Do you mind talking about your whole career and not only about CRONOS?
"Anything you want… your sex slave and everything (hysterical laughter)!"
Ok, could you first of all tell us then, how you met Abaddon and Mantas back then?
"I met up with Mantas when he was playing in a band called OBERON… there were five members in the band and me and Jeff (as he was known as back then) got talking and we realized that we had a lot of the same interests. We liked the same sort of bands, you know, KISS, BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST… And he said, well, we got this band called OBERON, but it's not quite what we want, the other guys in the band aren't really into what we are doing… But you sound like you know what you are doing! But I was playing guitar at that time, so I tried out as the second guitarist, to replace somebody else... and it was one of the roadcrew members, who was one of the HELL'S ANGELS at the time, who decided that VENOM was a better name for the band. And plus, we'd run out of places to rehearse, cause everywhere we'd rehearsed, we'd went under all the names... SONS OF SATAN and OBERON and SCHlZO… and we weren't able to rehearse anywhere in Newcastle anymore, because we used to set up the pyrotechniques in the rehearsal and blow the fuckin' places up, so we kept changing names and then stuck with VENOM! After that we had various line-up changes, we were throwing people out... When we were supposed to do our first gig, the bass player didn't turn up, so I grabbed his bass and just went for it. So, there was the original singer Clive, then Mantas, Abaddon and Cronos… we just went and did the gig. If was after, when we decided to go and do some studio demos... Mantas had written the song 'Live Like An Angel' and he wanted me to sing it, so I did! And Mantas and Abaddon then decided that the other guy (Clive) sucked and I was the new singer, which was fuckin' really scary, but a good laugh. That's basically how that came together…"
I own a very old VENOM demo with the songs 'Angel Dust', 'Raise The Dead' and
"'Red Light Fever'! Yeah, that was the first ever recording we did! That was with Clive…"
So, it's not you on that tape…?!
"Just on bass, I'm just playing bass…!"
When did you record that tape?
"That was nineteeeen... very early 1980 or back end of '79... one of the two, I can't really remember, I got to check the tape."
When did you decide to use this Satanic image?
"Well, right from the start! I mean, that was what Mantas was saying what he problem was, that the other people he had in the band were far too geared into this sort of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, you know, they wanted to sort of put a bit of make up on and wear green spandex and things and look a little bit more like IRON MAIDEN or SAXON or SAMSON. And they needed somebody a bit more Hardcore. So, that's why I came in with the lyric writin', because I sort of pronounced... ehh... I produced a load of lyrics straight away which Mantas and Abaddon were impressed immediately with. Basically what I was writing was... if you look at BLACK SABBATH as the "Hammer horror" of the Metal world, then I wanted lo be the "Evil Dead" or "The Exorcist" of the Metal world! We just pushed it a stage further! I knew exactly what I wanted to do in that department. When it comes to the music, we used to do early covers; we used to do 'God Of Thunder' by KISS, 'No Class' by MOTÖRHEAD and things like that! We used lo play them at such velocity that it wasn't… you know, it was heavier than the originals, which was always sort of strange. Whenever you hear a band in the clubs or whatever, playing somebody else's songs, it's always not as good, so we used to play them three times as fast or whatever, you know. That's when we decided that the normal names of Conrad, Jeffrey and Tony had to go really, because we can't start shoutin' and screamin' about Satan without the appropriate names (laughs)"
How did you get the idea for your stagenames? Are they based on occult books or something?
"Well, I was the last one to get mine actually, because Abaddon has been a bit of a drunken animal and he always looked like he'd be beaten people up and hittin' things, so "Abaddon, the Destroyer" was really quite apparent, you know. And Mantas just called him that through the god of hell. The book that the name's out is the Satanic Bible… It was quite a bit longer before I actually discovered which name I wanted, so I picked something outta Greek mythology. I wanted something more relevant, not just like a name out of a book. I mean, it was the same reason when we got the "Calm Before The Storm" album together, when we got Mike Hickey and Jim Clare… The amount of laughs we had trying to think of names for them…and in the end it was just like 'Fuck it, keep your names , you are not fucking evil at all , you are both really skinny, you're really little, you're playing great but you are NOT evil!', you know… (laughs)! So it was absolutely pointless to come up with something like Astaroth and Behemoth or something crazy like that... it wouldn't have worked!"
Did you get influenced by BLACK SABBATH for the image?
