INTERVIEW WITH TONY “DEMOLITION MAN” DOLAN AND JEFF “MANTAS” DUNN
Interview by Arto Lehtinen and Kari Killgast
(Thanks to The British Metal-Rules.Com team for monitoring)
Pics by Arto Lehtinen
M-Pire Of Evil featuring the former Venom members Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and Mantas have been touring effectively around the world. The three-piece made their debut visit to Finland and Metal-Rules.com had the pleasure to sit down and talk with both the Venom guys about the past, the present and the future.
All right guys. Welcome to Finland.
Mantas: Thank you very much.
Tony told me, this is his first visit to Finland…
…and you have been here before.
Mantas: I have, yes.
But it’s a long, long time ago.
Mantas: It was a long time ago. Oh God, ’84, ’85, something like that. But I did return here with Scooter back then. But with Venom..Oh God, I’d say about ’84, ’85 something like that. I remember it was Nazareth and Blackfoot. There were some great bands on the bill.
You played in an outdoor festival called “RantaRock Festival” with a lot of bands.
Mantas: Yeah. RantaRock Festival. It was really good. It was this sort of Midsummer’s Night Eve. It was daylight the whole time and I think we went on 1:00 in the morning or something. Brilliant sunshine. Came off at 3:00 in the morning. Brilliant sunshine.
So it was weird?
Mantas: It was strange, but a good experience and I remember I had the bright idea of climbing up the side of the PA system and doing some guitar stuff from the top looking down on the audience. I asked if we could put two 4x12s up there for me. I was Standing clear and I just looked at the 4x12s and looked down and I could see the monitor down below just looking up, just like, “No!” I just went push – Fuck. So I got in trouble for that.
RISE OF M-PIRE OF EVIL
Let’s talk a little bit about this M-Pire of Evil thing. How did the whole thing start out in the first place? Because I remember the start was a little bit rough.
Mantas: If you want to go back to the sort of initial inception of it, I’ve got a band called Dryll. The line-up has completely changed now. But back then I had a German drummer called Bodo Sticker, who was in Last One Dying and he was with Kyle and we were going to do a sort of little mini festival in New Castle for a DJ, who sadly died a few years ago. He did a lot for rock and metal. Every year they have a little festival for this guy and all the proceeds go to his children’s charity. They had asked Dryll to headline the festival and then I got a phone call to say that Bordo, the drummer, had broke his arm at a festival in Germany, so he couldn’t make it. Previous to that I got a phone call from Antton to say that he had left Venom, he came across to my house and we spoke about the various reasons that we both left, so that was that really – there was no further contact between myself and Antton. Then I found out that Bordo had broken his arm I needed another drummer, the first guy I rang was Nick Barker, but he was on tour and so he couldn’t do it. So then the other guys asked in the band, “Well, why don’t you ask Antton?” So I asked Anton if he would step in for the show, which he said yes.
After that there was a meeting held with myself and the other guitarist and the singer and they had decided then that they wanted the band to be based in North Eastern England. Which meant I had a bass player in Heidelberg, I had just moved to Berlin and I’d got the drummer in Cologne. So I had to make the phone call to say to the two guys that I was going to go with more local people. So I asked Anton if he wanted to be a member of the band, so he did and he came in the band. Soon as we did that. We had played black metal just for a bit of fun at the Jazz Fest.
Then, it went on YouTube and then there was a lot of rumors. People were wondering “Are they going to do anything? Is there going to be another project?” To cut a long story short, we talked about it and we both agreed that it may be fun to do something, but there were no concrete plans. There was nothing. Then the idea came up to get Mike Hickey involved as well so we called Mike and he was up for it. So that just left bass and vocals and there was only one person to ask really and that was Tony.
So I made a phone call to Tony, I told him about the idea and he says, “Yeah, sounds like a great idea.” I still hadn’t asked, if he wanted to do it so I held my breath and just said, “Well, are you in?” And he was like, “Fuck yeah!” Then after that Mike’s work commitments as a guitar technician wouldn’t allow him to spend too much time with the band so it came down to the three of us. So that was the first inception of it. What came around as Prime Evil.
