Welcome to the final part of the epic three part interview with Venom Inc.! Let’s continue, shall we?
How much did that initial performance at Keep It True impact the songs that ended up on Avé? Also, how good was it writing again without feeling the need to re-write another big breakthrough album?
M: Regarding the first thing; I don’t really think the performance at Keep It True had any impact on the tracks that ended up on this album or any bearing on this album, because at that point nothing was planned after it; we didn’t know what was going to happen. As for feeling the pressure to come up with something else, the one thing that I didn’t do when I was writing this album, was I didn’t go back and re listen to Welcome To Hell or Black Metal and think “I need a song like this or like that”, I didn’t do that. The one thing I think that has helped is that we’ve been out there playing, as they call them, those ‘newer’ classic Venom songs night after night, in excess of over 200 shows so we’ve gotten back into the groove of playing those things. I laboured over the music a lot and then, I had a conversation with Tony and he said to me “Do what you do, be who you are and play what you play; we don’t need any more than that!” Tony has said in the Nuclear Blast interview that “Jeff was just writing and writing and writing”; as I said before when I go into writing mode, I’m into overdrive and it becomes quite prolific. Tony had said “when you’re writing, I’m not even gonna jump in; if you need help mate I’m here, but what you’re doing is great!” and basically, that was the writing process for Avé. There’s no good looking back at those albums; they’re great albums and I love Welcome To Hell and Black Metal but those albums were moments captured in time and they’ll never be recaptured! There’s never going to be another ‘Countless Bathory’, there’s never going to be another ‘Live Like An Angel’ or ‘Angel Dust’; I hope to think I’ve progressed as a song writer and a musician but at the same time, I knew I had to keep it in that spirit and that’s what I aimed for, was to keep the spirit alive! One thing that I did take from the Keep It True festival; one of the tracks that ended up on YouTube (I can’t remember what the song was) but as the subtitle of the track was “The Heart and Soul and Spirit of Venom” and I thought that was perfect; within Venom Inc. you’ve got a founding member which is me, you’ve got a co-founder which is Abaddon and you’ve got a performer like Tony; who you need to remember was also a member of Venom for a good few years, a few albums and countless shows.”
D: “It was great! You don’t get many opportunities to have the freedom, but I didn’t actually us to do an album because I didn’t want us to have all that other pressure; finances, management, labels, timing and all of that kind of stuff. I think that sometimes it can put too much pressure on a musician to perform to a particular level; it can help the creativity by driving them hard, but it can also distract from the creativity by trying to second guess what the audience wants. You know, just this morning; someone said on Facebook that “I can’t want wait for the album” to which someone replied “well the album is shit”. I’ve replied with “what do you mean the album is shit; didn’t you like it?” and the response I got was “I’ve seen the video for ‘Dein Fleisch’ and I’ve heard ‘Avé’ and I don’t like them; I mean they’re okay but they suck.” to which I said “but that isn’t the album; that’s just a couple of moments from the album. That’s the point, you’re judging something from a moment”. That’s like your mum making you a meal, you taking one mouthful and you saying that you hate it; you haven’t even eaten it yet! I think people wish to judge me and that’s why I didn’t want to get into this sort of thing; we were playing the legacy of the band and the people were loving it but they wanted new music. So we approached it to be ourselves, not to try and make another Black Metal or Prime Evil or not to consider any of that; just to be who we are, play how we play, write how we write and the end result is the end result! If you like it, great; if you don’t like it, fair enough. If you love it, amazing; if you hate it, okay you have the chance to listen to something else, but don’t try to manipulate it! That was the freedom we were allowed; to just do what we wanted to do. The label supported that, the management supported that; they know who we are, they know how steady-minded we are and how we like to do it our own way, and that the result is the result. I hope people like it, but if people don’t that’s just the way it is. You can’t write an album for one person and if you try to write an album for somebody else’s tastes, you’re not going to succeed making the album you should be making! So to answer your question, we had the freedom and it was liberating to not feel any pressure to have to write a particular album a particular way; if it turned into another Master of Puppets then great, but if it just ends up being another album in the collection that’s good to. It’s just an honest album that is dedicated to the fans and it’s our way of saying thanks to them for driving us to tour the world and make new music again.”
When this interviewer mentioned how Mantas was talking about how you can have two songs sitting side by side and that the one you aren’t keen on ends up outshining the one you thought was going to be the next big hit; Dolan added his two cents on the topic.
“I remember the first time I heard Angel of Death when I waiting for Reign In Blood by Slayer who I love; it just blew my mind! The whole album when I listen to it even to this day, it still gives me the same feeling all the time. It was a great album for them and I would say it was some of their best work! Yet when I cite Slayer as being one of my favourites, I know people who say “Yuck; Slayer is fucking shit, I hate them!” and I can’t understand that. Mantas and Abaddon aren’t fans of Slayer either and I don’t get it, but that’s the thing about music; you can love what somebody else hates, sometimes your favourites are songs that people just don’t get, but that’s what happens with music. It’s the same as anything; you can go to a place on vacation that everybody else doesn’t like, or there’s a food that you eat that somebody else hates, there’s something you drink that people wouldn’t touch; that’s what makes us individuals as there’s something for everybody and you have to accept that. You want people to have a voice and express themselves and whether someone says that they fucking hate it or that they really enjoy it, both are valid opinions because they both show a great passion for music and music is passion. I think that people want so much to recapture moments of their lives; like when they were sixteen and they heard that first album by that first band. The great thing about music these days is that there is something for everybody; you can love black metal but hate deathcore, you can love deathcore but hate black metal, you can love both black metal and deathcore yet hate thrash; there are no rules to it! If the music makes you feel good, that’s all that matters and if it doesn’t you go find something else that does.”
A: “Because of the break and the period that we haven’t made records, it’s almost like doing the first one again. When we did Prime Evil after a break, Prime Evil had a similar intensity to Welcome To Hell. Both albums sound very different sonically; of course we’d learnt to play the instruments better by then and learnt to use our studio equipment better by then! This album Avé is kind of similar in that way to Prime Evil and Welcome To Hell; it’s a kind of a first of a batch if you know what I mean. It’s a new breath to old windows and it’s got that vitality and that soul about it; so it doesn’t feel that had it to live up to anything. We’re staying true to the ethos of the band and haven’t shifted too far from the true Venom feel.”
I was reading how the band’s manager was asking Dolan about what record labels should be approached & how Nuclear Blast was mentioned; how long from initial conversation to ink drying on a contract? Was there much conversing with the band by the label or your friends that work there?
M: I’m not sure; I mean Tony’s had a long association with Jaap from Nuclear Blast and they’ve been friends for many years; he’s always been in contact with Jaap and Jaap has always had an eye on M:Pire of Evil and was always watching what we were doing; when the Keep It True thing happened, we spoke to Jaap and we had a bit of a chat about working together; we joked about “if it could happen some way”. But when Jon came on board and Tony was talking to John, he was saying “Nuclear Blast; that’s where we want to be!” Then I got the news; John called me and said “I need four songs”, so they all came over to Portugal. Interestingly enough, on the album the vocals from ‘Dein Fleisch’ and ‘Metal We Bleed’ are still those vocals, because the performance was so good that we didn’t need to change it. When I got the news we had been signed, I was absolutely gobsmacked; I was just “WHAT?!?”. I couldn’t take it in, it was just that incredible. Once the initial songs went over and they had the meeting, it was a pretty quick process; it was like “okay we want those guys and that’s it, job’s done”. So as soon as that happened, then you go through the contractual things before going straight into the studio; they gave us a deadline for delivery, I can’t remember what it was but from memory it was pretty close so we had to work hard! I think we’ve got a great album, a great label and great management; I’m looking forward to the future. At the end of the day; even though we have a friendship with Nuclear Blast, no record label is going to sign a band if they haven’t got strong songs and a strong album.
