling.”
One of Valentine’s songs, “Sons of America,” shows the musician taking on politics. Interestingly enough, the song did not start out that way; it started out as a soccer song. Valentine, who used to be a self-confessed fanatical soccer player, stated that he would have even chosen a career in soccer over music… if he had the talent, that is.
“I wanted to write a tribute to Johann Cruijff, my all-time favorite soccer player who passed away the year I wrote the song,” Valentine shared. “The intro describes one of his goals in his return game with Ajax after coming back from his USA adventure with the Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Diplomats. But, when the chorus came into my head, immediately the line ‘we are the sons of America’ came along to it. I tried to change it, but nothing sounded and felt better.”
Valentine decided to keep it and write lyrics around the line. The song soon took on more of a political stance. From his point of view, Valentine saw the whole world as a puppet of the USA, citing the War on Terror.
“But, I soon learned that America is just as much as a puppet as any other country,” Valentine said. “We are all in deep shit if we don’t wake up, if we don’t realize we’re all living in a hijacked fake reality and that we’re heading towards the Big Brother State.”
WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN
Highlights of Valentine’s career included a 1996 concert in Tokyo, Japan.
“For the first time I felt the way I dreamt it would feel being on stage, ever since I was a kid,” Valentine remembered fondly. “It was so emotional I could hardly sing the first three songs!”
And, as always, there are things that Valentine wished he could have done differently.
“I’m dissatisfied with the first [eponymous] album,” Valentine stated. “Apart from ‘Over and Over Again,’ which was recorded a year later with a different producer, I never liked the sound of it. Also, I could have sung it a lot better. And I hate the artwork for the second album, The Magic Infinity! But, I didn’t have a say in it. I had to tone down my makeup and outfits. I had to compromise; otherwise I wasn’t allowed to make another album.”
More to the point, “I should have quit the management I had sooner,” Valentine revealed. “Things were fantastic at the beginning, but when success got less and less, and the music business in general declined, they didn’t do anything for years while I was waiting for something to happen. They were not suitable for the change in the music business. It’s all downhill from there.”
Valentine added that he himself was dissatisfied for years due to the lack of commercial success.
“But I learned the best moments of a musician have nothing to do with that,” Valentine said with sincerity. “The magic moment when you complete a song, when it turned out the way you hoped it would be, is the best feeling there is. The fact that I still make the music I want without compromise. I don’t compete with anybody,” he added. “I just record and write what I feel is right for me. I always have. Art is not a competition and I’m not a businessman. And I really don’t understand most of the music charts nowadays. Even if I wanted to, there’s no way I could compete.”
While Valentine is currently giving his all to promoting The Alliance, rest and relaxation will need to follow.
“We have a few gigs planned, and we’re aiming for a lot more,” he stated, “hopefully return to Japan soon. I miss the stage and I’m sick of the studio. But I desperately need to get away from it all,” Valentine ended. “I’ve been working non-stop on this for over a year now and I need to recharge and re-invent myself in order to write new songs. I don’t want to wait another four years to get a new album out.”