This is an interview with Cronos of VENOM. The full interview will be uploaded shortly, but for now, enjoy this in a video format. The images are of Grimoire Girls and the voices are those of Bill Zebub and Cronos.
Interview with Cronos conducted by Bill Zebub for Issue #21 of THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS magazine
I understand that you had a false media war with King Diamond in the early days. You were calling him King Billy and he was calling you Cronfag.
It’s all good fun. We’ve had this since the beginning of our career. The first label that we were with, there was a band called Raven. As soon as we realized that Venom money was being used to fund Raven, that was it! You know? The war was on! We’ve always thought that it sort of creates a good… A little bit of rivalry between bands can keep everybody on their toes. Sometimes it’s good fun.
Americans like it. Professional wrestling is proof of that.
I mean, the thing for me, was… this is why I called him King Billy…. because when I first met him, he tried to sort come across to me like he was some fuckin’ hard core Satanic dude. You know? Which I was having none of it. I really wanted to sort of go, “Hi. How ya doin’? Do you wanna have a beer?” which is sort of my way of doin’ things. But he sort of wanted to sit at this table, with these candles around him, and stare at everybody. So we just sat around and got drunk and just took the piss out of him all night. Eventually, when he left… this is in Holland… he stood up from the table to go to his hotel room, with a glass in his hand. Now he had no shoes on. He dropped the fuckin’ glass, stood in it, cut his foot, and had to get rushed off to the hospital. You know? Like… (he cackles like an old witch who is about to lower children into a boiling cauldron). Really evil. (again, the cackle).
I never thought he would act like that.
Yeah. He made a right dick of himself. But I forgive ‘im.
What do you think about his music?
It’s not really my cup of tea. But it’s still heavy, and I do appreciate heavy. I’ve never really been into that high voice/low voice thing. You know? I was always a big Judas Priest fan. I can’t really get past that, really. But hey. Good luck to him. I mean, he’s doin’ some good shit. He’s got some cool titles and that. But I don’t really have to like the music. That’s the thing about this. With a lot of bands, so long as they’re ok people, that’s also a lot of the message that we’ve got. You know? Venom want to be a super group. We wanna put on a fuckin’ cross between a KISS show, a Judas Priest show, and a Black Sabbath show. You know? We wanna be that huge group. That’s what influenced us. But at the same time we wanna still come down to earth and have a fuckin’ laugh. We’ve tried to do that with Venom, not necessarily successfully. Some people say, well you’re not serious… you’re takin’ the piss… and you don’t chill out enough.. and you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously. Fuckin’ hell! You know? We’re musicians. We’re gonna do our job. But then we’re gonna get drunk and fall around like idiots.
So you won’t be doing any King Diamond covers on the next album?
Don’t think so. I remember goin’ through Germany once, when we played that first tape, and we’re all goin’ (in a high voice) “Hail Satan! (in a low voice) “Hail Satan! We just thought it was so funny. You know? I was runnin’ around with these fuckin’ bones in me hands, doin’ fuckin’ King Billy impressions.
The funny thin is that he is going to be in the same issue.
Hey, no problem.
There was a very brutal version of At War With Satan recorded in the old days. Will that ever be available?
Was that the demos? That was, wasn’t it? When we actually came over to do the Staten Island show… I remember we had Metallica on… ‘83. We had the demo for At War With Satan in our bag, and we went to these great parties with all these young kids and got fuckin’ out of our minds. I remember pulling out the tape and played it for everybody, and they thought it was great, and we got drunk and we left and we didn’t take the tape. That’s how that got out. But we didn’t mind anyway. We thought it sounded cool anyway. So we just went, oh well, what the fuck. Win some, lose some. We still had the album to do, anyway. So it was no problem to us.
Metallica actually opened for Venom. That’s very strange.
Not really. They were young spotty kids. I mean, that’s what we thought at the time. It was difficult for Venom to… fuckin’ hell! There was no fucker who really understood what we were doin’. So we had to really selectively choose who we were on the road with. A band like Metallica… we were sent over some stuff over to England and we heard it and we thought, well at least it’s fast. Because what we were hearing was all these Iron Maiden cover bands and fuckin’ Def Leppard shit. And we thought, no, these are gonna get murdered. We knew that the Venom audience was gonna crawl out of the sewers. We just knew that. You know? We thought, uh oh… this is gonna be fun! So we couldn’t have had some fuckin’ pretty boy band on support. They would have been murdered. But metallica were cool. Hey, they were young spotty kids. But at the same time they were really energetic, which we liked. It was the same with Slayer and Exodus as well. The energy that they had… plus they were young, plus they were pretty cool and everything. We had some good laughs.
