Interview by Arto Lehtinen & Marko Syrjala
WELCOME TO HELL, BLACK METAL, and AT WAR WITH SATAN are iconic black metal albums that have had a massive impact on the metal genre. Even though Venom has faced up and downs during its long career, the band is still pushing boundaries. Venom of 2017 is guided by Cronos, along with guitarist Rage and drummer Dante. The band landed at Sweden Rock to offer a black metal outburst in an old-school way. The band’s latest FROM THE VERY DEPTH stands for the brutal and raw metal to show Venom’s vicious and fresh approach. Metal-Rules.com had the unique opportunity to sit with the whole band and discuss several fascinating topics.
REMEMBERING THE OLD TIMES
Do you remember when you made your first visit to Finland?
Cronos: Yes. It was 80… fuck… Was it ’84?
That was a festival called Rantarock, and it was in 1985.
Cronos: Yeah. It was a really strange festival, and it was so not like a Venom festival. We even got there, and like, wondered why we had been invited. There were almost no other metal bands on the bill. From what we remember, it was an awesome show. The crowd was great. But we just kind of thought it was a really strange mix and match type of festival. But it seems like a lot of, I don’t know whether it was commercial, Finnish music or European music….was it bands from all over Europe? But that one guy, Rob Lowe?
Cronos: Nick Lowe was on the British chart. I don’t know if he was English or what. Yeah, it was really strange.
At that time, the festival mixed different bands and genres – from Finnish Rock bands to international rock bands in the same festival.
Cronos: It’s a good idea, but there was no metal at all. That’s why we thought, “Do you know who you have booked?” It was very wonderful.
Do you remember what kind of response you got?
Cronos: I thought it was great. Yeah. Because we were saying, shit. Here we go. This crowd has probably never heard of Venom. Even looking at the crowd, the crowd looked more conservative as well. For what we had already seen in Europe. In Italy, in Holland, Belgium. But no, it was deceiving. It was such a deceiving thing because the kids knew Venom. We had a pit running in the front, and the kids went crazy, and we were standing there staring at each other, going, “fucking great!” <Laughs>
At that time, kids, including us, were like, “Holy crap! What is this? What is this band?” Kids had Venom posters with skulls, naked women, and blood. We were like, “Oh no, cool.” We believed that you were drinking blood and priest’s vomit, and there was a lot of stuff like that. I also remember you said in an interview, “Yeah, I’d love to meet the Hanoi Rocks guys, and I can beat them to death.” Also, you had some war of words with bands like Twisted Sister and Manowar. Do you still remember those things?
Cronos: Yeah. We used to go down, just trying to be as controversial as possible. But we realized that… (we were) the first people who had attention paid to them. People had paid attention. Even today, they say that it was a bit crazy back in the black metal days. It’s like, no. It’s really difficult in the black metal days. Because people used to say they couldn’t read the logo, they couldn’t understand the stage names. They couldn’t understand the music. It was too fast; it was too heavy. It was too noisy. So, we used to be just as controversial as we could, just really to strike a reaction and just to get… Because we knew the young kids would be going, those guys are cool because we’re just fucking mad and crazy. So, the kids would sort of overreact. The older people would go, no. This is unacceptable. There was one interview we did in Holland, where we just smashed the fucking radio station up. I smashed the glass and everything and went through. We were like, no. Nobody is going to interview this band anymore because they broke the place. But yeah, it was good fun.
At that time, Venom impacted the new generations because all of a sudden, there were a lot of new bands trying to be a new Venom or a clone.
Cronos: Of course, of course. We even had to joke about it once when the band Exodus came out. We used to call them “Exo-dugga-dugga-dugga-us” because that’s what all their songs did. And it was as if they were just trying to take the fast Venom songs and play them even faster. It was like a competition to say who could be the fastest band, and we said, that’s a super drill.
I still remember when I first time heard the album AT WAR WITH THE SATAN. It was such evil and dangerous stuff that it was hard to get sleep after that <Laughs>
Cronos: What I like is like nowadays where you get, like the young Christians in America, and they sort of do these long video blogs, and they try to sort of like diagnose it. It’s so hilarious, and I’m going to fucking blame them. It’s great, and they’re scared. But the thing is, even on the B -side of AT WAR WITH SATAN is a song, “Aaaaargghh,” where we’re just trying to play ridiculously fast without having any substance to the music. I was thinking; you guys can’t last if that’s all you’re going to do. If you’re just going to do…just go “ba, ba.” But where do you go from there because you’re going to get to the point where the song is going to sound stupid, too fast. There is a speed where you go cool, and then there is a speed where you go stupid. So, we knew that was never going to work.
