Luciferian Notes from the Underground
Considered one of the pioneers of the first wave of 80s black/thrash metal, guitarist Jeffrey Dunn (Mantas) and drummer Anthony Bray (Abaddon) are back with a new band called Venom Inc, name chosen for this incarnation following the dispute with Venom, currently used by Cronos. The Venom original co-founders are joined by another ex-Venom member Tony Dolan (Demolition Man) and this Prime Evil line-up can certainly be referred to as Venom. After their debut in 2015, nothing seems to stop them as charismatic vocalist Tony Dolan tells us about, and what the future holds for them and his passion for underground music during Mammothfest in Brighton.
HMA: Hi Tony, nice to meet you! You’re been enjoying touring at the moment but what are the plans for Venom Inc? Is there a chance of a release soon?
Tony Dolan: The whole thing wasn't planned initially, so it kind of took us by surprise. We did one show just as a special for some fun. Then, we got offered lots of shows to play, touring, so we decided why not. If people want to see us, we'll go and play, so we did, but we hadn't planned anything. On the first tour we'd done 3 shows, and we got offered to do a live album, and I thought "We've only done three shows and we haven't got any new material yet."
We thought we'd wait until we finished our tour and then maybe record something. Then, another tour came, and another tour. As it is now, we've been to Asia 2 times. We've got Russia on the table, Australia, New Zealand. We've got a European tour, Vital Remains, happens in October. We've just finished the second US tour from January, and then we went back in June. We've got another European tour. We did the European tour last year twice.
We have new management now, which is Jon Zazula, who's infamous for Megaforce Records. Chuck Billy is part of the management, and he's like one of our managers now. We have offers on the table for an album, not just a live album but an album. We're frantically trying to write for the album, so we've probably got somewhere in the region of 40 songs or so, which we've been writing, because Mantas writes a lot and I write a lot and Tony's always got ideas, Abaddon. That's the idea. We're trying to find time before we go on the European tour to finish some demos. Then, at the end of the European tour, we'll have the record deal, and then we'll start to record the album full. Hopefully have it out for next year around about May, and that's when we go straight to America and do the first tour and then come back to Europe.
That's the plan we currently have. It's difficult, because we don't like saying no to anything. Personally, I support the underground, which is why we're doing Mammothfest and we've done some smaller festivals. I think it's really important. This is where everything comes from, so it's important to stay in touch with that. Yeah, but that's the plan for the album. We are writing, and, hopefully, we'll have it finished by the end of this year and out for early next year.
HMA: That’s exciting! Are you busy in other fronts too?
TD: I do several other things, managing with other bands. I do performance, acting and stuff, voiceovers. Then, I'm an engineer during the day. I'm always busy doing something, but I think there's a synergy that we have when we do the Venom thing in any guise, whether it's Cronos and Mantas or Mantas and Abaddon and me or me and Abaddon or me and Mantas. There's a particular type of synergy when you write together, that's what Venom is. Each of us can write independently but, when we write together, it becomes so. Mantas is constantly writing, he's like a machine. Then he will send stuff, we'll look at it, I'll look at it and move some things around and then put ideas in. Then, he goes back. So we progress in that type of way. As far as the actual writing, we all write just for ideas, basically.
HMA: Is there anything that inspires you during for the writing?
TD: I think, for myself, I take inspiration from mankind. I always have. My original band was themed on destruction of our planet and not Satanic in any way. I'm a Lucifernarian now, and I believe the light will guide us, there's better things afoot, and we just have to take control of that. It's kind of Satanism in a way, I guess, but, in its purest form, I just believe in being good to people. It's very easy to be awful to people, but it's also very easy to be nice to the people. Sometimes, you don't have to be mean-spirited until you've been hurt. Then, that's fair enough. You give as good as you get, an eye for an eye or whatever. My life, basically, is culled from that inner sanctum of people, the dark side of people…
A friend of mine in Venezuela, for example, who is struggling at the minute. There's a kind of martial law, it's gone crazy. There's queues for bread and stuff. The Venezuelans have been trying to get into Spain and America. Now Miami's just said no more Venezuelans. Spain said the same, because you have Syria and all the refugees from North Africa. You're thinking I'm looking at these poor people, and these people I know going fucking hell, and they can't escape, and they're being punished. One friend said the other morning she came down, and there was a child who had been dismembered for stealing bread, just in the street. I'm thinking "What kind of person does that to another person, a child?" When people talk about good and evil, surely that's as evil as you can get, and why? They stole some bread. Why is there a bread shortage in the 21st century? Should we have people starving? I don't think we should, really.