"Yeah, in a big way, but we always had a frustration with BLACK SABBATH, cause any of the SABBATH songs go along great and then all of a sudden it goes 'Oh God, help me!' And we thought fuck, we just wanted to take that a stage further you know. We were watchin' the "Evil Dead" movies and the fuckin' "Exorcists" at that time and it's probably the same difference between a lot of the bands nowadays, who sing about blood and guts and gore and then look at some of the subject matter of bands like CARCASS and that, you know. They make some of the 'Live Like An Angel' tracks or whatever seem not as Hardcore anymore and I'm sure in another twenty years time, there will be stuff out, that will make fuckin' CARCASS sound like fuckin' Radio One material! Everything moves on. I'm still going out and buying albums and I'm still getting heavier and heavier, which is why we started in the first place, because we just got sick of all the wimps. There was all this Boy George shit comin' into the charts and it was just time to put the Punk back into Metal, I think!"
When you were doing interviews back then, it was quite obvious that you never took the whole thing very serious, as you were mainly joking around and stuff, so did you have any trouble with die hard fans because of that?
"I think I know what you mean. We were deadly serious about what we were doing, but we had one reservation and that reservation was that on every thing we did, there had to be one thing, one personal thing for the band, so that we could sit back and breathe some fresh air! We could sit back and laugh at ourselves and I think that's the main thing that we tried to do throughout the whole VENOM career! We were fuckin' serious about everything we did, but I mean, for example the "Welcome To hell" album. That was really serious, the way we did that album, but on the back I had to put the quote: "If this album is scratched, warped or defaced, please throw it away and buy a new one." And that was a personal laugh for the band! That was to say, look yes we are into what we are doing, the three members of VENOM are all fighters, are all drinkers, are all fuckin' violent people, but there has to be a laugh in it somewhere! It's entertainment, it's for everybody else's enjoyment! It's a case of like right we give everybody else what they want, now we have to stick a laugh on for us. We did the same on "Black Metal" … the track 'Teacher's Pet' that goes back to my very young days of being a STATUS QUO fan, you know. It's a case of, you get in a band you wanna do it yourself, you wanna have a shot, so you gotta have a little bit of tongue and cheek, you can't do it all a hundred percent serious, because then I wouldn't make the fuckin' music in the first place, I'd dedicate myself in the Church of Satan, you know what I'm saying? This is entertainment, this is music and we do have messages and we do have things to say, we do have attitudes, just like everybody else. But at the same time we like a bloody good laugh! So, just for our own sanity really, I think we had to just sort of remind us that we were human (laughs)!"
When and how did you get together with Neat Records back then? Did you send them the aforementioned demo…?
"No, I was working for Neat Records!"
And was it originally just a 7'' deal for the "In League With Satan" single…?
"The demo you were speaking of, with Clive singing, I was able to talk the engineer into working for free and ehh… talked everybody else into working for free with my charme and managed to get the band in the studio for a couple of hours for those three tracks. So, the only thing I really had to pay at the end of the day was the tape costs. When I first started working for Neat Records, there were a lot of great bands going around, like in the clubs around here, there was a band called RAVEN, a band called TYGERS OF PAN TANG... SO, I said, 'I'm going out in the night times and watch these great bands, let's get things movin'!' TYGERS OF PAN TANG got signed up, a band called FIST got signed up, a band called RAVEN got signed up and I was like fuckin' grabbin' the guy's leg in Neat Records, saying 'Fuck and what about my band?!' It just went on from there and Neat just grew and grew and grew and fuckin' signed everything up under the sun… But it was definitely a case of having the foot in the door."
So, was it originally just for the 7'' then that you got signed by Neat?
"No no, we did the demo and then we came in and we paid for ourselves a second set of demos. And then what we did was, we sent a tape to a magazine called Sounds, where Geoff Barton was the editor. Geoff loved the tracks and he put the three tracks in his playlist and then he did a review for the WHITE SPIRIT single and at the end of it he put this thing saying… 'And if Neat Records gets its shit together it should release a single by the band called VENOM!' So we approached them back them and said, 'Look it's time for a single!' So we went in… We actually recorded 'Live Like An Angel', 'Angel Dust' and 'In League With Satan', but the record company liked 'In League With Satan', so…"
Is it true, that "Welcome To Hell" was recorded in just three days?
"Three days - recorded and mixed!"
And were the tracks from the 7'' taken from that recording session…?
"No! We did them separately, we did them first. We came in and just did those three songs, but left off 'Angel Dust' and then we got scheduled back in for a week to come in and do the album and three days later we were presenting the tapes!"
Did you already play any shows back then?
"Just locally. We used to hire old church halls and blow them up… it was freakin' great! But that's all we used to do because we had to act, so to speak. A lot of the bands in the north-east around that time, you know, they had this thing in their head, that they had to pay their deuce of something, they thought they had to go and play three-hundred-million-thousand shows before they could be anything… And we decided we were something from day one, so we weren't prepared to do the clubs… we weren't prepared into getting into all those typical arguments that everybody else got into. We said fuck it! I mean, a lot of the early VENOM shows… what people don't realize is that we paid for it! The stage show costs so much and we weren't prepared to go on stage without the full stage show, so even if the promoter said look, 'You only gonna get a thousand pounds and it's gonna cost a few more to do the show', then we still put the show on! Because we wanted to watch everybody's faces saying what the fuck (laughs)!"
