Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Sasha Ptaag

Tom Howie
Jimmy Vallance

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What’s it like to be you?
Jimmy: It’s great. It’s a gift to be alive. Certainly during this time. We’ve got TV shows as we’ve talked about just now [ed. note: Chernobyl] and we’ve got music. I mean, imagine being born 100 years ago, there’d be no music in the way that we have now, recorded music.
Tom: It’s good. It feels normal because we’re used to it. We travel a lot. This morning we woke up in a different city and I just had a nap so now I’m tired.

What’s the worst part about touring?
Jimmy: The worst thing is if the plane is super delayed. That’s the only thing that’s really ever annoying. Sometimes you just get on a flight and the plane doesn’t take off for hours. Then the plane ends up in another airport and you’re stuck for another six hours. That’s the only thing that’s really crappy.
Tom: Yeah, if there is any major delay.
Jimmy: And if you have no sleep. But 95% of the time everything amazing, but those 5% sometimes make things difficult.
Tom: When you’re away for a long time you just miss your friends and family. That’s really the only downside.
Jimmy: Yeah. We don’t face a lot of downsides. 

What have you learned from one another?
Jimmy: Laughter is the answer. We make each other laugh all the time. It’s very important, especially when you’re going to places where you don’t know anyone. You’re constantly interacting with strangers or people you don’t know. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people that do it all alone.
Tom: Like DJs, who just travel solo.
Jimmy: I think you’d go crazy. I think they do go crazy. For us, it’s always great. We always laugh, we always have fun. Being with a partner just makes it a better experience. 

Do you sometimes feel like you need a break from each other though?
Tom: We’re both very different in many ways, yet also very alike, so that’s quite nice. We agree on most things, we see eye to eye on many things, but we’re still very different.
Jimmy: If tonight, for example, I would ask Tom if he wanted to go for dinner and he said ‘no’ because he was tired then it wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t go, “Why won’t Tom go for dinner with me?”, and secretly cry alone while getting room service. We just get along very well.
Tom: Secretly I cry alone, to be honest.
Jimmy: We respect each other’s space.

What was it that Coldplay says? “Respect the chemistry”? 

Tom: Is that what they say?
Jimmy: I took that quote from you, maybe he made it up. It’s a good quote.

What was the wisest thing you’ve ever heard in your life?
Jimmy: Wow.
Tom: Respect the chemistry haha.
Jimmy: That’s going to be on my tombstone.
Tom: The wisest thing… That’s a very hard question.
Jimmy: That Mark Twain quote that I’ve been saying recently is, which I like a lot.
Tom: Jimmy is now a philosopher.

It’s not what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”. Not knowing something is fine, but knowing something that is false is more scary. I think there is a lot of that in the world.

Tom: It’s very fitting to the times we’re in. 

Is there a film or book reality that you would like to experience?
Jimmy: Blade Runner would be cool. Flying cars and robots. That way when Tom doesn’t want to go to dinner with me I could just call my robot.
Tom: I’d like to live in Star Wars but on one of the peaceful planets. I used to watch those movies when I was a kid. Every weekend I’d just watch all three movies. 

Is there a book you could recommend?
Jimmy: Tom reads a lot.
Tom: A book called ‘Principles’ by Ray Dalio which I just read. 

What did you discover from reading it?
Tom: It’s a lot about how to be awesome.
Jimmy: Haha he doesn’t need any help with that.
Tom: It talks about how a

failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it.

I found that a lot of people, myself included, get discouraged when you’re trying to do something that’s not obvious. The good thing about this book is that it gives a good framework for how to get through the hurdles that you’ll face and how to get the best results. It talks a lot about letting go. I think, in our culture specifically, there’s a lot of this feeling of doing it all yourself and knowing it all. The author talks about collaborating with other people and letting go of your ego and being result-oriented. It’s one of those books that you read it and it’s all quite obvious, but the way it’s written is very insightful. Another book that I really want to recommend is by Steven Pinker and it’s called “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”. Wait, let me look at my Kindle…
Jimmy: They’re going to start paying him for the promotion. Oh that Bono book that I read.
Tom: Yeah, it’s good. So the other book by the same author is called “Enlightenment Now”. Have you heard of it?

