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In 2015, it was announced that original Venom members Tony “Abaddon” Bray and Jeff “Mantas” Dunn would be reuniting with former Venom bassist/vocalist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan to form Venom Inc. As would any other huge Venom fan, my first question was, “Why do we need two Venoms?” Well, the answer was loud and clear once I put all bias aside and attending the opening night of Venom Inc’s North American tour right here in Atlanta, GA. The show was absolutely amazing and it was full of fire, passion, and raw emotion. It was the kind of show that makes you proud to be a fan of a band.

After their mind blowing, marathon show, I had the pleasure of sitting backstage with lead vocalist/bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan. Tony was an absolute joy to talk to. His humbled, energetic, and excited demeanor is contagious and it really set the tone for what would easily be one of my all time favorite interviews to date. We cracked open a few beers and talked about Venom Inc and the misconceptions around this band, his favorite Venom song to play live, and how he actually came to replace Cronos back in 1989. This was a really exciting interview and I can only hope that you all will have as much fun reading it as I did conducting it.

 

Tony, thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview.  It’s a real treat to get to talk to this evening!

Thank you, Don. It’s an absolute pleasure to talk with you.

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You guys just flew in today for the opening night of the tour correct?

Well, me and Abaddon flew in yesterday and Mantas flew in today with the rest of the team. At least me and Abaddon had the hotel last night so we could sleep but Mantas hasn’t slept for two days but he deserves that. He’s too old and we like to keep him going. He gets a bit grumpy but shit happens [laughs].

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The older we get, the grumpier we get!

Exactly. So if he’s going to be grumpy anyway, he might as well not sleep and be grumpy. It’s perfect!

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I have to say that I have been dying to tell a member of Venom this story. Back in 1988, I bought my first Venom album At War with Satan and hid it from my parents. My dad found it, looked at it really good, looked at me and said, “You better hide this from your mother. That will make her cry.”

[laughs] Did he? See? You’re dad was alright! Didn’t tell you to get rid of it. Just hide it from your fucking mum [laughs]. Fucking hell, that’s a great story.

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So in 2015, we saw you guys return to the fold as Venom, INC. How did this progress from Mpire of Evil?

Well, you know, the thing is that me and Mantas about five years ago had an idea to start Mpire of Evil. he wanted to do something with Anton (ex Venom member) and we called it Prime Evil after the Prime Evil album. Well, there’s a band in New York called Prime Evil so we just decided to call it Mpire of Evil which is an anagram of Prime Evil. Some people said, “Hey, that’s cool” and some people said, “That’s a shit name.” [laughs] Anton left us and we said to the fans that this was a band for the fans.

Oliver Weinsheimer came to see a show I did with my former band, just a three piece I had in Newcastle. I invited Mantas up to play a couple of songs from the album and Abaddon was in the crowd. After we played that show, Oliver wrote to me and said, “I noticed you got Mantas up to play. It was a great show. I saw Abaddon in the crowd and thought why don’t you get him up there to play as well to play a couple of Venom songs?” He said, if I booked you guys to play a festival and Abaddon just happened to be there, what are the chances of him getting up there to play some songs? I said, “Well, Mantas will say no.” So I spoke to Abaddon and he said he’d be up for it and then Mantas and I said, “Look, it’s for the fans. It’s not about us, it’s not about the personalities, it’s about playing the music that the fans want to hear. Let’s just do it as a one off for some fun.”

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So then you guys just went out as Venom Inc from there?

We did and then all of the sudden we were being booked for South America, half of Japan, and people were telling us we had to do an album. So I sat down w/ the two guys and said, “What do you guys want to do? People want us to go play!” They tried to put the three of them back together and Cronos said, “No fucking way. I’m not a boy band. I like doing the new stuff. I don’t like doing the old stuff. I don’t want anything to do with the two of you.” I just told them, fine, then we’ll do it ourselves. I was in Venom so we three can do it and we can play whatever the fuck we like.

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The Venom name is every much you guys as it is Cronos.

Exactly! Mantas and Abaddon made those records. We were going to call ourselves Iron and Steel but the promoters said, “You have to call it Venom but there’s already a Venom.” The logo we use is Abaddon’s design; it’s the original logo and we just had to find a way to get “Venom” in there. I said, “We do a lot of music and projects so let’s just incorporate everything into it and that’s how we came up with Venom Inc. We’re just incorporating who we are and the spirit of Venom into everything that we do. The music now, is not owned by the individuals who made it. It’s the fan’s music. They own it. If the fans don’t buy your shit, you don’t exist. It’s all about them.