Yeah, and you succeeded that way
When did you go in to do "Black Metal" and why were there two different versions of the album circulating, one with 'Bloodlust' and one without…?
"I have no idea! I think that was just a record company thing. We wanted to keep all the singles separate from the albums. We always wanted to have an album and then a couple of singles, an album a couple of singles and so on… Because, we were writing that much material, nobody else was doing what we were doing, so we had so much to work with… And I think just through the course of time, some country must have released "Black Metal" with 'Bloodlust' on it as an extra… I mean, for example I'm just doing a deal now with the Japanese, with the latest CRONOS record and they are asking us for an extra track just to make it different from everybody else in the world. So that's the way that sort of things happen, everybody just wants something a little bit special…"
But there's also a track called 'S.A.D.I.S.T.', which never got released
"Yeah, 'Sadist (Mistress Of The Whip)', that's out on an album now called "Skeletons In The Closet". What we did was, a couple of years ago, in the old VENOM days, when we were doing records, we just went in the studio and recorded everything we had and in the days of vinyl, you only had a maximum eighteen to twenty minutes a side and if you tried to put more music on than that, it just came back quiet! That's why all the early VAN HALEN albums are fucking less than half an hour long, the whole thing you know. But nowadays we got CDs and don't have to worry about that, you got seventy minutes or something on there, so… All those tracks that we couldn't really fit onto "Black Metal", "Welcome To Hell", "At War With Satan" albums… what I did was, I compiled all those tracks onto a CD, called "Skeletons In The Closet" and released it. With 'Hounds Of Hell', which was recorded in the "Black Metal" session and there's another track called 'Snots Shit', which was never meant to be a track, but because we were all sort of ex Punk fans, I thought of it…"
So, that is an official release and not a bootleg?!
"It's not a bootleg, no! It's an official release. It's got all the stuff on, that we didn't get a chance to release at the time. I just thought, die hard fans would be interested in hearing about those songs that we nearly were throwing away, you know."
On "Black Metal" you already had the preview of 'At War With Satan', so did you already have the material finished for that album…?
"You won't believe it, we had "At War With Satan" before we even started to record "Welcome To Hell". We had "Possessed" before we even started to record "Welcome To Hell", we had everything figured out. That's how you can see the "Possessed" lyrics on "Welcome To Hell", "Black Metal" and "At War With Satan" already. We had the whole thing figured out from day one we always said we got four studio albums and a live album and then whatever next…!"
The whole packaging of "At War With Satan" was really impressive, so did VENOM make so much money back then, that Neat were easily able to do so?
"No (laughs)! That's another story… No, it got to a stage where we were just putting a foot down. We said, it will be packaged like this and it was the only way we could do that, because what happened was, we saw some advertising that was done by the record company and we totally didn't like it, so we had to say, look, here's the entire package… I mean, there are some crazy mistakes, like on the back of "Welcome To Hell" and "Black Metal" it says artwork by Magda, whoever this Magda is... I'm the guy who stook the pen on paper, I drew that thing, you know. I drew "Welcome To Hell" and "Black Metal" and yes, I didn't get a fuckin' credit for it! "At War With Satan" was "The Book Of Armageddon"… I mean, I've got in the house about another hundred pages, which is the entire story of "At War With Satan" and it was supposed to go out with the book as well. But it never did. We wanted the album cover to look as a bookcover as it possibly could, that was the whole reason for the sort of leatherbound sleeve etc. But then again, we went over to America and we saw the "At War With Satan" cover sleeve and it was just a plain sleeve, and we went to Brazil and it was a fucking photocopy of a plain sleeve (laughs)… Same with the "Black Metal" cover. The original cover… you couldn't actually read the words "Black Metal", because they were embossed into the cover, but then a couple of prints later all of a sudden, you got the big fucking white "Black Metal" on the front, which to me spoiled it, you know. It's the same what they've done with METALLICA's last album, they've done the same thing they embossed the sort of two different shades of black, which is the same what we did on the "Black Metal" cover."
After the "At War With Satan" album, there's been all these "Assault" releases, the "French", "American", "Canadian" and "German Assault" if I remember correctly
"Bollocks! I still have no idea of how many of those were actually released. We officially agreed on the "American Assault", "Canadian Assault" and the "Japanese Assault"" and everything else just happened and we had no idea what was happening…"
But there's also been different versions of songs on some of them
"See, I'm not even aware of that, it's really hard to keep on track…"
So, did you re-record some of your old tracks sometime?
