Jeff Dunn [Mantas] - guitarist, Venom
On the phone with Philip Anderson - 2000
Since the early 1980s with the onset of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, there have always been bands that have tried to be "more" or above the rest. Very few broke the molds though, as many ended up sounding just like their predecessors. One band however, set out and succeeded in rattling the masses and the media as they truly went over the top and set more than one new trend in action, that band was Venom.
Here was a band that dove headfirst into the taboo of Satanism (spawning a slew of Christian bands to battle them), dark and furious rhythms and lyrics that were pure evil. Venom had a goal to meet and it did it without any worries. The end result was a band who garnered either extreme loyalty and love or total hatred. Either way, everyone knew their name. The question was though, were they everything that they appeared to be or was it an image. It would take quite a long time for that question to be answered.
Venom has just released their latest opus, "Resurrection", quite possibly the best piece of work that the band has ever accomplished, and this is coming from one of those who detested the band in the early days. "Resurrection" is sure to gain momentum and gain a whole new following for the band. Recently we had an opportunity to speak with Mantas, guitarist for Venom, about where the band came from and what their goals are now, with their revitalized attitude and sound. As it turned out, image aside, Jeff Dunn, better known as Mantas, turned out to be one of the most open and pleasant musicians that one could hope to meet. Articulate and spontaneous, he is hardly the image of the demon that makes up one-third of Venom. None the less, the music IS real and the goal is always to look forward and to be the most noticed. Jeff explained quite a bit that many fans might already know, but new fans would do well to find out.
K2K: I have to say, to start off with, when Venom first came out, I was working for a metal magazine, around 1982, and I really did not like the band in the least. With "Resurrection" though, I have come around completely and am totally convinced of Venom as a great metal band.
JD: Oh good.
K2K: This new album is very well produced and has some great songs. Isn't it considerably different than the previous albums, over the course of time?
JD: Well, yeah. This is one question that we've had a lot. Obviously you cannot stand still. You've got to evolve. You've got to keep progressing. In the same way, we're not going to progress so far out as to write country and western songs. We've always said that, twenty years ago when we did "Welcome To Hell", as far as we were concerned, we did our absolute best at that point. That was the best that we could possibly do. Whether or not the album came out the way it did out of ignorance or lack of money or just the sheer time factor of being recorded in three days, that's the way it happened and it was appreciated for what it was. I think that the heavy metal scene, at that time, was ready for something different. We were something different at the time. We took metal, shook it up and down, kicked it in the ass and turned it inside out, turned everything up to 15 and said, well, this is Venom, take it or leave it. We've always had that attitude as well. We've always said, with Venom, you either like us or you don't. It's as simple as that. If you don't like it, fair enough.
I had one guy at the Hammersmith Odeon, after the show, he came backstage just as we were leaving. He said, "Fucking hell! I hate the music but I love the show." We've had extreme reactions all the way throughout our career. But it's nice to know that someone like yourself, now, can appreciate it.
K2K: I think, at that time, I was just coming out of being into Christian rock and finding out that that was just as much a sham as any supposed Satanic rock, being image and such. Look at where Stryper is today, right?
JD: Oh yeah, yeah. I never understood any of that Christian rock thing to start with. I think, to be brutally honest, I think that Christian rock came about as an opposition to what bands like us were doing. I don't think that it's something that would have happened without us, let's put it that way.
K2K: Just to get a little history about you, when was the band formed and who is original?
JD: I formed the band in late 1979. At the very, very beginning, the very first concert that we ever did was actually in a church. We rehearsed in it, there was a church hall in the back end of it, of the church itself. We did a little show there for friends and invited anybody down. There was a great metal scene in the Northeast of England at the time. The Northeast was just full of metal kids at the time. We just put posters around the town and all the kids headed down to this church hall and we did our very first concert there. I've still got photographs from that first concert, we were a four-piece at the time, with a singer, Clive. This guy was wearing the face paint and everything, the corpse paint that all these bands are wearing now. He was doing all of that back in 1979. We got rid of him because we thought he looked too much like Alice Cooper. We thought, at the time, there was only two people who did the face paint thing and that was Alice Cooper and KISS. Nobody's going to do it better than those two guys, so we got rid of him.
K2K: What is the story about Cronos hitting him over the head with his bass headstock?
JD: (laughs heartily) That was a fucking classic, that one. We were rehearsing, again at the church hall, and we were just running about going crazy and stuff like that. We finished this song and Clive was actually lying on the floor, off the stage, with a big gash in the top of his head. Apparently Cronos had hit him in the head with his headstock. We hadn't even noticed. We hit the guy and we didn't even notice what was going on. He got taken off to the hospital and had a couple of stitches put in.
K2K: So, how ironic is that, that a band like yours would be practicing in a church? Was that some sick, twisted humor?
JD: (laughs) Looking back, it probably was. Yeah. At the time there was nowhere in the Northeast to rehearse. There were no rehearsal rooms or rehearsal studios. Bands would either go into church halls on a Saturday afternoon or little community centers and places like that. That wasn't the only church that we rehearsed in, we rehearsed in another one after that. We also, when we first started, before Cronos even joined the band, we were rehearsing opposite a hospital in a school that had a gymnasium. They used to allow us to rehearse in there, I think it was on a Thursday evening. It was just, at the time, there was nothing in Newcastle. There was loads of bands around, tons of bands, shitloads of bands...
K2K: All plugged in and no place to go?
JD: Yeah, that's it exactly.
K2K: What did the church people think of your practicing there? Any problems or opposition?
JD: No, there was no problems. To be perfectly honest, I think that they were really ignorant to what we were doing. They used to open the hall up for us and leave us to it. We would lock the hall at the end of the rehearsal and give them the keys and that was it.
K2K: Did they ever bring you tea or anything like that?
JD: (laughs) No. "More tea?" No. There was none of that. The Vicar would pop his head in every now and again. We used to do the whole thing. We'd rehearse in stage clothes with the pyro. We got into the feel of it. I remember the very first time we had a backdrop made which was a pentagram with the Baphomet and everything. We had that in the church hall. I don't think that they'd ever seen that or else we would have been out on our asses. I think perhaps if they knew what we were doing and what we were singing about it may have gone differently.
