Chris Kee of MTUK Metal 'Zine recently conducted an interview with mainman/bassist Conrad "Cronos" Lant, guitarist Stuart "Rage" Dixon and drummer Danny "Dant" Needham of British black metal pioneers VENOM. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
MTUK Metal 'Zine: First things first, I just wanted to say congratulations on the new album ["Fallen Angels"]; it's probably the finest VENOM album in years.
Cronos: Thank you. We feel that. We really feel that. It's the whole way we approached this. We solidified this lineup in May 2009 and we said, "Let's not think of albums, let's not think of labels, deals, money, bullshit, publishing and all that crap. Let's do it the way we did in the early days, as a band. Let's get to know each other, let's get out there and get the gigs done and we'll take it from there." And things have just gone from strength to strength, you know? We get on great and the whole sort of writing process was just so natural very much like it was in the early days. One of the things that I think has made the album so special is the way we approached the recording as well. From "Resurrection" onwards, we did go down that Pro Tools, drum-triggered thing... you know, just trying to make better productions for the band. I kind of scratched me head and thought, "Let's go back. Let's get the microphones on the drum kit, let's get the Marshalls plugged in, let's get the fuckers cranked up and let's play as we do on stage. Let's play like a fucking live band, like what VENOM's all about and we'll see what we get out of it." And I was blown away by the way these tracks came out.
MTUK Metal 'Zine: One of the most pleasing things about "Fallen Angels" is the way it has captured so much of the old atmosphere and magic compared to recent albums.
Rage: And it's not like we sat there and said 'let's write another "In Nomine..." or stuff like that. It helped us in 2009 when we did the South American stuff, the 30 years of VENOM, you know? Because it wasn't like, "Go and listen to the old albums," the vibe was already there it was ingrained. It was like, "Let us speak, let the songs speak, let's just write a good fucking VENOM album."
Cronos: I told these guys from day one that VENOM is not a parody. VENOM is a band that changes year after year after year. We're not reliving 1984, VENOM are a different band today than we were back then. I'm not looking for a new Mantas or a new Abaddon I'm looking for a great VENOM drummer. I'm looking for a great VENOM guitarist who stands up on his own, who's got his own ideas, his own look, his own identity. I've never believed in that parody thing; I think it doesn't work.
MTUK Metal 'Zine: Is it difficult for you to find a balance between progressing and moving on and staying true to your original sound? Especially when there's so much pressure on you to keep sounding like the early days?
Cronos: Yeah, it is a challenge, but I believe the honesty of the songs will tell me if it's right or wrong. Of course, I write things where I think, "That's not fucking VENOM," and in a way that's why I went off and did the CRONOS thing back in the day. I had all this material but I knew it wasn't VENOM so I wasn't going to call it VENOM. It was quite heavy but it wasn't VENOM. I think a VENOM song tells you it's a VENOM song. It's got to have the "X, Y and Z," you know? It's got to jump out at you and punch you in the nose."
MTUK Metal 'Zine: Is it hard fitting new material into the set when there's so much from the past that you have to play?
Cronos: Yeah, because we like to be controversial as well. We are also looking at songs that have never been played live before, songs that have only ever been played in the studio, never made it on to a stage before. We've been rehearsing things like "Manitou"... and I was quite surprised, it sounds alright, you know? I think that might creep in for a gig or two. When we did this thirty years thing we said, "We want to do something off every album and some of the singles and that," so now it's like "At War With Satan" going into "Too Loud (For The Crowd)" going into "Nightmare" going into "Live Like An Angel...", blah, blah, blah. Cutting these songs together is fantastic because you see the look on the kids faces and they're like, "Fucking hell!" At first they're like, "Which one's this?" and then they're like, "Fucking hell!" It's great seeing the anticipation on their faces. And it also just shows you how good the songwriting is as well that they can fit like that, that you can merge such radically different types of songs together really well. You wouldn't think you can put something like "Live Like An Angel..." with "Calm Before The Storm"... but you can.
Read the entire interview at MTUK Metal 'Zine.
"Punk's Not Dead" audio stream:
Photo credit: Terry Attwater