It’s thirty seven years, give or take, since Venom released their epoch-spanning debut album Welcome to Hell. And in that time they’ve never once ventured to the Antipodes. So it’s a cause for some excitement that this incarnation of the band – Venom Inc, which includes original members Abaddon and Mantas and today’s grillee, Tony Dolan – are finally breaking their duck down under.
We’ll talk about Australia later, Tony, but what was the first ‘proper’ tour you were involved with? “I guess my first proper tour was eighty four or eighty five. That was the first time I’d done a tour internationally on a tour bus. Funnily enough I was fronting Atomkraft at the time, and we were supporting Exodus, with Paul Baloff, and Venom! We were travelling with the road crew, Exodus had their own bus and Venom were staying in hotels; I remember the crew being pissed off. Our guitarist was sixteen, and every time he had a drink he’d puke up everwhere, and the crew, who were all hardened road warriors, said ‘listen, if you don’t stop lying around, doing nothing and puking everywhere, we’re going to fucking leave you somewhere!’. So after our set I’d watch Exodus, watch Venom and then help them with the load out. After about four shows they said ‘OK, you’re a good guy, you don’t have to help out anymore. Go and sit on the bus’. I’d won my stripes I think!”
That’s interesting to hear, because my next question was do you approach touring differently now! “Fuck yes! A lot differently (laughs) – back in the day and touring with all those bands that went on to become huge – the Metallicas and the Slayers, to have them as your peers was great. I’m older now, and like to think of it as in those days as a young man I’d go to McDonalds, I was so hungry I ordered everything on the menu, ate it all before I got home, felt a bit sick, and then an hour later I was hungry again. And that was how I lived every day. Then you look back and suddenly you realise those times have disappeared. They were twenty, thirty, nearly forty years ago and you realise you didn’t savour those moments or take it all in. These days I’m able to pick a nice restaurant, book a table, sit down and order everything on the menu but now I’m taking it slowly and savouring it all. Trying to take it all in. I tattoo my body with things that are relevant to me from touring. I used to collect bits of paper, flyers, all kinds of things… but over time you move house, you lose stuff, you give stuff away. You forget stuff! So now I get tattoos practically everywhere I tour, and Australia will be no exception. I have a place marked for every Australian date on my body and those memories will be forever with me”.
Apart from the tools of your trade, what would you say would be something that’s a necessity for you to have on tour? “For me, it’s coffee. I can survive almost anything! I don’t drink so much now, just a little bit of Tequila and I might have the odd Jack and coke in memory of Lemmy, and I’ve stopped smoking. I have a good diet but occasionally splurge on that, but if I can’t get coffee it’s like ‘fuucckk’! It’s my adrenaline, my fix, my drug of choice. So when I’m on tour I have to make sure that I can make coffee at all times of the day. And sometimes I’ll drink ten to fifteen cups of it a day”.
Bloody hell! “I know, I’m nuts. When people say ‘I can’t have a coffee after nine o’clock because I can’t sleep’, if I can’t have a cup of coffee before I go to bed I just lie there thinking ‘fuck I want a cup of coffee’. So yes, coffee is my drug of choice for being on the road”.
We hear a lot these days about how the bottom has completely fallen out of the music industry, especially the recording side – and that touring is now the saviour for many bands. Is that true for you? Does Venom Inc cease to exist if you can’t tour extensively? “Yes… I think the paradigm is that the recording industry actually drove us into this spot. It was part of their propaganda that said nobody’s buying vinyl, so we’ll close down the pressing plants; then they said nobody’s buying CDs because they wanted us to start streaming. They don’t pay artists because everyone has got photoshop and can create their own album covers, they don’t use producers because so many acts can do home recordings now with protools, they don’t have to warehouse the records or CDs so they have no overheads for that, record shops are shutting so they don’t have to pay for shipping to them… they just sit back on the profits from the streams and pay the artist .0000015 cents per play. That’s how they forsaw things happening and that’s the way they pushed it, into a profit margin. But then kids became more computer savvy, started downloading stuff at will and the companies saw their profits being eaten away. And the side effect of that was that it was the artists who suffered. They were getting less residuals under the new model anyway, but these became even smaller. So the only way to be able to make music and to continue doing so was to get back out on the road. But vinyl sales are coming back now, even cassettes! And companies are making record players again. And I’ve noticed that over the last couple of years our audiences are getting younger, which is great. The music scene is pushing fans back into the market through live shows. And record companies are realising that there was nothing wrong with the old model and that it was them who fucked it up. So I think the future is positive, and the next generation of artists will sell more vinyl. It is moving in a cycle, the whole thing is the circle of life! And because bands are touring more they are getting better, and audiences around the world are getting the chance to see bands more often”.