K2K: Where did you come up with the name Venom? It's not entirely Satanic in itself. You all might have been snake lovers or something.
JD: (laughing) No. That came about... there was a guy who used to hang around with the band, sort of a biker type person. He had the huge motorbike and the leathers. The original that I had for the band, many many years ago, before Cronos joined, was Guillotine. This guy, I think was the first to mention the name Venom. It was like, "Yeah. Why not?" It just sort of stuck. I think the origin is really lost in the mist of time. I think if you asked each individual member, he would have a different recollection of how the name came around. It was just something that stuck. We didn't have any particular... we didn't want to call ourselves Lucifer or anything like that. There was a band in Newcastle, they came after us, but they took the obvious name, they called themselves Satan. We actually rehearsed in their place at one point and trashed it. The Venom thing happened and it stuck and that was it.
K2K: Who came up with the whole "Devil" concept for the band, and why?
JD: That sort of came about between myself and Cronos. We have always had a healthy, or unhealthy, interest if you want, of anything of the occult - I don't care to be an expert in any of that, I just have an interest. It's everything from books to magazines to horror films. Cronos has a huge collection of books, far more than I'll ever have. He's more well-read on the subject than I am. The whole "Devil" thing... let's put it this way, the answer we used to give everyone was, because of the kind of band that we were and the things that we wanted to do, we weren't going to sing about love songs and flowers and all this kind of thing. We went the complete opposite. We looked at things like Black Sabbath and Black Widow and we thought we could take it a stage further, you know. I suppose in those days, we came off the back end of the punks. The punks had this sort of "shock" thing. Nobody had done anything really shocking in metal for years and years and years. All of the sudden, we come out and we project this image.
Honestly, the first interview that we ever did was in a magazine called "Sounds", it was a big sort of spreadsheet sort of thing, a huge thing. We did this interview and they gave us center page. They took us down into the inevitable graveyard to take the shots. Because of the nature of the interview, and you have to remember that this is in 1980, the letters page on the following week, fucking hell! All these people complaining about the band and the image that we were projecting. If we did the same thing now, I don't think it would shock anybody. Twenty years on, the human race aren't shocked as easy as they used to be. No way! Even the things that Marilyn Manson is doing.
K2K: I don't find him shocking at all.
JD: Neither do I. I'm glad that somebody doesn't. We get this magazine in England called Kerrang!. I think those guys are still shocked by what he's doing. It's like, "Fuck, get a life."
K2K: It depends who you talk to. The Columbine shootings, they tried to blame that on listening to Marilyn Manson. It occurred to me the other day that we used to listen to Alice Cooper and watch him do beheadings and stuff and we never shot up our schools and walked around angry. It has nothing to do with music.
JD: Mm-mm. No. It's got anything to do with music whatsoever. I think any form of music or any media form, be it films, books, music, anything like that, there are always going to be extremists. There is always going to be someone who is slightly unhinged and it's just going to take something to take them over the edge. Years ago, we had an incident in a town called Hungerford. It was around the time when the Rambo: First Blood movies were around. This guy decided that it would be fun to put some combat fatigues on, dress up like a soldier, get a sawed-off shotgun and walk around a housing estate, a quiet, suburban housing estate, and blow the fuck out of everyone. That's what he did. He killed around twelve people on a Sunday afternoon. I'm talking about people who were out in their gardens, cutting the grass, playing with their children, stuff like that, he just marched in the middle of it and shot the hell out of them.
K2K: He missed the most important point about the film is that Rambo did not want to hurt anyone. He was just angry at the system.
JD: Yeah. I think what he missed the point about really is, the people in the movies don't really die. I wrote a song ages ago called "If You Want A War", it was all about that. It was never really released.
K2K: It might be something important to release now then.
JD: It could well be. With all this stuff that's going on now, even with all the church burnings and stuff.
K2K: I was going to ask you about that too.
JD: Yeah, I think that goes beyond the music though. That gets right into nationalism.
K2K: You coined the phrase "Black Metal", didn't you?
JD: We did.
K2K: What do you think has happened since, now that that term is associated more with what's going on in Norway [with the church burnings]?
JD: Yeah, the whole scene has exploded, hasn't it.
K2K: Not in a positive way though...
JD: Not in a positive way in certain aspects but perhaps in the volume of bands that are around.
K2K: That's the thing though, the music part is fine but many people tend to go a step further and become almost societal factions. Then they decide to go burn churches or whatnot. It then is no longer about the music.
JD: No. I think, you know what it is, they are going on about their own religion, the Norse religion, and they don't want Christianity in their country. Well, you know, that's fair enough, but they're going to extremes. Then when you get members of bands killing other members of bands, it's "Wow! What's all that about." We never set out to be anything like that. Yes, we've influenced a whole generation of new metal acts and new metal bands and I think that's great. People are always saying to us, in interviews, "Wow. You started this whole thing." I'm really flattered about all this. I feel proud that at the end of the day, I have made my mark on Heavy Metal, so to speak. Whether it's in a positive way or not, Venom has made a mark on the music scene. When it gets to that extreme, it does get a bit daunting. You start thinking, "Wow. This was not what it was intended to be in the first place." Again, it gets back to what I said - There's always going to be extremists in any walk of life. I've been involved in the martial arts for twenty-nine years. We're talking about twenty-nine years ago it was hard to find a Karate club, you know. Now you have, in America, you have these Ultimate Championships with No Holds Barred and fucking hell, it's going to another extreme.
K2K: The type of martial arts that you do provides for an inner peace and a mellowing though, doesn't it?
JD: Umm, not the stuff I do. (laughs) I must admit that over the course of years that I've trained and taught and instructed people, I have never known anyone, in my circle, to actually go out and physically use this stuff on anybody, to actually initiate an attack, let's put it that way. I've got some guys who I've trained to become British Champions in the full contact ring and they're all really nice guys. They are fucking good fighters and they are hard men, but they're really nice guys. They're not coming into my gym and then going out and using it on someone.
