You can say that Hilton Valentine's music has come full circle, sort of. His newest release “It’s Folk ‘N’ Skiffle, Mate” is nothing like what he did as guitarist for the legendary 60's band The Animal's. He's gone back to his folk roots, to the music that started him playing and he's happy to be doing it. WebcasterU caught up with Hilton Valentine recently and we asked him about his new CD, his opinion on the record industry and his plans for the future. We are honored that he took time out to answer our questions. - Joel
WU: There is a great picture of you on the front page of your website where you are on your back playing guitar. The caption underneath reads “You won’t catch me doing this anymore!” I take it those wilder days have now passed? Do you remember when and where that picture was taken?
Hilton: Yes, indeed. Those days have certainly passed! If I did that now I may not be able to get up again without some help! I really don't know where that photo was taken. It could have been at almost any gig. The time frame though would have to be sometime in 1965 judging by my hair and sideburns and the guitar I'm using.
WU: You have a new CD out and for sale on your website entitled “It’s Folk ‘N’ Skiffle, Mate”. What made you decide to do a folk album in this day and age?
Hilton: Umm, well, playing acoustic guitar is how I started. That was when I was 13. I was greatly influenced by Lonnie Donegan as were most kids who were learning to play in the mid fifties back in England. He played skiffle music which was basically just American Folk music with a more modern approach. I had a Skiffle band called The Heppers. There are a couple of those skiffle songs on the new CD that I used to sing back then, but the rest of it is just regular acoustic folk type songs. I've been a big fan of early Bob Dylan and Donovan since the early 60's and when I'd play my acoustic guitar at home those were the types of songs I'd write. It was my wife's idea to record this CD. I had done an LP back in 1969 or 1970 of acoustic material that, through production, had lost the plot of what I was trying to do. She's been after me for quite a few years now to get my new songs down and to revisit some of the old tracks from that LP. We basically just did it for ourselves and if other people like it - well, that's great. Oh, I also wanted to say that I'm using the name Skiffledog so that people won't expect an acoustic night of Animals tunes. I just really want to separate what I'm doing now from what I did then.
WU: You re-recorded a 1970 John Lennon song called “Working Class Hero” for the new CD. Why this John Lennon song? Is there something special to you about it, if so what?
Hilton: Oh, I don't know. It's just that when I first heard this song, umm......, I fell in love with it. It is such a powerful song. I can certainly relate to it, as do many of the working class, I'm sure. I've seen the people that "smile as you kill" and I never wanted any part of it.
WU: There’s another song from the CD “Looking To The Sun “ which you say is a reflection on your life. Have you accomplished everything in life you set out to do or is their still unfinished business? If there is unfinished business what would that be and what would it take to finish it?
Hilton: Well, yeah, it is a reflection of my life, but it is also about each moment being a new beginning in a sense. I'm just talking about trying to pick myself up by looking back at all the things that I was able to accomplish, taking all that in, and using that to move forward. So I definitely have unfinished business. I want to continue making music. As I said before, although we recorded this CD for our own personal satisfaction, it would be great if others liked it because that would mean that I could make a living playing music which is all I really want to do.
WU: It seems most of the songs you wrote for the new cd had come from personal experiences. Is this your way of writing new material or do you draw inspiration from other places? If so what other places?
Hilton: Yes, all of my songs come from personal experiences. I don't know where the instrumentals come from. I'm just sitting around playing and they come out. With the two instrumentals I have on the CD, it's just that no lyrics ever came to mind. I liked them as they were.
WU: What are your plans for the future? A new CD maybe or a tour? What do you have planned for the near future?
Hilton: Well, this IS the new CD. I just got it last week, so let's not get ahead of ourselves. My immediate plans are to go out and play these songs live. Certainly if all goes well with this, I'd love to go back into the studio.
WU: The acoustic guitar has always been an important instrument to music. Over the years it has been overshadowed by the electric guitar. In the past few years it seems that the acoustic is being used more and more by today’s musicians. Do you prefer an acoustic over electric when you write? If so why? if not why?
