INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Venom is an English metal band formed originally in 1978 in New Castle, England. The band’s first two albums, WELCOME TO HELL and BLACK METAL, are considered a significant influence on thrash and black metal genres in general. The classic line-up of guitarist Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn, drummer Anthony “ Abaddon” Bray, and bassist/vocalist Conrad “Cronos” Land released four studio albums before splitting up in 1986 after Mantas left the group. Cronos left Venom in 1987 to pursue his solo career. In 1988 Abaddon asked Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan to join the band ranks, and soon the line-up was completed by returning Mantas along with rhythm guitarist Al Barnes. The new Venom released three studio albums, including PRIME EVIL, before disbanding again in 1992. The original Venom did a reunion in 1995, but it didn’t last until 1999 when Abaddon left the group. Mantas also retired in 2002, and since then, Venom has continued touring and recording, with Cronos being the only member left from the classic line-up. In 2011, Mantas and Demolition Man formed a new group called Mprire of Evil. The band released two studio albums before joining their forces again with Abaddon in 2015. The band started to call itself Venom Inc., and their first studio album, titled AVE’, came out in August of 2017. The group arrived in Finland for the first time last October, and then we had the honor to sit down with the whole band and discuss the past, present, and future.
REMEMBERING THE OLD TIMES
First of all, welcome to Finland Venom Inc.!
Abaddon: Thank you!
Abaddon: I remember going out on stage. I remember that I came here like a couple of days early to look at the staging, the lighting, this kind of thing, and I came with our tour manager, our stage manager, Rick Beals, and Rick’s a funny guy. A hilarious guy. And, I just saw these people, these young fucking Finnish people, drunk as fuck, like more drunk than I’ve ever seen in the whole northeast of England, which was a drunk’s place. These kids were fucking drunk, and this kid, he woke up in the middle of this fucking field, and I was walking along, and he recognized me, and he went, “Adidas!” Rick Beals nearly lost his shit. Rick was like, “Fucking Adidas!” That stuck for fucking ages. No. But, I remember the gig was open-air, and there was a lake, and during the whole week, they were taking out sticks in the middle of the lake, and we were building this bonfire. And I remember halfway through our set, this little boat goes out and setting fire to this bonfire and, we were playing late at night and then this fucking bonfire in the middle of the lake, and I was like, “That’s so fucking cool. Look at that.
How about you, Mantas?
Mantas: I remember watching Blackfoot. We were watching them over the top of the stage because we love Blackfoot. And, as I say, I can remember having this 412 (editors note: a type of concert speaker cabinet) up on top of the stage and getting up there and playing something and then looking at it, and then I remember Eric Cook, our old manager looking up at me just going, “No. No. No.” And, I went, “Yes. Get off.” Fucking 412 just went straight down. The other thing was like this silly fucking 24-hours daylight or whatever. That was weird.
Abaddon: There was a young man there that night called Ville Timonen, who’s here tonight, and it’s the first time I’ve seen him since then. We speak a lot all the time, like friends. But, the first time, he was at that gig, and he’s at this one tonight, so that’s very cool.
I asked the same question last summer from Cronos, and he remembered who was the headliner at the festival. But do you remember that who it was?
Abaddon: That’s all he remembered? “Laughs” Was it us?
No. It was a Nick Love.
Abaddon: I can’t even remember that. I didn’t realize he was on!
Tony Dolan: Who the fuck’s Nick Love?
Mantas: That was an odd, odd festival, wasn’t it?
DEMOLITION MAN JOINS THE FOLD
That’s all about the old days by now. I think it’s unnecessary to go through all the things that happened between you and the other band members at the time. But, let’s go to the time when Tony Dolan joined the group. How did it happen?