Like if the bands didn’t find their thing. When we first started out, we didn’t want bands who were kind of like Judas Priest clones or AC/DC clones to be on the same shows as us. We were looking for groups that were similar to us. A bootleg friend of mine sent me a video of Metallica on a club stage, with the Megadeth singer there, Dave. They were standing on stage with his “Metal Up Your Ass” shirt on. That’s why we booked them, simply because of him. Because we thought, well, Dave heard of Venom, they were playing fast. It sounded like they were trying to do a version of “Witching Hour” with “Whiplash.” I can do the job well, and we did “Whiplash” live. There you go. Just to let them know, like, I knew where you got the idea.
That’s why when we first went to the States, we said to the promoter, “Can you get this band called Metallica from the West Coast?” Because we knew then the crowd would have a good show of two bands, following this new trend. They weren’t following the rock bands of the ’70s, the Deep Purple and Priest. Which are fucking great bands….don’t get us wrong. But we were all going in a new direction, and it was more of a punky direction. The long hair, the leather, and the rest. It still rocked. But it’s got a new edge to it. The metal has got to evolve. It’s got to….. It was getting too boring. It was getting too fucking like with all the Ratt’s and the Motley Crue’s. All those bands putting socks down their pants and putting on lipstick and going, “Hey baby?” It’s like, that’s not rock music. You know what I mean.
Rage: That’s funny, that style.
Cronos: We know the other bands like the Zeppelin and Bad Company; they didn’t wear fucking makeup, they went on stage looking fucking cool. The leather jackets and the stuff, and that was kind of like the message I wanted to bring back—just the freedom of rock music, to explore different styles. Nowadays, everybody sounds the same and looks the same. It’s like, “Where are the Alice Coopers? Where are the Lemmy’s? Where are the Gene Simmons’s?” Where are the front men? Where is the crazy bastard? That’s kind of a bit of a loss now. But those were the kind of messages we put forward. So, if bands like Metallica and Slayer and Exodus and Testament, they’ve all been influenced by Venom style, which is great because they’ve now established their styles which have influenced thousands of other bands. So, to me, it’s just a knock-on effect. It’s not that we did everything, no. It’s something that we started. We pushed the ball, and it started to roll, and then push it away, it went.
GUEST APPEARANCES AND MORE
You have done a lot of guest appearances for different bands and artists. Even Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters wanted you to be a part of his PROBOT project. Tell us something about that?
Cronos: When Dave Grohl phoned up, I didn’t see the connection because I was thinking Nirvana. I felt it couldn’t be doing Foo Fighters because that’s… It’s just what it is, and I still just write stuff. He says it’s not for the Foo Fighters. But I can’t help write it; I’m a musician. He says I have now, kind of, composed all these songs. He says one came to sound like Motorhead. One came the sounds like Cradle of Filth. One came to sound like fucking Sepultura. He says I’m going to keep all the songs because I love all you guys. I was like, “Really?” And he’s like, yeah. I grew up on Venom, for fuck sake. He’s a 100% Metalhead, Dave.
Rage: He’s not faking it much.
Cronos: He’s not faking it, no. He’s 100%. He knows everything as well, very smart.
Rage: He goes fucking at a million percent into his gigs.
I saw a document where he praised Voivod.
Cronos: Yeah, yeah. He knows Voivod and the old Cathedral and everything. He was stuck in London once. He bumped into the guys from Cathedral, and he slept on band guys’ floors because he had no money for a hotel. So yeah. He’s genuine, Dave. He’s a proper genuine. That was a great album, THE PROBOT album. It was terrific.
You also made a guest appearance on the Diabolos Rising album featuring a member from Impaled Nazarene.
Cronos: Yeah, Mika.
The band was a brainchild of Mika Luttinen and Magus Wampyr Daoloth, the guy from Necromantia.
How did you come about this after all?
Cronos: It was a video guy, David Pousa, who had made videos for Mika and other similar types of things. I think it was through Osmose Records. He got in touch because he was going to be working with Venom. It was just before the time we were doing THE SECOND COMING. He had said there is this guy Mika and he’s got this project, the Diabolos Rising. He explained it to us. I went out to his house to meet him. He showed the imagery and everything else, and I was like, yeah. 100%, it’s going to be great. We found this abandoned bedlam in Belgium, we went out into this kind of like a long tunnel, and it was fucking perfect. So, I was like, well, up for it. Yeah, it was great. Mika was cool, as I still always say hi when we bump into each other. So yeah, it was really good fun. But the “Diabolos Rising” album is something else because it incorporates a kind of dance theme to it. But it’s not over the top.