I've had people like that who have come into the gym who were all "I just want to learn how to fight." and all this kind of stuff and they don't last. All we do is train them really hard and make it really intense and they don't have the heart for that, they don't have the discipline. If you don't have the discipline, then fuck off.
K2K: I took kickboxing for a year here too so I hear that.
JD: Oh yeah, yeah. Great.
K2K: You have a Dojo, right? How long have you had that going?
JD: We've had that for ten years now. It's called Fighting Fit.
K2K: Are you taking students?
JD: Yeah, myself and another guy actually run the gym and then we've another two instructors who work for us. We've got around 110 classes per week that we run.
K2K: How do people get in touch with you regarding classes and such? We might as well give you a push here.
JD: Oh, right. I'll give you a telephone number. 0191-230-4392. That's the number of the gym. That's in Newcastle [England].
K2K: Do you have a website for it?
JD: Not yet, no. I'm planning to put one up but we haven't got one at the moment.
K2K: Who have been some of your favorite fighters?
JD: I have the greatest respect for Rickson Gracie. The other guy who I have a lot of respect for is Master Hee Il Cho who I believe is still based in Santa Monica [California]. I met him when I was over there many years ago.
K2K: Do you have any quick tips for up-and-coming combatants?
JD: (laughs) Train hard! Keep the discipline and train hard. It's fucking hard out there when you're in the ring. It's just you and the opponent, it's not you by yourself.
K2K: Back to the band, I've read that you don't really need to "continue" with the band, that you are all basically doing well already and do the band for enjoyment now.
JD: Yeah, I have the gym.
K2K: What do you prefer to do at this point in your life - the gym or the band?
JD: I really don't have a favorite. I love being at the gym. I love teaching. I love training. But we just recorded the album and I cannot wait to get out there and do some gigs.
K2K: So you do want to tour now?
JD: Oh yeah, yeah. We've never been the kind of band to go out and do lengthy tours. For some reason, I don't know what, don't ask me why, it just never worked for Venom to do lengthy tours. Whether or not it was the personalities in the band at the time, we were never the greatest of friends when it was the original line-up with Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon in the band. There's was inevitably arguments and fights. We weren't the kind of band who would phone each other up and say, "Hey, let's go out for a beer."
K2K: That's kind of The Police, but they wrote the best songs because of that.
JD: Yeah. At the moment though we've got a new drummer and things are great within the band. His name is Anton. He's brilliant. Excellent. It's great to have a drummer who actually wants to rehearse. Fucking great.
K2K: What happened to Abaddon? I know the standard answer is always "musical differences". I have a theory, if I may... is it his new musical disco findings? (relating to Abaddon's latest solo techno release)
JD: (hearty laughter) Wow! You can be totally honest with me here, my friend. What do you think of his new CD?
K2K: I've put it on once but will be listening to it more later. I think there are some great samples. I think that he has discovered the world of disco, dance and electronica. I don't think it's Venom. His vocals are much further back than Dave Mustain's were on the first Megadeth album.
JD: I'll tell you now, they aren't Abaddon's vocals. Right? There you go.
K2K: As far as anything else, I'm not sure what he wants to showcase with it. I didn't know what to expect from it but then I wouldn't know what to expect from any of you doing solo projects. It's a stretch but I could see where it could cause the rift.
JD: Here's another bit of gossip for you, two of the songs on his solo album are also on "Cast In Stone". They're just under different titles on the solo album. Basically there you've got the reason why he's not in the band anymore. Total musical differences. A lot of irreconcilable differences as well. I haven't spoken to the guy in about eighteen months. Cronos hadn't spoken to him in the last two years. We've had a very, very testing time over the last couple of years with all the shit that's been happening within the band.
The one thing that I've gotten from everyone who I've done an interview with so far, especially the European end - the Germans, the French, the Belgians, Holland, Czechoslovakia, all over the place - everyone has said to me that this is the most complete Venom album they have ever heard. I'm talking about Resurrection. My input to that is that, around 1986 I left the band, so Cronos continued with Abaddon and a couple of guitarists. They did some good music and albums but it wasn't Venom. Then Cronos leaves the band and I return because it was a "Prime Evil" thing. Again I did some albums for a chance to work with Tony, the Demolition Man, from Atomcraft. He's a very good friend of mine. We did the "Prime Evil" album but it still wasn't Venom because there was an still an element missing. All of the sudden, the whole thing goes full circle and the only logical conclusion that we could reach was to have Cronos and Mantas together with a new drummer. Then, everyone says, "Wow! Venom album! Fucking great!". The only difference is that there's a new drummer there. He's a better drummer. We went into the studio and Cronos did the "Cronos thing", Mantas did the "Mantas thing", and we wrote songs together and wrote songs individually and we just went in an did things to the best of our abilities. Everyone just went "Wow, what a great Venom album."
I will liken that, in that case, to the two main songwriters in Venom have always been Cronos and Mantas, always from the very beginning. We've done all the songwriting. These two elements have drifted apart in the middle of all this. There's been four or five albums recorded without them. No one was really bothered about them. If you look at a band like KISS, they've survived so long because the two main guys have remained in the band. Within that band you have Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley who are the two main men. Ace can leave and Pete can leave but I think that if Gene or Paul had left, there wouldn't have been a KISS. That was the case with Venom. Cronos and Mantas, we're the two main guys. We're the guys at the center of the stage. We're the guys who write all the songs. We're the guys, really, who the fans identify with. That's why they have had an easier time accepting this line-up than any other Venom line-up.
K2K: So things are working out great for you then now.
JD: Things are working out great. We're working towards this Wachen Festival in Germany. We've had a new stage designed. New backdrops. New pyrotechnic effects. All kinds of shit going on. We don't know if we're doing lasers at Wachen. I'll have to investigate that. I'm actually going to a pyro company tomorrow to have a look at some new effects and such.
K2K: Are you coming out to the United States?