Hilton: I think that MTV's UNPLUGGED series probably has a lot to do with the acoustic guitar being more prevalent in today's music. I use an acoustic guitar to write songs because it is a solo instrument. With an electric guitar you more or less need a band. I don't know really. I guess it depends on the type of music you are writing. It just seems that I write the types of songs that sound best played with an acoustic. I've only composed one instrumental with an electric guitar.
WU: There was a movie that was released in 2003 entitled “A Mighty Wind” that sort of poked fun at folk music, now we all know that folk music was very popular back in the 60’s and early 70’s, but because of that particular movie we are seeing a sort of re-birth of the folk genre. In your eyes what makes that music so appealing still today?
Hilton: I've been meaning to see that movie. I'll have to go out and rent that. Well, most things are cyclical, aren't they? What was old is new again? But also, I think why folk music is so appealing ....... first of all.....ummm...... is because it originated from ordinary people - and folk music was something that everyone could all join in with and relate to. They mainly told stories. When you can strike a chord in someone........touch someone in a personal way......you are communicating with them.........and people respond to that.
WU: Is there any one musician that you did not get a chance to work with that you really wanted to? If so who is it and why?
Hilton: Actually.....Lonnie Donegan because he is the reason I started playing. Unfortunately he passed away last year. A few years back I was working with Jim Rodford who did some bass work for Lonnie. We were talking about that and I told him that the next time Lonnie rang him up, to let him know that I'd love to sit in for a couple of numbers. That would have been really great.
WU: On your merchandise section of hiltonvalentine.com you have a warning for buyers of The Animal’s CDs:
“PLEASE BE AWARE that there are so-called Animals CDs out there that have absolutely NOTHING to do with any of the original Animals. They even get away with having pictures of the original Animals in the booklet - sometimes the cover!”
In this day how can people still get away with this? Is this piracy in your eyes or is this a record label thing? What exactly is going on in this situation?
Hilton: I wish I knew how they were getting away with it. One that I know about has been released under several different covers but it's all the same CD. It seems to me that the bass player from The New Animals, Danny McCulloch (from the late 60's) is putting those out. But why there would be a photograph of THE ORIGINAL ANIMALS LINEUP on the cover or on the inside is beyond me. That is blatant misrepresentation. If he wants to cover old Animals songs, he should just state right up front who he is and that they are NEW recordings. Anyway, that's why my web mistress decided to put up links to those CDs that are actual Animals CDs.
WU: What is your opinion on the state of the record industry? Slumping sales, piracy, high costs of CD’s, what can they do in your opinion to pull themselves out of this slump?
Hilton: Pfffffffft - God knows! Well, technology I suppose will come to the rescue. I have an Animals CD that apparently has some type of copyright protection on it. My brother-in-law tried recording some of the tracks onto a CDr for a compilation CD for his car and it wouldn't work. I can't remember what the details were but he makes comp CDs all the time and that was the first one that wouldn't work. It was the last Animals CD that EMI put out I think. I haven't come across anything like that before. As far as the high cost of CDs goes, I think that it's encouraging people to duplicate their own to save money. One friend can purchase a new release and make copies for everyone else, and the next friend purchases the next release and makes copies, and so on. If they lowered the prices, perhaps people would be more inclined to purchase an original to get the inserts, etc.
WU: Have you ever considered internet radio as a way to promote your music? Have you even tried tuning in to Internet Radio? If so what do you like to listen to?
Hilton: No, I haven't considered that. I do listen to internet radio sometimes. I have the radioAOL feature. I like to listen to the British Invasion (they don't just play the hits, but obscure tracks as well), Oldies, Blues and Folk stations. (Non radioAOL users can download the free Radio Netscape Player to tune into the British Invasion and over 175 other channels)
WU: We at WebcasterU.com make it a point to ask what your favorite charity is so that we can give exposure to that charity in your behalf on our website. What’s your charity of choice, why, and where can people donate?
Hilton: Sorry, I don't have a favorite charity, but if I had to choose
one it would be GREENPEACE. We get our bank cheques through them.
Hilton Valentine photo's courtesy of hiltonvalentine.com
Radio Netscape photo courtesy of Radionetscape.com
Greenpeace LOGO courtesy of Greenpeace.com