So do your style decisions reflect those of Metallica? Will you be going down the same path?
My hair’s still down to my ass.. and I don’t wear make up… and I’ve got a girlfriend.
There are no pictures of you kissing a band mate?
I don’t think so.
By the way, there’s a severe thunderstorm in the area. So if I die, what a way to go.. die while talking to Cronos. There’s a backwards message on the vinyl version of Black Metal. Is the forward version message interesting?
Yeah! It’s on everything. I mean, fuckin’ hell! There’s more than just that. There’s that stuff on quite a lot of the records. The classic one that I always thought was when we first came to do the first single, I was all full of, I wanna do all these backwards messages. I was gonna do some lord’s prayer, or something. And then when we play it backwards it will be all wicked and spooky. And I was like, no… that’s fuckin’ really childish. What I’m gonna do is, I’m gonna shout “You’re gonna fuckin’ burn in hell! You’re gonna bleed for me!” When you play that backwards, then it sounds… you can say “Have a nice day” and it would sound evil backwards. But then when they spun the fuckin’ record backwards and hear us actually screamin’ that shit out… I just wanted to fuckin’ frighten people.
It’s good wholesome Satanism that the entire family can enjoy.
I think so. Yeah. Definitely for the fuckin’ family. Bring the pets too. They go really well on the barbeque.
This next question comes from a person who is quite knowledgeable about the Venom ways. His name is Paul Nestarok. He writes for me under the name “Paul Tergeist”.
Cool… Bill Zebub. (laughs in mockery)
When was the last time you smoked angel dust?
Fuckin’ hell! It’s got to be over 10 years now, when i was back in the States.
Would you like to talk about that, being that you are such a mighty role model?
Well it was just cool. I got stoned. (laughs) It was pretty cool. I really got nice and wrecked on it, and felt really wicked good after the show. I got it off some chick. She was Russian. She brought it. It was really fresh… still on the fuckin’ mint leaf and everything. It was really nice.
Any psychotic episodes?
No. We didn’t, actually. But somebody said we’d have to freebase it to have that effect.
I see. So it’s not a bad psychoactive drug, according to Cronos?
I’ve never had a bad one. I never had a bad drug. I loved them all.
You are quite healthy these days. I was wondering if you changed your habits… if you no longer partake of such things.
Yeah, I do my bodybuilding and I stay fit and everything. What it is, is I consider that if i stay fit then I can party harder because I recover quicker. But so does Mantas as well. It goes with the whole sort of Venom territory, I think. It’s healthy body/healthy mind. And plus, we did the first gig in ‘82 over in Belgium and sat backstage and looked at each other and went (in slurred speech) “Fuckin’ hell! I’m fucked!” And we just said that’s it, we need to get fit to do this. If we’re gonna be able to stand on stage and look like these cool dudes who we wanna look like, standing there all big and proud and hard core, not like (pants like a dog). You know?
You were rumored to be quite in love with Jack Daniels.
Oh yes. A rather nice thing to be drinking. Amber nectar.
Whenever your stage banter included Americans, it was not very flattering. I’m not American. So I don’t are. But I would be interested in your anti-American outlook.
I don’t think it’s anti-American. I think what it is is it’s a very realistic look at the differences between England and America. When I’m in America, if i take the piss out of Americans, you’ll find that I’ll also give the counter argument for the English. I just find that there’s some sort of good little conundrums that go down in America that seems to go over everyone’s head, yet it seems so obvious to me. The classic one is when you’re called a limy. I find that one really funny because when I say to people “What is a limy?” they say, “well, you’re a fuckin’ limy”. Yeah. Well, how do you come to that name? And they’re like, “Well, when the English got on the boats to come across to America, they had to suck on limes so they didn’t get scabies and shit. So that’s why you’re a limy.” But hold on. The English who came to America stayed in America. There were some English people who didn’t come to America. They stayed in England. That’s my ancestors. We didn’t get on that fuckin’ boat. We didn’t suck no fuckin’ limes. you’re the limy! An American is a descendant of the person who got on the boat and sucked on the limes. So the Americans are fuckin’ limy.
I got on the airplane, man. I had jack Daniels. Call me a fuckin’ jackie.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who call you a jackie.
Yeah. Just call me Daniels!
On the first vinyl pressing of Welcome to Hell, a poster was included. Will any kind of special collector’s item appear in a future Venom release, or is the small size of a cd too much of a limit?