For me, it sounds like the industrial stuff?
Cronos: Yeah, yeah. More industrial. I saw it happening, and I thought it’s happened with every other type of music. Like it’s happening with the Indian music, the Western. I thought, one day, someone’s going to put some disco beat behind fucking metal. I think it worked well. I’ve heard the album loads of times, and none of it annoys us. None of it goes into disco too much. You know what I mean. It is a bit dance, a bit robotic…It creates an effect. It sounds more dangerous. I just think it’s incredible how… My parents used to tell similar stories about it isn’t Rock and Roll without Presley, and it’s all this of (parents) always being scared of kids and enjoying yourselves. It was what it was; they would enjoy. It was just kids enjoying themselves. No one was dying; no one was getting hurt. Okay, a bit of blood was getting thrown out, and some windows were getting smashed broken. But come on, kids are kids.
THE CURRENT LINE-UP OF VENOM
Because all you guys are here, I have to ask about this current line-up as well. You guys have been together for close to ten years already?
Rage: I’ve been in the band for ten years.
Dante: I’ve been in since 2009. So, eight years now. Yeah. So, we’ve got two albums now with this band.
Rage: We have awesome albums.
Cronos: When we’re doing rehearsals, it’s like these guys would say, “I was listening to this” and “I was listening to that.” So, we pull out songs, so I mean, there will be a couple of new songs in the set tonight that we have never played before, and I believe that those may not have been played live as well. There is a track we’re going to do off the POSSESSED album, and that’s going to be a big surprise for everyone. If these guys want to…
Dante: Yeah. I’ve been trying to get in the set for years.
Do these guys know all the songs from the past? Obviously, they know the history of Venom?
Cronos: Yeah, yeah. The thing is, we, as a band, are evolving the black metal thing. Because for me, it has to be exciting. It has to be new; it has to be dangerous. It has to stay in motion. It has to make me excited to do it. I couldn’t just do the “Welcome to Hell” night after night; it would be too boring. So, they know I like to be challenged. I need to create new shit, and I like to twist Venom a lot and cut and pull it. I like to create an album that people kind of go to that wasn’t expected. But fuck me. For a band that’s been going this long. If we’re not going to continue to evolve, I think we’re dead. But you don’t want to forget where you came from. To be able to play songs from back in the day, the people in the audience can hear them and hear the song they love. I played the way that it was played. I think it is special. These guys have got two albums under the belt now that they can call their own. So, when they play their songs up on that stage, they can push and pull the bits they want, and they can play them in their style. But when we play the old songs, we kind of try to play them as near to the original we possibly can so that the people in the audience hear a great version of the song rather than a changed version of the song. Because why change a great song?
Somebody said that Venom is getting boring because now the guys can play.
Cronos: You would get, though. You would get that. But I’m always going to…
Dante: We’re not going to stop playing. We’re going to send them a handful before…
Cronos: I’m going to take that as a compliment <Laughs> because we go through the evidence, and the evidence is that many other people listened to Venom 30, 20 years ago. They’re not coming to the shows. They are old guys sitting in the house. Yes, some other guys can turn up for the show. But the majority of the guys are young people, and they’ve been…. maybe they listened to Venom for the last 5 or 10 years. During the show where we actually had, like, a bit extra time, and we said, “What do you want to hear?” They shouted for “Pedal to the Metal.” They shout for “Hammer Head.” They’re shouting for the fucking new shit, “Long Haired Punks.” They’re not shouting for the old songs anymore like they used to because those guys aren’t in the crowd anymore. I know the young crowd has researched: “Countless Bathory” and “Witching Hour” and “Bloodlust.” I know that because they sing along, and they’re passionate when you play “Long Haired Punks,” they get to go, “Oh yeah!” It’s their songs.
Rage: It’s their songs, they’re the songs that are special for them, and they’re getting the vibe. All the fans got when the band first started. So, it’s great watching that, and when we are playing the sets now, the old songs are going to stick out. It’s not like, the new ones and the old ones and this. You can play “Long Haired Punks” and then play “Bloodlust, ” and you’re going to get the same vibe.
That was one of the questions we were thinking about. What is the song “Long Haired Punks” about?