Abaddon: We had a record deal because we had a recording studio. I and Eric and we were putting bands in the studio as often as we could, and we needed a distributor, and we went to Music for Nations. And the Nations said, “Look, we want to do this kind of thing with some new bands, maybe a few old bands, and kind build sort of a label with different acts. So, we can afford to bring on new acts.” So, we were doing strange stuff. We did like three or four albums, and we were sitting down with Martin Hooker, and he said, “Why don’t you do a Venom album?” And, we were like, “Nah. It wouldn’t work. Jeff’s not interested in that. Conrad’s a pain in the tits, and we can’t work together. No. It’s not going to work.” And, we used to drive down to London and drive back, and we were driving back, and something must have switched on in Eric’s head, and he went, “Why can’t you do Venom?” And, I was like, “What do you mean?” And, he says, “Well, we could get somebody else in place of Conrad.” And I hadn’t even thought of that because I just thought Venom was those three people. And, it wasn’t, “Oh, No. It can’t be those three people,” just that’s what was in your head. That’s what you remember, you know? And, he said, “What if I had a different bass player? A different bass player singer and it would still be a classic three-piece, and it’s still blah, blah, blah.” And, I just thought of Tony straight away, and I was like, “He knows everything about the band. He probably knows all the songs better than I do. You know, I don’t know what he’s doing, but you know, why don’t we see if he wants to do it.” So, we sat down and talked about it, and I said, “I don’t think it will work if it’s me and you and somebody else. It’s got to be Jeff, and I know Jeff just doesn’t want to do it.” And, Tony said, “Well. I’m kind of pretty friendly with Jeff. I could mention it.” And, I think I met you in the Wimpy, didn’t I? We went and sat in the Wimpy and talked about what shape we would be in?
Tony Dolan: We were in touch, yes. And, me and Tony (Abaddon), we just finished a tour with Nasty Savage and Tony was the tour manager. I was with Atonkraft and on the last night in Poland, on the last night of the tour, the opening band, Wolfspider, were huge Venom fans, and then the promoter says to me, “You know, Abaddon’s been on a world tour every we go they go, “Venom! Abaddon!” And, Venom’s never played Poland. Do you think you might play us something?” And, then Tony came and said, “Yeah. We could do that.” So, we talked to Wolfspider and said, “Do you fancy playing something?” So, we did “Welcome to Hell” the last night. We went, “Ladies and gentlemen, Abaddon.” And, he got on the kit, and they went, “Wow!” It’s the closest thing you could get to Venom.” We played “Welcome to Hell,” I sang it and played guitar, and then the guys helped us, so we did that. I think somehow that might have been stuck in Tony’s head when the idea came up, so when he called me, he said, “Would you come and meet Eric and me? We’re going to go for a pint” We just want to chat about something.” Because they were managing the band, and we’d kind of broke up at the end of that tour for some odd reason. You know? The guys wanted just to stop. I figured it was about that. So, I spent like an hour and a half with them talking about this. Cronos was off doing his David Lee Roth solo thing and, I’ve got this thing, you know, we could get Jeff and stuff, but he’s not into it, and we need a bassist/vocalist. And, I was like, “Fucking yeah. Who could you get? Who could you get?” And, I was trying to wrack my brain, not realizing they already knew. And, was like, “Fuck.” So, when Tony invited me to do that, for me, it was like, well, I had a heritage, or a part of my heritage has been in a sideline with them. And observing them, and being a fan of them, and going to see them, and hanging out with them, so they were like my friends. To then be able to go, not only play those great songs on stage but then to write a new album, it was fucking fantastic. I was like, “Yeah.” You know?
Mantas, when you decided to join the new Venom, then you also added the second guitarist in the line-up. Al Barnes was the guy, and he had played with you in band Mantas. How you ended up deciding to make a four-piece band instead of the classic three-piece?
Mantas: Well, I mean, Al came along, and I think it was because of THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM thing that needed a guitarist…And, I think it was me that mentioned bringing Al into it.
Abaddon: Oh. You did. You said, “I’ll only do it if Al’s involved.” Al was younger than us, and you’ve given him this chance, and I think you need to come along as well. Because, as I said, I think Jeff had had Al in the band, and Al had come on quite a lot, and Jeff, I think, felt like…
Tony Dolan: He didn’t want to leave him with anything to do, you know? And, also they had the dual guitar thing, which meant from Jeff’s point of view, he thought, “Ooh. We can embellish things, and we’ve got two guitarists.” The only negative thing was when we came to do studio. Al’s lack of experience in the studio then became limiting, so we realized that very quickly, so it became just three of us in the studio, just because of our experience, and then live, we used Al live so that Jeff could explore more harmonies on guitars and stuff like that. So, he was free to add harmonies in the studio on those recordings because we knew that we could still do them when we went to play it live. Whereas with a three-piece, we play off each other, so we’d have to look for ways to make, you know, something that could have dual guitars still works in a live situation. It became like that, but I think from the writing and the performance point of view, it was the three of us, but Al was there to embellish our live performances.