D: “It was almost immediate. Mantas and myself had recorded for M:Pire of Evil; it was an album called Crucified which I was looking to license and I actually sent it to Nuclear Blast because I have a long association with some of the people there. I wanted them to look into it and hopefully we could have scored a deal for it; we had a meeting that included some of the other bands they were interested in. We were on a table but we lost out for another band, as they could only take like three of the five and we were one of the ones they didn’t take; I knew we were very close then, which meant it was always in the back of my mind. So when Jon Zazula asked who we should run demos by, I said how Nuclear Blast support their bands, they’re passionate about the music and they were formed as musicians doing it for themselves; so I feel as a natural home that’s where we should be if, they wanted us. So we sent the demos to Jon in America and he directed it to Nuclear Blast; it was the only label we sent it to and within a few weeks they contacted us saying “make an album”. It was so quick; I think the work that we had done on M:Pire of Evil, with the touring, the albums and our whole approach hadn’t gone unnoticed by the label, so they were keeping an eye on us. Once we became Venom Inc., all the other labels were going “that’s a brilliant idea” and they’ve been waiting for us to create new music; but we only sent it to Nuclear Blast (laughs)”
Tony was quick to clear up the air that the friendships he had at Nuclear Blast didn’t make things easier for Venom Inc.:
“It wasn’t like I had a friend doing me a favour; in fact the main guy I know is brutally honest and always would just call a spade a spade. He would tell you if it was good or bad and didn’t have any emotion about it because he understands they take on what they love. Sending the album to Nuclear Blast “wasn’t a case of sending it to a mate and that they’ll take us on; it was more a case of if we send it to them and they like it, they’ll take us on. If he likes it, we know it’s good and if he thinks its shit, he will tell us.” so it was a way to find out if we should make another album and answer whether this is the right thing to do. We didn’t expect the reaction that we got to be so overwhelmingly positive; it took us by surprise! I was expecting him to say “that it was okay, or “that we’re not interested as it isn’t our thing” so I was prepared for him to be honest. But I think the manager in America and Germany just said ‘we want it, we want it!” so it was a pleasant surprise.”
A: “It was very very quick; I know a couple of guys from Nuclear Blast and so does Tony, kinda as friends. I know Tony had been trying to get a deal with M:Pire of Evil for some time, so I know they had been speaking about that and as soon as the Venom Inc. thing happened, they were straight into it; there was a lot of labels that came up straight away. We had one in London and we had about another three or four labels; I’m sure if we farmed it out we would have found others. So from Jon calling them and starting the ball game, it came together pretty quickly; it was pretty much over the Christmas period and we started recording drums in January. I was in Blast Studio in Newcastle early January and it came together pretty quickly! But when it came to be sitting around the table as it were, that was just with Jon as he penned the whole thing and put it all together; he spoke to us pretty much every night about how we wanted things to be and it sort of happened from there and was pretty quick with the official side of things. With the paperwork, there was a bit of “yes” and ‘no” and paper going backwards and forwards; a bit of “we want this” and “well, we want this”, which is just old school recording signing. It’s old school in a way that the record label wants certain things and the band wants other certain things, but it came together very quickly and easily!”
This interviewer touched a little more on how Tony was unsuccessful in getting a deal between M:Pire of Evil and Nuclear Blast would have resulted in him being more driven to get Venom Inc. signed by Nuclear Blast; Abaddon added his thoughts to the topic:
“I think what’s happened with M:Pire of Evil is that they’ve gone out and played a lot of shows over a big period and they’ve been close to signing a deal and breaking it; but what everybody wanted from those two guys really was a version of Venom. Every time M:Pire of Evil would play live, the Venom logo was there and it was ‘these guys are ex-Venom’; I think that was following Jeff around like a bit of baggage that he wasn’t very comfortable with. That was part of his recognisance when I was asked by Oliver to play at Keep It True; everyone in the metal world who was remotely interested in Venom or remotely interested in Jeff or Tony knew they were only one person away from making a legitimate version of Venom again. Like I said, that baggage that Jeff was dragging around wasn’t comfortable for him and when I came on board and everything started happening again, it kind of showed that everybody had been sitting on the sidelines going “this is what we wanted to happen”.”