No, I haven’t.
Tom: So the subtitle is “The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”. It basically just talks about the scientific method. It shows how the current time is the best time in the world, how it’s the best time to be alive ever in human history. It presents all the data to back it up, and it talks about how we’ve gotten to this very moment. The reason why I found it really interesting is because right now democracy is a bit fragile, and there are a lot of calls for returning to old ways or other ways of doing things and sort of letting go of the scientific method and reasonable ways of thinking. It proves in a way how and why the enlightenment ideals that we’ve adopted in our modern society have produced the best time to exist. When I read it, it was very exciting. It just makes you feel good about the world. Obviously, there’s still a ton of stuff that needs to get better and humanity faces big challenges. If you read the news then it’s easy to get scared or disappointed so it felt nice reading that book with all that evidence of how things are good. If we keep doing the right things then we will be able to overcome the difficulties in front of us. So yeah, I don’t really read fiction haha.

What modern trends annoy or bother you?
Jimmy: The thing that really upsets me the most, and I know that it stems from people being lonely, but I think it’s the whole online hate culture. Angry people just going online and being malicious towards strangers for no reason other than to make themselves feel better. I think it’s a really sad thing. We’ve been lucky to sort of stay away from that. Online you can be anonymous. You can hide behind a thing and say mean things.
Tom: People who behave that way online don’t have the guts to do in person. That’s annoying. Also the amplification of it. If I’m in a room here and I start being crazy and being mean to you all, it only affects us, right? But then if I’m on the internet, I can get in the heads of lots of people. I also don’t like that negative and false information spreads way better online than true information. They’ve started doing studies on the matter.
Jimmy: People are attracted to the chaos, right? If things are happy and good then it doesn’t get as much attention.
Tom: But it’s also in our nature, we’re gossipy. For example, in a small town back in the day, if good stuff happens then it’s fine for everyone, but if something bad happens we start spreading it. You know what I mean? The online world just spreads it like crazy. It’s weird. I don’t know if that’s one trend overall. I feel like the way that social media is amplifying certain parts of our human nature is very dangerous. It’s scary.
Jimmy: We’re at a pivotal point.
Tom: It’s really great on the one hand where we’re all connected and you can reach people in positive ways.
Jimmy: A lot of it is positive but the negative part is always present.

The fact that the negative is easier to spread is quite frightening. 

If you could travel in time to the past and change the course of history, where would you go and what would you change? Or would you prefer the future?
Jimmy: Oh man… I would go back to 1979 and invent the computer. If I would have the knowledge that I have now then…
Tom: You’d live from 1979 to now like a boss.
Jimmy: Yeah. 

Would you like to live forever in that case?
Jimmy: I think to quote, the Oasis song, “No, I don’t want to live forever”. Or does the say that he does want to live forever?
Tom: That’s like the worst way to quote a band wrongly haha. I think I’d go to the future.

How far into the future? To the very end?
Tom: I don’t know. I mean, not to the very end, because then you’d miss the party.
Jimmy: I feel like the world could use you in 2050.
Tom: I’ll be alive in 2050 hopefully haha.
Jimmy: Haha I feel the world could use you the way you are now in 2050. If you just age then you’ll just tired.
Tom: I’d go 100 years into the future, just to see what’s going on. But see, that comes with certain caveats, though. You’d want to be able to come back and while you’re in the future you have to find out how we went wrong to be able to warn people ahead of time. Or vice versa, see if it all worked out then sweet. What I am excited about is… Sorry, it’s not easy to explain, but life expectancy is going up so I would think that in 100 years it wouldn’t be weird for us to live up to 200 or something like that. It’d be cool to go forward and use that technology for a longer lifespan. I was reading that there’s this guy who’s working on aging at Harvard, and he considers aging a disease. He believes that it’s a disease that we don’t consider as such. He gets asked this question in interviews, what would aliens be like if they came down and saw our planet. He says that they would ask us whether we’ve figured out time travel and aging. So I’d like to go to the future and be able to live for a long time.