SONS OF SATAN
At that time, you called the band briefly as Sons of Satan, remember that?
Tony Dolan: That was made because we hadn’t introduced the other guitarist, Al, so it was a way to get us back in the right way.
Abaddon: Don’t forget there was a little period of Metallica playing as, I think, The Four Horsemen. The Rolling Stones were playing as ‘something, something, something.’ Then there was this thing about big bands playing smaller gigs.
Tony Dolan: We toured around as Sons of Satan until we went to do a Dutch show; it was a biker’s place. I remember we walked in, and the poster said, “Black Bastards from Hell” That’s not PC, is it? (laughs) We couldn’t put that up. I thought that we’d never get to America calling ourselves that.
CHANGES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
However, musically PRIME EVIL was a success. It was something that the fans wanted to hear. Venom went back to its metal roots after a somewhat disappointing CALM BEFORE THE STORM. But despite that, the album did sell too much. What you think was the reason the album didn’t succeed?
Abaddon: The music industry changed massively. I mean, that whole thing was going over to CDs. People weren’t buying albums, CDs were gone, and they weren’t buying Vinyl for the same reasons. The whole punk thing had pretty much run its course. All that stuff is coming out of America, the grunge thing, the Seattle thing was about pushing the metal back to the underground. Metal never vanishes. Metal, rock, call it anything you want to call it. It never vanishes. It always kind of just sits underneath and then comes back up again, and that’s what it did during that period. It kind of just took a little bit of a break. All the bands, the big American bands, were getting thrown off the labels. Everybody, Poison, fucking Cinderella. They were doing like 4000 sales and getting fucking binned. Crazy, you know, the rock world, the metal world just went fucking crazy. I think it’s stupid that some people still blame the line-up changes without seeing what happened in the industry.
Right, and Venom was one of the bands which suffered a lot about it.
Abaddon: It wasn’t about Venom; it wasn’t about the music. The music industry, the whole thing changed over a couple of years, and that was a couple of years of the PRIME EVIL era. What’s happened subsequently with them is Cronos is still with that label, and he refuses to let those albums be released and be a part of that history. Those albums would sell tens of thousands again; those albums would sell. I’m convinced of it.
Mantas: It was just like Abaddon said; it was just something that happened. You know, the ’90s were that period, you know, when heavy metal took a bit of a dive, but the one thing I’ve discovered now is the acclaim that PRIME EVIL is getting today. You know, people are saying, “What a great Venom album.” You know, it’s not just what a great album, but what a great Venom album that it was.
I think it’s sad that many people have never heard or even know the album still…
Tony Dolan: Actually, it’s the same thing with some of the Black Sabbath fame. People don’t know about certain eras of the band.
Abaddon: Exactly, I mean, at the time as well, Music for Nations and Pinnacle, who were the distributors changed the way they did everything. We used to go meet up. We used to go to Pinnacle meetings, and we would give a presentation in front of 40 people, and all those people, we would have to convince them to out in their cars, to go into a shop and say, “You’ve got to buy the new Venom album. You’ve got to buy it. Buy it! You’ve got to take 40 of them.” And, people are just like, “Ah, we’re taking the shit on everything. Fucking everything.” But, that if you’ve got Madonna, we’ll take it.” Everything else was taking a dump on it, and I’ve got two very, very, very good friends who had to drive in their cars with records stuck in and go convince, up and down the length and breadth of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales and drive, and come face-to-face and say, “Please buy this album.” Skyclad took the same sort of thing. Skyclad was a great band. They took the same shit. People didn’t want to buy vinyl by the fucking tons. It was… Stuff was getting left on the racks. That’s nothing to do with the band.