"No, it must have been demos… it's strange. There's one thing where I think could be… we did a Radio One session in England a good few years ago and we did 'Black Metal', 'Bloodlust', 'Nightmare' and something else… I think it might be those… There's another CD called "Radio hell" and it's got WARFARE and some other bands and that's all just from Radio One sessions with Tommy Vance."
Additionally to those "Assault" releases, there's also been several formats of the "Die Hard", "Warhead", "Nightmare" and "Manitou" singles - why didn't you safe those tracks for the new album?
"Because we had bloody more tracks, we had plenty of songs… The way we loved thing was, getting into the studio, do some work and then go out and do a few gigs and then go back into the studio and do some more work, it was a creative continuation there… you see."
In 1985 there's been this double album called "From Hell To The Unknown", which featured the "Welcome To Hell" record and some other stuff, including the track 'Senile Decay'
"'Senile Decay' should never have been released on that. It should have been kept until the "Skeletons In The Closet" album. I have no idea how that got leaked out! That was my first track that I wrote, that was an experimental thing…"
Was the album official?
"It was sort of official, but not official for the band. It was as far as the record company was concerned they could do anything they want with those songs. So, if they wanted to sort of wrap them up in Christmas paper and fucking throw them in the street, they could! But we had no say in that… I didn't see the point really I think they were trying to sell two albums with one new song!"
Would you agree that your London Hammersmith show (which was also released as a live video) was one of the biggest events in the VENOM history?
"Ehh… no! For the simple reason that I thought there were better gigs! I really do! I mean, from all the gigs we've recorded it was the most prestigious gig, because it was London Hammersmith! But the night before, we played Birmingham and it was twenty times better and I would also say that French and German gigs were fuckin' better. I don't… personally, as the person standing on the stage looking at it, I don't think it was as good as it had been. I wish we'd recorded the Birmingham show… I mean, that would've been more of a highlight to me! The kids were leaping all over the place, fuckin' stagedivin', it was just manic, it was brilliant! At Hammersmith everybody was sittin' down… we had the wrong people at the wrong places… there's only like old men sitting in the front row and all the die hard fans were jumping up and down in the back, but you couldn't see them. So, the whole thing was fucked from our point of view, but as far as the show went, it was pretty good!"
Yeah, it was used for several bootlegs and single B-sides
"Yeah, we just got fuckin' bootlegged the fuck…! I think I heard a recording of something called "The Official Bootleg", which was not official and it doesn't even sound like it's running at the right speed… Whoever taped it, on whatever kind of shit machine, it's running really slow and I turned it off after a couple of minutes - I can't fucking listen to this, it is terrible!"
What do you think was the main problem with the "Possessed" album, that it didn't live up to the expectations that people had in VENOM back then?
"I don't think that everybody had enough input, because when we came to record the album, nobody had any songs apart from me! And that's not the way we used to do things… Mantas was already off on his little fuckin' trip and what we used to do was, me and Mantas used to hook up and we were writing material, then would get together with Abaddon and rehearse it. But everybody was off, being fuckin' rockstars, so it didn't happen like that. So, when we came to do the album, everybody was looking at me, saying 'What have you got?' And I just felt like… well, fuck this! So we didn't get the chance to rehearse the tracks as well as should have, we didn't get the chance to play any of the tracks live, which we always used to do before we recorded them, at least set-up some kind of mock gigs… so we could like… we found out mistakes like with 'Seven Gates…', I mean the studio version isn't quite as fast a the comfortable speed that that song should be… maybe more than on the Hammersmith video… it's a bit slower on the single. It's by mistakes like that, that you learn! So, if you can play the songs through enough, you find out what speed the track wants to be. But we didn't get the chance to do that with "Possessed"! In my book the "Possessed" album would've been the demos and then we could've went and rehearsed it and recorded it again!"
Did the live double album "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" basically come out to satisfy the needs of all your disappointed old fans again?
"I don't think they were so much disappointed… what it was, was, we were torn in those days, if VENOM would've come out now, it would've been a lot easier, because everybody would be like… oh yeah, Death Metal… cool! When we were coming out, everybody was saying, what the fuck is this shit? So, we were like between all these professional people telling us what to do and us wanting to do what we want to do! But we shouldn't have listened to all the professional people telling us what to do, because one of the first things that was fuckin' the band up was, everybody wanted VENOM to do this big long extensive tours… and we did that in Germany, in Europe and that… and what we did was… I think we did about fuckin' four, five gigs in Germany… all little gigs with only a couple of pyros… I mean, the show wasn't there, the atmosphere wasn't there, the job hasn't been done! That was at the turning point when Mantas was saying ahh, fuck this, and this is shit! So, everybody was loosing faith then and what we should've done is, we just should've done one gig in Germany, made it the biggest thing you've ever seen and blew the fuckin' place up and left! Which is exactly how we started doing things. But it was really difficult to know who to listen to back then, cause the whole scene was new and we tried to listen to people who've done it before, which was a big mistake! We shouldn't have stopped doing our big gigs, which is what we're doing now. We did that one gig in June 1995 at the Waldrock and there's also a controversy about the Belgium gig and it says, there's not gonna be all the pyros, I'm not gonna get all this backlines, so I just pulled it immediately! If it's not the biggest show people have seen, I'm not doing it! The only way the VENOM show will ever get back together is with the full production, which means the fuckin' bombs… everything!"