That’s true. i think so. I mean, I’ll tell you where I think everything’s going now. I’m really trying to get me head into the sort of computer thing as well. You can get the wallpapers from the web pages… all the multimedia stuff… all the icons and the buttons and the bits and pieces. A lot of people are finding that to be a good addition to things now. It’s just a case of convincing the record companies that this shit doesn’t take up much space an the cd, and blah dee blah dee blah. Then we can start putting more on a record, really. Sorry. More on a cd, than we could on an album.
Like a virus, maybe.
Yeah. (laughs) Matrix virus. Take the red pill. I’m also a vinyl fan, so I look at a cd fuckin’ booklet and I just go “duh”. I want it bigger. At the same time, if you’re gonna be able to have stuff on the cd, even like video stuff like the cd rom… you buy an album and you get more than just music. You can watch it and interact with it and fuck about with it and everything. Mix your own Venom album.
Am I right in saying that there are not many professional pictures that were taken of Venom in the early days?
What it was was , what we did was, we only had really a couple of select photographers that we would let take photos, and everybody else just used to get us at gigs or catch us in the street or coming out of the gig or whatever it was. We used to use a KISS photographer, actually. It was a guy named Fin Costello. He took all the classic KISS shots. He’s an English guy. We went down and he says, “I came up with this idea for a photo session”. So the ones that we did, we did mainly with Fin Costello. Wicked good laugh. He knew all the shops to go around and get all the skulls and the bones and the mummies, fuckin’ chains, and the snakes. So we had good fun with him.
At the end of From Hell to the Unknown, I guess it’s a fake interview. But in it was the denial that black metal was the name of a music genre. It’s strictly a name for an album. But throughout the life of Venom that was a changing statement. One day black metal is music, and another day black metal is just simply an album name. So what is it today?
I’ve never heard that argument, really. If somebody says, where does the name “black metal” come from? It was a term that I created before we actually wrote the song. This is the honest way that it is. Being a fuckin’ big fan of metal music and rock and everything else, I’m also a big Van halen fan, and heard that he was doing a guitar solo for Michael Jackson. Fuckin’ hell! Heard the song… I think it was “Beat It”. I just went “Duh!” You know? Why is a fuckin’ rock fuckin’ legend like that getting involved with shit? The next thing I see is in the rock press, where you’ve got the heavy metal charts. You’ve got #1 with Michael Jackson with “Beat It” just simply because Eddie Van Halen had done a solo. So I remember goin’ into one of the early Venom rehearsals… I was furious. I was like, fuck this! We’re NOT heavy metal. Fuck this! No way! I don’t want to be in the same chart as that! We started playin’ with words.. like we were longhaired punks. We were metal punk. Then we were power metal. And by the time we actually sat down with the press and they were sayin’ “Right, what’s happenin’ with this, that, and the other?” I was like, “Yeah. Look, I’m fuckin’ sick of this shit! Fuckin’ listen to me now! This is not fuckin’ shit! This is fuckin’ metal, this, mate! This is in your face. This will kick your fuckin’ eyes out! You know? Don’t fuck around with this! This is black metal! This is power metal! This is speed metal. This is thrash metal! This is death metal! This is will kill you, this shit, man! Fuck off!’ I was just so angry. I was just so pissed off. I just thought, NO WAY! So that’s where that was all born from. Yeah, we then wrote the song Black Metal. We thought, let’s describe Venom in a song. Black metal is describin’ Venom. The actual genre that fuckin’ followed was simply… I mean, we formed a band that we wanted to see. We wanted a band to look like Venom.. So what the kids obviously did, our fans, went, “We would like to be like that as well”, and they took little bits out of Venom like we would’ve taken little bits out of Sabbath and Judas Priest and fuckin’ KISS and whoever influenced us.
And King Diamond?
Yeah… of course. (cackles) So that’s how all these sort of things come together. It’s other people who say, “Oh Venom are responsible for this, and Venom are responsible for that!” If I’m in any way responsible for the huge explosion of a whole load of fuckin’ demons, it seems like the gates of hell have just opened up, and a million death metal ugly motherfuckers have come crawling out and have infected the whole world… hell yeah! That’s what I say!
How do you feel about the Norwegians claiming that the 90’s music that they seemed to create is called “Black Metal” especially since they pay homage to Bathory instead of to you?
A lot of them pay homage to Venom as well. I mean, they’ve all got the Venom “Welcome to Hell” t-shirts. The whole thing is, they’re not really encapsulating the whole thing of what black metal is because black metal captures all of the metals, and Venom play fast songs and slow songs and moody songs and atmospheric songs… and they play only one style of music. They play like a death metal more like, and with a (in a Popeye voice) wicky wicky wicky wicky we… sort of like speeded up Popeye lyrics. There’s one fuckin’ song we heard a while ago. it was really funny. It sounded like Popeye singing “Oh I do like the babyside, the seaside.” I thought it was great! We were fuckin’ pissin’ ourselves laughing!
