One of Richmond’s most beloved rock frontmen brings his honky-tonk records to The Camel.
Bring a date or find a mate … who knows, maybe both?
That’s how things roll when Valient Himself, a.k.a. Herbie Abernethy, ponies up at the decks to deliver some good ole’ fashioned twang bangers. His upcoming DJ performance this Sunday, Aug.21 at The Camel promises to be a good time, worthy of writing home to grandma.
Fresh off a killer tour that included a festival date with Judas Priest in Spain, the fuzzy-faced frontman for iconic heavy metal band, Valient Thorr, just celebrated 20 years of serious head banging. Later this year, he’s also going to be joining his old friends, the Avett Brothers, for a big New Year’s Eve show at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, NC. There’s some history there worth looking up.
You may also know Herbie, an all-around swell fella, as the owner/purveyor of fine eats at Cobra Cabana and Hot for Pizza. He did us a solid before the shot clock expired and caught up to chat about his honky-tonk project, while simultaneously doing grown-up business at the bank.
This dude legit doesn’t stop. For that, we say all hail Herbs.
Style Weekly: What prompted this honky-tonk bonanza?
Pretty excited about it. At first, I was going to do a garage night since I haven’t done one in a while. A lot of records I collect are garage, boogie rock and stuff like that, very specific stuff. But then, I was talking to [The Camel] and said I haven’t done a honky-tonk night in a long time. I used to do one at Gallery 5 back with Tess, when she was bartending there, I think before Cobra opened?
I just want to do something different from everyone in town. There are a ton of cool DJs, DJ nights, places I’ve never done this. When I do it at Cobra or Pizza, it doesn’t feel as special because people are like, “that’s the owner,” or whatever. I just want to do something different at a place where people can dance.
What can folks expect?
It’s not your typical country. I wanted to [play] swing, rockabilly, country rock — stuff that’s in my wheelhouse. It’s not radio or pop country. Nothing contemporary. Definitely a night to dance for sure, and it’s all vinyl.
What would you say was your most formative or memorable country music experience?
My babysitters raised me and they would play bluegrass all the time. I hated it growing up. I feel like I was raised in a pop country town where it’s just everywhere. I didn’t have an affinity for it until my grandfather passed away. He listened to tons of stuff that my dad used to call [laughs] “laying on the train tracks music.” My dad was a rocker. He didn’t like it, either.
I’m a rocker to the core, but when he passed I started listening to it. I’ve been collecting old country records for such a long time. I always liked swing country and rockabilly, but not contemporary. I do love Dwight Yoakam. As an artist myself, I get to meet some of these newer cats who’ve turned me on to older stuff. If you are a big record collector, you never know what direction your collection is going to take. A few years back, I just did a deep dive into some obscure country stuff.
How, if at all, has it influenced your band, Valient Thorr?
I mean, I don’t know. I went to church as a little kid, maybe the preacher stuff stuck with me, even though I don’t believe in organized religion or anything at all. I have that preacher persona and some of that old-time bluegrass stuff got in there. Those guys would talk to the audience.
If you listen to an old Dillards record, same with the Stanley brothers — even my friends in the Avett Brothers — they have a connection with the audience that I think I’ve always had. I’m not even a good singer [editor’s note: We disagree]. I don’t know how I got to be frontman for a band. I think there’s something about connecting that country music does, the emotions … if you get that audience on your side, you have them for life. I feel like I’ve done that in my career.
You’re a busy dude. Touring, running two killer restaurants, and most recently the “Out There Talk” podcast. Talk to me about that.
I had a podcast when we were signed to a label, Volcom Entertainment, that was basically a vanity label for a clothing company. But they afforded a lot of bands, including mine, a lot of time in the van at night, soaking in the late night radio sounds. We were with them for 10 years. My background was in college radio at East Carolina University as music director back in ‘99. I’ve always loved just being in the van, listening to stuff in the middle of the night.
I’ve done a few television pilots just with the idea of talking about weird stuff. I have all these resources … all these friends. I just thought, I can probably even just talk to people I don’t know about weird stuff and give them an outlet. I like to think it’s “Coast to Coast” meets Anthony Bourdain. With Instagram, you can do it just like … boom. Tuesdays and Wednesday nights at midnight. I’ve talked to people from India, the U.K., all over the world.
Brian Posehn [an Emmy nominated-writer, comedian and actor who was in HBO’s “Mr. Show with Bob and David” as well as Rob Zombie’s horror flick “The Devil’s Rejects”] is going to be on it this month. The killer thing is that it doesn’t matter if people believe. The stories matter, the storytelling matters. I’m pretty excited about the future of it.
What’s the story you want to dig into that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
I haven’t done anything with witches yet. I’m talking old school witches. I haven’t talked to anyone from Salem or anything like that. Lots of classic things I haven’t done yet. I’ll say the crowdsourced episodes are the best. I haven’t talked to anyone who’s a Satanist yet. I want to talk to people who believe in things that other people don’t believe.
What keeps you in RVA?
I never considered living here. This month is my ten-year anniversary. When I moved here, it was cheap and I had buddies here. My wife and I fell in love with the river, and I don’t even go to it that much. This is a small city with such big things happening. So much good food and music. I just got done doing a European tour and a little Southeast, there are places everywhere with nothing going on compared to what we have. The music that comes through here, we’re very spoiled. We’re very lucky. I mean, the record scene here alone.
Valient Himself hosts Pony Express, a night of honky tonk twangers and bangers at The Camel. Sunday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. $10.