Those are the things ... They are dark oriented. They speak of the Satanic, but in pure terms of true evilness we created the heavens and the earth ourselves, and we fit things into that. When we do good, we like to think that that's Godly. When we do bad stuff, well that's evil. It's not us, it's ... But it's all of us. It is us, in all our guises.
HMA: Indeed. Little question with the old Venom…. how are things nowadays with Cronos?
TD: I think if the other guys were here, they'd have something else to say. We all go way back to the beginning. We've all got some kind of association, and people tend to listen to the diatribe that's been put forward to make the two guys that I'm playing with, Mantas and Abaddon, seem like lesser contributors to a band that they began, and of course myself, try to ignore me completely, because who am I and I'm not important. The reality is that we're very much all from the same mould, and we were all, at the same time, doing the same things. We've all grown together.
Fans don't experience that, so they only see what they see, and they read what they read, and they hear what they hear. You can choose to hear. One person loves Motorhead. Somebody else doesn't like Motorhead. I like tea. You like coffee. Not everybody will like everything. I'm quite aware that people might not like my voice doing those retro songs. Some people prefer my voice doing those retro songs.
For me, I think, it's all Venom. It's all important, because Venom was such an important thing for myself and for that generation, for our generation, because, at the time where corporate companies were dictating what everybody should have, Venom were on an independent. They did it all by themselves, they did huge shows regardless. When people said they couldn't, they did. When people said you shouldn't, they did it. They kind of kicked down a fence, which let everybody else see that they could do it to, and you had an explosion. It leads to things like a thrash metal revolution, death metal, black metal genres, and extreme metal becoming accepted, and fans realizing and wanting to play, young musicians wanting to play.
That's what happened from the thing. As far as the relationship with the two bands, there isn't really a relationship. Myself and Mantas were doing M-pire of Evil, and people were asking us to play Venom songs, because you've got Mantas there, and you wrote black metal, so people want to hear it. They didn't care who was singing or anything. They just wanted to see him playing it, so we were doing that. Then, people said, when we changed drummers, "You should get Abaddon." That's when we started to think maybe there's something in that.
I think what Cronos wanted to do was to not allow Abaddon and Mantas to do those songs anymore, because he'd been there all the time. From a fan point of view, he didn't want to play the old stuff. He wants to play his new stuff, because he loves his new band. He's got a great drummer and a good guitarist, and he wants to make those albums as good. That's what he wants to play to his fans and show them his new band, whereas the fans wanted to hear those classic songs, as well. There had been some offers to do a reunion. Mantas went so far as writing to Conrad to ask him, and he said "No fucking way. No. This is what I do now. I'm not interested." It became a sore point between everybody and the fans.
I just, one day, decided "Fuck it. I've had enough." I said "Look. Why don't we just do it? Go out and play any songs we want to play from the catalogue. Let's start from the very beginning. Let's start from the first single and work all our way up to now, maybe even new material." That's what we've done. We're kind of paralleled to the Venom thing, and it's about the spirit of the music, but what we're delivering to the fans is that feeling that they first got the first time they put them on and were affected. That's what I want the fans to get. I'm not interested in the politics. I'm not interested in what he's doing. It's just, for me, it's about the fans, because, I think, when you think of the music 30 years ago or more now, the music belonged to the band and they were performing it, but 30 years later, it's the fans. They own the music, they collected the music, they listen to it every day.
