Venom Inc's (Mr) Abaddon - He's A Reet Canny Gadgie

Wey Aye, Man...

It’s always polite to check how the interviewee would like to be addressed, so my first question to Venom Inc’s drummer is ‘Do you prefer to be called Abaddon, Mr Abaddon or Tony?’ and I’m relieved when drummer Anthony ‘Abaddon’ Bray says that “Tony’s good.” because addressing him as Mr Abaddon would have just been weird...

You’d have to have been living in a hole in the middle of nowhere in order not to have noticed that Venom Inc have just put out their debut ‘full length opus’ Ave, and I ask Tony if he’s sick of the interview process yet. He laughs good-naturedly, assuring me “Not really, no – the more the merrier, mate! We’re getting pretty favourable results from reviews and whatnot, and all the fans have been waiting for it. It’s good.” And have you been playing much of Ave live yet? “We’ve been playing one song; we’ve been playing Ave, three or four times now, and it’s fitting in well with the old stuff. It sounds correct so that’s good. It doesn’t sound out of place and it’s finding its’ own way live, you know?” I’m guessing the band plans to drop more of the new album into the set as the tour progresses? “Yeah, there’s a full North American tour coming up at the end of this month so we’re looking at adding three new songs in for that. I don’t know what we’re gonna take out because at the moment we’re kind of doing a ‘best of’ set, and people are asking for more old songs so it’s more about what we take out. It’s gonna be difficult.”

Ah, the throbbing vein of nostalgia. “Yeah, we’re that kind of band, you know? When you’ve got this many back albums – and we were always pretty good at putting out singles that weren’t off the album so every time a single came out you’d get three new songs – so there’s a massive vein of material that we have to choose from, and we still have to put at least three songs from the new album in there. But it’s all good at the moment, man!” So when picking a set-list do you mix it up with what you want to play with what the audience wants to hear? “There has been a bit of a demand from the audience for certain songs – and they’ve been kind of off the wall songs – the fans are very knowledgeable so when we play the same songs over and over again they go like ’Yeah but what about Manitou, what about this one, what about that one?’ so they’re kind of getting on our case a little bit. We’ll have to up our game a bit!” He’s laughing so it’s obviously not a concern for him and the rest of the band.

Given some of the tunes are over three decades old, do they come back easily or do you need to work at recalling them? He’s honest and admits “From my point of view, I have to work on them a little bit because we don’t live in the same place, we don’t rehearse together. One of the guys lives in Portugal and another lives in Lindon and I’m still up in the North East of England so there’s this learning the tracks again but also when we get together and play properly – you know, playing live – they come together pretty easily.” Like myself Tony equates playing properly with playing live and in the same room, which brings me to the recording of Ave. You obviously have a preference for having everyone in the same room. “Yeah – 100% - I think the power of a metal band is about that eye contact, it’s about adrenaline, it’s about that push and pull. I might push the guitarist as we go into the chorus or as we’re coming out of the chorus we might drop back into a groove; all of those things are about humanity, and soul, and art. It’s not about the click track – it’s a necessary evil but it is an evil. It’s not something I enjoy at all; being in a studio by myself, staring at a wall and listening to guitar riffs that are on the beep. You can’t really effect the record that much.” We start discussing the memories that you forge from a band rehearsal or a sweet live gig and he (quite rightly) observes “All the moments that you remember from being in a band will be about climbing in the back of a shitty transit and going to rehearsals at one o’clock in the morning, and to me that’s how you make a record as well.”
So was it a bit weird getting the band back together, was it an immediate fit or was there some necessarily ‘jiggling’ to get back into the groove? “I guess there’s always gonna be a little bit of that given the band and the back-story we’ve got but to be fair, once you’re on the road – especially at our age – it’s about trying to look after yourself a bit and do the job as professionally as you can. Any bullshit goes out the window.” I mention that none of us are getting any younger and our recovery times are getting slower. He laughs, admitting “My thing is that I’m out here to party. I want to get pissed every night and just want to be a part of the whole thing. I want to hang out with the crew, I want to hang out with the fans backstage and have a drink afterwards so for me it’s all about that when you’re on the road but you’ve also got to be professional and get up the next day,”
He mentions that he had some concerns that the new songs might ‘lose the balls of Venom’ as a result of modern recording techniques but in the end he was most happy with the result. “When you look back at Prime Evil (1989), that didn’t sound like Welcome to Hell (1981) or Black Metal (1982) but it sounded like a Venom album, and I think Ave, in its’ own way, doesn’t sound like Prime Evil and doesn’t sound like Welcome to Hell but it sounds like a Venom album. It carries on that lineage which I’ve got to be proud of and I’ve got to be pleased about.”

As you’ve been drumming for 35+ years, what can the older skinsman (or woman) look forward to? He cracks up. “Just more pain! I’ve got a lot of friends who are drummers and they drum every day, they can’t wait to set up and I’m like ‘Are you fucking mad?! That’s fucking torture, man! Fuck off! Let’s go to the pub!’” Well, that’s something to look forward to…

Tour plans? “We start in the US in September and we’re off there for five weeks. We come back and we’re then looking at South America down to some places we haven’t played before. We’ve played in Brazil and Mexico before now we’re gonna hit places like Peru and Ecuador as well. We’ve got some English dates before the end of the year and we’re looking to get down to Oz in 2018.”

Sweet Mother of Abominations! I must not die before next year.

Personally I’ve never considered Venom to be black metal so what’s your take on it? This is from the horse’s mouth so I’ll quote Tony in full. “My take on it, and the official line, is that we were interviewed by a guy from Kerrang magazine, and he came up to talk to us and he said ‘I’ve spoken to people about your band and nobody knows what your music is, it isn’t punk but we don’t think it’s heavy metal’ and I’d picked up a copy of that week’s Kerrang and it had Bon Jovi on the front cover, and I said ‘Well, if that’s considered the bible for heavy metal and Bon Jovi is considered the face of heavy metal then I know that we are definitely not heavy metal’. So the guy jumped on it straight away and said ‘OK, so what are you?’ and the three of us were just coming out with stuff ‘We’re black metal, we’re thrash metal, we’re death metal, we’re speed metal….this is how we describe our music’ and that spurred all those different genres. If you got someone who liked Free, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, they’re all very different bands but they were all just known as hard rock or heavy metal bands. They were all very different but they were all within the one genre. When we said that about black metal, death metal and all those other terms, you get a band like Pantera and you get a band like Mayhem, they have nothing in common, and their fans seem to have nothing in common, but when you bring Pantera back to its roots, it’s Venom, and when you bring Mayhem back to its roots, it’s Venom. You can do that with almost any genre and any band and the root is Venom – and that’s where all the explosions of the genres came from. While Venom isn’t a black metal band that’s recognised by the genre, it’s like having kids and black metal is one of our children and you want your children to grow up and go away and do their own thing, you know what I mean? That’s what it’s like for me. It’s like this ugly bastard child that’s gone away and done his own thing – and he’s turned around and denied his father! Well, that’s fucking cool as well!”

He’s cracking up. I’m cracking up. It’s pretty fucking amusing. And with that cleared up, I let Tony get back to his bottle of dog and nice bit of scran.
Ave from Venom Inc, out now on Nuclear Blast.