Tony Dolan: It was very industry-driven, you know because they reformatted everything and tried to sell you mini-discs and tried to sell you C-cassettes. They then invented CDs and said, “Nobody wants albums.” Well, you know, for Sony Japan to be building a record plant, you know, for nobody to be able to press vinyl these days because the queues are so long to press your vinyl order. For Pioneer Techniques to now be making new record players, you know, what’s that say about the industry? It says that the people never said they didn’t want vinyl, nobody ever said they didn’t want vinyl, the kids never said they didn’t want vinyl. The industry decided it was cheaper to push everything to digital. That’s what was happening. My daughter is going to be 16 in November, and one of the things I was proud that we managed to do is get on the formula edition the cover of Decibel magazine as a Flexi-disk, a fucking Flexi-disk. I was like, “Man if I could get a Flexi-disk?” If I can get a cassette next? It will be brilliant, but, a Flexi-disk. It came to the house, I took it out, and I put it onto the record player, and I put it on, and my daughter came in, 15, came in and went, “What is that?” I said, “I’m playing that Flexi-disk.” “Playing a what?” “Flexi-disk.” She went, “Is that a newly made record?” And, I said, “No, but this is a special one.” And, she went, “So, how is it playing?” “Well, I’m playing it on there with a needle and a speaker.” And, she went, “Oh my God. Can I get some of them?” It was like new media to her, you know? Now, why does she not know about it until then, because the industry was selling shit to her? And, they want it, though. They want it.
Abaddon: They do want. You can only know when you’re growing up; you have what’s in front of you. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so we used to have like day-trips to go out. Our holidays were day-trips, and that’s all we knew. I didn’t know you could get on an airplane and go to fucking Disneyland. I didn’t know what Mickey Mouse was, you know, it wasn’t a thing. If that was over there, that was somebody else, so you have what’s in front of you. All that the kids are cheap. It started with video games, you know, with all Sega and Commodore, all that shit. It started with all that; you’ve got what’s in front of you, so they stopped buying a physical product. They stopped going fucking outside and playing and running around. It’s the fucking generation we’ve got now, who are called the millennial generation who are the hardest to employ, there are no really strong fucking thinkers anymore, and they are all paid fucking peanuts. They’re all on fucking zero hours, and they’re all paid fucking £6 an hour. How do you have a £150,000 house in Newcastle and pay somebody £6 an hour? They just can’t; they’re never going to be able to afford to fucking buy it. We haven’t thought about that millennial junk generation, you know.
THE FAVORITE VENOM ALBUMS
The first album this line-up created together was PRIME EVIL. I remember that some of you guys have said that it’s their favorite Venom album of all time. So, which are your favorite Venom albums?
Abaddon: I think that’s probably me who said that. I’ve always said that I’ve always thought that PRIME EVIL was the best. For lots of reasons. We all played well on it. We all worked well together. The feeling in the studio was comfortable. I had always felt very uncomfortable with Neat Records. I used to love playing live, and I hated being in the studio environment. It was just something to do with that studio, but I couldn’t wait to get out of it, but when we played PRIME EVIL and those albums, it just felt really good, really comfortable. I enjoyed the feeling of it, you know, the feeling of being involved with it.
Tony Dolan: Well, for me, it’s WELCOME TO HELL. Because it’s just from the opening salvo to its completion, it’s just chaos, mayhem, and at that particular time, it was completely extreme from beginning to end, so for me, it was like an extension of punk rock. It was just, you know, crazy. I think with PRIME EVIL; I think that we saw unlimited possibilities from before because we just enjoyed playing, and it didn’t have to mean anything but us. You know, so we just enjoyed, you know, the extra guitars and stuff, the things that Mantas wanted to do, but felt that he couldn’t because it was an identity, so we got more.
How about you, Mantas?
Mantas: Oh. When I’ve been asked about this, I’ve always said in chronological order, WELCOME TO HELL, BLACK METAL, PRIME EVIL, RESURRECTION. Those are the best albums in chronological order. I think that represents the good progression of a band in songwriting, musicianship, production values, and all that kind of thing, but putting PRIME EVIL in that four… I mean, it is one of my favorite albums. But it the best album personally for me. I’ll always go back to WELCOME TO HELL because it was the first album. It was the thing that kick-started everything. It’s, you know, it’s just the album that did it.