Then we got all these stupid fucking letters from this other band Prime Evil in New York, “No, it’s our name. You can’t use it”. So we just changed it to M-Pire of Evil and that was it. It was no great shakes. It was just a fucking name at the end of the day, but actually the fans chose the name.
Tony: They (New York band Prime Evil) weren’t in operation really. So we didn’t think anything of it.
It’s an old demo band from the ’80s.I guess they split up during ’90s.
Mantas: Then they got back together. But then they all got back together. They had a female bassist and that was rare for a thrash band, it was like that was their thing. But they all got back together after we put them in Blabbermouth and stuff, there’s really only two of them left really. They’re seeking for a new guitarist, because everybody has just left again, so what was the point of all that?
Tony: They actually spent a shit load of money on a restraining order. They spent all this money to copyright the name so we couldn’t use it. But it was like guys, you didn’t have to spend the money. We’ll just change the name. So we basically just sat down and though well, we sort of had a deal going anyway, Jeff had done all this work and that’s all fucked. I really like what we’ve done. And I thought I don’t want to have to change it but we had to change it, but we also wanted to keep it similar to the original. And I just looked and Prime and thought, “That’s Empire, isn’t it?” And I thought oh right, “well there’s one less E, I’ll just do it like that.” Everybody was like, “It’s a fucking stupid name.” It’s perfect then. Everybody hates it and we like it.
The only problem was when speaking people we’d find them asking, “How do you pronounce it?” I think it’s quite easy though and I don’t understand the difficultly people are having
When you got the band rolling and inked a deal with the Italian label Scarlet. Was it an immediate thing to have a deal with Scarlet? Or did you check other options?
Tony: No, I shopped around. I checked a lot of options and we did the four track demo, the Prime Evil thing and then sent that around. I got a great response from it. Everybody said, “Wow, this is really, really good. I really want to hear the album.” And then when it came down to the business end, it turns out they weren’t even interested But I think the thing was they thought — a lot of people presumed — some people didn’t even listen to the material, but presumed it was just going to be another Venom, that we’d just be the other Venom. They thought they knew exactly what we were going to play, how we were going to play it, so they just didn’t want to know. I guess they thought that it’s like flogging a dead horse. I was trying to get people to just listen to it, convince them that our music is different to Venom,That’s where we were and then Lou was friends with Filippo who runs Scarlet records and he said, “Do you mind if I pass it him – because I think he might like it.” Filippo came in said, “We’d love to have you on the label.” And that was it.
I’d already done a deal for us to be able to play any shows, we didn’t have any material. So we did “Creatures of the Black” so that we actually had some material to go out and play. Because before that everybody wanted us to go and play as soon as they found we were together. They wanted us to go and play a whole Venom set, I was like, “Well if Venom wasn’t touring that would be okay, but considering they’re touring, what would be the point of that? We wouldn’t be our own band, we’d just be playing Venom songs.” So that’s why we did “Creatures of the Black”.
Then we decided on some songs to cover, so we looked at songs that influenced us by the bands that influenced us and why we picked those. For me it was Motorhead of course, For Jeff it was Priest, for Anthony, I think it was AC/DC.
You’re covering the roots where you came from.
Tony: Yeah, that was exactly it. Well were going to try, I’m no Rob Halford! But I really wanted to cover “Exciter” because everytime I hear that song I’m like, “Fuck, I want to that!”
Mantas: Especially on Unleashed in the East.
Tony: Unleashed, yeah, exactly. Some of the vocals were going to be a challenge, but it wasn’t about whether we could match this or match that. It was about playing because those are the ones that made us get out our tennis rackets and stand in front of the mirror and shout “Fuck yeah!” The things that really drew us to do what we want to do. Some of these tracks were a huge inspiration for us, especially in the early days of Venom.
How did you start working on the new songs knowing that you had to show that you are able to produce killer stuff?
Tony: For me I think — Jeff was already writing the songs. “The Eighth Gate” was the first one he wrote.
Mantas: “Hell to the Holy” was the first, “The Eighth Gate” was the next one. It was that sort of epic type of songs. Really not thrashy and stuff like that, but it was an extension of where we musically I think. We’ve both grown a lot, and we’ve been doing so many styles, teaching at rock schools, teaching kids to get into rock music
Yeah exactly, and acting…
Tony: The acting, Yeah….
