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For those who have been living under a rock, let’s get you up to speed on Venom Inc.
They aren’t a tribute band, nor are they a band out to piss off Cronos (Conrad Lant of Venom) after a nasty split. Venom Inc is a band born of a chance reunion. At the request for some old Venom numbers to be played at Keep It True Festival in Germany, Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn, Anthony ‘Abaddon’ Bray and Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan got together onstage, nailed some of their classics and have since been on a rollercoaster ride created an entirely new beast in Venom Inc.
Hysteria caught up with Mantas ahead of the release of Avé on 11th August to hear about the reunion, how they found time to write an album in amongst the hundreds of shows and what the guys have planned for Venom Inc in the future.
Mantas is the kind of guy who tells it like it is. He is straight up and brutally honest and when he was first approached about doing a festival set and playing some old Venom tracks, for nostalgia’s sake, his reply was a flat out ‘Fuck off’.
But eventually he was talked into the idea, and the next thing he knows, he goes from playing some classics at a festival in Germany to being offered multiple shows, kicking off a band called Venom Inc and writing and recording again with some old buddies.
“Tony Dolan was actually asked to play a festival as Atomkraft up in Newcastle (UK) and they wanted him to do Future Warriors album in full,” Mantas says. “I was still living in England at the time, so Tony came up to Newcastle and I went to rehearsal a few times, and then ended up jamming a couple of the songs with them, and then got on stage to play them,” says Mantas of the beginning of the reunion.
“There was another band there called Cauldron, a Canadian band, and they played Die Hard (Venom classic) as part of their set, and during that they asked me to jump up on stage and cover that with them. So I did that. Now a rep from Keep It True Festival was there and he had seen all of this, and as it happened Abbadon was in the audience. So the rep contacted Tony and asked if we knew that Abbadon was there. We said we did, but we haven’t spoken since 1998! But then he asked if we wanted to play Keep It True festival as M-Pire of Evil, which we did, to which he then asked if Abbadon was there, would we want to get up and do some Venom songs under M-Pire. I said ‘No. Absolutely not!’, so it was certainly a no from me initially!” he continues.
But eventually, after talking at length with Abbadon and Dolan, Mantas came around to the idea and the three selected five or six songs and jumped on stage in Germany.
“The reaction was ridiculous,” Mantas says.
And it was that reaction that started the snowball effect and before the guys knew it, they were touring Asia, Europe and Canada under the moniker of Venom Inc.
But being Venom Inc isn’t about resurrecting the past or pissing off old fans, it’s about moving forward as this new entity. Mantas explains that they were gobsmacked by the reaction and by the offers that kept coming in, so many in fact, that they have notched up an incredible number of over 250 shows in the last two years, since that fateful day at Keep It True in 2015.
It was clear that the next question on everyone’s lips for the trio was ‘When would see an album?’ and Mantas confirms that this was definitely the case for them, as they were beginning to be questioned by labels and fans alike.
“We really had no plans at all to release an album. But we did start to write and now here we are, days away from releasing the first album,” Mantas says.
“The whole thing has been totally unexpected really. Then the pressure was on and now here we are! But every review I’ve read has been amazing, so that’s been great. So I am looking forward to hearing what the fans think, because at the end of the day, they are the ones who are going to get behind it or not,” Mantas continues.
When it comes to the fans though, there has been a bit of a divide within the Venom Inc camp, with some staying loyal to the current Venom name, but most being open to the idea of Venom Inc and embracing the new tracks they have heard and new direction of the three. But while they are open to the idea, they still believe that the three on stage are the true Venom core and this is evident at the shows they have played.
It was an intense time. We had a pretty tight deadline to meet.
“Every gig we have played, and we have played well in excess of over 200 to 250 shows, and at every one, I’ve heard the audience chanting ‘Venom’, not ‘Venom Inc’. We’ve also met thousands of fans after shows, and the overwhelming opinion is that this is the true Venom. They’ve said that. We’ve never come out and said that,” Mantas recalls.
“The fans are the most important of all this. Without their support we don’t exist and so far they are all well on board with this. I mean, there are the hard core fans who want the original lineup back together, but that is never going to happen,” he continues.
But, as Mantas points out, at the end of the day this was a legitimate Venom lineup. They did three albums together under Venom before parting ways, and now with this new beast, there are so many different possibilities to explore, while also keeping that core sound that made them what they were in Venom.
Fans will get to hear those sounds soon enough, with the highly anticipated new album Avé hitting shelves on August 11. Mantas explains that they wanted to be as honest as they possibly could be with this record. They didn’t want to force anything, they wanted to just be who they were, combining the old influences of Venom with the sounds of how they have grown as musicians since that time.
“Avé was put together over the space of about three months,” says Mantas of the writing period.
“It was an intense time. We had a pretty tight deadline to meet.”
With well over twenty-five songs in various stages of completion, it was tough to get down to the eleven chose for the record. Especially with being on the road so much. Mantas estimates that at one point he had around eighty-four riffs on his phone, from just fiddling around in his hotel room. Returning from being on tour, he loaded these onto his computer. From those, some of the tracks were born. It was tough, but they got the job done. As Mantas explains, they worked with the songs that he wrote with the audience in mind.
“When I write, I am always looking to where the audience can join in. I am old school at the end of the day. I am not into writing a million tempo changes into the tracks. I use the guitar as a tool to write the songs. It’s as simple as that,” Mantas says.
“At the end of the day, it’s the riffs and the rhythm and the lyrics. It’s not all about how a guitarist can show off. I’m just about writing catchy hooks, I don’t want to hear that I shred to be honest!” Mantas laughs.
But Mantas definitely does know his way around a guitar. Fans will hear catchy hooks in abundance on the new record, and hopefully, with the amount of time being put in on the road, the band will make their way down to Australia sooner rather than later.
Mantas hope it’s sooner as well, with Australia being on his bucket list as a travel destination.
“I’ve never been there! I’ve got friends who have visited and friends who live there and I have never heard a bad word. It’s the one place that I really want to get to,” Mantas says.
And with the album about to be released, there are sure to be many fans who also are keen to get their live fix of Venom Inc and relive their glory days.