If you need to choose between sex or music for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Jimmy: The questions today! Wow. Come to Kyiv and get the real burners.
Tom: I’d say music.
Jimmy: I’d pick music too and give up sex.

Why so?
Jimmy: I don’t know.
Tom: I feel like it’s the cool answer. 

Quite a number of musicians pick otherwise.
Tom: But do you have no desire for sex?

You still know what it’s like. Whether good or bad haha.
Jimmy: That feeling on stage that you get when it’s a fucking amazing show… Here’s the thing, people give up sex for drugs a lot of the time.
Tom: Don’t they have sex for drugs?
Jimmy: No, that happens too. I mean there are people who are addicted to drugs and that’s all they care about. Or people have given up sex for religion. Just trying to make a point in that direction.
Tom: Sex is great and we’re obviously physically driven to do it. Yet I feel like mentally you can still connect with somebody and the deepest connection you can have with somebody is not always sexual. You can get there without sex. For example, I’m married, and even if you had that connection of sex in the past, you can still be intimate with the same person in other ways. You know, it’s like open your eyes and there is consciousness and music is the next thing.
Jimmy: Constantly listening to it, constantly making it, constantly playing it… If I had sex as much as interacted with music then people would think I’m a crazy person. That would be not good.
Tom: Also the urge to have sex suddenly comes and you don’t really control? That happens in my head with music too. If I’m trying to meditate or something I can focus trying to think about nothing and just be there – the hardest thing to stop thinking about it for me is music. There’s just a tune playing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that music is the most important thing to me in my mind, other than love for your family. Music is very important. I don’t think I could ever give it up. Also, we didn’t ask the qualifying question: do you just mean play it?
Jimmy: There’s no more music. In my mind, it would be a music-free world. You push a button and music is gone and you can have as much sex as you want.
Tom: Yeah, that would suck.

Who is or was your biggest teacher in life?
Jimmy: Wow, that’s tough. I think that for me personally, the thing that I’ve learned from the most are the mistakes, and I’ve had a lot of friends and mentors. Everyone makes mistakes. As Tom said, you have an opportunity to grow when you make a mistake and learn from it.

Failure is your greatest teacher. 

Jimmy: It is. All the mistakes that I’ve made and went, “Oh shit”. You have to figure stuff out for yourself. People can teach you so much, but you have to get your hands dirty every once in a while and make mistakes. If you don’t, that’s a shame.

Tom: I agree. Jimmy went with “mistakes, oh shit”, and I’ll go with failure. 

There’s this film by Yorgos Lanthimos ‘The Lobster’, where single people are meant to find a partner in 45 days, and if they don’t, they must choose an animal to transform into. What animal would you choose?
Tom: Lobster?
Jimmy: You never saw Lobster? The one with Colin Farrell. That really super weird movie. I swear to God you’ve seen it! I remember it being such a topic of conversation. Maybe it was Joe…
Tom: Maybe it was you and your imaginary friends.
Jimmy: Anyway, I would pick a wombat. We’re like.
Tom: Why haha?

Wombat’s poop is cube-shaped. Why a wombat?
Jimmy: They’re awesome. They’re like little tanks, they’re cuddly and they
Tom: A cuddly tank?
Jimmy: A cuddly tank! A car hits a wombat and you know who wins that battle? The wombat. That’s pretty great.
Tom: Really?
Jimmy: Yeah.
Tom: Well if it’s a fight to the death against cars…
Jimmy: They’re cute and fun. Either that or

Joe Rogan’s golden retriever. I think that dog has the best life. Ever. He just eats elk all day. Coming back as a rich person’s golden retriever would be the best thing. I’m halfway there, I have the haircut.

Tom: We always call Jimmy a golden retriever. He kind of acts like one sometimes. Always happy.
Jimmy: Every time Tom throws a stick I’m just… [ed. note – mimics a dog].

You should throw a stick from the stage, Tom.
Jimmy: But careful, our accountant told us that we don’t have insurance for that. 