Tony Dolan: You know, to have a debut album, and only a select few bands have a debut album where every single song is as important as the next song. You can play every single one of those songs every night that we play, any shows, anywhere in the world, every song from that album and people want to hear. That’s quite unusual. That’s defines that album itself. Venom’s thing is that it was important when we began Venom Inc. for me to go back to the very first single because if we could play that single and those songs from those early albums. And people forgot that it isn’t those three, that it’s us three, and they’re tuned in to just the music, which proves that this was a viable thing. If we’d gone out and played all of WELCOME TO HELL and people went, “That’s shit,” and nobody came to see us, we would have stopped.
THE BREAKUP AND THE QUESTIONABLE VENOM ALBUMS IN THE ’90s
Tony Dolan and Mantas quit the band, and Venom disbanded In 1992. What happened then?
Tony Dolan: Nothing happened. You know, we got to a point where we’d be done with the contract for Music for Nations. We’d basically come to the end of that, and we felt that we’d done what we’d done. You know, the ‘90s had changed, Brit-pop was in England. It was pre-Pantera, pre-the Scandinavian, in Europe and explosion of black metal, so there was a bit of a lull. Grunge had come in, and I guess when we got to the end of the contract, we could have looked for another contract and continued, but…
Mantas: Yeah. We never actually looked. We didn’t bother.
Did you just decide that the band is now over?
Tony Dolan: It was never a decision.
Mantas: No. We didn’t even discuss it.
Abaddon: It was never discussed. It’s funny that you’ve brought this up now, and that’s the first time I’ve even thought about it.
Tony Dolan: Well, I had a job. I had a job in London, and I was with a woman, and we were going to go to London, and I was like, “How’re we going to rehearsals and stuff? We can’t.” And, we kind of just went and did our stuff. That was it. It was like this day we’re doing this, the next day going, “All right. Cheers.” And, that was it.
At the time, Tony started to do the movie stuff, and Mantas started the Mantas band again. During the period when the band didn’t exist, between 92 and 95. But Abaddon was still carrying the Venom flag and released several albums under the band’s name. There were several Best of and live albums, tribute albums, and so on. What do you remember about that time?
Abaddon: Yeah. I was mostly masturbating “Laughs.”
Well, it’s not a big secret that the other band members didn’t like that action too much.
Abaddon: Loads of different people involved and stuff, and fucking Sodom, and all that stuff. I remember doing that album. That was a good album. The rest, I think, was just licenses. They mainly were licenses of the recordings of our period, you know?
But it was a confusing time when the band didn’t exist, Cronos was doing his thing, but you were the guy who released “new” stuff under Venom’s name?
Abaddon: No. It was more a case of my relationship at that point was more with Eric Cook. We worked as business partners, so Venom’s manager and I worked together, but I would never consider calling a band Venom and putting two other guys in. That would never happen because if I did do anything, I would just call the band Abaddon.
Mantas: And, that’s kind of like the reunion, which is what you did anyway.
Abaddon: It’s what I did. But I would never call a band Venom with two other guys, so it was always that I’d use Abaddon, and that’s why when Cronos did it, I thought he would have had more kudos and called his band Cronos, with his two guys in, or if he got Jeff back in, called it Venom again.
IN THE NAME OF VENOM
Who owned the name Venom after 92?
Abaddon: Nobody’s ever actually owned it. You know, you can say we all owned. I did the original logo. I did the first logo. It’s like a metal logo. It was a copy of that. Cronos uses that, but it’s my logo. But it’s not my name. Jeff And I put the band together and some other guys who just did the name, and we both agreed that that was a good name. Yeah. It was actually three bands’ names at the time. There were three bands called Venom at the time and the other two; I think we offered one a fistfight.
Who won that fight? “Laughs”
Mantas: They just didn’t turn up “Laughs.”
Abaddon: We didn’t need to get that far “Laughs” But the name, it was just kind of just nowhere until somebody was doing something with it, but it had to be at least two of the members, you know, it wouldn’t be like one. It had to be two. Then, it had to be two, and as much as Cronos will go out and say whatever he’s saying at every opportunity now, he would say the same thing back then. And, I find it quite interesting that now he’s changed his tune. That backtracking thing, where he’s changed his tune, you know, it’s about the combinations. The original three people had some chemistry, whatever that was. We have a kind of chemistry, whatever that is. And, that doesn’t mean to say that the other two guitarists weren’t good, but they didn’t have the chemistry, Al didn’t have the chemistry, you know?