Rage: Not me <Laughs>
Cronos: I think it’s obvious. We always used to call ourselves “Long Haired Punks.” It’s just about how music is like now; there are no new trends. It’s just across the board. So back in the days, a punk, you could see who he was because he had short, spiky hair, all these dots. But nowadays, you can’t see that that guy is a punk anymore because it could be you. Like, I used to be a punk. I used to be into the Sex Pistols and the Clash and the Damned and bands like that. But I always had that rock roots as well. Because I grew up on Zeppelins and Purples and The Stones and grew with bands like that, it is just music across the board now. We’re all “Long Haired Punks” at it. In metal.
THE NEW VENOM ALBUM
FROM THE VERY DEPTHS, the album. It was two years ago, almost three soon. Do you have any plans for the next one?
Cronos: Yeah, yeah. We’re always writing.
Are you still signed with Spinefarm records?
Cronos: Yeah, yeah. No, no. We don’t want to go. The sister company is Universal. We’re just sitting behind it all. That’s where we get the backing from, and it took me a long time to get a big label actually to have the confidence in a metal band. Because yes, we got ignored, and things were coming out on independent labels everywhere. We were never getting the backing. We’re doing alright with Universal at the moment. Because they’re a fucking massive company, and they’re getting behind the band named Venom. Which I just think is fucking very special. Now you can just go and make a quick phone call and then get off a train. Walk into the Universal building. Get your tag and go upstairs and go and sit with the fucking manager; that’s a special thing. That’s fucking cool. Those guys are happy to have you there, and that’s great. Because once upon a time, you’ve seen the EMI thing that put out there? That’s what it used to be like, and that letter came back with a tape that I had sent. And EMI didn’t even play it.
Somebody lied then…
Cronos: Yeah. It took the time to write that FFFFFFFFFFFF YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU “fuck off.” Now to also see EMI being bought out, hahaha.
But going back to the original question, do you have plans for the next Venom album?
Cronos: Plans are put into each other. They’re all like a progression; as this band grows, the albums grow. The songs get more complex, they get deeper and heavier, and production gets better. We’ve already put three songs together for the EP, which was delayed because there is a backload of vinyl now. Everybody is buying fucking vinyl, and it’s really hard to get the pressings. The label was doing one, but we couldn’t get in. So, we kind of just put it back a bit. But the EP will get released this year, and then the album will get released in 2018. So, you’ll hear from the EP the direction about is pretty much where we are now.
Speaking of the newer albums you have put out with this lineup, I think the FALLEN ANGELS was kind of… It was quite a light album, but the VERY DEPTHS was more like back to the roots. Do you agree with that?
Rage: With FALLEN ANGELS, that was the first album with this line-up. You’ve still got to gaber people, but you still got to know them, where they are in the songs. So, it was a perfect album for the perfect time.
In my opinion, FALLEN ANGELS sounded more like Cronos’s solo album than Venom’s album.
Cronos: In my defense…In defense of it, I would say it is the album I had done previously with a different drummer was the HELL album, which I was quite disappointed with. The reason why is because the drummer had decided that he could do whatever he wanted because he had played on RESURRECTION and played on METAL BLACK. I kept reminding him that he’s in Venom and he’s a black metal drummer. But he wasn’t. He’s a new metal drummer. He was all about putting his influence on the songs, and I think it killed the album. I believe that they’re great songs, but the drums are too busy. I said Venom drums need to be “boom whack, boom whack.” So, when I met Danny and introduced him to what black metal was, I just listened to the albums. Just listen to the BLACK METAL. Listen to this, Listen to RESURRECTION. Understand what Venom need.
We need a drummer. The original drummer in the band was a rock drummer who then developed a thrash style. So, I said, you as a rock drummer can take that on board and then just realize what we’ve done differently, to call a particular type of drumming black metal drumming. That’s what Danny did. So maybe we did play a little bit safe on the FALLEN ANGELS album, but it was for a very good reason. Because it was to establish this line-up, it wasn’t going to take that many chances. It didn’t take as many chances as we did on FROM THE VERY DEPTHS, which we could just go crazy because we knew the first album people loved it. So, with all three, we can go crazy now.
That’s exactly what I was thinking.
Dante: FALLEN ANGELS have still got two of the fastest tracks that we did.
Cronos: We beat the hell out of them.
Rage: I mean, you’ve got “Pedal” and “Nemesis” on FALLEN ANGELS, just two of the fastest tracks. Those were “boom,” you know. You’ve got to get in the groove. It’s easy for a band to go out. It’s easy for a band to go on tour and play songs. But then to write songs and these songs are going to last forever. We needed something that was going to come in and hit the kids. I think it’s a fantastic album, and it let us do FROM THE VERY DEPTHS. Because it was like, we got that one out the way.
