Drummer's Circle: Valenti "Funk" Thomas Talks Solo Record, His Love For Drums & Piano / by Prewitt Scott-Jackson

We here at FWN are honored to have Valenti "Funk" Thomas join us today.

One of the Metroplex's most talented drummers (The Effinays, Ronnie Heart) slides into a pair of composer/producer shoes for his newly remastered LP Valenti, due out June 7th via Thomas' own record label Clear Zebra.

You can pre-order your copy of Valenti today on Amazon.

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 Image courtesy of Valenti - Photo Credit: Dennis Webb Jr. 

Image courtesy of Valenti - Photo Credit: Dennis Webb Jr. 

1.      Okay, first off, how in the world do you manage to pull off keys and drums simultaneously? I’m barely capable of halfway yelling backup vocals while drumming much less what you’re able to achieve on your new record Valenti. Is it just a matter of practice, or, without giving away secrets of the trade, what techniques have you developed to make this possible?

V: I grew up playing drums first and then picked up the piano thanks to there being an upright piano at my grandmother’s house.  When I play just they keys, I find myself playing all the bass notes/lines with my left hand and playing chords with my right hand.  When I play them both simultaneously, I have the keyboard set up to my right and play chords and solos which leaves my left hand free for hi-hat and snare work.  I enjoy doing them both at the same time, and it’s a neat party trick (lol).  On my album, I tracked drums, keys and bass guitar (and some rhythm guitar on “More Light”) separately and save the simultaneous drumming and keyboard playing for live shows.

2.    Do you play drums barefoot or with shoes on? If with shoes, what are your "go-to" drumming shoes brand-wise or genre-wise (skate shoes, combat boots, flip-flops, etc.)  

V: That all depends on which band I have a show with.  When I’m playing with The Effinays, I like to wear my Pumas (any one of my many pairs, they all feel like comfy ankle socks).  When I’m jamming with Ronnie Heart, I’m usually suited up and wearing some nice, comfortable dress shoes.    

3.    Double kick pedal ever or nah? 

V: I’m a fan of the single kick pedal.  BUT, I do love seeing a drummer who is very skilled at the double kick/bass perform.

4.      I’ve seen you do your thing as part of The Effinays, how long have you been doing that? I ask because I actually played on a bill with The Effinays back around ’09 in Denton when Bowling For Soup’s Chris Burney was hosting a fucked up version of American Idol. I can’t remember if you were part of the lineup at the time but y’all def. won that competition!

V: Ah neat!  That may have been right before I came aboard.  I joined the band roughly around 2010.  I initially came on as a fill in drummer and that transitioned to a permanent role.  I knew of The Effinays and had numerous conversations with the bass player, Pan Blanco (we use to chat about UFO’s and religion a lot…true story lol) before I joined the band.  I was in a band called People’s Army during The Effinays early years and it seemed that we were always doing shows together.

5.      Speaking of The Effinays, in the advance copy of Valenti we spotted Joe “Big Spook” Martinez in the album credits. How was that experience different for both of you in terms of the songwriting/recording process? What I mean to say is, was it different from producing Effinay songs given this is your personal project or was the process familiar given your strong rapport with Martinez?  

V: Both songs featuring Big Spook (Joe Martinez) are definitely “Effinays material”.  The process was pretty much the same.  Big Spook usually writes the lyrics while the band comes up with the music portion of a song.  I wrote the lyrics for “More Light”, while the “Party Fiesta” lyrics were written by him.  Fun Fact: Joe came to the studio with his composition book ready to record the lyrics he had written for “Party Fiesta”.  They were good lyrics, BUT not what I was looking for or what I was accustomed to coming from him.  With that being said, I then asked him to freestyle the whole thing. And BOOM!  There you have what you hear on “Party Fiesta”.

 Album Cover Art for  Valenti  courtesy of Valenti - Art By: iamshaun.com

Album Cover Art for Valenti courtesy of Valenti - Art By: iamshaun.com

6.    Favorite brand of drumsticks? 

V: I always enjoy a nice, fresh pair of Vic Firth’s, Peter Erskine’s (ball).

7.      On the album I love that right out of the gate you pay homage to your hometown by titling the lead track “Irving/Bear Creek, Texas.” I grew up a hop & skip away in Euless, so I know the area well. How has growing up there influenced your music today?

V: Being raised in Irving/Bear Creek, TX didn’t really influence me musically, but since day one, the community and my former classmates (LOVE you guys!) have always been a big supporter of me and my musical endeavors.  So, every chance I get, I want to mention Irving and/or Bear Creek, TX as a “thank you” for all of their support.

8.    List your three favorite drummers (not necessarily which ones you think are the best, but the ones you like the most, that have influenced your music the most).

V: I grew up listening to Dave Weckl and Dennis Chambers.  I then got off into some John Blackwell (Prince).  There are also several great Dallas drummers that make me want to go home and practice as soon as I get done listening to them.

9.      How old were you when you first started playing music? Did you start on drums or perhaps another instrument? Drums still #1 in your heart or have keys and other elements crept up your rankings?     

V: I was around five when I started to play drums alongside my mother whom was the church pianist.  The drums will always be my 1st love, and then I would put piano at #2 and then bass guitar at #3.  Production and making beats would be a close #1.25 to the drums.  My love for music was before then though.  I can’t remember the exact age, but I recall when I was real young (car seat age), a day when I didn’t want to leave the car until the song I was listening to was done.  If my memory serves me correctly, I vaguely remember that song being either “Good Times Bad Times” – Led Zeppelin or “Heavy” – The Beatles.  I sometimes get mistaken for an athlete, but I’ve always been a self-proclaimed band nerd and enjoy all things music (art related).

10.    Are you one of those drummers that never have a drum key handy or one of those kind that have like three of them on your keychain? Somewhere in-between?

V: In my younger years, I’ll admit I was that under prepared drummer who maybe had a drum key with him.  Now that I’m (supposedly lol) older and wiser, I tend to think like a boy scout and make sure that I’m prepared for any musical situation or equipment mishap.

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about the word writer person:

Prewitt Scott-Jackson writes Dad poetry & short fiction when he's not hyping and typing for Fort Worth Noise. His writing can be found in Ghost City Press (New York), Five 2 One Magazine (Los Angeles), and Sick Lit Magazine (Texas), among others. He prefers short walks on the beach because – and I quote – “It’s really hard to walk on sand.”