You both did Mantas 666, Zero Tolerant and you also toured with Scooter.
Tony: There’s a lot of truth in the saying that some people are in a band and some people are musicians, and it’s very easy to forget. Venom fans were surprised at the Scooter thing, but at the end of the day, no matter what kind of music it is, it’s great to be going on stage to like 300,000 people, playing amazing solos. A musician will see something and go, “Wow that would be really cool to go to Nashville and play a blues show,” but a guy in a band is going, “Fuck off. That’s shit.” That’s the difference. Don’t close it so quickly. It doesn’t mean that you’re not true to who you are and I think that’s it. When Jeff began to write the stuff for me, he wrote down the lyrics and knew exactly where the lyrics fitted in to the right musical part. All of those influences came in and the firs time I heard it just clicked with me. That’s who we are, that’s exactly it, don’t touch it.
You uploaded songs to the Myspace site too. Was it a purpose to test the water what the people think?
Mantas: Just sort of a tease really. Just put some sort of demos up there just to see what people came back with. I suppose looking for what was going to be most popular and the stuff like that. But at the end of the day, the shape of it all changed anyway because, to be perfectly honest, I write what I like or what I feel the other guys will like and I mean, on “Hell To The Holy” you’ve even got a track “Devil”, which has got slide guitar and stuff like that. I mean I love all that stuff. I love anything which is guitar driven. I’m not just into like thrash metal or just all out metal or whatever.
For me there’s got to be variety there because I get bored very, very quickly. That’s why “The Eighth Gate” was there “Hell To The Holy” and then a couple of venomous type traces in a couple of tracks to.
Tony: We wanted to show the variety in our sound, because if we’d have just put out “Hell Spawn” and “The Eighth Gate” and all that really big and dark and stuff, we’d have already categorized ourselves and nobody would look at us twice, it doesn’t give you that much room to move. Whereas we had an opportunity to do whatever we wanted to do and play anything we wanted to play, that’s what M-Pire of Evil is.
Then of course you got a drummer with the skills. You can hear the stuff much tighter.
Tony: Yeah, he’s a very heavy hitter, perfect for Venom style, but he struggled with some of the more intricate stuff.
Mantas: And I think that speaks volumes on that album on CRUCIFIED because I mean those tracks have come alive with Mark playing it.
Tony: But he did them all in one take. One take.
RE-RECORDING THE OLD VENOM SONGS FOR CRUCIFIED
Those albums were totally out of print. The problem is that those albums are long forgotten. They came out in early ’90s and there was a new wind blowing at that time.
Tony: Exactly, and they have the new albums anyway because there was a reformation of the band. They were sort of buried in a way.
Several old bands have made new albums with old songs by using the modern technology and those bands have been blamed for ruining the spirit of the old songs. But you took the risk?
Tony: A lot of people we’re asking us that at the time, if we were going to take the risk. I knew Exodus did it on BONDED BY BLOOD, but it was only then when people started asking me did I start looking into it, and to my surprise everybody was doing it. That was not our intention. We still do “Black Metal” and “Witching Hour” in our set, but to be fair there’s nothing wrong with that, because the guy who wrote them is standing on the fucking stage!
We had to ask the fan base, “If we played live what would you like to hear?” And people said “I would love to hear that etc”. That’s how we put a set together. If there are songs that you’ve written and you want to play them then play them! People really enjoy them anyway.
We’ve had no criticism of playing these songs live. They’re great songs and they’re fucking great songs to play, and you can’t deny the heritage. which is what I tell to people. Antton at one point said “We were covering Venom.” But really, “how do you cover a song you’ve wrote? How are you a cover band if you’re actually playing the song you wrote?” You’re not really, it’s maybe a different format, but so is Venom. That does not mean that Cronos can’t play and sing “Black Metal”. Of course he can. You know what I mean? Each part is just as vital I think really.
VENOM – BREAKING ALL THE RULES
Venom is the part of your DNA the rest of your life anyway - Whatever you do people say “Oh, you’re from Venom and doing Venom”. You’re always under the microscope with people watching what you’re doing. Does it bring some kind of pressure or freedom to do whatever you want?