Tony Dolan: But, yeah. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, but again, like CALM BEFORE THE STORM, the reason it didn’t work wasn’t that Cronos isn’t a great character. It’s because it changed the personality of it. You know, it was like, you can’t be Cronos one day and eating the flesh of babies then the next day you want to be Dave-Lee Roth, it just doesn’t work. Paul Speckmann from Master said to me, you know, he was rehearsing with his band, playing with his band, doing it with his band, and some guy walked in and said, you’re going to hear this, it was a seven inch. He said, “I took it home. I listened to it.” It was, IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN, he said, “It changed my fucking life. I went to the rehearsal the next day, and I went and told the guys, ‘Forget all this shit, we’re doing this.’” And, he said, “I made them all listen to it, and they went, ‘What the fuck’s that?’” He went, “That’s what we’re going to be. We’re going to be whatever that is. That’s what we’re doing.” Then he waited for years, and finally, he got an opportunity in California to get on the bus with these guys. He got on the bus, and he said, he thought, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Fucking Cronos. Cronos.” And, Cronos came and put on “Jump” by Van Halen and started singing and jumping around, and he said, “My whole world went, ‘What the fuck?’.” And, he said, “I got up and left.” “I was like; I couldn’t get over it.” Because what he envisaged wasn’t real, and that was the point. The difference is we are real. He’s never been anybody, but Abaddon and Tony, he’s never been anybody, but Mantas and Jeff, and me, but Conrad is Cronos and Conrad, and at some point, he became Cronos 24-hours a day. Okay, be Cronos then. That means you don’t go to the toilet like everybody else; you don’t shop at B&Q or fucking HomeSavers.
It was interesting when you said that at some point, Conrad started to be Cronos 24/7. When did that happen?
Mantas: It was straight after the release of BLACK METAL. Honestly, that’s when I was set to leave the band.
Abaddon: He started believing his press, and that’s a perilous thing. It was in a kind of middle of the whole thing that exploded. Don’t forget you’ve got a bunch of guys who, from the very first proper concert, played to 2000 people and then you had Metallica supporting your band, and then you had the whole world talking about heavy metal again, and it was like, “Fucking hell, who’s them? Who are these guys?” You know? And, every magazine’s full of all this stuff, and I was still an apprentice in a fucking factory. I would go to the factory, and the guys are opening the magazine. Guys are opening the magazine going, “Why are you in this fucking magazine? What the fuck is…?” I was like, “I don’t know.” I don’t fucking get it. I’m sorry, I don’t get it. I’m just playing… I was playing on a Saturday with three mates and…
Tony Dolan: Yeah. And, Jeff always says, he’s like, “One day; we’re fucking rehearsing in a church hall just like the fucking band with some practice amps, the next day we’re at fucking Lorelai, not even with instruments, and these fucking 20,000 are people going, “Ah!”. And, you’re going, “What the fuck? How did I get here?”
Abaddon: It was like we were rehearsing one Saturday afternoon in this run-down church hall in the west end of Newcastle, rough area. The following weekend, we were in a sports hall in Belgium in Pop AM Ring (a big festival) in front of about 3000 kids, all right. And, I remember standing on the stage just looking at this place going, “What the fucking hell is going on?” And, then one of the stagehands walked across the stage in front of me, and he was singing “Sons of Satan,” and I remember going, “How the fuck does he know that? That’s like my song.”
Mantas: We had no clue what was going on. I don’t think the record company had any clue what was going on. That was our first international show, and that was in 1982.