I think that was Immortal.
I got two people, the singer Abbath and the bass player Iscariah, to sing actually sing the lyrics of Popeye because they don’t have that show. They don’t know why I was telling them to sing it.
I wrote down the words lyrics down. (Cronos laughs, quite amused) I’ll have to send it to you.
It’s going to appear on one of my cd’s.
Brilliant! It’s like when you go to France and you get some French girl and she can’t speak English, and say, “Here. Do you want to learn English?” and they’re going “Ke?” And you go, “Yeah. Just say this. Say ‘fuuuuck meeee.” And they’re just standin’ there goin’ “Fok may?” that’s the best. Great fun.
Do you find a similarity between your song “Manitou” and Bathory’s “Baptized in Fire and Blood?” from the Hammerheart album?
No. Manitou was actually written during the Welcome to Hell days. So I don’t know when the bathory track was actually put together. But, most certainly not! The song Manitou was actually the original riff for the song “Possessed” It should’ve actually went… in Manitou, where the riff goes dil noo noo noo noo noo… right? That should’ve went, “Look at me. Satan’s child!” Dil noo noo noo noo noo. “Born of evil. Thus defiled!” But then as we’d done the Black Metal and At War With… album, we were startin’ to look at the “Possessed” songs and goin’ “Neh neh nuh nih neh neh.” So I came up with a whole new riff sequence for the possessed thing and put the Manitou lyrics to the Possessed riff to make Manitou.
It’s a great joy for me to play those songs back to back on my radio show. But no one has ever called me, like “Wow! That’s very similar!” It’s just something that maybe only I can hear.
But I don’t hear voices or anything like that. How do you pronounce it… a-BAD’-on or A’-ba-don?
In England, we would say A-ba-don.
Abaddon is no longer in the band.
Rumor has it that he found the direction of Venom to be taking a turn for the weak.
No. What it was was he fell in love with Marilyn Manson. Yep. He’s now gone into some kind of computerized drum technical frenzy type very bad Nine Inch Nails rip off shit. No thank you.
So he couldn’t do that just as a hobby and keep true in the Venom way?
This is what we didn’t understand, because we want to actually progress Venom. We sort of want to take Venom into this century… you know… corny, corny… everyone’s on millennium frenzy. We don’t really mean that. It’ s not just a reunion that we put together. We saw immediately, when we were playin’ the live songs, like “Evil One” and the crowd reactions… that we could actually keep this goin’. You know? When people say “come back”, it usually takes a week and they’re fucked up again. It’s like. we’ve been sort of back together no since ‘95. So there is a future in this, and we want to push this band. But what we don’t want to do is be influenced by other types of music, whether it’s Marilyn Manson or whoever. I mean, I quite like the Nine Inch Nails stuff. I think it’s fuckin’ insane, especially the first couple of albums. But everything else from then has always just been a rip off of Trent Reznor. The originators usually have the best ideas. I don’t really see that Venom can go down that kind of path. Venom are all about fuckin’ pickin’ up guitars and playin’ drums and gettin’ hot and sweaty, not pushin’ a whole load of buttons and lettin’ a load of machines do it.
The songs on Resurrection seem very radio-friendly, that is, until the profanity kicks in, making them commercially unplayable.
That’s the Zappa influence.
It just seems very ironic to me because they do seem almost like they were written for radio at points, but then just blatantly saying “Fuck you!”… it’s just sabatoging it.
Well, it’s the Zappa bit that’s comin’ out there. But we definitely didn’t think that because it’s a fuckin’ angry album for us. I mean, we spent a year fightin’ with lawyers, and all sorts of bullshit, and not playin’ the music, which was very frustrating. And the only way that we could get that frustration out when we started doin’ the new songs was actually just to write the most aggressive shit that we could, and that even goes with the titles and everything. I mean, even walkin’ into rehearsal one day after I’d lent Mantas the “Load” album of metallica… and this is definitely a fact, DEFINITELY… 100%… I lent Mantas the fuckin’ “Load” album and he comes runnin’ into rehearsal, like threw it on the floor, and just yelled “What the fuck’s that SHIT?!” And he says, “Right. I’ve got a new song called ‘Loaded’.” And he played the, and he said, “This is my answer to that!” So the track “Loaded” is Mantas’ answer to Metallica’s “Load” and “Reload”. This is Mantas sayin’ to Metallica, “This is fuckin’ Loaded!”
