Venom Inc – the newish conglomerate featuring three former Venom alumni in Mantas, Abaddon and the Demolition Man, are releasing a new album later this month, the supremely entertaining Avé. Of course this is reason enough for celebration – we’ve been celebrating the album repeatedly in the Sentinel Daily Office over the last few weeks – but the offer of an interview with iconic skin beater Abaddon sent the party popper popping into overload. As the editor of this august journal, I pulled rank and bagsed the interview – here’s what went down…
“It’s a very clear line!” The affable drummer sounds surprised and, for a change, the transglobal phone line does indeed make it sound as if we’re sitting in the same room. That’s not true of course, and after breaking the ice by ascertaining that our interviewee is enjoying balmy summer warmth whilst your correspondent is shivering in minus five Canberra winterdom, we get down to it.
The album’s almost out, and everyone I speak to about the record is getting excited about hearing it. Are you excited? Or are you past that point in your career where this sort of thing gets the pulse racing? “Well, with this one it’s a long time since we had a record out, a long time since we had a record label. Records tend to come in batches of three or five – you do a three album deal with a label or you do a five album deal. So for the first one, everyone’s excited about it. The label’s excited, the American arm of the label is excited, the Australians… so yes, although we have been involved in a lot of albums before this is almost like a rebirth, and it’s very exciting. It’s been a long time since we recorded it! I started recording in January, so the process, because of the label it’s with is very long. Nuclear Blast have so many bands on the label, and we wanted the album to come out on vinyl as well; there’s a big backlog with the vinyl cutting houses so it’s taken this long to get the whole thing ready. It hasn’t been because any of the processes haven’t been done at the right speed, it’s just the whole thing takes time. But it’s very exciting now to see it come out and see what the responses are”.
You’ve probably already seen a few reviews of the album – are you pleased with what you’ve seen thus far? “Yes, they’ve all been good! They’ve all been very truthful as well; Most reviews have been kind of ‘eight and a half out of ten’ but they’ve all been truthful. Nobody’s going ‘this is the greatest thing since sliced bread!’ which is good… as an artist you need to have feedback, to know what you can improve on, what you can pick up and run with. For me, being in a metal band, the songs become very different when you play them live. I’m a big fan of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and when I hear live versions of their songs or go and see a band playing live, they take on a different entity. So that’s what I’m really excited about is going out and playing these songs live. To see what their identity becomes and how an audience responds to them”.
As you say, the albums been done a while now, and the three of you live in different parts of the world. I assume you recorded your parts separately. You didn’t play them together. So the only way you can really get these songs into shape is when you rehearse and actually play them live. It’s not like they’ve become full blown entities in the studio. “That’s one hundred per cent correct. Nobody was in the studio with me when we recorded the drum tracks. From a drumming point of view that was very new and very difficult for me. I, and I think most people would agree, like to have eye contact. I like to be able to push and pull a song… if you’re coming out of a chorus, or going into a solo, you can affect the way the song breathes and the way the song has a heart and a life. If you do it the way we did it it’s a much more mechanical beast. So as you said, it’s only when you take those songs out live, when you take the mechanics out of it and add to it the audience, and their participation, it becomes that live beast, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that transpires”.
It’s a very fresh sounding record. Was that important? When the three of you came together and decided you were going to make a record, how important was it to make something that sounded contemporary? Obviously, the album nods to your collective pasts, but how important was it to make a record that nods to heavy metal in this century as well as the last? “That’s a really good question. Hand on heart, from my perspective, I would have liked it to sound more like the Prime Evil era; That was this line ups era. The ten years that we did stuff like Prime Evil and Temples of Ice would have been what I would have been aiming for. A very thick, heavy sound. I think what’s come out is Jeff (Mantas)’s version of what he hears today and what he gets out of his recording package. Which is a much more bright, brittle sound. I think it stands up for itself as a moment in time. Whichever version of Venom you like, whichever version of Venom you listen to, it’s still steeped in that handful of band members, our history and where we come from. Prime Evil doesn’t sound like Welcome to Hell, but you can still tell it’s the same band. And Avé doesn’t sound like any of the albums, but you can still tell that it’s a version of Venom. As an overview, you have to say that as long as it sounds like Venom, and it doesn’t sound like the Michael Schenker Group or the Scorpions or Ozzy, then it’s good”.
That’s still a pretty tall order to fulfil every time though, isn’t it? It must be thirty five years since I first heard the band. Did you think then that you’d still be doing Venom music in 2017? “I think probably not. Because we had a lot of adverse response, a lot of people were against us. Certain members of certain bands even came up to us and said ‘you’ve done two great albums, you should just stop now’. I don’t know of that ever being levelled at anybody else! It’s quite hard to take as an artist to be told ‘that’s shit!’ And you think ‘hang on, some of the bands saying this stuff wouldn’t be doing what they were doing if we hadn’t have done what we did’. A lot of bands wouldn’t have done what they did. Quite big bands as well. Metallica put their hands up to that, Slayer put their hands up to that, Pantera… a lot of different genres spawned out of Venom. That may sound a big thing to say but I honestly think it’s true. And to carry on going and to have two bands – you’ve got Cronos’ band and you’ve got us – who still play live in different ways and are still recording in different ways, and we still have enough interest that people will turn up to concerts and buy the records… to think of that going for over thirty years, and having a career, not to be a millionaire or anything but to have been able to do it… It’s pretty amazing when you look back on it”.
How do you cope now? You’ve always been a very ‘physical’ drummer. You’ve already toured a fair bit with this lineup now even before the release of the album. How do you get by on the road? Has Abaddon developed techniques over time to cope? “No. I’m talking to you now from a hospital bed(laughs). When we first started doing this, I wasn’t fully convinced that I’d be able to. A lot of drummers – most drummers, I think – enjoy playing drums. And that in itself is a form of cardio vascular exercise, like riding a bike. I don’t do that, I don’t enjoy playing drums. I don’t like it at all! It hurts! What I really enjoy is being part of a band. When I play football I enjoy being part of the team; I like being with the lads, and having a drink afterwards, meeting fans… I enjoy every aspect of that. I think what gets me through is the adrenaline that you get from a live gig. It keeps us all going, to be fair. When you get on the tour bus and you’re looking ahead and there are thirty dates with no breaks… in the old days Venom would have done a three days on two days off type of thing. But now – and I’m fifty seven – I can do those thirty dates standing on my head – it’s easy. What’s hard is what we’re doing now – One offs. We finished one on Sunday just gone in Slovenia and I didn’t sleep for two days because of the travel involved, and coming home really hurt! Then we go away to Italy and do it all again tomorrow, so that’s another two days of travel. And that’s what hurts. If I was on a tour bus going from date to date – which is what will happen in September – the adrenaline carries me through. It’s only when you stop that you become aware of your limitations!”
September isn’t very far away now – when the touring kicks off will it be relentless? Or will you be able to pick and choose when you go out? “It’s constant. Nuclear Blast are a pretty hands on label, and they almost demand that we hit every area that we can! Venom never really did a tour in the UK – we’d do one offs, but we’re doing a full tour there in November, and that’s come pretty much as a demand from the record label (more laughter)! Before we signed this deal we played in China, Japan, Taiwan… North and South America. It’s only really Australia and New Zealand of what you’d consider the ‘normal’ territories that we haven’t been to. We’re all looking forward to going there. And I think we will be in 2018. For the next year we’re going to be flogging the hell out of this album!”