VENOM Frontman Cronos: The Metal Injection Interview
Venom have been nothing but a constant and reassuring presence since they added a darkly sardonic and revolting twist to heavy metal in England four decades ago. They have never strayed much from their underground roots and continually display unfathomable persistence to stay committed to black metal and sternly reject commercial acceptance and all that comes with it. Still to this day, Venom champion the genre they spawned and feel a somewhat responsibility to helping their fellow contemporaries be heard. Now, as they prepare to release their latest offering ‘Fallen Angels’ , Venom vocalist, bassist and producer Cronos, shares his thoughts on the new record, where the band are now and why he’ll never sing about being a table…
This line-up has been going strong for 2 years. What’s the dynamic in the band like at this point?
Fantastic! The whole idea was not to think – labels, deals, money – it was really to be a band. Just like we did in the early days, get out on the road, see what gigs we can do and just merge as a unit so that we knew that we had a solid base to go from. So, we went off and did the tour in South America at the end of 2009, last year we headed out and did some festivals and also did some smaller shows in some countries we’d never been to – Poland, Russia, which were fantastic. Then it was like, great, let’s start putting some ideas together and everything just came together so well. I was walking into rehearsals and some of these jam sessions went on for half an hour, an hour and then we just started looking at what ideas we had and it was a really easy album to make, this one. Surprisingly. Nothing was contrived or difficult. Everything seemed to fall into place. Even some of the mad stuff we did as well, we even had time to have a bit of a play around! I had a concept for this track ‘Blackened Blues’, I kind of thought that everyone knows the blues, but I wanna do a Venom version of the blues! Make it really fuckin’ depressing and just so dark and nasty! The other sort of side of that was – as fans of heavy music – we love heavy music. You know that sketch where your parents bang on the ceiling – ‘Turn that fucking shit off!’ I thought, ‘How can I create that so even heavy metal people think that?! We’d done a thirty minute jam on it, so when we put the track down for the album on a proper recording, I put these other recordings in on the mix and they’re all out of time. So as you’re playing the song, you’re kind of hearing it come in out of time and it’s as if there’s a band playing in the room with you and a band playing in either rooms beside you – all different songs, but at the same time! It just gets to the point where you’re fuckin’ pullin’ your hair out going, ‘SHUT UP!!!’ Fuckin’ great.
What made you think to do that?
Well, this is what Venom have always done and haven’t over the last couple of albums because things have been all about schedules, gotta do this, gotta do that. So things have just turned into songs – there was no time to play and Venom always had a bit of time to play. One of the things we decided to do from Day 1 was to break the music rules. Let’s not have the standard format – verse, chorus, verse, chorus, lead, break, verse, chorus, end. Let’s break that format. Let’s have – verse, bridge, another verse, then the chorus. Let’s have – a verse and no fuckin’ chorus, you know, tracks like ‘Schizo’ – there’s no chorus in the whole song. It doesn’t even mention the name ‘Schizo’! It’s just about a schizophrenic. It was time to play; let’s just build a track that stands on its own. It was like no other track before. The song ‘Fallen Angels’, comes in with a bass intro, it’s got this dead long guitar bit before anyone else comes in. It’s not like any other track that’s ever been created before. It’s totally unique and I think that’s one of the things Venom do best. Yes we can write the sex, drugs, rock’n’roll – there’s songs on there – ‘Pedal to the Metal’ which is very rock’n’roll – ‘Punk’s not Dead’ – but there’s also the concept type ideas, which I think Venom have always been good at.
You guys started creating the new album Fallen Angels, when you were on the road in South America. What inspired the album?
The whole 2012, end of the world, Naboru/Annunaki all this sort of thing. It was really a case of thinking – because Venom have always delved into black arts – there’s another angle here. Instead of God kicked out Lucifer and the angels – let’s say they left. They packed their bags and they bailed! The way God really badly tricked the angels, giving them eternal damnation. Pretty cruel motherfucker! So in a way it’s like making God the evil twat and making Gabriel and the angels the good guys. There’s the song ‘Damnation of Souls’ which is what happened to the angels and there’s the ‘Annunaki Legacy’, which is one of the bonus tracks. That’s the theme of the album, but everybody seems to be going on about 2012. We’ve seen it all before. We’ve seen it in 1984, then we seen it again in 1999 – everything was supposed to crash, all the computers were supposed to die. Never fucking happens!