JD: We've actually been offered a chance at the Milwaukee MetalFest but we don't know if we're going to be able to get across for that one. I think it's the weekend before the Wachen Festival and we've got so much organized for Wachen. We haven't ruled it out yet. We have to get a hold of the guy who organized it [MetalFest] the last time we did it. We may do it, we may not. I think it's looking a bit doubtful at the moment.
K2K: Aside from that, will you tour the States?
JD: We'll definitely be back in the States, yeah. We definitely want to get across there. We're going to get across and do the whole fucking lot. I know it's going to take a hell of a long time. It may be the case that we go there, do a few shows, then come back and do a few shows in Europe, then go back and do a few more shows in the States. We're prepared to do that this time because, like I said, we've got a band that wants to work. We're totally fired for this.
K2K: I read in an older interview that you, the band, didn't really like to tour.
JD: It wasn't the case that we didn't 'like' to tour. I mean, towards the end when I left, I was getting a bit fucking pissed off with it, I must admit. A lot of it came down to personality clashes in the band, at the time, when you had the original line-up. You can ask anybody who was around us at the time, we were fucking fighting. You couldn't leave us in the room for five minutes. There would be an argument. I fight with Cronos even now, I mean, we still argue. Now we argue for the good of the band [though]. We had an argument when we were recording in Hamburg doing Resurrection. It was for the music and everything. The time came to record, this is the same day we had the argument in the morning, we go into the studio, we actually stayed in the control room, shook hands and then got on with the job.
K2K: So you're professionals now.
JD: Yeah! It was as simple as that. Cronos has always said that he will argue with anyone just to see how passionate they are about their subject.
K2K: I will definitely have to talk with him sometime.
JD: Oh, you will get a discussion out of him.
K2K: I will talk or discuss or argue with anyone, anywhere.
JD: Oh he is the same! God, let me be there when you two meet, please. You know, to me, I was always the one in the band who was always, "Hey Jeff, we're going to tour in the morning." and I would say, "OK, just let me get my suitcase."I was easy going, "this is it, yeah, fair enough." But now, I've taken on board a bit of this Cronos sort of attitude that he's always had. He says, "I'll argue with ANYone." If you turn your back on him, then "Fuck you!" because you're not passionate about your subject.
K2K: Oh, I'll chase after people. "No, you haven't been corrected yet."
JD: "You haven't been corrected yet." (laughs) I like that one.
K2K: So, let's see, to get back to some other subjects that I wanted to get into. Is anyone in the band actually a Satanist by the term of it? Well, then again, that means a whole bunch of stuff now too.
JD: It does. It does. I was going to say, by the very nature of people saying, "Do what thou will.", fucking hell, 99% of the population lives their life the way that they want to.
K2K: Christians included, especially.
JD: Yeah! For sure. Fucking hell, does that make everyone a Satanist?
K2K: So the term may not be applicable then anyway.
JD: Uh, I don't think so. No. I think, again, there is extremists in everything. But you're not going to find me in the backyard sacrificing babies and virgins and stuff like that. We've always said that there are things within the band, that are personal within the band and no one will ever get to know. What my religion is, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't have a fuck-all to do with anybody else. I don't care what your religion is. I don't care what your friends' religion is. You can go to church every Sunday. I don't care. If that's what gets you off, great. You know? So, I will say, on my part, I have no particular religious beliefs whatsoever. You know, Catholicism, fucking Christians, whatever. I think that the church - you look at one of the richest organizations in the world here, if they're so concerned about poverty, third-world issues, and all this kind of thing. You're one of the world's richest organizations. Get your fucking hands in your pockets and pull some money out.
K2K: Right. Sell the Vatican and help pay for some stuff.
JD: Yeah! Fucking hell right. You know, we have this thing here in Britain called Live Aid. Have you heard of it? I don't know if we're still doing it, but look at the very nature of the thing. Rock musicians and musicians in general, who are touted as dope-smoking alcoholics, who are raising millions and millions of pounds, dollars, whatever you want to call it, and giving it to the needy. When do the politicians do that? When do the vicars and the priests do that? It's so fucking hypocritical as far as I'm concerned.
K2K: That's why I've grown to avoid calling myself by that term, Christian, because it has become so perverse and hypocritical by association. If you ask me what I am now, I would have to say that I have my own spiritual beliefs.
JD: Yeah. I would agree with that totally. Yeah, that's exactly what I would say. A lot of what it is, I'll be perfectly honest with you and give you a little bit of personal insight into this. A lot of my views changed the day I lost my father. That day, I was 18 years old, and you're talking about a man whom I loved to death and had the utmost respect for. He was in the military. He was a good father. He was a great husband. My mother and father had a perfect marriage and I've never, ever seen them argue. He provided for the family all the time and then bang!, he was taken with a huge heart attack, without warning. I work in the center of Newcastle in this gym. Across from the gym is what we call a "needle exchange", where drug addicts and alcoholics and all these fucking losers go to get their hits. I look out the door at these people and think, "Where is the fucking justice? Where is the fucking god that lets this scum, murderers, rapists, child molesters and all this kind of fucking shit, and let's them walk the earth while he takes the good people?" Where's the justice in that? Where's the fucking god that's doing that? Who's to say that you go to church on a Sunday afternoon and you sing, "Oh praise to the Lord.", while you're looking up at the sky and clapping your fucking hands, and the devil is sitting up there going, "Ha Ha, you fucking sucker." Who's to say that's not happening?
Look at the evidence of the world. Where's the fucking god in the world these days? War, poverty, famine, fucking hell, ethnic cleansing. Look at all the shit that's going on.
K2K: (couldn't resist a quick joke) Ethnic cleansing? Why, I supplied the soap.
JD: (bursts out laughing loudly) Hey, you're a sick dude.
K2K: I've come to believe that there is a God, but certainly not in the sense that these "Christians" believe that there is. It is more in the sense of the force of everything that surrounds you. It's so plain in the Bible but people can't read these days anyway. It's all scientific and it's about how we react to each other.
JD: Oh yeah. Well, that's it. I would agree with that.
K2K: Since you had mentioned him earlier, I wanted to ask you about Marilyn Manson. Do you think that he is "valid"?