Abaddon: Other than that, we had been doing gigs for girlfriends and what. That was our first proper gig. We were rehearsing in a church hall at Jessie’s, and the door would be open. It was the top of this street, which was full of motorbike shops. So, we’re blasting away on a Saturday, and five people would come in and sit on the floor and smoke and crack a can of beer. Then next thing, it would be 20 people, then 30 people. They’d all be sitting around watching the band, and I’m like, “Who the fuck are you?” And, then you’d go to the pub that night, and people would say, “Oh. That’s that guy with that band; you should come and see them next week.” And, I’d say-
Tony Dolan: And, all of this stuff, which is the story of Venom, all of their material, all of their equipment got embargoed in America. When they traveled back from the New York shows with Metallica, they didn’t have any fucking gear, but they were due to play a festival. So, they go, “Well, we can’t go to the festival because we’ve got no gear.” “Well, you’ve got to go. “We said, “We’ve got no fucking gear; we can’t play.” And, they said, “Well, you’ve got to go.” “Well, what are we going to do?” They said, “Well, just go and go on stage and apologize to everybody and say you’ll come back.” So, they go on to a fucking festival crowd, where they’re supposed to be headlining, and they haven’t got any fucking gear and what they do is that they played on the screens the “Witching Hour” and “Bloodlust” videos. The fucking place goes nuts, and then they walk on stage, and he’ll tell you, he was fucking crying and saying, “I didn’t know what to do.” It was all these people going just nuts because they walked on stage to apologize. I mean, that’s what the level of that was.
Abaddon: Raven was playing, and they said nothing when we walked on stage. The head guy for Neat Records was there because Raven were the big guys from the label, so we just went on. We apologized, the place went fucking crazy, and Raven just stopped and looked at us like, “What the fuck is happening?” They’d been playing for years, and fucking Dave Woods, Head of Neat Records, was there kissing Raven’s arse, and he just turned around and, you know, he just saw us in a whole new light. It was like a pound sign went on above our heads. And, all of a sudden, after that, it was like he couldn’t deny us anymore. He was like fucking whatever. We got whatever we wanted, anything we wanted, he was like, “Yeah. Just get in the studio. Call the studio. Just do it.”
THE SCOOTER STORY
One exciting thing that happened in 2006 was Mantas’s gig with the techno star Scooter. How did the whole thing happen?
Tony Dolan: Yeah. And I thought he fucking enjoyed it. I hate music.
Mantas: I don’t know why I was offered the job? I don’t know why—the Mantas band, which was morphing into drill at the point. We had German management, and I didn’t know what to do next. The management was a sort of a husband and wife team, and they also did stage monitoring and production for Scooter, and I had no clue. I didn’t know who Scooter was; I had no fucking clue about anything. I didn’t even know Jenny and Marcus looked after this band, and then Jenny called me one day, and she said, “I’ve got a request.” I was like, “Okay.” And, then she told me what it was, and I said, “I don’t know about this?”
How did you other guys react when you heard about that thing?
Abaddon: I didn’t know anything about it till probably quite a bit later.
Tony Dolan: After the event.
It was kind of a “techno meets metal” thing that you did with Scooter, and to be honest, your guitar sounded just incredible with the techno stuff, you know?
Mantas: The main track that I did was “Fire,” and I did like a solo at the end, and I had rockets firing off my guitar and, I mean, every fucking gig was in an arena. We were starting in Germany, ending in a football stadium. I had no idea how big it was, you know, and the pyrotechnics on the last show in the German, Austrian, and Swiss tour. It was 16 dates on that tour. The last show was filmed for a DVD, and I remember sitting backstage, and the pyro guy came in with the stage plan. And the guy who did the rigging for that is the guy who did Rammstein’s rig because he showed me the rig design for the new Rammstein’s show and everything way before it came out. And, the pyro guy, Ronnie, he’d come in, and he showed the pyro plan, everything was wireless, there were no wires on stage, nothing. And then we all had to go onstage for a walkthrough. There were 240, I think; it was 240 pyro cues in an hour and a half. It was fucking ridiculous. I mean, it doesn’t transfer in the DVD because it’s me fucking standing up and singing. But the fucking pyros that were going off on that show were unbelievable. The thing with that was that particular line-up with Scooter; we had a mid-tour break where they took everybody out for a big fucking meal and hired a bowling alley, and we all had a party. I was sitting there having dinner with them, and they were all rock and roll fans and HP. He loved Rainbow and Ritchie Blackmore. Rick was a Van Halen fan, and then James, he loved Metallica and some new bands or something like that, you know. And, I was sitting there listening to them, and I looked at them, and I went, you know?