It seems lyrics in bands like Bon Jovi and other glamsters were a whole bunch of cliches maybe thrown into a computer, and the computer selected the ones that rhymed. Venom lyrics, in songs like “The Seven Gates of Hell” are very godly. You can actually send them to a newspaper for a poetry contest. No, I’m just kidding.
I know what you mean, though, because that’s how they start. That’s how all my lyrics start. They just start as a rhyme, an anecdote, a saying, a quip, something I’ve caught off the tv, walkin’ down the street, whatever… I mean, i do just sort of pick up on generalizations, and then I try to plant the seed and let the thing grow. Even a funny way that one word will go into another word can set us off on a whole wave, writin’ a strange lyric. You know? But also things that you see immediately as well. I was standin’ on stage in Greece and the whole of the fuckin’ audience had a right arm up in the air, like a big fuckin’ fist. And i remember standin’ there and I said to meself, “Standing there, arms out toward you, clenching fists.” And I thought, fuckin’ hell, that’s a lyric straight away. They’re all stretchin’ their arms out towards you, clenchin’ fists, and it’s one of the opening lyrics to the songs on the new album… Pandemonium. Things can come to me at any time. If you start wrtin’ on a catchy riff, then it’s gonna become somethin’ that will have a flow. I’m not into one of these songs… even like the Bon Jovi stuff… it’s so predictable. Fell in love/fell out of love. You know… again and again and again. It’s good to have fun with words, sometimes. And being English, you know, fuckin’ we’re renown for it anyway. we like to fuck around with our wonderful accents. (cackles)
And you also like to use really intense adjectives for the most simple things… like “frightfully” good. The lyrics in songs like “Seven Gates of Hell” are timeless. However, on the new album… and this is not an insult…
Well I’d like you to speak your mind.
It just seems that there are more 20th century phrases… maybe cliches.
How did you let that happen?
Because I think it’s just NOW. I feel it’s right to do that now. A lot of that stuff seemed like the right lyric to use at the time. I think we’re bein’ more aggressive with the things we’re sayin’ as well. I mean, we seem to be attacking christ more. We seem to be attacking people more. We seem to be being stronger. I think all of those sort of classic elements of what Venom songs were are sort of peakin’ with this album. I think we’ve sort of encapsulated a lot what Venom is about. There’ll be a track on this album for everybody, type of thing. And that’s how we saw definitely the Black Metal album. We knew that there’s be some fucker who liked at least one song on that album.
Rumor has it that you’re an aerobics instructor. (he laughs) Is that true?
Really? So do you do the step… (we both laugh)
You see what’s so funny? Do you know what it is? I wanna know what it is with guys… they just think it’s so fuckin’ funny, and yet you’ve got me standin’ in a room with like 50 scantily clad women.
Yeah. that’s an enviable position. But aren’t some of them tubs?
No, no, no, no, no.
So do you add erotic hip movements to your routine?
Without a doubt.
That’s so strange. Are you employed at mantas’ gym?
No. He has his own. He mainly just does martial arts. Kickboxing ,tae kwon do, karate… all this sort of stuff. You know? I mean, this is why we were laughing at Abaddon calling his album “Dance Metal.” If you’ve ever seen Abaddon, he’s like tow left feet. So I said to the European press, “Well if Abaddon wants to book the venue, maybe he can sell tickets, and he can stand on stage and demonstrate how you’re supposed to dance to this shit.” You know? I’ll get up there. if he wants to show me the moves, hey, I’ll give it a try. Chances are, he’ll get on stage and fall down drunk and piss himself.
When you get a bad review, do you send Mantas over to the journalist’s house?
Yeah. He is deadly. No! We definitely think people should always speak their mind. We are never hurt by a bad review, the same as when we have a good review… we don’t have a fuckin’ party. We have always made albums for ourselves. Like Possessed… we should have done a lot more work on that album. We’ve only got ourselves to blame. So we kicked ourselves about that. We don’t need anybody else to do it for us. It’s amazing to say that Venom thought that they could have done better on that album. It sells just as well amongst Black Metal and Welcome to Hell and At War With Satan. A lot of people who listen to Venom mustn’t think what we think. They think it’s a cool Venom album. They weren’t in the studio.
I’ve never interviewed a band from England that like d Kerrang. Why is Kerrang anti-English?
They’ve got tongues that are 3,000 miles long and they land right on the New York shore. I haven’t got a fuckin’ clue what their problem is with England. But, like, they’re so renowned for bein’… it’s so obvious, it’s like the fuckin’ snake out of Jungle Book. You know it’s gonna turn on you. You just know. You go to Kerrang. They’ll lick your ass and give you a good review. But you know that next week they’re gonna turn. They’re so predictable and boring. Let’s hype them up and knock them down. Fans decide to buy the records to continue that career, not because some fuckin’ little goose egg in an office is gonna try to make you or break you.