Cronos: Because before we went to the studio when we were rehearsing the songs. We all went to the studio. We had done a full South American tour before we recorded anything. Because I wanted that live connection between these guys. I already had it with the Rage. But I needed it also, more importantly, I think with the drums. You needed to have that sort of psychic thing, where you’ve got a new way you wanted to go with this. So, he could get down with the bass lines and everything. So, I thought the FALLEN ANGELS album was a very easy album to play because it was people connecting and being excited to do it. But yeah, songs like “Nemesis” and everything. They were fast. It was fucking crazy.
Dante: We just wanted to put the album out and do it, where it was FROM THE VERY DEPTHS. We knew what we could do when we knew how each other worked. So, we went and just looked at the songs a little bit more… It’s worked out to be some weird sort of trilogy thought. Because FALLEN ANGELS and FROM THE VERY DEPTHS weren’t supposed to be kind of connected. But there is a strange connection with the angels coming down, and then FROM THE VERY DEPTHS from coming down. So, the next album may start a take on like hell on earth?
You have a huge legacy in the past, and you have die-hard fans from the early days and new fans. But when you start writing new stuff, do you think of the fans, or do you think of yourself when you’re writing the new material ?!
Cronos: Us. Albums are for us, and albums are for the fans. I don’t care what anybody else thinks of the album apart from us. That’s why I won’t have a record company coming in and saying, I don’t know about that. I would throw them out the window.
Rage: You got to be happy with yourself. You can’t write for people. It’s when you write for people; that’s when you go down. That’s when you start doing metal by numbers. You got to make yourselves happy. Everybody in this band has got to be happy with the songs. Otherwise, it doesn’t go any…(where)…
Cronos: Back in the day, we put the “Warhead” single out, and it got played on the radio. The record company was really happy, and we were like, we didn’t give a shit. Then when we released the song “Manitou,” they got all pissed off. Because they said, it didn’t sound like Venom. But that’s how these guys think. It’s about money, commercial, money, commercial in that sense. Look, I can’t work like that. I put it this way, one of the songs we’re working on for the new album. The riff was written with the title “Welcome to Hell.” So, to understand where all these come from, it’s all just part of a journey. Just because an idea didn’t work back in the day, it doesn’t mean it won’t work again in the future. “Buried Alive” should have been on HELL, but it wasn’t working. We all said this is shit. This is fucked. Then I came to rework through the lyrics, and then I brought it back in. I said, if we do this, do that. Boom, all of a sudden, the song worked.
Rage: It’s like we are the new school. We do a lot of jamming as well, to create the new songs. We’re all coming with our ideas. But sometimes we just go, look. Let’s get a tape running, record it and just play. I’ll start a bit, and they’ll join in, and we’ll just… This track will just go off like this.
Cronos: Yeah. Fast…
Rage: Fast, slow. In fucking different styles and then… 20 minutes later when we’ll listen to it back, and there is some weird and wonderful stuff, but it could be just that fucking moment of like….madness and magic. You go, right!
Nowadays, it’s easier when you can record all the rehearsals and pick up the best parts instead of like it was in the old days when you only had a limited amount of tape to use for the recording.
Rage: In the room, we always pick the shambles up and nothing else.
Venom does not do much touring these days. This Swedish rock show is your first gig this year. What is the reason for it?
Cronos: No. There is no point. We tried it last time when we did the Scandinavian tour, and it just wasn’t the people coming to the shows. We just thought this was a waste of time. We put a tour together in all of Scandinavia, and the shows were kind of like half full. We go; this is crazy. Because we do a festival, and we get to headline, and it’s fucking huge, and it’s great when you can also put the show on as well. We do appreciate that, and not all of us were allowed. There was a problem getting licenses with the police in this respect because of the current atmosphere. But I don’t think touring works for a band like us anymore. We have had a lot of fans who have said; it’s not Venom on a small stage. It’s not Venom in a club. It’s not Venom playing in a dingy little place, like with no atmosphere and too hot and sweaty. But maybe Metallica can pull that off or Slayer or one of those guys. But it’s never been a Venom gig. We avoided playing all those gigs in the early days. We went on and on and on until we could start playing big gigs. So, I don’t think it is part of it. But it doesn’t work. There is something about a big stage that works for them.
We started with a question about Finland. So I guess we can…
Cronos: We’re going to finish with the same question.
Well….You toured in Finland, doing three gigs or two gigs with the Finnish band called Barathrum.
How was the tour with Barathrum?
Cronos: Yeah, good fun. They were different <Laughs>
Our time is used now. Thank you, guys!
Venom: Thank you!
VENOM LIVE PICS FROM SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL