INTERVIEW WITH VENOM INC
Since their formation Venom Inc. has played a tremendous amount of gigs and gained the reputation of a real hard-working trio. The band’s new out titled THERE IS ONLY BLACK proves Mantas and Demolition Man create totally lethal riffs. The album itself is na excellent slab of blackened metal. The whole band sat down with Metal-Rules.Com to talk about the new album.
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen
Was the last time you played here in Finland was with Exciter in 2017?
Jeramie : No, we did Porispere.
Oh yeah, that was 2018?
Jeramie: Yeah, that was 2018.
And before that you played with Exciter in Helsinki.
Mantas: Right. Did we? We’ve done so many shows. Everything just blends into one. People say, “I saw you here. I met you here,” and I’m like, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t remember.”
Before the pandemic hit, you have been on the road all the time since you started Venom Inc.
Mantas : Oh God. It just never stopped. It never stopped.
Criss-crossing the planet all around, playing festivals.
Mantas : Yeah, yeah. All over. I mean, we just didn’t expect that. We actually at one point had to sit down and say, “All right, are we going to do this?” after the Keep It True Festival where we made that appearance as Venom Inc for the first time I suppose. And then it was because you know what it’s like these days. You do a concert, and instantly it’s up on YouTube, so people had seen it straight away, and it was like, “Wow. Can we get this?” Next thing we know, we’re going to Canada for festivals,
Do you think festivals are better ones for Venom Inc to reach the new and younger audience?
Mantas : We were just talking about that. We were talking about this, and when Me and Tony started this thing up, it was 2012. We were Mpire and we toured hard. We really did. I remember Tony saying– I remember making the call to Tony saying that initially, it was myself, it was Anton, Cronos’ brother, and it was Mike Hickey who had replaced me for Calm Before the Storm. And that was the initial thing that had come together out of a band that I had called Dryll, and we were sitting talking one night, and it was like, “We need a bassist/vocalist.” Yeah, I mean, Anthony had had a massive fallout with his brother Conrad. Obviously, everybody knows this and [inaudible] as well. I give Tony a call, but I don’t know if he’s going to want to do it after all these years. So I call Tony, and Tony says, “Yeah, I’m up for it.” He says, “But we do it.” And I always remember him saying that. “We do it. We go for it.” And I said yeah, yeah. So the first thing we did was– it was the Onslaught tour, wasn’t it? 22 dates in America, in the back of a van, and we thought, “If we can survive this, we can do anything.” There’s no days off. It was shitty motels. It was in the back of a van. It was far from luxurious. Let’s put it that way. So we went out, and we did it, and we’ve never stopped since. We’ve never stopped since.
One of the interesting tours that you have done from my point of view was Danzig. How was it?
Mantas : He was the sweetest guy. When we did it, he was the– I mean, I went down to his tour bus. I knocked on the door because I’d heard he was a Venom fan, so I thought, “Right, I’ll go and introduce myself.” So this guy [kind of?], “Hey, what do you want?” and then I was like, “Is Glenn around?” “Who is it?” And I went, “It’s Mantas from Venom,” and he went, “Oh, okay.” So he wandered off, and we had a great talk, and I remember Glenn saying to me that his Venom T-shirt in New York saved him multiple times from getting his head kicked in by skinheads and the hardcore and stuff like that because Venom was such a crossover band at that point. But doing that tour with him, we were special guests to him. The first thing we did was Blackest of the Black, his own festival, and then we got invited to do his tour which was amazing. It was great. Really well. There were no problems whatsoever. And then we got invited to support the Misfits at the Allstate Arena.
That was really mind-blowing playing for a huge crowd
Tony: Oh, it was incredible. Yeah.
Mantas : Incredible. Incredible. Absolutely. I had no idea then the Misfits could command such an audience. I had no idea.
It was a surprise to see The Misfits playing in huge arenas in North America.
Jeramie : 17,000 people.
Mantas : Yeah, yeah. It was incredible. It was absolutely incredible. But yeah, that’s the thing. We’ve just never stopped gigging. I think the thing that put the first real stop to it was when I had the heart attack and then obvious the pandemic. I mean, the pandemic stopped everything. It wasn’t just live music. I mean, the world ground to a halt, but we’re back. We’ve back out doing it, but in answer to your question originally, we all about getting in and getting sweaty and doing all that kind of stuff. And we’ve played some places ; this was the stage. We have done that. We’ve done those gigs. If you watch the Anvil movie, we’ve done those gigs. We’ve done all that.
Tony : But we played those shows like they were working. We didn’t go, “This is a shit tour. There’s no space. We’ve got [inaudible], and everything’s broken.” We played every show. We strewed down everything, so.
Mantas : When we played in Russia, 2015, we played through a fucking Wifi system in a bar. Yeah, it was fucking awful.
Tony : We just did Keep It True. We did a 1984 Hammersmith show a week ago or so. And interesting was that the demographics was 50-somethings and teenagers all losing their shit, the teenagers going, “Oh my god. I mean, I heard this record, and I heard this legacy, but I never thought I’d see it,” and the older people getting to go back and reminisce on that. So that’s our crossover. Bloodstock, Alcatraz, those kind of festivals. Hellfest we did. The demographic is across the board. And with the new album, we’re also reaching kids who are going, “This kind of feels like it’s old school but also kind of a new band happening,” and so that’s what’s kind of good for us, to be the age we are, to still have that vibrance, that life, and still want to be pushing it out. And I think festivals give us that opportunity to present ourselves to younger audiences that maybe who wouldn’t because they go, “Oh, well those are older guys,” and then they miss out. So yeah, festivals help, so.
As for the new album called There is Only Black. “Burn Liar Burn” is my personal favourite track for a reason that I don’t know. It’s stuck in my mind. “Don’t feed lies to me, “Burn, liar, burn”, apparently they are about lying, backstabbing etc., that you don’t want to have my opinion pushed on you.
Mantas : Yeah. Yeah. That’s what it’s all about. Burn Liar Burn is about every narcissist we’ve come across. It’s about every politician which is on the planet right now. It’s about every religion. It’s just about everything.
Tony : Yeah. Everything that tries to tell you something to convince you because they have an ulterior motive. So it’s just lies. It’s just fake at the end of the day because you want to manipulate or control you. So it’s like fuck you. It’s bullshit.
Mantas : And it’s interesting that you say that’s your favourite song because the amount of people in interviews that we’ve done where everybody’s had a favourite different song. And I’ve always said that about Venom or Venom Inc. That’s a good thing because it means we’re doing something right in some departments, some songs. I mean, yes, we can go way back until everybody loves to sing Countless Bathory, but I’ve met people who say At War with Satan is their favourite album. We met a guy in Seattle who was standing out in the pouring rain after a show. He had one album in a plastic bag. It was The Waste Lands. That was his favourite Venom album of all time. So I think we’re lucky in that respect that we’ve got that– I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s very encouraging when people say, “Oh, this is my favourite of the album,” and then somebody else goes, “Ah, this is my favourite.” But that’s human nature as well, at the end of the day.
That means you have succeeded in writing killer songs that people have a different kind of opinions.
Mantas : Yeah. Somebody said before that their favourite song was– what was it? Tyrant.
As for “Man As God”, you said’s about a religion. I guess it’s about priests, religious things, and aspects like that.
Mantas : It is about human nature. The thing is with the new album, it speaks of world darkness, of human darkness, and Man As God is exactly that. We are the gods on this planet. We are the demons on this planet. We are responsible for everything good or bad, positive or negative that happens on this planet. It’s not the responsibility or the cause of some fucking thing down there with horns and a fork tail or something up there on a fluffy cloud with fucking wings.
Tony : It’s a creation. It’s like going to a kid – the kid’s in your living room – and you take your kid to your mum’s place, and he pulls off a porcelain piece of crockery and it smashes on the floor. Now, you go like, “What did you do?” The first thing the kid’s going to go is that, “I didn’t do that,” even if you saw them just do it because our nature is to go denial first. “Wasn’t me.” Of course, it was you. Yeah, but because you know there’s going to be some kind of thing recompense for it, so–
Mantas : There’s going to be a consequence.
Tony : There’s going to be a consequence. So the creation of God is– that gives me reason that there’s hope for me if I’m a shitbag when I die. As long as I go, “Oh, God, I’m really, really sorry,” I’m going to be elevated to something better because I don’t know what going to happen to me after that. And if I do something really bad, I can go, “Oh, I was influenced by the devil or by the dark side or sin.” Basically, we’re creating these things to apportion blame for one thing or the other when it’s us. The same humanity can drop two bombs on a fucking country like Japan to nuke it out with bombs and have a second generation of people born of cancer, and yet we’re developing cures for cancer. So we’re causing cancer, and we’re trying to cure cancer. So which one are we doing? Which one is it? The pandemic where a fucking bat, a bat influenza. What were we doing with– “Oh, we’re going to see if we can find a cure for something.” The bats have had this COVID. It lives in them quite happily. It doesn’t disturb them. The bats live with it in them, but you give that to a human and they die. Why would you want to do that? To see what happens? I mean, what the fuck is wrong with us?
Mantas : Does that not make you think that man is the weakest species on this planet?
Without his technology, without his inventions, without his intelligence, he’s the weakest. I’ve always said because I’m big on fucking– I hate animal cruelty of any description, right. I’ve always said, “Go put a hungry man and a hungry tiger in the same room with their natural weapons, and I know who’s going to have a good meal that day.”
You have recorded the album in different places because you live in Portugal. You live in England and you in Florida. You recorded your parts in Portugal, and you shared them with all of you. It’s a modern way of doing the album nowadays.
Mantas : It is. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a remote album. It’s a pandemic album, this one. I mean for Avé, Tony came across to Portugal to my studio, and he did bass and vocals there, and that was the plan for this one as well. And because Tony had had his hip operation, he was going to come to Portugal, and we could just chill out. We could stay at my house, and we were going to write. Course, pandemic hit. Nothing. We couldn’t do anything. So we started writing, and there was a total of 24 songs in completion, and then I sent a list of what I considered was the strongest 12. And even then, they changed as it went along. I think there was a couple of tracks dropped out and there was another two brought in, and then we’d worked on those 12. Jeramie recorded his parts at his studio, Tony at his, and then all the files were sent to me. I did the mixing and mastering, and that’s the result.
Tony : I think by doing that, we used technology which was great because of our placement, but normally if you’re in a band situation where you all live near each other, you would go into a rehearsal room and kick ideas around, introduce some new stuff, feel it round, and play it. And we wanted to because we’re very much a live band, we’re very much that energy, how do we do– how do we do that by doing this remotely. So the way to do that was to write a piece, send it across, then he does his thing on it. Then he sends it back. He does his thing on it, what he feels, and then we have the thing with very much a live feel, very much a freedom of performance. And then we complete it once we have all the parts. It then goes back, and Jeff can then mix the whole thing, but we’d kept that element of us being together and it being real and live, not constructed, not transformed in any way. Very much a live, this is how I see the song, and that keeps that element alive.
You are having the anniversary of the Black Metal album now right. You got the new album out, when you started doing the new songs live, or do you have to rehearse the songs before going to States?
Tony : We kind of rehearse them all the time, really.
Mantas : Yeah, we play them all the time. I mean, we’ve already played How Many Can Die quite a few times, and that, we said, “Okay. First single. Let’s play How Many Can Die in the set,” and I think we rehearsed it in the soundtrack when we all met for the first time.
Jeramie : No, not even then.
Mantas : Was it not?
Jeramie : No, we just played it at the show.
Mantas : We just played it at the show, yeah. That’s right. We did. We just played it at the show, yeah. Yeah. We all learnt our– that’s the beauty about this brand, right? That’s what we’ve got now, and I think it’s a massive asset to this band that Tony can say to me, I can say to Tony, right, “Let’s pull out Lady Lust. Let’s do Acid Queen. Let’s do something like that, right.” And then he’d say, “Okay.” So Tony learns his part. I learn my part. Sometimes I’ll rerecord it and send it to the guys just as a stem and say, ” something to play against.” We say to Jeramie, “We’re going to do this track, reference that old track,” and then we come together, and we play it.
And that’s the thing. If each person knows their part—
Tony : If they know their parts– –when we come together, we’re naturally us anyway.
Mantas : That is the problem. That is one of the problems, and I’m not going to get into this too much, right, because I’m not going to waste anymore fucking time on it, but that is the problem that we had when we had Abaddon. Because we got to America to promote Avé on the Bloodstained Earth– Earth Tour, excuse me. We had two days rehearsal in Philadelphia. He hadn’t learnt his parts. It was just a case of, “I’ll do them at the rehearsal.” That’s not the place.
Tony : We couldn’t play it in two days.
Mantas : You can’t. You learn your part at home. You practice your part at home, and then you come together as a band in the rehearsal, and you fine-tune it. The first few shows of the fucking tour aren’t the rehearsals, and that’s what he actually said. “It’ll get better as the tour goes along.” So anyway, that’s that.
Tony : And that’s a kind of– that’s a kind of– I could understand why he was feeling that but where Jeramie would come in absolutely prepared. And he might tweak things when it’s happening, but he would come in absolutely prepared because he’s a musician, but he also understands from a performance because he plays and he sings. Not just drums, but he’s a frontman for Inhuman Condition, and he’s a sound man. So his attitude is like ours. The first show should be as good as the last show. No show should be better. The first show should be as good as the last show and all the in-between because you’re showing respect for the fans who are coming. If you’re wasting four or five shows trying to make yourself sound good, what about all of those people who’ve just seen you for the first four or five shows.
And they’re filming them for YouTube?
Tony : Yes.
Mantas : Exactly. I was just about to say that.
Tony : You’re shortchanging them. You’re shortchanging them. It’s like, hang on. The first kid that walks in the door is as important as the last kid who walks out the door. They’re all important, so you should be delivering immediately from the first song to the last song, from the first show to the last show no matter how new it is.
Is it some kind of difference between generation of the musicians? He’s younger than you, but has a different kind of attitude.
Mantas : I don’t think so. No, because I’ve got the same attitude, and I’m the oldest one in the fucking band.
How is going Inhuman Condition that because you just toured with Inhuman Condition in the States, but Venom Inc’s doing all the gigs as well. When Terry is getting out from Obituary and going now to tour Inhuman Condition that there’s might some conflict in the touring schedule.
Tony : Well, it has a couple of times, but very rarely. Jeramie tries to plan it.
Jeramie : Yeah, fuck. I mean, it’s really difficult. I mean, Taylor’s in Deicide as well. So trying to line up our schedules is a bit of a logistical nightmare, and it’s like, “Wait, are you– hold on. November to– wait, no. I’m– ah, fuck.” We do it. We manage it, but yeah, it’s a little difficult, but that band was not supposed to be that band.
In the first place?
Jeramie : Yeah, it wasn’t supposed to be that band in the first place. I wasn’t supposed to sing in that band. It was the drummer from Massacre, and then here we are. Oh, oh. The touring together Inhuman Condition and Venom Inc – I just did Deicide, Kataklysm. I did front of house for both those bands, and then Inhuman Condition opened, and that was 29 days with 2 days off. About a week and a half in, I got sick. I got a sinus infection, and that sinus infection remained for the rest of the tour. I got home, and I had to take antibiotics. And my sinus infection was so bad that antibiotics didn’t even touch it for 5 days, and I was on a 10-day round of really strong antibiotics. So that almost put me in the ground, so I mean, I don’t know.
Tony : I’m not qualifying us away from other people, but we’ve worked with many, many musicians, drummers, guitarists, and touring musicians, and we don’t do it easy. We never take a shortcut. We throw down 100% on everything we do. Every show’s 100%, so because of that, if you had Jeramie during Inhuman Condition, and Jeff doing Dryll, and and even me doing AtomKraft or whatever, we could put together an amazing bunch, and we could all play the stuff. But we’d give 100% on it, and we’d be fucking dead by the end of it on day one. So the beauty is to save that to have that 100% again. It’s about delivery to the audience. It’s not fair to have someone who’s paid that money come to see– they should get 100% of everything you’ve got which is what we do. We’re driving a fucking bulldozer over you. You should feel like you’ve been in a fucking bullfight when you get out of there and happy that you experienced it. And if we take the foot off the gas, if we make it easy for ourselves, then we’re not delivering, and that’s not what we’re about. So I think we would be wrecked if we tried to do it. As much as it’s a great idea on paper, you couldn’t–You wouldn’t have enough. And then at some point, someone would lose out. You know what I mean? And I don’t think anybody should lose out
Do you think the pandemic hit the right time for you because you are able to recharge your batteries? You had medical issues and you were able to heal them?
Tony : Yeah. The pandemic was bad for everybody on a million levels. We all know that. But actually, for us, it was kind of a godsend or a devilsend or a god-is-man-send or a– anyway. [laughter] The point being is that it was a– we didn’t have to rush. We could relax. We couldn’t tour. We couldn’t overwork ourselves. We based ourself on studio stuff, and we did the compositions so we kind of could recharge ourselves, yeah. And what Jeramie has given to us is we always– Me and Jeff have always tried to drive each other beyond what we thought we could do, and it’s always worked. And that’s the beauty of working with him. You can go, “Ah, just push that a little bit further,” and it’s like, “Woah, I don’t know,” and then he does and goes, “Oh, yeah.” And that’s that drive to have Jeramie in who has that same work ethic. He works. He works. He prepares. He studies, and he delivers. It’s like wow. That just gives you another– it’s like putting supercharge fuel in your car when you could regular gas. And it’s like wow. You just feel elevated to another level, and that’s the beauty of kind of working like this in this band.
All right guys. I thank you for your time. One more thing because he’s [older?]. I ask one funny question that can you name five your personal extreme metal bands?
Mantas : Mine? Extreme metal band ? I’m old school.
I know that.
Mantas : Yeah. Kiss. Judas Priest. I mean, I like Machine Head, but honestly, I’m fucking old school. I honestly do not follow the black metal scene. I don’t follow it. And I think in the early days of that, it was because I didn’t want any outside influences. We were the sort of, and hopefully, we can still be looked at, the godfathers or the leaders of it all. I don’t see the need. I understand the structure of modern black metal, the chords and all that kind of stuff, and what they’re doing. It’s not me though. It’s not what I would personally do. I’m still a classic metal guy, and the last interview I just said, “Look, I’m a guitarist in a heavy metal band.” Just simple as that. I don’t look at it as an extreme heavy metal band or this metal heavy or that metal or that. Fuck off. Get out of the fucking box. It’s like I’m just a guitarist in a heavy metal band, and I’m quite happy with that.
And you like Florida death metal bands.