Who came up with the German title of the album?
""Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"… well, we always used to say that! It was one of our jokes! Everybody else might think this is a fuckin' noise, but we like it, you know. We always used to say, yeah, I could put my headphones on at night and put "Welcome To Hell" on and fall asleep and everybody was saying NO WAY (laughs)! So, there was this album out called "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" and we thought, yeah, let's do that! For the first time, let's just plainly steal something! Because we've been coming up with so much original stuff for years, that we decided to steal something from a great artist and just annoy everybody (laughs)!"
Did people outside of Germany get the joke about the album title?
"I definitely think that the Germans did, without a doubt… We've got a great response of them, because a lot of the hardcore fans were like, yeah cool, it is…it is nightmusic, yeah!"
What kind of problems did you have with Mantas back then and do you regret that you did the "Calm Before The Storm" album after he was out of the band?
"I regret that the "Calm Before The Storm" album was done without Mantas actually… I regret that it was a VENOM album cause it should've just been a CRONOS album again, basically. After the live album, we should've fucked the VENOM thing up completely, because Mike and Jim are exceptional guitarists who don't have the ability to… you know, they're players, these guys like to sort of pride themselves on what notes they can play and how well they can play it, where as sort of the Mantas styles is more about how much noise you can make out of your guitar and how far you can throw it across the stage! It's completely different! So, when to it comes to the "Calm…" album, the way the whole approach came to it was, I was wantin' to get a bit more professional, because I've got these two guitarists and Tony didn't wanna rehearse enough, I thought his drums were pretty sloppy… but I really think we should have disbanded then… If you listen to the "Dancing In The Fire" and "Rock'n'Roll Disease" albums, it's more of a continuation from the "Calm…" thing and "Calm…" wasn't VENOM really, it wasn't a VENOM album…!"
Was that one of the reasons why you left the band back there?
"No, the reason I left the band was, after we did the "Calm Before The Storm", Abbadon was playing tour-manager with a band called ATOMKRAFT and getting' really pally with ATOMKRAFT, so we had a situation here while we had an American guitarist and another guitarist sitting here doing nothing with me, and we had a drummer who was halfway through Europe and fuckin' Poland with some band that we didn't even know, so we said, fuck him, lets' get a new drummer! Then I moved over to the States and got a new drummer and there we went. So, really it's just a case of I wasn't hanging around, I didn't see why I should hang around for this guy… he was obviously more interested in being a tour-manager than a drummer!"
You once said, that VENOM won't continue if some of the old members would leave the band, but there's still a band around called VENOM with a totally different line-up, so what do you think about that?
"Well, that's ATOMKRAFT, isn't it? That's all it is… I mean, the thing is… VENOM should have either disbanded or they should've gotten a singer who'd nobody had ever heard, because all they'd ever sounded to me is ATOMKRAFT. I mean, the drummer and the guitarist are irrelevant! It doesn't seem to come across that Mantas and Abaddon were playing, it's more like, oh it's that fuckin' Tony Dolan from ATOMKRAFT singing! They should've left it alone… I mean Mantas released a solo album and that just shit the bed and I know Abaddon made some contacts to a few people to make a solo album and all turned them down, so…"
Have you ever thought about doing no music at all anymore or did you start your own project straight away then?
"No, we got the "Dancing In The Fire" album runnin' straight away. We've all been doing things in between, but I've been writing songs since I've been about fuckin' twelve, so it's really difficult to stop…"
To be honest with you, I never heard the CRONOS albums, except for the compilation entitled "Venom", so would you like to comment on each of the CRONOS albums maybe?
"Well, first what I'd like to say is, the whole point of the CRONOS "Venom" album was that I wanted to… When I got together with Mark Wharton, the drummer from CATHEDRAL, basically we just got together for a jam session, just to see how things went… I've met him before and I've seen him live and thought he's a really heavy drummer, a little fat bastard, you know, brilliant… just what you need (laughs)! The last thing you need is a poser behind the drumkit… Some little fat drunk always turns out to be the best man for the job! He's a lot younger than I am and when he was at school, he used to love the VENOM albums, so we started playing some of the VENOM songs and he was fucking great! He was brilliant! So, while we were in the studio, we played them down and then the record company came up with the idea of releasing the songs, but also putting three of what would be the heaviest tracks on each of the CRONOS records… So, people who were unfamiliar with the CRONOS releases (like yourself, as you just said) would hear this and then maybe go out and give these records a spin. Because that's been the main problem… it's a word of mouth thing, you know. The VENOM thing traveled so quickly word of mouth… I also found out through other people, because it's difficult to make this survey myself, I found out through people who were asking the questions for me, they were asking the people: 'Oh, have you heard the new CRONOS album?' 'Oh, I've heard it isn't very good…' 'Have you listened to it?' 'No!' See, what I'm saying? And that's the kind of situation you're getting into; people are dammin' your record and haven't even heard it yet".