I think you’re right. An unprecedented number of international metal acts are coming to Australia now, compared to ten or fifteen years ago. “Bands are looking for new territories, and looking to establish relationships so that they can repeat-tour. Since we started doing Venom Inc we’ve toured American three times, and are going back this year. Atomkraft never toured America and Venom only went once in all those years… I think that’s the benefit of the situation. Being signed to a European label with American management they wanted us to concentrate on those markets. Why would we go anywhere else? But my take on it is if there’s a fan living on the top of a mountain somewhere who has all our material and is deeply affected by our music, if we can get there to play then why don’t we? The tours were too programmed. If they said we’re going to send you to Germany, I could tell you where and when we were going to play. And that’s OK, but the person who couldn’t get off work and travel to see you on a Tuesday last time is still going to be in the same boat this time! Can’t we move that show to the weekend? Or move to a town closer so they might be able to make it? There are music fans all over the planet and they should be reached! We are born to play, and if there’s a fan there’s a way to play. It’s as simple as that”.
What are your all-time favourite venues to play? “Probably for me… fucking hell that’s difficult! Probably the Whiskey A-Go-Go. I love Reggie’s in Chicago, I love playing in Paris, The Underworld in London, Club Traffic in Rome, but from very early on in my life I always wanted to play the Sunset Strip. I had such an idea about the Rainbow Bar and Grill, the Roxy, The Troubadour, the first time I went to Los Angeles and drove up Sunset Boulevard and you see the marquee of the Whiskey on the corner showing what bands are playing… I thought ‘fucking hell I want to play there… so much history in there’. And I managed to get the band a gig there. It’s not the biggest venue in the world, it’s a club venue, but that’s not the point. The point is it is where it is, right next to the Rainbow and the Roxy. And of course when we played there I went straight to the tattoo shop next door and got the Whiskey logo tattooed! So that meant a lot as a career thing rather than a Wembley Arena or some such. I remember playing the old Marquee in London supporting Slayer on the Hell Awaits tour. The Marquee! Fucking hell, Hendrix, everyone played there. Those kind of venues for me, infamous venues where people start off like the 100 Club in London where the Sex Pistols played… those ones mean more to me than a festival with 80,000 people. That’s brilliant for the ego, but I prefer somewhere with an atmosphere. So I’d say playing the Whiskey A Go-Go has been the highlight for me”.
We’d better talk a little bit about the Australian tour. Will you be playing the same sort of set here that the rest of the world has been seeing? “I wanted to change the set up for 2018, make it a bit different from last year when of course we had a new album out that everyone wanted to hear. I sat down with (guitarist) Mantas to talk about it and, you know, it’s the first time we’ve been to the Southern Hemisphere in the history of Venom – regardless of who is in the band – and there’s a huge musical legacy which is so rich so we’ve made a couple of changes and have a couple of things up our sleeves. Of course we’ll play material from Avé, but we’ll fill the set up with some classics. Depending on curfews we’ve got two hours or more – provided we survive, because we’re old! – and we’re going to fucking love it! We can’t wait to give these songs to people who’ve waited so long.”
And we can’t wait to hear them! “If anybody has any preconceptions that it’s not the classic Venom, it’s not forty years ago. If you’re sitting on the fence about coming, just do it, get down the front, if you need to just close your eyes and listen to the music. And I swear to God you’ll get everything you thought you might get, everything you thought you wanted to get, and you’ll probably go away with more than you thought you would have. Please come and just let it happen for you, and get a hundred percent of everything we’ve got to give”.
I’m excited now. “Good. You should be. I am!”
It’s twenty two years since I last saw Venom at the Dynamo Festival, and even longer since I’ve seen you- I think the last time I saw you was with Atomkraft supporting Agent Steel at Hammersmith. “At The Longest Day? With Onslaught and Nuclear Assault. I remember we went on and Tony Wilson from Radio One (who were recording the show) said we sounded amazing, and so feeling chuffed I went backstage and our Crew guy said we sounded shit. The sound guy who was doing sound for us and Nuclear Assault said he’d been told to turn us down. So the sound that Radio One got was great but we sounded awful to the crowd, and I was angry because it was a great bill, at Hammersmith and I wanted us to go down well. I went in the dressing room and took off the future warrior outfit we used to wear and threw it down. I never wore it again!”
Let’s hope nothing so distressing happens here later this month!
Venom Inc. – Australia/New Zealand 2018
22 February – Canberra – The Basement
23 February – Sydney – Manning Bar
24 February – Brisbane – Crowbar
26 February – Wellington – Valhalla
27 February – Auckland – Galatos
01 March – Melbourne – Max Watts
02 March – Adelaide – Enigma Bar
03 March – Perth – Amplifier