I don’t know about England, but in America, the major metal press is not composed of metalheads. They’re all nerds who used to get beaten up by metalheads. So do you think that this is just revenge against people who stole their lunch money? Seriously. Whenever I attend an event and go into the press room, I never reveal who I am. I just watch, and I’m amazed that these are the people who write about metal. If one were standing next to you at a show and maybe shared an opinion, you’d probably slap him or say, “No offense, but go away.”
When we did the Dynamo in Holland, Slayer did the next day. We sort of hung around the next day so we could watch Slayer up at the side, and there were all these obvious record company dudes with this short hair and fuckin’ suits on. And all the crowd’s like bouncin’ at the same time to this certain Slayer song, and everybody’s got the same groove goin’ down. Everybody’s goin’ up down up down up down up down. There’s these two guys like swayin’ side to side, like as if they’ve got an itch. Totally out of rhythm with everybody else. But you can also see them lookin’ around like, hoping nobody can see them. They were just so out of place. they were so fuckin’ out of place… in the safety of that besides-the-stage ooh-I’ve-got-a-backstage-pass… I felt like runnin’ out and throwin’ the fuckers right in the middle of the mosh pit! It’s like, get out of that one!
I think all metal magazines should have pictures of the writers so you could see who’s writing these reviews.
What we were gonna do… I mean, we never got around to it, we had loads of threats… what we were gonna do was we were gonna put a magazine together that reviewed all the magazines. (cackles) We would be reviewin’ the magazine from a week before. “Well, they slated Aerosmith, the sad bastards.” And just really pull the magazines down.. well, the ones who deserve it, of course. There’s fuckin’ plenty of them. The English press have that… sort of need to want to be different. You know? Even though the rest of the world might say, “Hail Aerosmith! Best band on the planet!” England will go, “Oh, we think they’re shit!” Just to be cunts. just to be sad bastards. Like, “Look, I had to get up this morning. It was still dark, and it was pissin’ down with rain, and cold, and I had to get out of me bed and review this. So fuck you.” It’s really sad, isn’t it?
It was cool watching Venom at the Milwaukee Metalfest.
Were you there? Excellent! We had a great time.
You played Seven Gates of Hell.
Indeed. We opened with it.
I heard you were at the bar, but i was loading in my stuff, and i though, well, maybe later. But later never happened. But it’s great talking to you now. I was wondering if you were happy with everything over there.
We never are. We always plan 210 things and then we get like 20 of them. And that’s always the case with Venom. We always have to oveplan and we always end up disappointed. But hopefully the crowd still get more than what they expected. So we try to get that sort of balance. Venom played 20 minutes late. The reason for that is because some fuckin’ suits came up to us with large fuckin’ wads of paper, saying, “Where’s the license for this pyro? Where’s this? Where’s that? Where’s your granny’s World War I teeth?” You know? It’s like, what a fuckin downer! We had all the signed stuff. We even had special pyro people. And these guys were just being a pain in the ass. One of the bummers with America is some of the laws are just too strict with things like that. Fuckin’ hell. we go to Europe and we practically fuckin’ detonate the country, and everybody loves it, and all the people come out of their houses and watch the pretty fireworks and applaud. And in America they go (in a grumpy voice) “Nope. Can’t set that off.” (cackles) America, the home of the free. You’re free to do whatever you want, but you can’t bring Venom’s pyros.
But you had plenty of pyro action at that show.
Oh yeah. But it was really touch and go because always Venom are in a situation where we say, “Where do we stand if we gotta be forced to walk on a stage if we haven’t got a pyro?” when it’s right there and we’re ready to go. Once the guys sort of tipped their hats and said “We’re out of here” and we got a chance to set the intro tape goin’, that was it. We just fired up in about three seconds. Boom! It was on. It was great. We fuckin’ ran out there. I fuckin’ loved it. It was great to see America after 10-11 years.
That’s more like the armpit of America.
But still, it was hungry faces. This is the thing. I mean, I’m not standin’ lookin’ at a crowd who are in their 30’s. I’m lookin’ at a crowd who are still in their teens. This is a new generation of Venom fans, and they’re singin’ all the fuckin’ lyrics. I’m like, oooh. This is fuckin’ wild. Probably some of the kids in the audience weren’t even born when Welcome to hell was released.
You heard the old Greek tale about the marathon runner who ran and ran and ran to warn his nation of some army advance, and as soon as he said his piece, he died.