What is beauty for you and how do you integrate it into your work?
Tom: Jesus, these are like stumpers.
Jimmy: For me, it’s something that’s genuine. It’s about being sincere and when it feels like it’s coming straight from the heart. Being honest.
Tom: What about pure honest hatred? Is that beauty?
Jimmy: In a way, I guess.
Tom: We’re just getting deeper here.
Jimmy: Sometimes to have a beautiful fire you have to have some ash.
Tom: You can’t make fire out of ash.

The leftovers after the beautiful fire! It’s something sincere, whether that’s a person or it’s a piece of music, film, or anything beautiful. I feel like it’s coming from a place where one is being genuine. More often than not.

Tom: That’s a really good answer. 

Could you share some fucked up or funny situations from your tours?
Jimmy: Every day. Every day something happens that’s crazy. We were in Chicago. Our drummer and I were at the back of our tour bus. Somebody came on the tour bus and stole his phone from the front of the bus when we were on it. We didn’t know because we were in the back.
Tom: Don’t ask what they were doing in the back. 

Maybe that’s the real story haha.
Tom: It is, but we can’t record that.
Jimmy: He comes up and asks where the phone is. “Dude, your phone is right here”. Everyone thought he was crazy and then we searched the entire bus and his phone was nowhere to be found. Then we did the whole ‘find my iPhone’ procedure and it said that the phone was 3 miles away. So he and I went there to try and find it and we came to this super sketchy neighborhood, Basically, we see this guy and he sees us. He asks us, ‘What are you guys doing here, you don’t look like you belong’. We said that somebody took our phone and he replied that we should leave. We asked why and all he said was that 11 people were shot there the previous week.
Tom: Chicago is one of the least safe cities in America. Certain areas.
Jimmy: He said he might know who took the phone and the guy was in his 60s. He said he’d let us know if he would hear anything but that was it. We were never getting the phone back and I couldn’t believe that we went to this crazy part of Chicago to try and get it back.
Jimmy: We played the show in Chicago.
Tom: Then we got a phone call. This 60-year-old guy got the phone back and called the last number that was on it, which belonged to our sound guy. He said he has the phone and told us to come pick it up. So our drummer went back with a pipe because he thought that maybe he would get robbed or whatever. He got his phone back! 

For free?
Jimmy: He tried to pay him but the guy wouldn’t take it.
Tom: That’s the second time he’s lost that specific phone and gotten it back. 

Have you seen the stand-up comedy piece about faking the Russian accent in America [ed. note – Dan Soder‘s stand-up?
Tom: No.
Jimmy: Fake a Russian accent? 

Yes, basically if you’re in a bad neighborhood and someone bothers you, you pretend to have a rough Russian accent to scare people off.
Tom: That’s a good idea. Hello [ed. note said in a Russian accent].

What are the questions that you hate answering?
Jimmy: Who is Bob and who is Moses?
Tom: Yeah. Or, ‘Who are you named after?’.
Jimmy: I don’t even mind that one as much. That one is based on facts and logic. But the ‘who is Bob and who is Moses’ is the most asked question. 

Do people still keep asking it?
Tom: They say it like a joke.
Jimmy: They think it’s an icebreaker.
Tom: It’s usually the first question that we get asked.
Jimmy: People think that with that question they can test our sense of humour and see what we’re like.
Tom: We do have a sense of humor but a good one haha.
Jimmy: Yeah, we need cerebral questions like these and then, hopefully, after this interview makes the rounds and people will stop asking this question haha. 

What was the most memorable question you were asked in your life? Not just interview-related.
Tom: That one about beauty.
Jimmy: Music or sex? I don’t know the answer to this. I’ve been asked a lot of crazy questions.
Tom: Maybe this one.
Jimmy: Who is Bob and who is Moses?

Abstractly speaking, if you were a musical instrument, which one would you be and how would it represent your personality?
Jimmy: I have such a good answer but I don’t want to say it haha. 

We have no censorship so don’t stop yourself.
Jimmy: I just feel like the funniest answer would be… I don’t know.
Tom: Say it!