Then there was the rapture this year…
Yeah! I mean this 2012 thing; I’ve always been fascinated with it. Because it’s one of the oldest ones, this one comes from the Sumerian calendar. Apparently there’s this planet and it’s got a 3600 day-orbit and it’s on its way back. Fuckin’ hell! I’m sure the scientists would be able to see it by now! I mean November/December/January – we’re two months away from 2012! These things take years! So I think it’s great.
Do you like writing on the road or do you prefer working in a studio where you have less distractions?
All different ways. It could be in the middle of the night. The thing with travelling is; it’s very boring and there’s loads of down time, even sitting at airports for hours and this that and the other. Being a writer you can’t help your brain just goes off on a tangent and you start thinking of ideas, because what else is there to do? Stare at planes coming up and down? You’re always coming up with ideas.
You’ve got to be quite sharp to think like that, it could go over the head of the majority.
Yeah. I’m also a graphic artist and I was talking to somebody the other month and they asked where I start and I said, ‘Look down at the pavement, look how it’s all mottled and sort of speckly. Wouldn’t that make a good background?’ and they asked how I think like that. Well, as an artist you would, same as a writer you would, that’s how you get your inspiration.
You played some great European festivals this summer. What do you think of the festivals that are around nowadays and what do you think of playing with bands that are still about or just emerging at this point?
I just think it’s the best value for fans; to go to a festival and see a load of great bands. Over recent years festivals have been getting pulled because of financial difficulties, so I think they need a lot of support, more so now that ever. But I think it’s a really good concept to go and see a load of great bands on one bill. We were looking at something where we could get a few other bands together and go out together on the road – speaking about probably getting like Immortal, Mayhem and bands like that and going out and doing a tour where everybody gets a show, just because it will be a lot better experience for the fans instead of going to see ‘a’ band. Instead of having named bands we like to also promote some of the guys who can’t get a start, I mean Venom have always been famous for that. We had the Metallicas and the Slayers on the road with us many years ago.
Immortal are one of the best black metal bands around now. What do you think of the black metal scene as it stands today?
Bit samey-samey. It’s always up and down, but I do think even like with the way we’ve approached the new album – there’s no samples, there’s no drum-triggers, nothing like that. It’s real drums, microphones on drums, we know Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters –they’ve done the album like that. I think more people are starting to think, ‘Fuck. This band sounds like this band sounds like this band sounds like this band’ – because they’re all using the same triggers and samples. People need to go back to the way it was done in the old days and that is getting your own identity, your own sound and that means microphones. The other thing I was complaining about the other while is – where’s all the front-men gone?! They’re all disappearing! All these bands look the same; you can’t tell the bass player from the drummer from the singer! Where’s the Lemmys? Where’s the Alice Cooper’s? Where’s the Mick Jaggers? Where are they?! They’re not out there anymore. I was saying that some of the best front-men I’ve seen lately have been girls. The likes of Pink or bloody Lady Gaga, they’re out there, they’re pushing the barriers, they’re in your face. I mean that Pink show’s amazing! Come on, you cannot take that from her! She is fuckin’ amazing.
You mentioned Metallica and Slayer; two thrash bands that you helped very early in their careers by taking them on the road. What’s it like seeing a band that you endorsed – to a certain extent – snowball and become as big as they have and for there to be such a demand to see the Big 4?
It’s just all promotion for the same music really. That’s the way we look at it. I mean we spoke to Metallica about this years ago; they’re quite an easily accessible band. We knew that we weren’t going to be accepted by middle-class American parents whose kids like heavy metal – they’re going to buy a safe Metallica album, they’re not going to buy a nasty horrible Venom album. We have known our place all along, we knew that we were never going to attain the same success in terms of popularity’s concerned, like what those guys have attained, but success is measured differently by different people. I personally wouldn’t want to have psychiatrists tell me what to do and I would never start singing ‘I am a table’! So at the end of the day, I’m quite happy with where we are. We’re Venom – very successful in our own right.
You haven’t compromised anything.
Finally, can you tell me about the lead single that is coming off Fallen Angels?
Ten inch single, ‘Hammerhead’. It’s just a very powerful song, it’s like ‘Black Metal’, it’s about the fans, it’s about the gig, it’s a nice powerful song. There’s ‘Hail Satanas’ on the B-side, which is really Venom. We just wanted to give the fans something extra. I mean, the album will be coming out on vinyl as well, because more and more people are wanting vinyl, vinyl, vinyl. When they said could we do a ten inch, we said yeah! Fucking great. The legions love that shit!