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Well hell, Cronos seems to pretty much have washed his hands of a majority of the classic stuff anyways so that pretty much leaves it up to you guys to give the diehard Venom fans what they truly want.

Exactly. We’ll play anything that the fans want to hear. We put together two setlists; the one you heard tonight and the other one has got “Deader than Night”, “Red Light Fever”, “Manitou”, all the songs that nobody’s heard. I just said, “Let’s put all the shit that nobody got to hear in there. All my favorites like, “Woman”, “Lady Lust”, let’s just play all that. So that’s why we put the sets together with a bunch of classics and a bunch of songs that haven’t been played.

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Are there any plans for Venom Inc to go and record an album of new material?

People want to hear an album from us but we can’t fucking stop playing live shows [laughs]. Every time we finish a tour it’s like five minutes later we’re back out again [laughs]. We did South America then we had five days off and came here to the States. From here we go straight to Germany to headline a festival and then we go back home for three days and off to Asia and we end it in Australia. We’re supposed to finish the album but now they’re trying to book us for a European tour. Fucking hell man. We’re going to be playing live for the next three years.  What I don’t want people to think is that we’re not a fucking tribute band. We want to make it as real as possible.

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How did you actually come to be in Venom replacing Cronos after his departure?

What happened was that I had finished a European tour with my other band, Atomkraft. We were on tour with Nasty Savage and Exumer and when we came back from that tour the guitarist went fucking loopy. He went just nuts and wanted to go and play with puppets and the singer decided he was just going to move away. The drummer, said to me that we could get other people. We had just done the best we’d ever done as that band so I had enough. We were managed by the same people who managed Venom and about a week later I got a phone call to meet with Abaddon and their manager. I figured that they were going to talk about my other band and what we were going to do. I walked in thinking that’s what they were going to say and they said, “Look. Cronos has left with the other two guitarists after Calm Before the Storm. He’s relocated to America and we’ve got a deal on the table for three albums so we’re looking for a bassist/singer. I was like, “Alright. Do you want me to have a look around and see if I can find someone for you?” [laughs] They were like, “No. You!” So I was like, “Fuck it. Why not?” [laughs] I love Venom.

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I wanted to ask you about the Prime Evil album. It pretty much sounds like it should’ve been the follow up to At War With Satan in my opinion.

It was a very natural progression. We were all friends and I was a fan of the stuff they did and knew it inside out. Abaddon said, “We need to do an album that is closer to what we were. We lost track and you’re the one that knows us better than we know ourselves so you do it.” I told him that the only way we could really do this was to get Mantas back in the band. It needed to be those two to get that chemistry.

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What did you do to get to that place that allowed you to connect with that classic Venom sound and energy?

What I did for three months before that recording was that I listened to “Welcome to Hell” every night when I went to sleep with the headphones on [laughs]. I did that to get my mind into the frame. It’s not about writing a song that mimics “Poison” or mimics “Schizo”, it’s about writing songs that “feel” like those songs. I had to get into that zone. I think with “Blacked are the Priests”, “Carnivorous”, and “Parasite”, I managed to get that vicious attack of it. It’s not as Satanic as the stuff before.

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Well, the guys in Venom weren’t even really Satanists to begin with, correct?

Well, I’ve been a Satanist since 1983. None of the others in the band are actual Satanists so the irony when people say stuff like, “Cronos is the mighty and you’re singing songs about Satan” I’m like, “Well, I the actual Satanist in the band [laughs]. It doesn’t matter because it’s an ethos. It’s not about burning churches and burning crosses and virgins and chickens. It’s about a principal and I just knew that it has to be honest. If it’s not honest I can’t do it. I just put myself out there and tried to make it as honest as possible and that’s what we did with Prime Evil. It was honest.

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Seeing the show tonight was easily one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I mean, I have never seen Venom live and the excitement and energy that was in the room was so intense. I really loved seeing that energy and passion coming right back from you all.

Thank you so much. The fucking energy is there. I’ve had people tell me, “You made me feel like I was 14 again.” Fucking hell, you made ME feel like I was 14 because it works both ways. If I look at you and you look at me and we connect it’s there.   We played this little place in Denmark that was like an attic and the people were right in our faces at the same level. When we die “Warhead”, I was on the mic and he was on the mic with me and we sang that song to each other eye to eye. We made that connection. If you play Wacken, Sonisphere, or any other great festival, the people are 400 miles away. 20,000 people, 50,000 people, it’s great. Brilliant. But playing this fucking room here tonight, even though it wasn’t it packed, I could feel your energy. I don’t give a fuck if there’s 20,000 people there and they all buy merch. I can play a club like this and barely make any money but everyone leaves the place saying, “That blew my mind”, that for me, personally, that’s why I’m doing this. I’ve been underground since 1978 and I’ll be underground until I die but I’ll die like Lemmy. I’ll die doing what I love and that’s the way I want to go.