JD: (ponders) I really don't have any opinion on the guy.
K2K: So you don't think he's a "mover and shaker" like so many believe?
JD: No, not at all. No. I like some of the stuff that he's doing. I couldn't tell you the titles or the tracks or anything like that. Some of the stuff is good but he certainly doesn't shock me. I don't think he's God's gift to fucking metal, if you want to use that word, or Satan's gift to metal. He doesn't do a lot for me.
K2K: Back to your early days, when you first started playing, how did you pick that style?
JD: We had no fucking clue what we were doing, so we just hit it as hard and turned it as loud as we could.
K2K: Up to 11?
JD: (laughs) We actually turned it up to 15.
K2K: Aah, well then you are the biggest band in the world.
JD: (slyly) Yeah. Like I say, we always just did what came naturally. I had this band together and had this drummer at the time. He was a fucking amazing drummer. He was a Genesis freak. When I met the guy, I went to his house and he said, "Oh, I'll play a little bit for you.". Enthusiastic. So, I'm standing there and he puts on "Seconds Out", the Genesis live album, and he plays along to one side of it. I'm sitting there thinking "fucking hell". Here's me who has just bought this copy Les Paul and a Marshall stack and I just want to go crazy. I said, "Yeah!" So he comes along and starts playing. He brings this friend along, a singer who had a great voice. I get this bass player in who is a Geddy Lee freak with Rickenbacher and the whole lot. A great player. Then I had had enough of this drummer because he's too technical and too smart-ass. So, he fucks off anyway.
I meet Abaddon in a local music store, arrange for him to come down to rehearsal. He comes down to rehearsal, turns open the back of his car with this piece of shit kit in the back. He stumbles in, sets it up, and then hits it as hard as he possibly can, makes a fucking racket on it. I join in with feedback all over the place, just fucking noise. We're having a great time and the bass player is just standing there looking at us as if we're a couple of chimps who had never seen an instrument in our lives. He says to me at the end of rehearsal, "Can I have a word with you please?" This guy's name is Dean. Dean comes over and says, "No offense, but if he joins the band, I'm out of here." I went, "See ya!" So he fucked off.
It was then that we invited this singer guy, this Clive, in. He comes in and at the time, he brought a bass player with him. The bass player was a funny fucker. He had this girlfriend and he came to us one day at rehearsal in the church hall and said, "Eh, sorry guys, but could you keep it down and could you not swear as much because my girlfriend is really offended." So we said, "Yeah, yeah, no problem." So, straight away after that, we went, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" every word after that. So we wigged the fuck out of this guy and he fucked off.
The original guy that I actually started all of this with, this other guitarist, he was sort of very into Ritchie Blackmore and all this kind of stuff. We used to have to sneak over to his side of the stage in the rehearsal place, up on the church hall stage, we would sneak across when he wasn't looking and turn his amp up. I think he thought that he would hurt his amp if he turned it up.
K2K: Yeah, that's how Ritchie Blackmore is. I just heard about how Ritchie hates it above 6.
JD: Yeah? Fucking puss! Yeah? Wow! (laughs) It's a Marshall. What do you expect? (back to the story) So he was the next one to go anyway, the guitarist. Cronos came in as a rhythm guitarist. Then we got rid of the guy with the girlfriend and Cronos took over on bass and that was it. We started. The first live demo tape was done with the original singer, which was Clive. I think it was "Angel Dust", "Red Light Fever", "Raise The Dead" and Cronos' song "Live Like An Angel". It was after the demo that we got rid of the singer.
K2K: Did you ever consider getting another guitarist?
JD: No. It was never a thought. Once we became a three-piece, I don't know, we just never considered it. It just felt right. You know, "This is what it should be." The three of us. It still lasts today. It still feels good. When we did the "Prime Evil" thing, a guitarist came along who we called Al Bonds. It was weird having another guitarist onstage. Not because I was jealously guarding my side of the stage or anything. It just felt strange with three guys running about in the front of the stage instead of just two.
K2K: You were just used to it.
JD: Yeah, we did. It was strange.
K2K: What made you come up with your pseudonyms?
JD: It was just really to fit the image. We were trying to look as extreme as we could. We were trying to sound as extreme as we could. We thought, "Let's change the names."
K2K: What about Jeff Satan or something?
JD: (laughs) Yeah!
K2K: Jeff the Bad Guy.
JD: That's too extreme. (laughs) It was just into the progression. It was just the next thing to do to complete the image, complete the way we look, the way we sound, and then our names. That was it. I had a copy of the Satanic Bible and Mantas was one of the infernal names. Then Cronos picked his name and Abaddon picked his name and that was it.
K2K: This may be off track but since you mentioned the Satanic Bible, have you ever met Anton LaVey?
JD: Nope. Never met the guy.
K2K: Have you read his final book, "Satan Speaks"?
JD: No. I was looking at it in the store yesterday.
K2K: Get it! By all means. Even from my Christian background, I recommend it. There's a lot of insight in there. He said that people always believe that Satanists are into Black Metal and dark music and that is bullshit. He said that he liked that stuff but he always advised that parents expose their children to everything from jazz to classical to country to metal, whatever.
JD: I've got a 12 year old daughter and even she hates religious education at school. That's her, that's not me. We have this religious education at school here.
K2K: Is that by your influence?
JD: Definitely not. No. As a father I suppose that I do influence her, but I try not to push her too much. She's mature enough, even at 12 years old, to make decisions. She simply does not like it and that's fair enough.
K2K: Has she been to one of your shows?
JD: No she hasn't.
K2K: Would you let her go?
JD: Yes, I would. She's seen all the videos and everything.
K2K: What about with the crowd?
JD: I would definitely make sure that she was somewhere safe. She would be on the mixing desk or VIP area. My wife goes to all the shows so she would probably take her along to something like that.
K2K: Is anyone else in the band married?
JD: No. They're all living with their women though. I'm the only married one.
K2K: Knowing that you're heavy metal, everyone has a story to tell... Did you ever do any cover songs that were completely not from your scene? Say, like a Barry Manilow cover or something like that? Be honest here.