Have the CRONOS albums ever been released on CD?
"Oh yeah! Everything's out on CD! So reaIly, it's just a case of sticking this together, so peopIe can hear Iike a 90's recording of some of the classics, some of my old songs that I did with the VENOM boys and also some of the new stuff and maybe think, 'Well, that's ok' or 'That's fuckin' crap!' and we're testing the water. I've been out and we've been doing gigs with CRONOS and kids came up, we did Wales... and we were playing VENOM songs the whole night and I didn't even sing them, because the kids in the crowd were on stage singing them for us. But that's what they wanted to hear, so I said, 'Well, fuck it, if that's what you wanna hear, that's what you get!' It was great! So, this CD is a bit of a water tester you know, it's Iike, 'Look - if you wanna hear CRONOS stuff, great! But if you want the VENOM stuff as well, then here it is!' Give people what they want, if they don't want it, they don't have to fuckin' buy it (laughs)!"
Would you agree that people still connect your person a lot more with VENOM than the current CRONOS band?
"Yeah, that's the thing! I've been spending the last five years, trying to run away from the VENOM thing and I think that's probably... I started to think about it, kinda Iike... hold on a minute, everbody else is jumping on it, you know... you see a magazine, it's got fuckin' VENOM on it and it's got my photo next to it, so instead of fightin' it, I go for it! And plus for this being back with the VENOM boys, we are gonna get some gigs together this year as well, also there's been talk of going in and recording some new material. We haven't actually started doing any of that yet, but there's certainIy talk of it, so... I got plenty new material to throw out, but I want to rehearse it this time! If we're not going to rehearse it and then say, 'Right, great... let's do the album, I'm just gonna say 'Fuck you! That'll be another "Possessed" if we do that!'"
Do you think you will reach some of your old fans with the CRONOS material?
"Oh, definitely! I know it by the amount of letters I get! We have the address on the CDs and people can write to us... I mean, I've had people saying to us, that 'This is the next stage from VENOM' and 'How can METALLICA go a little bit commercial and when you guys do it, you get slayed...?' VENOM sort of went slightly commerciaI with the "Calm Before The Storm" album and everybody was Iike... 'What the fuck!' And METALLICA go commercial over night and everybody accepts it, so... What works for one, does not work for the other!"
How did you get together with MASSACRE from Florida and BLITZKRIEG from the UK to sing on their releases?
"I knew all the bands. When you travel, you get to meet all these people and I knew Rick Rozz from MASSACRE really well and he phoned us up and said 'We're doing the album for Earache', and they always wanted to do 'Warhead'... and I said, 'Fuckin' great!' So, he said 'Will you sing on it?' And I said 'Yes!' So, I flew in, I flew to FIorida and did it! It was great! I had a great time overthere...!"
"The BLITZKRIEG boys were here, they were at Neat and they were upstairs recording and I walked up when they were doing 'Countess Bathory', so I said 'Ey, where's the mike?'"
Did you do any other sessionwork besides those two?
"Yeah, I've done WARPATH! (arrgh, stupid me... Ed.) They did a real Punk version of 'Black Metal' which is great, I loved it! Plus, instead of doing the 'C'mon', they did 'Hau rein' (laughs)!"
How do you judge all these VENOM tribute releases and coversongs these days?
Did you get to hear all of them?
Do you feel honoured because of that or is it just...
"Yeah, I must admit... mimicry is the fuckin' highest form of flattery, isn't it? So, I shouId be really happy about it. I tell you what, you know the "In The Name Of Satan"?"
"I think it's a bit lame, because everybody is just plainly copying the stuff. The only track that's different is 'Warhead' and that's sort of a NINE INCH NAILS version of 'Warhead', isn't it? The bands are trying too hard to sound like VENOM... they even make stupid mistakes like the guy from PARADISE LOST...They did 'In Nomine Satanas' and there's the line "Rock'n'Roll damnation' and he didn't wanna sort of say "Rock'n'Roll damnation', because he thought it sounded a bit softcore, so he decided to sing "Fuckin' damnation" and I thought 'Oh, that's pretty mean and nasty, but what you've done pal is, you've just changed the whole meaning of the song!' Because I was damming Rock'n'Roll and he was damming fucking! So, the guy must be celibete! He must just wank or something, he must never had fucking sex if he's damming fucking! I love fucking, I fuck every day! Stupid bastard! So anyway, they're trying too hard, but there's a bootleg version from Sweden..."