Mantas: I’m very proud of what Venom achieved and the impact that it had. It is something that I’ll never get away from. It’s same as Ace Frehley. Ace Frehley will always be the guitarist in KISS. I think it’s one of those bands where the individual members are always going to be known for the collective more than the individual. But I think of the three of us, I’ve probably gotten away from it more. You know, with M-Pire, with the Mantas Project, with Dryll – I mean I toured with the German metalcore band called Last One Dying. I’ve done all kinds of stuff. The next year I’ve got a blues album out, I’ve wanted to do a blues album for years and years and years.
The first two albums WELCOME TO HELL and BLACK METAL – the bulk of it is my work. I mean I’ve got a rehearsal tape from 1979 with the original singer of Venom. It’s an old cassette tape and he’s singing “Angel Dust, Raise the Dead, Red Light Fever and Buried Alive” in ’79. So that’s how early those songs were written. Cronos came in as a rhythm guitarist and then the bass player left so he took over bass. Then we went in the studio and I had wrote “Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil” and the idea was that the singer was going to go off stage and would go into a costume change. Because we were all into the theatrical side, when he went off Cronos was going to sing “Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil”.
When the singer came back on the song was “Schitzo”. So like I say, it shows you how early on all these songs were conceived. I can still remember ever taking in “Witching Hour” to rehearsals, “Leave Me in Hell” into rehearsals and “Seven Gates of Hell” into rehearsals, I think I’m justifiably proud of what the bands achieved. The first song I ever wrote was “Red Light Fever”. The very first song. My song writing was original of discovering power chords and moving those up and down the neck. Then I learned the first position of the pentatonic scale and that was it I thought. The results were the early Venom songs.
We have fans come up to us after shows to talk about what an impact Venom have had on them, Paul Speckmann said he might not have even formed Master without Venom. The band’s legacy is undeniable.
Venom drove metal into another level. Were you surprised or did you realize how many young bands started coming out at that time in the early ’80s, mid-80s – Trying to be new Venom because they were influenced by sounds and image. ?
Mantas: It’s exactly the same as what we did in the early days. Our influences were Black Sabbath, KISS, Judas Priest, Motorhead. We always said if you took every heavy metal cliché and turned it up to 10 and mixed it up and then poured it out on the table then it would spell Venom. That’s what we wanted. We wanted to be louder than them. We wanted to be faster than them. We wanted to wear more leather than those guys. Bigger stage show than those guys. That was always the premise of Venom.
FROM ATOMKRAFT TO VENOM
I cannot help asking as you basically started at the same time in the late-70s, Atomkraft was a little bit different and that you didn’t deal that much with the darker side – How did you feel about the darker side things when you joined Venom?
Tony: We were born out of the nuclear years, a lot of anti-nuclear lobbying going on. It was anti-nuclear this and anti-cold war that, everything. So that’s where we made our statement. As young guys with a voice going this is where we’re going to blow ourselves up, if we’re not fucking careful. So that was the whole Atomkraft thing like this big red button. Again it was synonymous with just life as well, but when we came back from the Polish tour and the band sort of fell apart and stuff and I did “Welcome to Hell” with Abaddon and with Wolfspider. Then when I came back we stopped Atomkraft and then Eric called and said, “Would you want to come to a pub and have a chat?” I went up to this pub and they pitched the idea, we got this deal. Cronos has moved to America, we’re going to get Mantas back in. It’s fucking great.
I was going, “Who you going to get to play and sing then?” They were just looking at me. I was like, “Do I know him?” but then they asked me, and I was like, “If he’s in I’m in. Definitely.” Of course he wasn’t in. So they bullshitted me to try and get him and bullshitted him. But it was the idea because we’re like brothers and there’s something – I don’t know – something that happens that I just enjoy playing with him. His style works. I love the freedom we’ve got when we play. It just sits so comfortably and it’s such a joy to do. It’s like a second nature or an extra arm of something. It’s just an extension of who I am. I enjoy his playing, but being on stage with him playing.
It was okay, then they said, “We need to write an album.” So I was like, “Okay.” Well the reason - I guess – one of the reasons they’d also asked me was they got a bit in trouble because they got the Calm Before the Storm. They were looking towards maybe a sort of Van Halen type – excelling themselves toward America and how it’s going. There was a Venom fan - who was going, “What?” The two guitarists with the spandex, the snakeskin, I was like, “No.” Because it’s what I’ve said in many things, Venom is bigger than the individuals. Venom is a statement we all need. I just through a world without Venom I didn’t want. Like a world without Motorhead. If I could have a Venom, so if I could get in there and do it and I spent three weeks every single night with headphones on. I listened to Welcome to Hell every night before playing a show. Just let it play. I had some really fucking freaky experiences. Really paranormal experiences listening to it.
I thought like, this is weird shit. But that got me back into it. Because as a fan I knew what I loved about it. What it was that made it and dark and just like all consuming for me and excited me, they had lost their way. As Jeff just said, he just writes songs. He’s like, “Here I wrote this riff.” I hear it and the minute I hear it I see the images, I see the whole thing moving and it’s like, “Yeah, that’s great. That’s great.” I’ve already seen what he’s doing. Whereas he’s just writing some cool riffs together and freezing it, so it was that thing. I saw the whole thing visually and they wanted me to try and recapture what they – I think – they just lost their way. They lost the reigns of it and it ran out of control and people were going, “You’re not like you were.” They were going to be writing songs because they’re working on his songs and that was it. That was the key point they didn’t see. Cronos, he’s a great bassist and great lyricist and he can write, he can’t write the whole album without that other element and that’s Mantas. FALLEN ANGELS, HELL, METAL BLACK albums I like, but other people just say there’s something missing, and they’re talking about Jeff.
Mantas: It did well. Great reviews, yeah. Everything. Everything looked great. But it was the low-level approach of Abaddon and the management that threw it into some shitty clubs and that wasn’t Venom. It just wasn’t Venom.
Tony: In those in between days Abadon found out that he could get American bands, like Nasty Savage and all those bands, he could get American bands to fork out a lot of cash to come to Europe. He could put himself down as tour manager. He made them pay for everything and then stick a couple of bands on and then he’d walk away with some money and it was like an income for him. So in a way it was a bit like he was ripping off, but they didn’t get it. There was a lot of money manipulation, a lot of problems with those bands and with him managing that. So he figured out, “well this is what I do!” So that’s what he did to us.
We were on our way, we were on a bus on our way out. We got great reviews. By the time we did TEMPLES OF ICE, he was in control of the cover, the production. The first production we went to the Jacob Studios and did it with Nick Toba, great engineer and a really sick album. By the next one he decided he could do that, but he didn’t spent the money on Nick Toba, so we didn’t see any of the advance. We don’t know how much it appeared. There appeared to be twice as Music For Nations’ for the album and he took all the money. They bought a studio from Brian Johnson’s wife. We were like just going, “What’s going on?” He’s like, “Oh no, it’s all okay.”
Mantas: You know, the album that you’re holding there (Wasteland) - Is that a fucking Venom cover? Is that Venom artwork? Does that look like a Venom cover?
No, there’s no Venom logo.
Mantas: No. It looks like something the fucking Grateful Dead would put out. The artwork on that and the artwork on TEMPLES OF ICE, I will go on record now as saying they are fucking shit and they should never have went out. It’s as simple as that. We didn’t even see it until it was finished.
Tony: No, we didn’t see that. Until it was finished.
Mantas: That was what we got handed.
Tony: When the CD come it was all these. I was like, what do these mean? Then he’s put the lyrics there and I was like, I don’t even know what that means. What’s that got to do with the lyrics?
There was the smallest box of the lyrics I’ve ever seen.
Tony: Yeah. I was like it doesn’t relate to the images. I was like, what?
Mantas: It’s like something from fucking Yes or like I said, Grateful Dead.
He did interviews in Finland with in a heavy metal radio show back then.
Tony: Oh yeah ?
Mantas and Tony: But we didn’t even know there were interviews. We didn’t know anything about any of that. We got nothing.
Tony: This was the final album from Music For Nations and we were unaware of what was being passed on, what was going on and Music for Nations was about to drop it. Because they thought that meant . When he sent Temples of Ice in, the Temples of Ice cover before we saw it he sent it in to Martin Luker at Music for Nations. Martin Luker said, “That is the biggest pile of shit I’ve ever seen. I’m not putting it out. Make it better.” So the cover that’s on there now is the better version. Fuck knows what the first one looked like. I was like, “Oh my God.” But again it was we lost all contributing to it. We were on a bus, a tour bus,we were about to hit Berlin. We had a show in Berlin and the wall came down the day after.
CALLING IT QUITS
Tony: We did one Russian show. Yeah, St. Petersburg. Yeah, it was the final tour. We were on our way. We’d done about six or seven dates and were on our way to Berlin and me and him just were in the lounge at the back of the bus. I went down and sat down there. He was playing the guitar and we was just sort of playing and then we just stopped and looked at each other and went, “We should fucking go home.”
Did you then realize it was about time to pull the plug?
Tony: That’s when we pulled it.
Mantas: Absolutely time to pull the plug. Because it was becoming ridiculous.
Tony: We do it on these and on some of the parts on this. Wondering we’ve never even seen each other. Like Tony(Abaddon) would go, “Oh you got some bass parts to do or some vocal.” All right. Okay. I’d go in and I was working and Jeff was working. I’d go in and do my bass and then I’d go and then he’d go in and do his bits and then go. Off the record or on the record, however you want to do this. He was fined a days wages which we didn’t even get anyway. He was fined a day because he didn’t turn up for a session to play guitar when he had a job. Tony was like, “Yeah, you got to do your guitar.” He’s said, “I can’t. I’ve got classes.” Because he had his school and he’s training. Said, “I have classes all day. I can’t go. I can get there tomorrow.” Then later on we get Tony going, “Yeah, I fined Jeff because he didn’t come in for a bit.” Fined him? We didn’t get paid anyway.
Mantas: The guy’s a dick.
What happened after this?
Tony: Well what happened after that was that was it.
Mantas: They did all that.
Tony: We recorded that one and that was it. Then Eric and Tony began to license all the tracks. I mean there was “Court of Death, Witching Hour, Black Rain”. They were just doing license deals, because they knew that if they licensed you could put together compilations of tapes, 10 songs and you could get like a 1,000 pound or 2,000 pounds. So that’s what they decided and because they were buying the name fans would be going to me saying, “Fucking hell, you guys – you’re just ripping us off. It’s the same…” I’m not involved. As far as I’m concerned we finished that album. That’s it. You bought it. The albums legitimately can still be out there if you want to get them, but it was the compilations.
Venom got more media attention when churches started going up in smoke and black metal guys had Venom shirts and people started to get interest in Venom. I guess that wasn’t that attention that you were looking for.
Mantas: No, absolutely not. The thing is with anything, there will be people who take – it doesn’t matter what you’re into. It can be a sport, it can be music, it can be whatever, but there will always be people who take it to the extreme, religion has proven that. I just think that it just got out of hand, I tend to distance myself from all that kind of stuff. I’m in it for the music and the music only. That’s it. I love being on stage and I love being in the studio. I love being creative, I love playing guitar and that’s it. That’s where it begins and ends for me. I’ve got no interest in politics, religion or anything like that whatsoever. So all that kind of stuff, when all that kind of reared it’s head it was oh, you know? And then people citing Venom as the big influence. It’s well, you know, you’ve just got to look at the Judas Priest trial.
Tony: We had a week of British press. It was at the end before the — we stopped and then the reunion happened. There was a week of British press because some Canadian kid killed himself with the church burnings and the general TV news and the newspapers were looking and of course Venom popped up. And Abaddon was invited to do all these interviews. He went on national television like in the new Family Guy, they went, “Are you a Satanist?” He went, “Yes, I am.” That was it. It went boom and the second it went boom we were in all the Sunday papers and everything. When we did Blackened of the Priest it got to the middle and I said, “I wish you’d put some backwards masking in there.” So they were like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” There was a kid’s show called Postman Pat and the song from it was Postman Pat. I sung that backwards and that’s what’s on Blackened of the Priest. The fucking news – the Sunday newspaper had it printed backwards and printed it forwards and said, “Satanic band sends messages to the children.” I was like, “Fuck.”
I remember that time because some people in United States started to listen to those records backwards.
Mantas: The thing is Rob Halford did the perfect thing where he went and he turned Exciter backwards in the court room… he said, “If you listen carefully, you will hear that I asked for a peppermint. I asked her to give me one.” when somebody puts that in your head and then you listen to it, you go, “Oh yeah.” The other thing is do it – DO WHAT? DO WHAT?