JD: (laughs loudly) Not a fucking hope in hell. I think, probably, in the early days we used to do "No Class" by Motörhead and "The Green Manalishi With The Two Pronged Horn", the Judas Priest version. We did that. "God Of Thunder" by KISS.
K2K: "Detroit Rock City"?
JD: No, no, we never did that. That was about it for cover versions.
K2K: What about during rehearsals? Did you ever do anything odd?
JD: Every now and again, we used to jump into some Status Quo stuff, just for the fuck of it.
K2K: No Cliff Richard?
JD: No, no! (laughs)
K2K: I know your music over there.
JD: You know it too well.
K2K: I have his "Devil Woman" single that I got as a youngster. I don't listen to it, I just have it.
JD: I was going to say - Are you taking medication for it?
K2K: Did you ever feel that the Satanic image ever kept you from bigger things? Did you miss out on radio or anything?
JD: No. Not really. No. At the time, we would still have played the same music even if we didn't have the Satanic image and lyrics. The music would have been the same. At the time that we started, there was no room on radio for our kind of music. We got a few things played. I remember the big one that everyone made a fuss about. That was "Warhead". Even the first singles on late night rock shows, "In League With Satan" got played quite a bit. I don't think it held us back. No. If anything, I would say that it got us noticed.
K2K: Obviously the notoriety. But it's like the Metallica stuff. They were so heavy and now people don't like them because they mellowed out. But, you hear them everywhere now.
JD: Yeah. I don't like the "Load" and "Reload" albums. I still remember Metallica as when they supported us, with Cliff Burton. I remember them then. I've never been a big Metallica fan. The only song that I would know would be "Sandman". I'm not a fan of what they're doing now, definitely not. I can't agree with all this James Hetfield stuff, sitting in the back of a car singing a Country Western song with Stetson on or whatever he's doing. I don't agree with that.
K2K: What are your influences?
JD: Definitely Judas Priest. Early KISS. The classic Motörhead line-up.
K2K: How old are you?
JD: 39.
K2K: You're only two years older than me. It's interesting that you're quoting sort of older generation music. I'm thinking compared to what I listened to while growing up.
JD: I knew of it, but I was never a Deep Purple fan or anything like that. Even Sabbath, I was never a big Black Sabbath fan. I used to go see every band that I could possibly see. I've seen Blue Oyster Cult in Newcastle. Scorpions. Van Halen. They supported Black Sabbath during the first time they came to Britain. They came back and headlined. I saw them when the came back. I remember seeing Bon Jovi in a little club in Newcastle. So many bands. I would definitely say that if anyone influenced me to go out to the music store and buy a guitar, would have to be Judas Priest. Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing.
K2K: The godfathers.
JD: Godfathers. Yeah.
K2K: Do you find it funny how many people still consider Black Sabbath evil and Satanic even though, in reading their lyrics, you find that they are Christian?
JD: Yeah. That's something that Cronos always said. Yeah. It's always the "Lord help me" and this sort of shit. I think that's another reason, you've just jogged my memory, Cronos did an interview years ago where he said that you could hear all that in the Black Sabbath stuff. Ozzy singing "God help me". We said, "Nah. Fuck that. We just want to take it to the extremes." I remember him [Cronos} saying, "Kill the nuns. Kill the babies." I think that was us rebelling against a band that was supposed to be dark and Satanic
K2K: But secretly being Christian.
JD: Look at Ozzy. Ozzy and Iommi always walking around with big, huge crucifixes on.
K2K: I think they said in an interview that they did that to dispel people's image that they were evil.
JD: Yeah? Well, I would have to say bollocks to that. I don't know. I was never that much into them anyway. One of my favorite Black Sabbath songs of all time is "Mob Rules".
K2K: Yeah, that was a great album with Dio. I don't care for Dio's solo stuff now though.
JD: No, no, no, no. But the Sabbath stuff. "Mob Rules" stuff. Wow!
K2K: Of course the Rainbow "Long Live Rock And Roll" album was the greatest.
JD: Yes! Yes! As soon as you mentioned that, I got the album cover straight in my head there.
K2K: Is Cronos still obsessed with Kate Bush?
JD: (laughing) He would marry her tomorrow if he could. He probably still is. He still plays the albums. He probably still secretly is.
K2K: What is the biggest change in the band between the first album to now?
JD: Uh, we're older. Musically we've grown up a little bit. Having said that though, we're still cavemen when it comes to writing songs. I think we've progressed as musicians definitely, but then again, after twenty years you cannot "not". I would say that is the main difference. I wouldn't say that we're more mature. We've still got a stupid sense of humor and still lark about. You've got to have that sense of humor. That's the stuff that's kept us going for twenty years is our sense of humor.
K2K: Going to the new album, Resurrection, I was going to ask about "Song 13". That, to me, sounds like a radio hit.
JD: Yeah? Very kind of you. Definitely the most commercial thing on the album. It was actually one of the first things that we started rehearsing. It was the track that we always warmed up with in rehearsal. It's going to be in the live set list, definitely. The way that song came about, actually, was I had three cassette tapes - Set A, B, C - and on cassette C, I always write down all the different ideas. I have Idea 1, Idea 2, Idea 3, so you can see where I'm going here. I had the riff and I played it for Cronos at rehearsal. He said, "I like that. Have you got a working title for it?" I went, "No, I haven't got anything for it. The riff came out." I always have at least three cassette tapes when I've got all these ideas running through my head. All that I can do is go into my little room and set the guitar up and I play. Anything that I like, I put it down on a cassette tape. So, anyway, I took this Cassette C along to the rehearsal that day. I number all the ideas, so I said, "Ay, 13. There you go." He said, "Hey, we could write about superstition." As soon as he said that the lines came into my head "Cross your heart and hope you die / you superstitious fool". So, that was how "13" was born. It just happened like that. We've had a lot of things happen like that. "The Evil One" happened like that. Cronos stood next to me with this huge folder of lyrics and just kept saying, "Play the riff. Play the riff" and would then sing along to it. We do a lot of cross-referencing like that. I can say that there was twenty-one songs written at the time of "Resurrection" and we went through them all and picked the obvious ones that hit us immediately. They're the ones that always make it. You know the fourteen that are on the album, they're the ones.