I want to be a drum kit because I want people to bang me. 

Tom: AHAHHAHAHAHAA. That’s good! See, he’s lying about the music, he’s all about the sex!
Jimmy: Oh God…
Tom: See, this is why touring is fun.
Jimmy: Why am I like this?
Tom: Once you get a bit into the tour, you get a little bit tired and you’re in a lot of situations that are boring because you’re traveling, so things are the same. Stuff that’s not funny just becomes funny.
Jimmy: You just start laughing because it’s all you can do. 

What excites you the most in what you do?
Jimmy: All of it. For me, you can’t have one thing without the other. It’s nice to know that when you’re making a record, one day you’re going to play it. Rehearsing is really fun. All the steps are essential.
Tom: It’s nice to have it all. Making music is a thing that feels like you have to do it. Same as when you get hungry and you have to eat. Performing is ultimately the only way when you get to see the impact it has on people. Getting to experience that is very rewarding. As Jimmy said, it’s like a cycle. It’s all part of it. Also, if you’re in the studio for a while, you want to get back on the road and vice versa.

What are you most proud of?
Tom: I’m most proud of having written some music that means something to people around the world, that has connected with people all over the world and being able to travel the world and doing it.
Jimmy: Yeah.

What was the most memorable show you’ve been to as part of an audience?
Jimmy: For us together – we saw Soundgarden on a rooftop. It was only for 300 people. That’s a band that we both love and we got dragged to the show. It was two years before Chris Cornell passed away. It was an awesome show. Something that felt similar was when we saw Depeche Mode like that at a small venue. When you see a band that good and that successful in a tiny club and the way they kill it… They’re just such a good band. 

What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
Jimmy: Oh, now you want us to do your job for you. Smart. “Who is Bob and who is Moses” hahaha. ‘What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up?
Tom: Music. Sex. What I would like to be asked is, “Would you like 10 million dollars?”. My answer would be “yes”.

What will you do with that amount of money?
Jimmy: He’d invest it in a low-risk venture or put it in a savings account haha. Diversify your assets!
Tom: Actually, I’d make that number bigger. 10 billion dollars. I don’t know what I would do with it. I mean, I would do a lot of things with it. There is a thing called effective altruism. The whole thing with charities – lots of times you give money but it’s not used effectively. I would find a way so that the money could do the best thing for people and I would just do that. That’s what I would do beyond what I’m already doing.

I like to play this game sometimes ‘What would you do if you had all the money in the world?’. Most of the time for me the answer is exactly what I’m doing already. If that’s the answer then you’re doing the right thing.

What about you Jimmy? What would your question be?
Jimmy: Damn, I’m usually pretty good at thinking of questions, but I don’t know what I would ask myself. Maybe just, “Are you happy?”, and I’d say, “Fuck yes”. In two days maybe I won’t be happy, but who knows.

What was the last exciting thing you’ve done or experienced?
Jimmy: Last night playing a great show in Vilnius. That was exciting. First time there.

Which superpower would you like to have?
Tom: Time travel. No, wait… Teleporting.
Jimmy: You know what would be sick? X-ray vision. You see through stuff.
Tom: Naked people?
Jimmy: That’s not what an X-ray does, you see bones haha.
Tom: So you want actual X-ray vision? Like being a dentist all the time?
Jimmy: Yeah. Not all the time but I want to be able to have control of that. I could just be like, ‘I already know what’s in that guy’s suitcase’. A drumstick probably. 

You’d be ’employee of the month’ in the airport.
Jimmy: Yeah. I can be like those dogs that they take around the belt to sniff the bags.
Tom: You could just be like a hospital and come up to people and diagnose them. X-ray vision? Really?
Jimmy: Or flying. That would be cooler. No, actually, I take my X-ray vision back.
Tom: What you would really like is to be transformed into a drum set any moment haha.
Jimmy: True.
Tom: I would like teleporting because then I wouldn’t have to fly. I could just go home for the next hour and have dinner with my wife, come back, and play the show.
Jimmy: I want to sit on a plane with my X-ray vision while Tom is teleporting all over the world. 

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