What was initially just a chance, one off reunion has manifested into a behemoth that has taken on a life of its own, more so than anyone ever imagined that it would. I’ll be honest and say that a year or so ago when I heard that Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, Mantas, and Abaddon were hitting the road as Venom Inc, I was pretty skeptical. Scratch that. I was very skeptical. Was this just a cash in as a way for these guys to capitalize on the legacy of a legendary band? The answer to that question was a loud and clear “FUCK NO” after the band’s highly successful 2016 North American tour.”
Venom Inc brought their Blood Stained Earth tour to Atlanta’s Masquerade (Hell appropriately) to promote their latest album Ave. Before the show I had the pleasure of hanging out on the tour bus with lead singer/bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and founding guitarist/songwriter Jeff “Mantas” Dunn. Venom Inc isn’t the kind of band you would think would great you with smiles and hugs but that is exactly what I got. After situating myself with the fellas as they politely smoked their cigarettes blowing the smoke out of the windows, the conversation just flowed like we were old friends catching up. The guys had plenty to say.
On What Question They Get Asked Way Too Often:
Demolition Man: “How did this band get started?” [laughs]. “We’ve been through it so many times but it’s an important story. As a footnote, I was doing a show where Jeff (Mantas) lived and I got him to come up and play some songs with me. He came up and did that and Abaddon was in the audience and a promoter from Germany was in the audience. The promoter had a festival contact and asked if we would play. We played 4 or 5 songs for the people and we became a band overnight and touring within a year.”
On Giving This Another Go Round:
Mantas: “It’s definitely better then 2nd time around. Right now, with what we’re doing I don’t take anything for granted. Back then, the speed of the success of Venom was so swift. It was from zero to hero overnight. That, I suppose, just seemed to me that this is what happens. You do a demo, you release a single, you release an album, and then you get asked to do a tour. In reality, it’s not like that. I’ll be honest, Venom was very, very lucky in those early days. We were the in right place at the right time. The world was waiting for something different and just happened to be it. It could’ve been anybody to be honest.
On Venom Inc Being Called a Cash In:
Demolition Man: “We got criticized by people about us playing out live by people looking over a fence without even knowing what was going on. We didn’t start with the Prime Evil era which is where we three were working. It was very important for me to go back to the very first single and to travel through the whole legacy and if we could play a song from 1980 and it sounded like it was written yesterday and that it had the energy that was initially there. That justified us doing it. If we did that for a year and came through the catalog starting with Welcome to Hell and the audience related to it then we were legitimate. If they didn’t we would’ve done our year, packed our bags, and went home. That isn’t what happened.
On Releasing New Music as Venom Inc:
Demolition Man: “The thing is, this wasn’t planned. Until John Zazula pushed us into making demos for a new album, it wasn’t something we were planning to do. We knew we were going to going up against criticism, finding a label, money, and politics and we really didn’t want to go through all of that again. He was insistent, the fans wanted it, and Nuclear Blast wanted us to do an album. We went into hyper drive and result is what we have now and is not a part of the Venom catalog. To put those songs in the live set, there are no creases; they’re not stitched in there. It’s like they all just feel like the same thing.“
On Working on the Ave Album:
Mantas: “It was one of the most nerve-racking periods for me as well. When I asked for the opportunity to mix the album, they already had people who wanted to do it. I asked John Zazula to give me a shot to mix just one or two songs. I ended up doing the whole album and when Nuclear Blast got it and everyone there loved it, it was a huge sigh of relief.
On the Fan’s Acceptance of Venom Inc:
Demolition Man: “In the end, it’s what the fans think and feel about all of this that truly matters. The band knows this. Last night in Orlando, there was a little gap half way through the set and I heard a guy in the back yell, “Holy fuck. This IS Venom.” Obviously, he had gone in there feeling that we weren’t really Venom but went to hear the old songs and he got caught up in it. That’s what’s happening to a lot of people. There’s still a lot of people on the other side of the fence but they’re either going to be convinced or they’re not. Music is an emotional attachment. “
On Cronos’ Criticism of Venom Inc:
Demolition Man: “Cronos is selling the logo and selling the idea. One minute he’s trying to promote his new music and the next minute he’s out there mimicking our setlist. He says we’re a karaoke band but who’s copying who? We go out on stage every night and leave it all up there and after the show we’re just fucked. That’s why the audience is reacting to it.” Dolan points across the bus to Mantas: “See that guy sitting over there? He’s the one that wrote all this shit that Cronos has been trying to capitalize on and he’s got the nerve to tell us that we’re selling a fucking product? Fucking hell man. You’ve been selling the logo for 15 years and getting away with it but now we’re taking the music and bringing it back to life for the people that want it to be alive. If we make him feel like he needs to get out there and tour more because people want to see him, then great. Get off your fucking ass and go play shows. If you get 100 people in a club, get out there and play to 100 people. They want to see you. Be real. Don’t be so fucking fake all the time.”
On Playing Alongside Bands They’ve Influenced:
Mantas: “Now, we’ve sort of stepped down from being the generals and we’re in the trenches now. We’re out there on the ground actually doing it.
On His Style of Guitar Playing:
Mantas: “I love blues. If you go back to Welcome to Hell and Black Metal there’s a lot of those fucking riffs that are laden with blues and rock n’ roll. That’s all I knew at the time. I’ve never been one of those guitarists who sought to learn everything else. I’m not interested in sweeping arpeggios and playing a million miles per minute. It does not interest me in the slightest. More power to the people who can do it. To me, it’s just guitar gymnastics. It doesn’t mean anything to me. My favorite guitar players are all old school. KK Downing, Gary Moore, Frank Marino. It’s that old adage of “it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it.”
On His Favorite Guitarist of All Time:
Mantas: “If someone said you could only listen to one guitarist the rest of your life, it would be Gary Moore. It doesn’t matter how long I haven’t heard a Gary Moore album for, as soon as it gets to the solo I can sing the solo and know what he’s going to do. I can’t play the fucking thing but I know what he’s going to do [laughs].”
On Guitar Solos:
Mantas: “You give two people the same woodworking tools: one will make something that will last years and become a classic piece, the other may chop you some firewood. That’s the way I look at guitar solos. You’ve got the disposable solo which is a million miles an hour and never played the same way twice and then you’ve got a classic solo or a classic song. That’s what I’m all about. I don’t give a fuck about the ego of having to put a solo in something because the formula dictates it. It’s all about the songs. As musicians, you’ve got to take your ego out of the equation when it comes to writing the songs.”
On Venom Inc’s Favorite Show:
Demolition Man: “People ask me all the time, “What’s your favorite show?” I say, “How can I have a favorite show? They’re all my favorite.” People say that that’s an easy answer but it’s like when I say that every country is a beautiful country. I say that because it is. If it’s a shithole I’ll tell you [laughs]. The point is you can’t have a favorite show because every night is a different night. Tonight could be a favorite for different reasons than last night. Your experience is not my experience or someone else’s. It’s yours.”
On Being Considered an Influential Legend:
Mantas: “It still overwhelms me; meeting all these support bands coming up to us and saying, “I just want to say that you’re the reason I’m in a band.” I’m the quietest one in the band. I actually don’t know how to respond to people to be completely honest other than saying “thank you.” It completely overwhelms me. It really does. Even back in the early days, I was a kid from Newcastle who wrote some songs. There’s no magic formula to it. At the end of the day it all comes down to sheer hard work. There’s no substitute for that. You can sit in your bedroom and play a million miles an hour, be the greatest guitarist in the fucking world but if you don’t get out there and force it down fucking people’s throats and stick to it, you’ll go nowhere fast.