K2K: Sometimes the spontaneous ones are the best ones.
JD: Oh yeah. You know how you were telling me about Josh from Type 0 Negative trying to take a shit on the lawn? Well some of the best songs that we've ever written were while taking a dump on the bog. It's true. There must be hundreds of musicians reading this who can identify with this. I mean, it's like, a lot of people take a magazine to the toilet or whatever. It's what you do, you know.
K2K: That's quite an endeavor. Do you take your amp in there as well?
JD: (laughing heartily) Yeah, it's covered with sound grids.
K2K: You've got to hit that mighty power chord to get the proper vibration to loosen it all up for you.
JD: Yeah, shakes the bowels of it.
K2K: The Bowels of Hell.
JD: (laughing harder) Yeah!
K2K: Well, there you go. Next time, you'll have to write a song about the Bog of Hell.
JD: You never know.
K2K: Do any of your songs have any humor tone to them?
JD: We've done songs like "Teacher's Pet". That turned into sort of a trilogy really. We did "School Days" and "Play Time". "School Days" and "Play Time" were done with the "Demolition Man" line-up. "Teacher's Pet" was done completely tongue-in-cheek. It was about the little boy in the classroom who sort of has a crush on the teacher and what you imagine could happen after school when he's kept behind because he's been a naughty boy. So, yeah, there was humor in that. I suppose there was a sarcastic humor in the song "Poisoned".
K2K: Do people get your humor?
JD: In the northeast of England, in Newcastle, you may have heard of people calling us from Newcastle as Geordies. Geordies have a notoriously silly sense of humor. We're known to be really friendly people, unless you're from a different part of the country and then we hate you and kick your fucking head in. We've got this silly, weird sense of humor. I think that we're one of the only cultures in the world who would greet each other with an insult. The first time that we were in the States, we were in New York, we were talking to each other like this all the time. To other people, we're really insulting each other, but it's just the way we are. I suppose you're a different culture. You speak the same language but it's a different culture.
One of the classic things that we did years ago, it wasn't with Venom, it was just with a few friends, we were in Newcastle and we went into this joke shop and bought all these blood capsules. We went straight into the city center and staged a fight and there was blood and guts everywhere. Horrified the onlookers. We were just being silly Geordies.
K2K: So, overall, would you say that the band is almost sarcastic in the sense of how much you push the evil side?
JD: Um, anybody who has spent any amount of time with us, they laugh endlessly. We have got this ridiculous sense of humor. We take the music deadly serious. Having said that, it is definitely the musician vs. the entertainer thing. We are definitely the entertainers. I don't see anybody who goes to a Venom concert to watch for amazing musicianship. We'll be the first to admit that we play "Venom" music and that's what we do best. I can never expect anyone to come to a Venom concert and expecting Satriani or Vai. If you're a guitarist who likes watching other guitarists then go and play with a guitarists' guitarist. We like to get onstage and entertain. I couldn't go onstage and sit and play jazz for two hours, very technical type of stuff. I've got to go onstage and run around and go crazy. At the end of the gig, I've got to smash the fucking thing. It's that kind of intensity that we've got. That side of it we take pretty seriously.
When we're onstage, we've got to take it seriously. We've got to go onstage stone cold sober, straight as a die. There's so much pyro around. I had a mishap with pyro in East Germany. It was the very last concert we did with Abaddon. Some fuckwit had wired the gerbs, which are small explosive devices. What they do is, you can have 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or 45 seconds. The big 45 seconds we use in songs like "Bloodlust", which create a huge curtain of sparks coming out of the lighting rig. The smaller ones, you get a detonation, you get a blast and then the fires go for 15 feet. The fire sparks for 15 feet for 10 seconds. We had them wired onto the back of the guitars. We had three on Cronos and three on mine. The deal was that, at the end of the songs, the guitars were switched for identical looking things, the gerbs went off, they were held up in the air, swung around, and then destroyed. It looks great in action. Some fuckwit had wired these things backwards. Instead of exploding 15 feet into the air, they exploded 15 feet into my face. My wife was sidestage and camcording the whole thing. She had to turn away, she kept the camera running and had to turn away. She couldn't bare to watch.
K2K: How bad did you get burned?
JD: Just a ball of flame running about the stage. When I came back, my left hand was all burned, all blistered. I'd lost all the hair on my arm. The main thing was that the blast went off in my face. It was just the shock of the whole thing. I couldn't believe it was happening. I wasn't seriously injured but I had my hand in an ice bucket. We were doing an interview backstage and I had my hand in an ice bucket. If I hadn't turned my head away, I think it would have taken my eyes out.
That's the only mishap that I've ever had. Cronos was hit by a blast in Germany, again. This was many years ago. He went up to the microphone to say "Thank you. Good night". We used to say if there was any pyro left over, once we're offstage, detonate the whole lot. The pyro guy must've thought we were off the stage. He just pushed the button. He had seen me and Abaddon behind the stage. Cronos had turned back to say "Thank you. Good night" and this thing went off and scorched right up the middle of his body. It was quite funny afterwards. We looked at him and it looked as though he had had half a sunbed session. He had a red streak right up the middle of his body, going to his face. If he had been any closer, it would have taken his head off. It was quite a wallop.
K2K: In keeping in mind that you guys, as people, are jokesters, do you think that most people - your fans - know how to take you or do you think that fans mostly look to you for the dark side of what you're playing and taking that seriously instead?
JD: Um, I think that there's percentages of both, a mixture of both out there. There are a few fans who we see at every concert. We don't know them personally by name or anything but you know by recognizing the faces and stuff. It gets back to the question of influencing the fans, like you say, with the dark side of the music and everything. I don't know if I've covered this because I've been doing interviews all last night, we've been asked that for ages.