Tony: One of the good things that Abaddon did, was on a thing called News Night, which is a particular news program where they do in-depth things and they had this lunatic, this Catholic guy, who spent all of his time taping records and then he’s play them backward through machines to try and find Satanic messages. I mean if that’s what he wants to do with his life. And he was going, “Look it’s quite clearly you’re trying to subliminally influence children because if you listen to this sort of the masking. And Abaddon went, “Hang on, hang on. But you are talking – you’re saying we’re subliminally trying to influence children. You’re talking about a track that came from an album called Welcome to Hell, that has a pentagram on the front from the Satanic, the Goat of Mendes head and on the back it’s all about drinking the vomit, the priestfucking your virgin”. They said, “Really?” There’s a song called Sons of Satan on there. You really think we’re going to hide something on the record to try to influence someone? If we haven’t don’t it by the time they’ve bought the fucking cover then we failed miserably.
In the early ’90s when those black metal things happened all metal heads were at a target like in school and If you had Venom t-shirt…
Mantas: The thing is, that’s why I wrote Devil on “Hell To The Holy”. Because if you take it even further back when Black Sabbath, through Black Widow and you go way back to the…
Back to the crossroads.
Tony: Exactly. The Crossroads. Now if you walked into school and you had a Blind Melon shirt on… The teacher might think that’s really cool because they listen to blues players. It’s probably more Satanic than all the Satanic bands there. He might be praying every night in front of a black candle going, “Fucking make me the best guitarist in the world.”
Mantas: Well, Robert Johnson’s the one who’s supposed to have gone to the crossroads and sold his soul.
Tony: Sold his soul to the Devil for the blues. And it’s like fucking A from the blues you got Elvis and everything else.
SHOCKING PEOPLE ?
How can you shock the people nowadays? Because back in the day you were able to shock the people with the Pentagrams and stuff like. But nowadays when kids come to tell you “I’m playing in a Satanic black metal band – Listen to this” and you are like “ Well okay”.
Tony: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s the thing. You can’t and it’s because of media. Like Jeff said earlier, you look and you turn on the TV, there’s worse shit happening than we could – anything that we could have dreamed of. It’s happening every day, everywhere. The most disgusting things as well. It becomes mainstream too. I think the thing is bands can’t shock anymore so they try, I went to a black metal festival and there were some good bands on there. But it was a bit too much like 20 bands. After a while it was like I’m sort of losing track of what’s happening now, but I remember talking to one of the band in particular and I said, “Oh, which is your band?” They pointed to their logo and I was like, “Oh great, I can’t even fucking read it.”
I said, “I can’t make it out.” They like, “That’s the point.” I was like, right. So you say you can sing with like grind core death metal vocals. I can’t understand the lyrics so I can’t sing along and now I can’t understand your logo… Why bother? Why are you doing it? But I think it’s they’re looking for an extremity that isn’t there anymore. I remember getting the Metallica demo NO LIFE TILL LEATHER, that was handed to me and I put “Hit The Lights” on and got my Atomkraft guitarist. I was like”You’ve got to come over to my house, you’ve got to come over to my house.” And he was like, “Why?” I put the tape on and he listened. We both sat there and went, “That’s fucking stupid fast. That is too fast. That is ridiculous.” Then, you know, within a month I had Cryptic Slaughter. I put Cryptic slaughter on. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on, I thought it was going out of control!
When did you came across the death metal thing for the first time?
Mantas: You know honestly, I have never listened to any of those bands, I wasn’t aware of them or anything. In fact to be perfectly honest, when I was writing all the Venom stuff I hardly ever listened to any of these newer bands. I did not want to be influenced by them whatsoever. I always wanted to put something original down. I’ve always said in a joke, my metal world starts with the word Judas and ends with the word Priest. Although I appreciate everything. I do like Dimmu Borgir, I do like Immortal. But I did a black metal festival with the Mantas 666 band and we did it down in London. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you one band from the other. Everything sounded the fucking same. It just all sounded — everything was blast beats, and everybody’s walking about in the dressing room, the corpse paint and this that and the other. It was a whole general thing. It just became one fucking entity and it was like which band is which.