Valor Kand of Christian Death: "I Have an Issue with People Assuming What Jesus Looked Like"
Maitri and Valor Kand of Christian Death
When the late Rozz Williams formed Christian Death way back in the early 80's, the band was more of a campy, death-obsessed punk outfit than the gothic beast they would become under the guidance of one Valor Kand. Kand took charge of the band and brand name that would become Christian Death into the 90's and beyond. After numerous personnel changes, Kand still fronts a version of the band to this day and he seems as confrontational as ever.
From a studio in Maine and in anticipation of Saturday's performance at Three Links, Valor Kand, along with his bass player Maitri were kind enough to speak with DC9 about the legacy, influence and infamy that goes along with being in a band called Christian Death.
Are you recording a new record? It's been since 2007 when you released American Inquisition.
Maitri: Yes, but we never stop writing and recording. It's takes a while because we are producing it ourselves. The two of us are terrible together.
Valor: We are overly critical.
Maitri: Especially when we are together working on the music. It's terrible because we always criticize each other.
Is that the normal way of working?
Maitri: Criticism only brings the best out of us.
Are you two married?
Maitri: Oh no, everybody thinks that, but we are just band members.
Valor: Business partners.
How long have you been business partners?
Maitri: I forget. How many years was that Valor?
Valor: She came on in 1995 on the Sexy Death God album.
How long has it been since you played Dallas?
Valor: I think it was 2001. I think it's been at least 12 years.
Maitri: We always have a lot of fun when we go through there. It's a shame we haven't been there in that long.
Do you still get death threats from Christians?
Valor: It's more than just Christians. We've made more than one phone call to the FBI. Since the cyber attacking has become more prevalent, it's like you can only have so much protection. We've all been exposed to little or no privacy. People love to vent negativity and the internet makes it viable to say and do terrible and evil things. When it comes to getting protection, unless you have evidence against someone, nothing is going to change. Basically, once you are dead, someone will do something about it.
How old are you?
Valor: I don't discuss personal information.
Maitri: He is a vampire.
You were in a band called Pompeii 99. How did you end up in Christian Death way back in 1983?
Valor: There was a whole death rock scene in Los Angeles. It was really just so many different vibes. You had the punk thing not too far from its heyday. There was an emerging new wave scene. You had that whole melodramatic scene from England with bands like the Cure. We were playing shows with bands that had that sort of vibe. It was Pompeii 99, Christian Death and 45 Grave. You had bands out of New York like the Misfits with that sort of a vibe. We played shows as Pompeii 99 and Christian Death had broken up and [lead singer] Rozz [Williams] was asked if he would like to join the band. It was something like that. He was asked to be part of our band and ultimately under the influence of our French record company, we gravitated to the name Christian Death.
Since it was a totally different band, how did that change the sound of Christian Death?
Valor: I remember being in London and being really fond of Theater of Pain and Rozz was really disappointed in Catastrophe Ballet. It was too much of a shock for him. This band had an image that he was interested in perpetually displaying and when he heard that album, it was too mellow for him. What I am getting at is that every time we release a new record, we experience a similar reaction from people. Each one is thematically different from the next. That is something that some people find difficult about Christian Death, that variety factor. But as musicians, we try to incorporate the desire that we get from outside input and hopefully the listener can take that away as well.
It seems that you brought a more political and more metal influence to the music.
Valor: The thing about the metal thing is that is an accusation that people bring up who haven't been around. When we want to express emotion, we draw from wherever that is. We are trying to express ourselves through the most practical mediums. If I wanted to find music that represented War & Peace, then I would use the music of Shostakovich. When you use metal or any type of music, you are using that as an expression of something. You might use Beethoven's Pastoral if you wanted to invoke something pretty. If you wanted to express something more aggressive, the thing to use in this day and age is metal. We use music as the language to speak on behalf of the emotion underneath the words.
You've spent time in many countries. Originally, aren't you from Australia?
Valor: I am from the planet Earth. I am not from anywhere. My genetic gene pool is all about the Earth.
How did you end up in L.A. when the Death Rock scene was at its peak?
Valor: I guess I would call it coincidence. Maybe there was some magic to it, but I am not going to put a label on it.
When you do a set list for this tour, do you include songs from the Rozz era?
Maitri: I think we want to include from then until now and what is fun for us to play. If we don't enjoy playing it, we don't get to express what we want to the audience. That is important as the songs themselves.
What about the influence of the band itself? For a band with a cult following, there seems to be many bands who claim Christian Death as an influence.
Maitri: That is a very good thing. That's why it is important for us to express what we are good at.
For a while, there were two competing versions of Christian Death. Was it sad that a court case resulted from this?
Valor: Let's clarify that straight away. It was nothing like that. Rozz had officially left Christian Death in 1985, contractually and every other respect. He had already become involved in other bands like Shadow Project and his solo stuff. We are talking seven years after he quit the band. He was inspired to take an advance [from a record company] on an assumption. I was told this personally. They told Rozz that they were not interested in a deal with Shadow Project, but that they were definitely interested in doing an album by Christian Death. The idea of getting paid in advance made people do things they normally would not do. I am not going to point fingers, but none of them should have done what they did. Cutting to the chase, there was no court case. It was just an agreement between a label that had an indemnity clause with Rozz that left him liable. I never had any intention of taking Rozz to court. There was never a court case. I've mentioned this to several people. It never existed. It is a fantasy. There were negotiations with Cleopatra Records now that they had released material under the name of Christian Death. We allowed them to use the name under the context that they say featuring Rozz Williams. We didn't want to deprive Rozz or the fans of any due respect. We didn't want to take it to court. We wanted to do it amicably. Of course, the truth doesn't prevail and that's where all this negativity comes from.
Do you still get heckled with fans that preferred the band with Rozz?
Valor: Absolutely not. If you don't like it, people have the right to appreciate any kind of music they want. What they don't want to do is simply assume the negative and let that twist reality. You can like the music that has been created jointly or you can like one of versions of the band or you don't.
Maitri: It's a shame that people like to have an opinion before they actually listen. I wish that people would think for themselves before they have an opinion. I wish they wouldn't listen to all the negativity coming from elsewhere, from people who don't even know what they are talking about. That is a real shame. I wish people could start thinking for themselves.
1988's Sex and Drugs and Jesus Christ is one of those albums and album covers that seemed intent of being offensive.
Valor: What you are avoiding is the people that claim that we are being extremist and just trying to draw attention to ourselves. There is a lot of symbolism in that cover for example. I have an issue with people assuming what Jesus looked like. A lot of people like to assume that he is the traditional artistic interpretation of the 1400's; that being a northern European kind of guy with brown hair and a beard. That doesn't necessarily mean there wasn't a person called Jesus who looked anything like that. The next thing I have issue with is people take offense [to the album cover]. Drugs are the battle ground for all of the problems people have. The picture of Jesus taking drugs is a conflict of righteousness. It was quite a symbolic record cover. I wanted to reach a few people and let them explore the inner depths of meaning that has been accumulated for over 1,700 years. That doesn't disrespect anyone's religious beliefs whatsoever. It is not meant to insult belief because people need belief. It just drew attention that there is maybe more to this than we have ever allowed ourselves to consider.