"Promotors Of The Third World War"!
"That's fucking brilliant!"
Yeah, I was totally surprised to hear that version from PINK FLAMINGOS... 'Live Like An Angel'...
"That was brilliant, that was...ahhh! When I was growing up, I was a big DAVID BOWlE fan and shit, you know... and ROLLING STONES and all that...and to hear 'Live Like An Angel' and 'Poison'...! I mean 'Poison' is a bit like HANOI ROCKS, sort of 'Poiiiisaan', it's really like laid back Glam shit, you know, fuckin' brilliant! Because they've tried to put their own stamp on it, they've done their version of it. Like, I know you said, you're not familiar with the two previous CRONOS releases, but we've done 'Bad Reputation' by THIN LIZZY, we've done 'Let's Spend The Night Together' by the ROLLING STONES, we've done 'Love Is Infectious' by JAPAN and we've done 'Loss Of Control' by VAN HALEN! But none of them are trying to sound like the originals, they sound like fuckin' VENOM, you know. For 'Let's Spend The Night Together' I had a girl doing some of the backing vocals, you know, I mean... the ROLLING STONES did that song, BOWIE did that song and neither used girls on the backing vocals, so... You gotta put your own stamp on things. There's nothing worse than hearing a song that sounds exactly Iike the original! I don't think there's something clever in copying something to the latter, put your own idea into it, your own interpretation. I'm a big PETER GABRIEL fan as well and when you listen to his records and go and see him live, there's songs that he plays live, that are completely different to the records. And he says, that is the reason that the songs are never finished! He says, he's never ever happy, he'll never put a song on a record and say, 'Right that's finished!' Because when it comes to do it live, he's come up with new ideas, a new end, a new middle section, a new riff starting the song and a different speed, you know, different attitude! So, I'd rather go with my imagination and let my mind do the work, rather than bust your nut and trying to sound Iike... you know, why make a copy of something that somebody else has already done and sound like that when you can buy the original, which is in nine times out of ten better?!"
I aIways liked that Swedish tribute album alot more than the Gun Records version...
Because I thought that "In The Name Of Satan" was totally overrated because of the bands that are on it... There's so many popular acts featured and people are praising it for that fact instead of the music they've come up with...
"Yeah, that's political... But speaking for me personally, I think the bootleg rules (laughs)!! I really do! But there's another one out called EXIT-13..."
But that's not a tribute album...
"But it's got the "Black Metal" cover, with a smokin' joint and all that... fucking great (laughs)!!"
Would you agree that a lot of the regained popularity of VENOM in the 90s is because of nowadays Black Metal bands?
"Yeah...the Norwegian thing... yeah obviously!"
Do you like their music and attitude in general?
"Yeah! I'm going for that! I think some of the DIABOLOS RlSING stuff is great... I like all that... DARK TRANQUILLITY, CRADLE OF FILTH... I Iike it, I really do! I think a lot of it is crap as well, but I mean, it's early days for this new scene, it's only been going for the last few years maybe... But there's been some really interesting stuff, I'm really interested in what's going on! I got a phonecall four years ago of Abaddon, saying 'Do you wanna reform VENOM?' We've been talking about it for the last four years, so it's kind of coming at the right time, with the big interest in sort of all the Black Metal in Norway and in bands overhere and America..."
But do you really think that all these bands are really original? To me most of them sound like VENOM or BATHORY...
"Yeah, that's the problem... but if you go to a shop and you wanna buy a bottle of beer and they haven't got it, you go to different shops, see if you can get your beer, you know... and if you can't find your beer, then eventually you settle for a different one. And if these people can't get their music, somebody else has to come up with it, you know, there isn't a new VENOM release, there isn't a new EXODUS release, so these people are going out and creatin' it themselves, which is obvious! When we did the VENOM thing, all we had to listen to, all our heroes like JUDAS PRIEST and BLACK SABBATH, in the early 80s were shit, were dead, they weren't even giggin' anymore! So, we came out and say... it's the oldest VENOM cliché we used to say, we throw every band into a ball and mix it up and there you have it! You've got the KISS stageshow, you've got the sort of BLACK SABBATH attitude, you've got the JUDAS PRIEST studs and chains, you know... you've got the Punk attitude, spitting, fighting, fuckin', getting outta your head. People wanted it, we supplied it! So, if people aren't getting out and making their albums and doing the right thing, then somebody else is gonna come and do it! Cause if people stop doing Black Metal, than maybe fucking TAKE THAT will get big (laughs)!"
