Published on January 13th, 2022 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Drummer Francis Valentino On Drumming For David Lee Roth, Influences, Future Plans & More
Drummer Francis Valentino first beginning touring and recording around in a big way with Outside The Box, which later became the house band at the legendary New Jersey venue known as The Stone Pony. In the years since, Valentino went on to tour and/or recording with Southside Johnny & The Poor Fools, Hellbound Glory and Matthew Curry. In turn, Valentino has been a part of tours alongside Kid Rock, Buckcherry, Hinder, ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers, The Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton.
February 2020 saw Francis Valentino join the backing band of legendary Van Halen singer David Lee Roth. In turn, Valentino was part of Roth’s initial dates on KISS’ End Of The Road World Tour until COVID-19 postponed future dates in March 2020. Still in the Roth camp after touring restrictions related to COVID-19 had lifted, Valentino was slated to be part of Roth’s rumored 9 farewell concerts in Las Vegas. However, the first show of Roth’s Vegas residency was cancelled about 1 day prior to its December 31, 2021 kick-off, with the following shows at the House Of Blues also called off days later.
While future dates related to David Lee Roth are still up in the air as of this article’s writing, the key is that Francis Valentino is keeping busy as a drummer no matter what lies ahead for DLR. In turn, I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with the Nashville resident about how he wound up playing with Roth. Highlights from that interview are below, while more on Valentino can be found by clicking here.
Almost everyone I’ve encountered who has played with DLR was in some way connected to Gregg Bissonette and/or Brett Tuggle. Was that the case for you?
Francis Valentino: It wasn’t directly the case for me, but technically yes. I came into the band right as the 2020 tour with KISS was getting started and unlike the other guys in the band, I was based out of New Jersey instead of Los Angeles. I got the call from our MD/bassist Ryan Wheeler and he was initially brought into the band by Brett Tuggle the previous year. So I guess that makes me a second-degree Tuggle-connected member.
Most of the Roth backing musicians I’ve encountered were fans of Van Halen, but not diehards. How about yourself? Like, do you know “The Bottom Line” or a lot of the deep cuts?
Francis Valentino: I’d say I fall somewhere between “The Bottom Line” and the deep cuts. I really don’t consider myself to be an absolute diehard of any specific band/artist or genre, because there’s just so much incredible stuff out there! But I’ve always been a fan of Van Halen for a number of reasons. Aside from the actual inner workings/nuts and bolts of the songs, my favorite thing about VH is that the music, humor and whole brand just “works” for everybody everywhere.
Did you know a lot of the Roth and Van Halen material before getting the gig? Even so, was there a big learning curve with intricacies?
Francis Valentino: I was very familiar with the material before getting the gig. As far as any intricacies go, these songs really play themselves and there’s no reason to mess with their DNA. If you’re good to them, they’ll be good to you in return!
Who was the band or artist that made you want to start playing drums initially?
Francis Valentino: I’ll gladly be the 50-millionth musician to say The Beatles. However, it wasn’t really just a drumming thing for me. Ringo is and will always be the coolest drummer on the planet, but I can’t think of a better way to be exposed to all elements of music early in life and to gain a sense of what it means to be in a band. I also can’t think of a 30-second window when my parents didn’t have music playing in the car, house, at the beach, wherever… The Four Seasons, Dion & The Belmonts, The Rascals, The Band, The Beach Boys, Tommy James & The Shondells, The Animals, CCR, Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, etc etc.
It was great to grow up with all of that music and it’s all in the stew of why I love playing the drums. Particularly in song-based music versus chops-based acrobatic stuff. To bring it back around, I think most people would be surprised at how similarly most Van Halen songs play to those of the aforementioned artists. Can’t beat great songs and they’re all related on conscious and subconscious levels!
Were drums your first instrument?
Francis Valentino: Yup! Drums were number one. I picked them up when I was three or four years old, thanks to the inheritance of an old Ludwig kit from my late grandfather. He played pretty much every instrument — including the drums — in bands for over 60 years. So getting the chance to bang away and sort things out on that kit, sold me on the drums right away and I never even thought about doing anything else. Way too much fun!
Have you played any instrument besides drums in a band?
Francis Valentino: I haven’t played any other instruments in a band, but I’ve done quite a bit of singing over the years. One of my favorite things to do is arrange and sing harmonies. Particularly in the recording process.
Speaking of bands, with the Roth gig on hold for the time being, what are you up to musically speaking?
Francis Valentino: Other than DLR, I frequently play with Matthew Curry who is originally from Bloomington, Illinois and now based out of Nashville. We’ve had some great tours that have included dates opening for The Doobie Brothers, Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton and many others. Aside from touring, I was fortunate to play on and co-produce his latest album Open Road with him.
As a Jersey native, who or what brought you down to Nashville?
Francis Valentino: New Jersey will always be my number one location, but the move to Nashville seemed like an interesting choice after repeatedly touring through the town and being engulfed by music at every turn. I came through for the first time in 2013 with the Reno-based band Hellbound Glory, while we were touring around the U.S. After that tour ended, the band went back to Nashville to record for a few weeks with the great Michael Lattanzi at Lattitude South Studios. That period of time — and the killer drum sounds we got — sold me on changing my location for a while.
Does anyone else Roth-related live around Nashville? Or did the gig entail uprooting for rehearsals?
Francis Valentino: I’m the only one based outside of Los Angeles at the moment. I’ll typically spend periods of time in L.A. surrounding rehearsals/shows and I really enjoy spending time out there!Tweet