Jeramie : I like lots of death metal bands. Morbid Angel, of course. Anything from Altars of Madness all the way up to Domination pretty much for me was great. Origin, I thought was a killer extreme death metal band. I thought we saw the John Longstreth drumming was super creative and inventive. Aborted. The drummer, Ken Bedene. That dude is a monster, man. He’s just a real monster. Some of the shit he plays like that new Aborted single is killer. I think the new Decapitated record is awesome except I don’t really like that song with Ginger. I just think it’s just a weird add, and I think they just added it just to add it just to add it, and it’s strange because I think if you listen to the whole record, start to finish–
–it kind of takes away from the record. You’re like, “Ah, fuck.” I found myself going fast forward or skip, and there’s a riff in that tune that I like, but anyways. Oh, have I done four? I got one more?
Mantas : Got one more. Go on. you got one more. Abbath !!
Jeramie : Yeah, I mean, I like Immortal. Sure. [laughter] Let’s go with Immortal. I like Immortal
You Tony. Obviously Dark Funeral.
Tony : Dark Funeral of course. Yeah, I’m kind of really getting into Belphegor because we did some shows with Belphegor. So I kind of like that, but for me, I don’t know, I kind of love Cryptic Slaughter. Mayhem. I’m just addicted to Mayhem, and I wasn’t. I didn’t get Mayhem, and I just thought it was a whole kind of [inaudible] thing I didn’t get. It was 90s. It was like, “Yeah, they’re trying to reinvent.” And the more I’ve listened I’ve just fell in love with, and I cannot stop listening to Mayhem. I mean, there’s obviously Behemoth, but Septicflesh? Fucking amazing. Fucking amazing. Dimmu Borgir, of course. I mean, difficult to know because I’ve got more, but Dark Angel. I’m kind of thrashy, so I kind of like the Exodus and stuff like that. Testament, oh okay [inaudible], but Forbidden and all that kind of stuff. And that’s still old school.
That’s coming from your Atomkraft era.
Tony : Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And I think it’s like for me, extreme. I remember listening particularly Cryptic Slaughter. You know Cryptic Slaughter? I thought they were a fucking French band for about two years because I couldn’t understand what they were singing. And then when I was chatting to someone, I said, “Yeah, that French band, Cryptic Slaughter,” because I had the demo tape, and they went, “They’re from America,” and I was like, “No way.”I mean, it’s what’s extreme because when you think of Destruction or Kreator– I went to see Destruction with friends of mine. They were doing a tour with a load of black metal bands which was odd. It was about five or six years ago, maybe more, maybe seven, and I went to KOKO in Camden, and they were headlining the bill. There was all these black metal bands, and after a bit, it just became kind of like, “Ooh,” a noise or something. And then Destruction came on. It fucking sounded like Foreigner had been on a bill with Motorhead and I was like, “How can you make them sound like normalized. They sounded so non-extreme.” And I realised then where the whole thing was exploding.
Mantas : Yeah, yeah. I did a thing years ago with the Mantas at the Electrowerkz, and it was a black metal festival, and they said, “Oh, would you come down, be the special guest because Venom and all?” And I was like, “All right,” and I couldn’t tell one band from another. And then the headlining band actually said to us, “You guys should’ve headlined this,” because we went on, it was just– say it was like Foreigner playing.
Tony : Remember we did Inferno Fest, and there was an 18-year-old guy reviewed it and went, “Yeah, it was kind of cool. They were kind of cool. I mean, they were really good and all that, but they’re just kind of rock and roll. I mean, they definitely not extreme when you [inaudible].” I knew we were doing Poison, Witching Hour, and stuff like that, but of course, to him, it was like, “That’s not extreme music.” It’s like, “Yeah, but in 1981, that was extreme.” So it’s kind of great the way it’s evolved.
Mantas : But I think, yeah, it’s evolved, and I’ve always said without evolution comes extinction. And it’s great that it’s evolved, but I think the black metal scene is fucking saturated. Absolutely saturated, but Tony mentioned a band there. Willy mentioned two bands. I think there’s two bands – one I prefer over the other; I’m not going to say which one – that are at the top of the tree, and that’s Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth.
All right guys. Thank you for your time.
Tony : Thank you.
Mantas : You’re welcome.
Jeramie : Thanks very much.
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