Tony Dolan: “How the fuck did that happen?”
Mantas: “What the fuck went wrong.” “What happened?” But, the one thing I discovered on that tour. For me, metal fans are the most passionate fans in the world about their music. Right? But, I have to say that Scooter fans were rabid. They were fucking crazy, but it was really good fun to do. Yeah. It could have gone wrong. I could have had a load of regrets about it, but I thought it was a good, fun time. It was, and those are some great guys.
Tony Dolan: I’d underline that also. My analogy is that you have guys in bands, and then you have musicians, who are a musician. He just wants to play to audiences, and that’s how he sees it. “I’m playing my guitar, and I’m playing to an audience.” And, Tony, as much as he would go, “I’m a musician last, and I’m everything else first.” He’s not because he’s been part of the industry since the band had started. He may have gone less towards the drum side and playing in a load of bands as a guest and more on the managerial side, and running the promotional side, and in the development of the stage shows, but those are people who are not just people in bands, they are also more than that. And, that’s the difference. Some guys function in a band, and out of that band, they do not function. They do not function, and that’s not the same with us three, and I think that’s a big difference. So, when people go like, “The Mantas is playing with Scooter,” or “Abaddon is doing whatever he did,” or, “Me doing the acting,” and you think that that’s like a strange thing.
I also think that it’s kind of cool that when you are a great musician, you can do whatever you want.
Tony Dolan: Yeah. Exactly.
Abaddon: I think to let yourself self-go out with music, or acting, or whatever is about passion.
Tony Dolan: It’s about being a creative individual, and it’s about passion. Passion is the thing, and if you’re passionate about what you do, it will transcend just one thing, and it may become everything, and for us, that’s what I love about us as individuals. It’s like that we don’t just see one thing, and that’s it. We’ll see everything, and we want to do everything.
LET’S TALK ABOUT AVE’
Our time is about to end soon but let’s talk briefly about your latest album, AVE’. When I first heard it, I thought that it sounded like you had continued from where the PRIME EVIL album left off. Do you agree with that?
Mantas: No. I’ll tell you why, because I don’t think, “Oh, my God.” I think that’s the thing. I think because we don’t see it that way. After all, there was no endpoint. We come back to that point or come forward. We see this as this is just us now. So, if you see that as the album, that would have probably released earlier. And, people see that as part of the earlier material because it has some retro feel to it, that’s great, but as far as, I think, from my point of view, it’s just where we are right now. It’s just the album. For some people, younger people, this is their WELCOME TO HELL, or BLACK METAL, or whatever. Because they’re following the band and there’s a huge catalog there, but you know, maybe it’s their PRIME EVIL, maybe it’s their WELCOME TO HELL, I don’t know, but it’s undoubtedly, it’s the first album of Venom Inc, so it’s a starting point. It’s not a continuation.
Tony Dolan: It’s was good to hear them as a fan.
How was it different to work on this record than the albums you released with this line-up earlier?
Mantas: Not much. I wrote all the music, and I wrote a big portion of the lyrics. It’s a Venom album. It’s as simple as that.
Venom Inc. is doing great, but I’ve heard that you’re planning to release a new Mpire of Evil album as well?
Tony Dolan: It’s already recorded. Yeah. With the bass and vocals done.
So, why are you keeping two bands at the same time? (Abaddon is not a member of Mpire of Evil)
Mantas: Because we wanted to!
So, tell me what the difference between Mpire of Evil and Venom Inc. is?
Mantas: You’ll hear that on the next Mpire album. You’ll hear the difference. It’s coming soon. Eleven songs are already recorded for the new album.
But again, why do you want to keep two different bands going on at the same time?
Mantas: Why not?
That’s a good question?
Mantas: That’s a good answer. Why not? It’s not because of money, but you know, Empire’s a little bit broader than what we’re going to be doing with Venom. There are no restrictions on the Empire stuff at all. As I said, on the first Empire album, we did a blues track, “Devil,” and there’s another one on this album.
LIVE PICTURES FROM HELSINKI BY MARKO SYRJALA