If Mantas was here, and you said "When was the last time you listened to “At War with Satan” he won't remember if he ever listened to it after he recorded it. If you ask a fan, it could have been yesterday, could have been this morning. That's what I want. I want that spirit, that excitement from "How does the music make you feel?" So many people, when we start to play, are in doubt, thinking "Is it going to be a Venom thing?" Within minutes, they've forgotten all of that, and they're just listening to the music, and that's what I want. That's what we want.
HMA: Speaking about the other band “M-Pire of Evil” with Mantas, it is now on hold since you’re both playing with Venom Inc?
TD: Yes. To the point where we've decided to do Venom Inc with Abaddon, we had finished the demos for the new album, Unleashed, and we had all the drums recorded. All that we were left to do was a bit of arrangement, putting the bass and vocals on, which we would do in Portugal. Mantas now lives in Tomar, outside Lisbon, in Portugal, and he has a home studio, so it's pretty easy for us to do. We were going to go there and finish it off. Then the Venom Inc thing happened and since, we haven't had any time to be able to stop and finish it off. The recordings are still there, we do intend to finish the album, because we feel, as musicians, it's probably our best work so far, but now we have a record deal, several offers, but we're thinking one for the Venom Inc album. We have to focus on getting that done. Next year is quite a busy year, but once we can find our gap, we will just finish the M-Pire album.
I hope we can still play some shows for the band, as well. We did try, very early on when we were touring with Venom Inc, we did shows for M-Pire and shows for Venom Inc. In fact, we did one on the same day. We finished in Milan and then went straight to Malpensa and flew all the way to Charles de Gaulle, got a car, took us straight to a venue north of Paris. We played a show as M-Pire, then got back in the car, back to the airport, flew to Zurich, and went straight on stage and played as Venom. The next day, we went "We can't do that anymore," because we're not as young as we were. It was great fun.
Two things I've always thought were important. One is, if you're going to be a musician, it's about playing. It's not about just playing, it's about giving your art to somebody else to appreciate or not appreciate. Also, if you record any music, you should give it away, not put it under the bed or hide it in a cupboard. I don't see the point. It's like a fantastic artist painting amazing art and, then, just sticking it in the garage and never showing anybody. It's like all right. I mean, there's a therapy in there, but, for me, I want to see it. I want to see that.
You expose yourself, of course, to criticism. It's one of the true art forms, because the guy on stage singing and playing now, there he is. The whole audience may go "You're shit" or may go "We love you," but he's taken that risk. He believes in what he's doing that makes him stand on stage. I don't think there's any shit musicians or any shit music. I just think people make their decisions, but I admire every single person who performs any kind of art, from making some jewelry to a statue to a painting to music or performance, dance or something. It's like anybody who gives themselves so purely, I think that's incredible. We recorded the M-Pire album. There's no way we can't not put it out. It will go out next year. We have to have it out.
HMA: What are your memories of England in the 80s?
TD: I think in England in the 80s, it was hard, of course. After the 70s, we had a problem with unemployment, we had a conservative government, and we'd lost a lot of industry, particularly in the north where we were from, where our fathers and ourselves were welders and carpenters, and we built ships. That industry was decimated, so you had hundreds of thousands of people just out of work. When you have a bad economy, or when you have a war, or when you have shit politics like America or something, there's always a youth culture that wants to scream "This is fucking wrong," and they usually do it through the music. You end up with some kind of movement. That's how you end up with The Sex Pistols or Nirvana or Pantera or a Venom. Someone stands up and screams as loud as they can. Then, everybody else stands up and screams, and bang, you have a whole genre happening. You have a musical movement. I kind of think that's what happened.
From Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, London, and Newcastle, and Scotland, of course, from the British Isles you had this impetus of we're all suffering, all these young guys coming out of school and not being able to get jobs, and we invested in music. It was our way of expressing ourselves and going "This is shit. This sucks." We did it through the music. I think a lot of the bands, even though not Satanic, Diamond Head, for example one of their biggest singles, thanks to Metallica, was "Am I Evil?", "Yes, I am." You look at Diamond Head and go "Why are you evil?" Again, it's about that theme, that theme. It's about strength.