That’s how i felt at the Venom show because I traveled 25 hours in one drive, and I didn’t sleep all day just to watch Venom. By the time you came on, I was the walking dead. And I forgot that there would be a detonation. When it went off, i really thought that I had died. I couldn’t see, and i couldn’t hear. And I didn’t know where I was. (Cronos was laughing the whole time)
That was very good. that was a good story.
That was the only concert event where I was horrified. It was because of the detonation. It just bewildered me. You robbed me of my senses.
(laughs) I tell you what, mate. After we got back to England, I got sent all the VHS videos from every fuckin’ angle. There’s a piece of video footage which is priceless. You could not pay for this. It’s from the mixing desk, and there’s a little bit of area where the mixing desk ends and where the kids start. There’s these two guys standin’ there. And you can see Venom on stage, and we’re goin’ through Countess Bathory. And when we set the huge big flames off, as the flames dies down, the two kids at exactly the same time turned around and looked at each other and sort of like waved a fist like “YEEEEEEESSSSSSSS! DID YOU SEE THAT?!!” I could not have paid them to do that. That reaction was just totally genuine. It was Countess Bathory. There was the flames. YES!!! Wicked, wicked great watchin’ that stuff.
I heard that Venom commands quite a fee to appear.
Well, yeah. All we do is, we say to the promoter, “You’ve got to be able to cover the cost of a Venom show.” And that included what Venom are gonna bring with pyro and crew and all the rest of it. It’s like what any band asks. I mean, we don’t walk away from gigs with pockets full of money. It’s not feasible to do that. The promoter’s gonna say, “Well, we can put X amount of money into it.” And whatever a regular band would then do and say, “Well, this is fee.” we have to say, “Well that is pyro and that is this and that is that.” We always wanna bring our own equipment. We always wanna bring our own guitars and amps and all the fuckin’ rest of it. A lot of bands, they’ll just take their guitars, and they’ll have all the rest of the gear provided. They’ll use any old amp. They’ll any old speaker. What the fuck. Venom aren’t like that because we like to get that Venom sound, and we feel that we can do that with amps that we trust. So that’s all extra fuckin’ air fares. It’s all extra carriage and trucks and all the rest of it. It’s a realistic fee, and some people can do it. It all depends on the venue and the area and to whether we have a big enough following.
It’s great that you clarified that because when people say that Venom commands a high price, it’s more a snobbish sort of thing. So you’re not living in the lap of luxury because of your random appearances.
Not really. The less live work that Venom do then the richer we get because then we can spend our royalties on ourselves. But as soon as we get into road stuff, hands always have to go into pockets to buy things. I mean, mantas has already been out buyin’ personal pyro and settin’ them off in his backyard. Strappin’ them to his guitars… he’s tryin’ to get these Ace Frehley rockets. A big KISS fan. He wants to fuckin’ have fuckin’ warheads comin’ out of his fuckin’ guitars.
I’ve heard quotes that you said when you started you wanted to be the best. Is that the best musically, or as far as showmanship?
Well it was a combination of our influences because we loved KISS and Priest and Sabbath and Tull and all these bands who had a stage show and who wore stage costumes and who were slightly untouchable and larger than life. So we didn’t want to be the regular t-shirt and jeans band. So we were really influenced by supergroups, and we wanted to be a supergroup. I remember that we used to say that Venom are all of the bands that have preceded us, thrown into a pot and mixed up. That is Venom. We have the KISS show. We have the Judas Priest leather. We have the hard core Sabbath lyrics. So you can actually section Venom off into all those kinds of influences. The same as you look at death metal and speed metal and all that now.. you know, all the Norwegian metal. You can see where they took this off Venom or where they took that off Venom, and progressed it all in their own ways. It’s all about influences, and i think that’s what makes music grow. When people take a little bit and then move it on another stage.
In the old days the extreme metal art was new, and there was a lot to be learned about recording that kind of music.
I’m also pretty sure that the recording budget for you in those days was pretty low.
Welcome to hell… we had actually… because i worked at the studio, I convinced the engineer to work for free. “If we come in for a few hours, will you work for free?” Yeah, because he was a mate. So then i went and talked to the studio boss, and said, “The engineer said he was gonna work for free. Can I bring me band in? There’s nobody in the studio. Fuckin’ blah blah blah.” He’s like, “Yeah”. So I was able to scam Venom into the studio for free to get some demos done. Now I’m then playin’ them for the record company. they’re like, “No. It’s shit.” Yeah, it’s like little Conrad’s band. You know? I was like, “This is wicked, this is wicked.” And they were like, “No. It’s lousy.” They had all these Ravens and Tigers of Pantang and like lame shit. So eventually the record company said, “Look. There’s three days spare. Go in and see what you can do.” So we had three days, and we recorded all of Welcome to Hell. Now that was demos as far as we were concerned. But that was recorded… vocals,solos, everything, mixed, finished. Sunday night, home. And then next week we got the record company saying, “We will release this as it is, now, as an album, or forget it.” We were like, “It’s demos! We’ve got to do it properly. Give at least a week or something.” “No, there’s no more money in the budget left. You release Welcome to Hell as it is, or fuck off.” The next day I walked in with the album cover, sayin’ “Here. Go for it.” which was the same as the single cover. Just very large and gold.