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You guys were tighter than all hell up there tonight. Did you guys have extensive rehearsals at all for this tour?

No. I don’t want this thing to be over rehearsed or planned out. I want it to feel like it’s happening right then and there for the first time ever. We don’t rehearse, we haven’t rehearsed at all, we live in separate parts of the world, we come together, we pick the songs, and we play. If it goes tits up, it goes tits up [laughs]. That’s part of Venom. The whole idea is that it may all hold together or it may just all explode, we don’t know, you don’t know and that’s the excitement of it all.

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The set list from tonight’s show was absolutely amazing and it covered so much ground. With that being said, is there a particular song that you never get tired of playing?

For me it would have to be, “Sons of Satan.” They didn’t want to do “Sons of Satan.” When you put on Welcome to Hell with its raw production and it’s cacophonic sort of sound, the opening song, “Sons of Satan”, there’s no lovely long intro with majestic keyboards or any build up. It just falls in like Abaddon fell down the stairs with his whole drum kit [laughs]. I love that. It’s like someone taking a huge hammer and just hitting you in the face with it. It just comes out of nowhere and before you know what happened it’s finished.

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What is one song that hasn’t been played yet that you’d love to play?

“Red Light Fever.” When that song was done in the studio, it was just three young guys creating a song as it happened. That album was recorded in three days. It was a magic moment and I would love to re-visit that song and have it as cacophonic as it was.

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Well, you guys fucking ruled it tonight.

[laughs] That’s great! Tomorrow night will probably be absolutely shit but we don’t know. It is what it is. It’s organic. This audience isn’t the audience we’re going to see in San Francisco and it’s not the audience we’re going to see in Tokyo. They’re all going to be different. Why should we be the same? Why should we be over rehearsed, over produced, same set? Fuck that. It’s new for you, it’s new for us. 1, 2, 3, let’s see what happens. That’s what I love about this band.

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I’m sure being in your position now that you guys are touring as Venom Inc can be a pretty tough one. While a lot of the fans have obviously welcomed you all with open arms, there’s been a lot of shit talking and angry fans out there.

Some guy sent me a death threat before I came over here to the states. “You bald cunt. I fucking hate you. I’m going to shoot you, you twat.” All of that because he’s a Cronos fan. I said, “Don’t worry about it man. Cronos is still there. You can still see Cronos. You just get to see us as well [laughs]. He says, “I don’t want to see you. You’re a twat and a cunt and I’m going to fucking shoot you on the 22nd.” I said, “Brilliant. It’s the day after my birthday. I’ve never been shot. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to put you on the guest list for every show but when you shoot me, just shoot me in the shoulder so when I show the chicks it’ll be cool. Just don’t kill me [laughs].

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Holy shit, man. Does that fucking scare you at all?

[laughs] No, it doesn’t because he’s not going to turn up and shoot me. If I was going to shoot someone, I would go online and say, “I’m going to fucking shoot you.” It doesn’t scare me. In fact, it makes me feel good that you’ve got that kind of passion. That’s the passion you need in life. We as people have become passive.

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I was lucky enough to have a supportive father who used to, instead of condemning the music I loved, he always told me to challenge myself and challenge what I was being told and to listen to others words. That’s what drew me to Venom in the first place was that it was challenging just about everything I was being taught as a young Catholic school attending kid.

You nailed it. It’s like the idea of a good book, Don. I studied American History. Particularly the civil war. All of that history, it’s all real but if I’m reading a novel like Dracula or Frankenstein which are period pieces that are really, really good, that excites me. The history excites me but the novel excites me because it gives you that added element. It’s like “Countess Bathory.” Elizabeth isn’t as she’s described in the song but people have that idea, kind of like how Vlad the Impaler was described in Dracula which is just cool. It’s amazing. You can just play with those ideas and play with those elements because it disgusts us and excites us at the same time. It’s like a car crash on the freeway. It’s a terrible crash but why am I slowing down to have a look at it? Because we don’t mind voyeurism.

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It’s like those old Faces of Death videos. Remember those?

Yes. Exactly. We don’t want to be shot or chopped up but there’s some fascination with seeing it from the outside. It’s the dark side of human nature. It’s like, you feel like you shouldn’t be watching it but you couldn’t not watch it. That’s almost like what your dad was saying. That’s ugly, that’s dark, but listen to it and make your mind up because you’re fascinated by it.