When you talk of knights in castles or the evil dark demons it's about strength, and you're poking the eye of the constabulary. If you've got a Christian nation, and you stand up and go "Jesus is a twat," everybody goes (gasp), but they notice you, and that's what we did. We stood up and were noticed, and everything came from that. It was a good time, and I'm feeling it again now. Seems strange to think in 2016, we had a financial crash. Italy, Portugal, Spain, South America, Greece…
HMA: Like history repeating itself.
TD: Yes and life's cycle. We all experience those things, and I think that's why now, there's a revolution happening again in music. Everywhere I've gone across the globe, there's a million bands all playing. There could be 20 bands on here today, and you might feel "Oh, 20 bands," but you listen to any one of them, and the musicianship is phenomenal, and the songs are great. I'm think there's almost too much music, but I think that's fantastic. It's fertile, and it's good that we have that. There's synergy. It means you're from Milan. I'm from Newcastle. I've got friends in Tokyo and friends in Sao Paulo, yet we all hold hands together through the music. It's amazing to go across the globe and think that I can't speak Russian. I can't speak Mandarin in China. My Japanese is non-existent. My Italian, as I said, is really poor. My Portuguese is even worse, and yet, I can sing "Countess Bathory" to every single stage, and every fan sings it back. That's communicating.
HMA: You mentioned acting before, are you still involved in the film industry?
TD: Yeah, I'm kind of, doing a documentary and talking to a couple of American channels for some editing on it. In the past I've written a couple of scenes, I did a couple of movies. I did some television and some theater, all by accident, but I did them. Then, I did a couple of big production movies. What I found is when I was in Hollywood, not that I would be the next Tom Cruise. I'm not saying that. What I've found as a person, coming from where I come from and having the mindset that I have, is, when I was in Hollywood, I'm not a Hollywood person.
HMA: How challenging is it to be in that scene?
TD: You have to be a certain way, you have to be not you. You have to be what they want you to be. You're very beautiful, so say you go to Hollywood, and they go "Right, right. Brilliant. We want to use you. You're fantastic." They put you in a load of ... You now have a career, but I don't know what you're like as a person. Imagine you go to Hollywood and they say "You know this stuff you like to do? You can't do that anymore. You know the way you talk? You can't do that anymore. You can't do this, you can't." They're trying to shape you. They like how you look, but now they want you to be a different person. You meet not genuine people who say wonderful things to you, and you think "Oh, lovely. What nice people." The next time you see them, if you've had a success, they'll be just as nice. If you haven't had a success, they'll ignore you like you didn't exist. I find that crass and too much capitalistic. It's all about the next model. "What can we do and how can we make more money?"
I was there for a long time, and I just thought "You know, this is not who I am. You have to buy into that. It's kind of like, you know the story of the crossroads where you sold your soul to the devil? It's kind of like that. When you sell yourself to it for success, you have to sell yourself completely and leave yourself behind, and I couldn't do that. Just, I couldn't. Even though I want to do it, "Oh, I can't." There's been offers over the years, things, a couple of TV shows and stuff which some producers have brought, but, basically, I like what I'm doing at the minute, and, in order to do television or film, you've got to change everything, because it takes 5 years to make a movie, production, and then you're shooting, and editing and voiceovers and voice work and stuff.
I think while I'm doing this, I'll just focus on this. I get everything from it. I get feedback directly from the fans. They tell me what they want to hear, they tell me what they like, what they don't like. You're constantly communicating. Again, another thing with TV or stuff, as a medium, or movies, is it's all about money. If everybody goes to see it, the company makes a lot of money, and then you get another job. If nobody goes to see it, they don't get so much money, and you have to look for another job. You never get to talk to the people. You don't get an immediate response. This kind of art is immediate. Someone's not smiling, they might not be enjoying it. Someone's smiling at you while you're on stage, they're having a good time.
HMA: That’s what we like!
Interview by Vixena Manu, photos by Simon Balaam- Copyright 2016 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.