K2K: Oh, yeah, we talked about that too already where we agreed that music doesn't necessarily "make" someone go out and do things. What I mean is no so much in "action" but just if people might actually take you seriously. I've met people who are convinced that you actually are Satanists, that you are what you preach in your songs. I think that some people may not get who you are as people and take you too seriously.
JD: Well, yeah, I would probably agree with you on that in that case. Yeah. There have been a lot of people who look at us and think, "What a dodgy motherfucker". That's the thing. That's why I said that anybody who has spent any degree of time with us realizes that it's a laugh a minute. The whole thing isn't a big joke. Don't put it that way. We don't take it as a joke. We do take ourselves seriously.
K2K: Yeah, but you have fun with it.
JD: Yeah.
K2K: You're point is not preaching the devil so much as entertaining people.
JD: Yeah. I've never seen myself as a preacher. I've never seen myself giving people a message in my songs. Let's put it that way. I've always said, if people do get a message from my music, then great. Fair enough. You make of it what you want to make of it. I'm not pushing something down somebody's throat.
K2K: You've got to see some of the fans here in America.
JD: Oh yeah. The last time when we came to America, when we did Milwaukee, I took my wife with me. We agreed to go to the venue the night before to meet some of the fans and sign autographs and everything. So we went along, did a few interviews down in the basement, and then went up and walked amongst the fans and met with them. There were guys who were so crazy, but it was so good. It was brilliant. I think that the fans are just so fucking enthusiastic. They're in your face (screams example) "VENOM!", screaming at you. They don't mean you any harm or anything, they're just really fucking enthusiastic. I think that's great. I would much rather have that reaction than a very, sort of, complacent reaction - some guy who says, (mellowly) "Hey man, I think you're cool." You know?
K2K: That's the fine line there. I remember being wilder at concerts until I started meeting more "celebrities" and then playing in a band myself. I got mellower after realizing that everyone is just another person. It's funny how fans sometimes take the bands more seriously than the band members do.
JD: When we go onstage... I've always said, and this may sound a bit sort of hack, but when we go onstage, definitely the Mantas persona and the Cronos persona takes over. I would definitely say that. I remember one guy in front, who was looking up at us at one point, and because I'm the way I am and offstage, unless you really get to know me and you talk to me for a long time, I'm really quiet. Before I went onstage, I'm sitting in my hotel room, dressed up with all the leathers and all the spikes and everything, sitting with a Gameboy playing away, you know. I get the call to go onstage, boom, instant transformation straight away, into this mean, dark, moody motherfucker who went onstage, stomped all over the place, played the gig, smashed the guitars and went absolutely crazy and abused that audience like nobody's business. And this French guy was convinced I was schizophrenic. Absolutely convinced. He said to the manager, (in French accent) "Oh, he's schizo, you know. In the mind" and all this.
K2K: Yeah, but you're an actor then.
JD: Yeah, that's what I've always said. If you met Anthony Hopkins, you would never expect him to sit there and say, "And then I ate his kidneys..." and all that. He's an actor and that's what he does. You play a part. The classic ones for me and I keep going back to these guys, [KISS' Gene] Simmons and [Paul] Stanley. I've got video footage where, if they ever gave up the music, fucking hell, a comedy double-act if ever there was one.
K2K: I guess in their personal life. Stanley's got a career now on Broadway.
JD: Is he? Fucking hell. I didn't even know.
K2K: How has the transition been to where you guys are now. Especially with the new drummer.
JD: It's an easier transition. Like I said, previously Cronos had gone, I had gone, and then this time the drummer's gone. This time we're having such an easy time. We don't have to explain ourselves. We thought the inevitable questions are coming. "Why's he gone? How many more line-ups are you going to have." To be perfectly honest, this was the only logical conclusion that we could reach. In the 20 year history of the band, this was the only thing that could happen was for Cronos and Mantas to stay together and go with a new drummer.
K2K: Are you going to continue the band now after this?
JD: Oh fuck yeah! We're fully committed now to taking this band as far as we can take it now.
K2K: It's funny. In the past, I could not have waited for you guys to go away quick enough and now I'm looking forward to the new record.
JD: That's really nice to know. When I got done doing the interviews last night, I was told that there is a similar thing as the Milwaukee Metal Fest going on in L.A. [Los Angeles] in November [2000]. I was asked if we don't do the Milwaukee one, would we do the November one. I was like, Wow! Yeah! We've got to get to the States before the end of the year for at least one big gig. We've got to get over there.
K2K: I have another question that I had forgotten to ask earlier. What do you think of the new hard techno / industrial music?
JD: Well, that's why Abaddon has left.
K2K: No, I didn't say disco.
JD: (laughing) I didn't say disco. They are sort of dance songs. Ministry and stuff like that? I cannot comment too much on it because I haven't really listened to too much of it. This guy at my gym, he's in an industrial band. He was telling me to listen to them. He lent me this Ministry album. He lent me another one I haven't listened to yet. Die Krups? I listened to the Ministry and there's a couple of tracks that were OK.
K2K: But hey, you influenced it all. It's your fault that these bands are around.
JD: It probably is. Yeah. (laughing)
K2K: These are your children. You'll have to pay palimony for them.
JD: (laughing) Well, they'll have to chase me for that one then. I cannot really get away with it. I'm not the biggest fan of it. I've always said that I like real guitars, real drums, real bass, real vocals and I don't want to push a button and have someone else do it for me. I'm not into samples and all that stuff. Overall, I would say that I'm not a big fan of it. I'm still sort of a "metal merchant" at heart.
K2K: (In true stoner fashion) Metal!
With that, we continued to chat about some silly stories and about some Venom stuff coming up. There is a history book about Venom in the works as also a video history that will contain rehearsals and other stuff too. Look for it. In the meantime, don't forget to look for Venom when they come to town. They are sure to bring a show that will leave you speechless (or just not able to hear speech).
Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

All rights reserved © KAOS2000™. No portion contained herein, either text or graphics, may be reproduced anywhere or reposted on any other website for any purpose without the expressed permission of the publisher. All violations shall be punished as the law allows.

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