Do you have a personal favourite song on the album that you can’t wait to play live in front of fans?
M: “One of my favourite songs from the album; actually that’s hard because it’s different listening to a song compared to playing it live! I love listening to ‘Forged In Hell’ but I think playing live, it’s got to be one of the first songs that was written, one of the first songs that got this whole thing started and clinched this deal which is ‘Metal We Bleed’.
D: “It’s kind of funny because I love all of the songs. I can’t wait to play ‘Metal We Bleed’; that’s a vibrant, fast paced, energetic song that I can’t wait for! But then, I’m looking forward to playing ‘War’ live and I want to play ‘I Kneel To No God’; some of the songs that may work in the studio may not work live, so you have to see how they work in the set and try them all out to see what the crowd wants to hear live, as well as what’s better for you live. We’ve got a whole bunch of songs on there that will be live songs; the second time we played ‘Avé’ live was in Slovenia on the weekend there, we’re heading off to a Italy tomorrow to do a festival there and we’ll be playing it live there, as well as a month ago when we played it in California for the first time. We saw straight away that it was a crowd pleaser and they were bouncing their heads; it’s great when we play a new song and people accept it for who you are! I can’t wait to play and open a set ‘Metal We Bleed’; it will be fun and from the beginning of the show we’ll be up for it, like someone has put an electric charge through us so it will be great.”
A: “Possibly ‘Metal We Bleed’ or ‘Black N Roll’; it just depends as we’re going to take two or three new songs live. The thing with this band is that people still want to come see ‘Black Metal’, ‘Welcome To Hell’, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Countless Bathory’; if we play a two hour or a one and a half hour set, we can fit some new stuff in. But with the old stuff, the guys want to play different and the fans want to hear different old songs; there’s a vast wealth of songs to pick from, which we’re very lucky to have where we don’t have to go play a full tour of Black Metal again!”
Has there been much communication between the band regarding ideas for a second Venom Inc. album?
M: “Oh no, not yet; definitely not yet. We still have to do a lot of work for Avé; we’ve got a lot of touring to do so we haven’t thought about a new album! Of course, having said that every time I go to the studio, I’m coming up with some new idea so hopefully by the time it comes around to write/record the next album, IF we get a next album that is, we can use something I’ve already come up with. Of course we need to get Avé out of the way first and take it one step at a time. If Nuclear Blast asks us to make a second album, that would pretty amazing!”
D: Unfortunately we didn’t have time to discuss this question because of time restraints as Dolan was flying out to Italy after the interviews he was conducting and we had already gone over time by a couple of minutes at this stage.
A: “We haven’t spoken about it at all; we’ve done a deal for three albums so we have to just around and start talking again, as it’s a whole new beast! We’ve got a year or so of touring and promoting Avé, so I guess we’ll be talking about this the back end of 2018, so we’ll see how it goes. You’re always writing stuff and coming across new ideas; I’ve got a load of stuff that we didn’t even look at on this album, so there are always new areas to look at. The other thing is I’ve got a young baby coming next year, so there’s going to be a big period of next year where I’m going to be on daddy duties.”
When asked if it was his first, Abaddon said “Oh no! I’ve got a young lad; well he’s almost 36 so he’s not so young anymore, but it’s the first for a long time and it’s quite a surprise as it’s come at a time when we weren’t really planning for it to happen. I’m really happy about it! It’s a surprise at the moment; we’ve got the first scan coming up at the end of the month so we’ll take it from there.”
Avé is available now via Nuclear Blast! Purchase it HERE!!