When you got together with Mantas and Abaddon again for the Waldrock show, did you really have the same fun doing it again?
"Yeah, it was great!"
But a lot of people have accused you of just doing it for the money and not for the fun aspect...
"Well, the money didn't really come into it... I said, if the whole stage show is there, I'd be there and that's gotta be the bottom line for everything now. You know, I'm quite happy with what I'm doing right now with the CRONOS band, I even wanna go out and do a tour, I wanna do some Italian gigs and some German and some French and I've got an English thing waiting, so I'm gonna try to put CRONOS on the road as well, but for VENOM to happen, it's the full stageshow! It's the bombs, the lights, the fuckin' stage gear, the studs, the boots, the fuckin' everything! And that's what people will get! But there's gonna be some CRONOS gigs as well hopefully... And I've got some videos on the release soon. It's called "Access All Areas", it's 45 minutes long and it's like everything I've been doing for the last five years! There's American shows, there's like videos full of girls, tits out and everything, fucking dope smoking... the usual life, you know... We called it "Access All Areas" because you get to see... you know, there's live gigs, there's stuff happening in the studio... everything... Kinda like 45 minutes of what the fuck (laughs)!"
I recently recognized that some of the earlier VENOM albums have been re-issued in Japan with several extra tracks...
"Yeah...! See, the Japs, that's what I said before, they always want something special, because what happens is, the Japs are always the last to get their deals together, they are the slowest people in the music business! England and Europe and America always release their stuff months before Japan and what then happens is, everybody imports into Japan, so all of a sudden the Japs are saying, 'Fuck, if we release this record, we're not gonna sell it, because the imports have went nuts!' So, they want extra tracks, to have something special, so that people then buy theirs. If they work a bit faster, they wouldn't have to do that.."
Have the CRONOS albums also been released in Japan with extra tracks?
"No, I fuckin' told them they couldn't have any (laughs)! They've just asked me, about the CRONOS "Venom" one here, because the track 'Let's Spend The Night Together', which I said is a ROLLING STONES song and we made that for a video... I don't want that to be released any otherwhere, but they were saying 'Right, we'll have the recording for that CRONOS "Venom" album' and I said, 'Well, it's not a VENOMous track, so... bollocks, you're not getting it!"
You've chosen all the heavier CRONOS tracks for the compilation, so is that the direction you are heading to?
"Well, if you listen to the three songs of "Triumvirate", you know, 'Know Evil', 'Babylon' and 'Ye Of Little Faith', you'll hear that the production has slightly changed, because we're back to a three-piece, with Mike Hickey on guitar and Mark Wharton on drums and it is going that way. When I was sitting there with two guitarists, working on songs, we'd come up with a guitar lick and then the other guy would say, 'Here's a nice harmony' and it would work great, so we'd go for it. But now that we only have one guitar... hehehe, we're not gonna put that many harmonies in, you know. It's called heads down, meet you at the end, you know! It's getting heavier again... ooopsl (laughs)! It feels better I must admit...it's one of the things I've always said, there's a lot of music you can sit back and listen to and enjoy and then there's a lot of music you can get up and play and enjoy, they are not necessarely the same. I mean, like for example 'Seven Gates...', it's a pain in the ass to play, but it's a great track to listen to, now 'At War With Satan', the section we play, fuckin' great to play it, but it's mayhem to listen to, you know. We're all like great friends with Phil Anselmo from PANTERA... I just got the DOWN CD mailed to me... and then there's CORROSION OF CONFORMITY... everyone's getting beavier! I Iove it! Have you ever heard of a band called REIGN?"
The English one? Yeah...
"They've gotten pretty heavy, so everybody seems to be in chunk mood, guitar only rules!"
Is it true that you've worked with CRADLE OF FILTH?
"I did a spoken part on their new aIbum, you know, like in 'At War With Satan'... 'A dark silhouette of a creature..." I did something like that on their album and I've got a thing happening with the DIABOLOS RlSING people for the video 'Satanic Propaganda', so I might be doing something with them as well..."
So, you are really busy...
"Yeah! I mean, the thing with bands like CRADLE is, I was interested in meeting them, because they are very young and I just wanted to see where they were at with their heads, to see if they are taking a piss or whether they are serious... Dan, the singer, it seems he reaIIy knows where he's coming from, so all power to thern! He's reaIIy into what he's doing and that's what I was interested in. It's Iike what you were saying before, you didn't reaIize if it was a joke or what was happening and that's what I was trying to figure out!"
Ok, that's all...
"CooI! Thanx for the interview! And don't forget to tell everyone there's a new CRONOS video coming out and "Triumvirate" should be out by the time you read this! And we'll be getting some kicking going down! Cheers Frank!"
Label website: www.sanctuaryrecords.co.uk
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