But don’t you find it strange that there are many bands, especially today, who are using adjectives like “true” to describe their metal? They romanticize the recording quality of those old days. You can’t possibly prefer that sort of production.
Well not me. I wanna improve it. I mean, a guy in Europe I was talkin’ to, he said the new album production is really crisp, and he likes the sound of the dirtier old albums. And i said, “No problem, dude. Put it on your hifi. Take all the treble off, all the top end. Turn your fuckin’ speakers up to full blast. It will sound like shit.” If you like to listen to things like you’re in some fuckin’ swamp. No problem. Put the album on and stick your head under the bath. Stick your head in the fuckin’ water. What the fuck? we’re goin with the times and we’re cleanin’ up our sound. but we’re tryin’ to fuckin’ make it heavier at the same time. I don’t think the crispness of the album has taken away from the fact that it also rattles the shelves. If I put that on next to Cast in Stone, it’s a fuckin’ louder heavier album. you’ve got to turn the thing down. You know? It’s like a beast. Amazing.
What would you say to those people who accuse you of… maybe this might be a little strong to say… it’s inappropriate anyway.. of selling out, because it’s too clean compared to the primitive sound of the old days?
I just think Venom are dead if we don’t move on. I think that was the point of this reunion.. so that we could progress it into a resurrection of Venom, because it was obvious that, yes, we’re gonna do the reunion. But we’re not gonna tour that forever. We’re either gonna put some new songs into it, or we’re gonna become some fuckin’ parody of ourselves. There’s a lot of bands in England who were famous in the ‘70’s, like Sweet and Mud and all these sort of like glam rock bands. they’re now together with all these different members, and they’re doin’ the clubs. they’re playin’ to like 20 people a night. And they’re singin’ the songs of their hits. It’s really sad. And we didn’t want anything to do with that.I mean, we had to take this band on, and it works. If people don’t dig it and don’t buy the albums, well then that’s the death of any band. If fans don’t want a band to continue, then just don’t support them and don’t buy the records. So it’s really them who determine Venom’s future. The fact that Venom are here 20 years later is because we’ve had consistent sales with what we’ve done that’s had enough companies to keep their eyebrows raised to say, “Here are some deals.” You know? As soon as that stops, as soon as Venom become has-beens and are washed out and the deals stop and the money stops then the band is fucked. So I think the only way to do this is to progress. I do think that we’ve only progressed slowly, though. I think we’ve only progressed in a small way. We haven’t changed our music or style. We’re not wearing different clothes. We haven’t cut our hair. We haven’t put make-up on. All we’ve really done is crisped up the production. All of the other elements of Venom are there. It’s always been Mantas and I who write all the songs. So we’ve lost nothing as far as the writing team is concerned. So all we’ve got now is a tighter drummer and a better sound. So I think we’re a fuckin’ winner with this one.
In demonology there was a rebellion in hell, where one faction wanted to keep mankind ignorant, and the other wanted knowledge, saying that new knowledge is new ways of evil. And I think new Venom is like that. i really liked the newer version of Manitou that was on Cast in Stone. But some people laughed at me and called me a poser. How could you say that I’m a poser?
A poser likin’ Venom… this is not right somehow, is it? A punk with a suit on. You now?
You’ve probably seen it yourself. Some people just try to out-underground everybody around them. There are other ways to get social power than to just knock everything. But I think you make effective use of sound. Your voice definitely needs that better production. You should do some speaking parts on some cd rom games.
Yeah. I did some for the new Exorcist movie.
It was said that you once renounced the dark side to your lyrics, saying that it’s purely a gimmick.
I never really said that. I speak from experiences and emotions and all the rest of it. I believe that today a lot of people… we’re not under the inquisitors anymore, and we haven’t been for hundreds of years. everybody’s resorting to more natural methods. everybody’s standing up for themselves more. i mean, even to the point of using aromatherapy and getting into natural herbs and everything. The whole sort of belief structure is changing. around the whole world as well. The witches are free and roaming all over, and there’s nothing to stop it. So the factions of hell i would have been on the side of would have been the ones of knowledge.