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From your standpoint where you’re at today, do you hear much Venom in other bands that are coming out?

Not really. I think that there’s a crossover point. I mean, first you had Black Metal, the album, and then the genre came about using the idea of being extreme, talking about Satan, and using the pentagram. When Welcome to Hell came out with the big pentagram cover, most shops wouldn’t stock it. In Italy, it was in a brown bag. It was so blatant but that was the idea. To make it so blatant that people couldn’t misread it. It was made for people to say, “Fucking hell. This is dangerous.” These days, I could go on the internet and Google “albums with pentagrams on them” and there’s a million of them. It’s lost its motivation now and it’s magic so you have to find it elsewhere.

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So Venom really is considered the forefathers of Black Metal but Black Metal is way more than just a type of music. Wasn’t it a way to set themselves apart from the pack?

Yes, indeed. If you take the Venom album Black Metal, that is black metal. That’s what they called themselves to separate themselves from the others. There was a magazine back in the day called Kerrang! and there was an issue with Jon Bon Jovi on the front and it said, “Heavy Metal World.” The Venom guys were like, “Well if that’s fucking heavy metal, then we’re not heavy metal.” They just said, “If we’re not heavy metal, what are we? Well, black metal” and that’s how that came to be; to separate them from the other metal. It’s not rock n’ roll, it’s not pretty, it’s just ugly, menacing noise.

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Even bands these days that consider Venom an influence have taken that influence which I find to be more of an attitude influence as opposed to an outright musical influence.

Exactly. With Venom there was an extremity, a vulgarism, and an attitude and a lot of bands adopted that and took it. Some of them became thrash and some became death metal and some even became more political like Slayer. They started off doing the Satanic thing and became more about the political climate and I like that. If you listen to Exodus, those guys are screaming about what the fuck is wrong with our country? We don’t like it and we want to change it. That’s like what the Sex Pistols did with “Anarchy in the UK” back then. The voice of youth with always find a way and you’ve got to stimulate that.

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I watched you guys hanging out after the show and meeting fans and I loved seeing that. It seems to be a trend these days for bands to charge fans to meet them. What is your opinion on that?

At one point, Mantas asked if we should start charging for fans to meet us. I said, “Fucking don’t ever say that to me. You’re not charging someone to take a fucking photograph or to sign your name on a product that they’ve got. They’ve already invested in us. The guy’s standing there with a fucking Venom tattoo with a Venom t-shirt and those Venom albums. If they’ve collected the whole collection that means their whole lives have been dedicated to you and you can’t come out and spend 10 minutes signing or you want to charge them $60 to take a fucking photograph? That guy is invested and you mean something to him. The least you can do is stand there, sign everything he wants signed, and take fucking photographs until he’s happy.

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Finally, what is one misconception about Venom INC that you’d like to put to rest?

That we’re not a cover band [laughs]. I mean, Mantas wrote the riff for “Black Metal” sitting on the toilet. I know right? Mantas wrote so many of the songs, Abaddon designed the Venom logo, and by the time Cronos had joined the band those first two albums were nearly complete. I’m not taking anything away from Cronos because I love those albums but for him to try and drum up that this is a cover band, how can you be a cover band playing your own songs? He can say I’m a cover artist because I’m singing his songs but fair enough.

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But let’s not forget. You there were Venom for 3 fucking records!

[laughs] I was in there too. When we did those tours, we same our stuff but we sang old Venom songs as well. This is not about us covering anything. This is about the legacy of the music and it’s about delivering that legacy to people. I don’t give a fuck if it’s Cronos or anyone else.  Nobody can dictate to the fans what they can fucking hear or not. The fans want to hear what they want to hear. That’s why we started doing this. As long as the fans want to hear it we should keep fucking going but the minute someone says, “Fuck off, we don’t want to see you”, we’ll put the guitars away and stop it. Like tonight, it would’ve been great if there would’ve been 10,000 people there but if there was 2 people there, I’d give exactly the same performance because those 2 people are still fans. The fans deserve everything you’ve got. If we come off stage and we’re fucked, then I’ve done my job. If I come off stage and I’m not sweating, I’m not tired, and I’m not in pain, then I’ve short changed the audience and that’s not fair. I want to come off stage going, “Fuck me, I’m done!” That’s the emotion we need.

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This is a show and an interview that I will remember for as long as I live. Tony, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me this evening. This has been a real honor.

Don, no, thank you so much. It was a great honor for me as well. I really enjoyed the hell out of this. Let’s keep in touch.

 

The Brainfart & Demolition Man

The Brainfart & Demolition Man

 

 

About Don de Leaumont

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats and dog. He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, “No fucking way.”

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