VENOM INC.  “Black to the Future” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

When I first heard the name of Venom Inc., my first reaction was one of distaste. The name sounded tacky, like somebody trying to turn one of the rawest and most revolutionary bands in the history of music into a marketable commodity. With original members Mantas and Abaddon on board, along with one-time Venom frontman Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan, there’s no doubt that this band had the right to use Venom somewhere in their name. But the “Inc.” just sounded cheesy to me.

Enter The Demolition Man to not only defend the name of Venom Inc., but passionately defend this incarnation of the band. He sure made a believer out of me. What you will read below is the declaration of somebody who lives and breathes the original essence of Venom. Some might say the current Cronos-led version of the band has forgotten that essence. I would disagree but as Tony says, there’s more than enough room for two awesome bands to carry the Venom legacy forward.

Tony was one of the most honest, down to Earth and heartfelt guys I have spoken to in the history of Wormwood. And hoo boy, did he have a lot to say! Read on and learn of his vision for Venom Inc (and it’s “cousin”, Mpire of Evil) and I think you, too, will be converted!


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Tony, it’s great to hear from you!

TONY DOLAN: Yeah, you too! Sorry, it’s been a bit fuckin’ chaotic. We took a whole day to travel basically four hours and we wound up late everywhere.

WC: I know things got goofy in Chicago but I’ll bet that was a heck of a show, wasn’t it?

TD: Oh, it was great! There was a big snowstorm so it was a bit difficult for people to get there but it was a fuckin’ outrageous show. We had a really, really great time. We kind of lucked out.  New York was insane, Toronto even topped New York as far as insanity and then we hit Chicago, so we were running on all the aces! Last night we played a smaller show in St. Paul. There wasn’t a ton of people there, I guess St. Paul don’t get too many shows, but we were traveling through so we thought, why not? After the show, we were talking to the people and one bloke said “I’ve seen every fuckin’ band I can possibly see but that was the best show of my life!”

WC: I spoke to some of the fellas who saw the Monday night show in Chicago and everybody said it was awesome.

TD: Well, you know, there’s this whole “No Cronos, No Venom” thing but I think the people writing that aren’t getting in front of us first. They need to get in front of us. It’s not like we’ve subtracted anything from Venom, we’ve actually added to it. People who want to see Cronos and his band, go ahead and see him. And people who want to see Mantas and Abaddon and me get to see us. We’re doing this from purely a fan’s point of view. The fans have driven it…we didn’t set this up on purpose, it just happened. And what I want to do is get to the core of the whole thing. The essence of Venom was the music and 30 years after they created it, the music belongs to the fans now. It’s theirs, they own it. It’s something they’ve invested in and it’s theirs. So I don’t see why one guy should tell the fans what they should see and what they shouldn’t see. The fans should get to see anything they want!

WC: This interview is something I’ve been looking to do for close to 30 years…

TD: No way! Really?

WC:  The first Venom record was the most life-changing record I’ve heard…

TD: Exactly, yup, yup!

WC: Before that, I was into standard hard rock. Then I picked up “Welcome To Hell” because I always had a liking for monsters, demonology and such. To be honest, the first 2 weeks I had that record, I hated it! (laughter) It took a while to sink in. I was always a big fan of Gene Simmons of Kiss. I heard Venom and thought this was the sort of stuff he should have done on his solo album.

TD: Exactly! You know, I think you’ve just summed up for 99.9 % of every single person who discovered Venom during the early days.

WC:  I waited on my knees for “Black Metal” to come out! I also have your other project Mpire of Evil. I’ve been a collector of anything associated with Venom. I even go back to the old Metal Forces days and your old band Atomkraft!

TD: Oh shit, no way!

WC: “Future Warriors”, “Foliage” and all that good stuff. I used to think that Cronos was one of those guys who could not be replaced in Venom, but when I heard your name mentioned, I thought “This is the man!”

TD: I was actually doing a show where I was invited to do “Future Warriors” in its entirety. I thought OK, I’ve never actually done that before. So I did the whole album on one show and then I got Mantas to join me up on stage for a couple of songs, “Pour the Metal In” and “Heat and Pain”. The promoter, Oliver Weisshammer, was actually at the show  and he messaged me a few weeks later and said, hey, Tony, that was great! Listening to “Future Warriors”, I never thought I’d hear that live! And then he said, when you had Mantas on stage, I was blown away. And I saw Abaddon in the audience. Wow, that would have been cool to have Abaddon come up on stage and you played a couple of Venom songs. So then he  said, if I book you guys for the Keep It True festival in Germany and Abaddon was there, what would be the chances of getting up and you playing Venom songs. I asked, what, stuff from “Prime Evil”? He said, I don’t give a shit, I want some classic Venom songs. That’s how the whole thing started. I spoke to Mantas, I spoke to Abaddon. It was difficult to get it to work but I eventually convinced them that it could work. We picked five Venom songs…”Seven Gates of Hell”, “In Nomine Satanas”, “Sons of Satan”…and then we flew to Germany. No rehearsal, we just met there.  We played an Mpire of Evil set, then we switched up and put Abaddon on drums and played 5 songs and the fuckin’ place went crazy. I mean, absolutely crazy! We finished with “Sons of Satan” and I thought, fuckin’ hell, this is kind of special! Before I left Germany, my phone was going crazy and we were booked for South America, booked for Asia. I sat with the guys and said, you know, the reason we’re here, the reason we did this was just for the fans…to give them a piece of something they’d never seen. What do you say, you want to keep playing? And they said, fuck it, let’s play! And we’ve never stopped since last March. We’re now in the middle of America and we’ve been all through South America, Asia, China, Europe, you fuckin’ name it. And we’re still playing.

 It’s all fan driven, it’s because the fans want to see it. When it comes to the question of  them and us…Cronos’ band and us…it’s not a war between the two of us. Everybody gets to see and hear everything between the two of us. That’s the point, the legacy of the band, done with all the personalities in the band. It’s about how you felt the first time you heard it. What we’ve wanted to do with all the shows Venom Inc. has been playing is get to that feeling. So people feel the emotion of that music. When we play “Sons of Satan”, I want to people to feel like they’re hearing it for the first time. Not like we’re just painting by numbers or trying to cash in. We’re not just trying to sell a logo and some merchandise. We’re giving you the feel that was lost somewhere along the line, when it became an entity that was far beyond the band.  I want to give people that real 100% feeling and emotion.  Lemmy Kilmister never went on stage and underplayed himself. He never walked through it, he never played by numbers, he never called it in. When he was on stage playing, he was 100% and that’s what I want us to do.

WC:  With the way the music business it now, you have to love it. You’ve got to love it or be totally cynical. I think a lot of old time Venom fans are kind of hard to impress but based on the response I’m getting to your live shows, they are impressed with Venom Inc.

TD: Yeah, yeah they are! 

WC: Was there a specific moment that triggered your switch from Mpire of Evil to Venom Inc.?

TD: Not really! To be fair, we haven’t actually stopped with Mpire. We were doing the new Mpire album and looking to finish it off with some vocals and a bit of mastering. Then I got called to do that Atomkraft show and from there we got called by Oliver and Keep It True and brought up the idea of bringing Abaddon on.  So we did. We had the intention to carry on with the Mpire album and then get out touring. The idea of keeping Abaddon on took hold and we first called the band “Iron and Steel”. But fans would say, no, you’ve got to keep the name “Venom” in somehow. It was like, how the fuck do we do that? Cronos has got the name “Venom” sewn up. I didn’t want that kind of conflict. But because the original band logo was Abaddon’s, we thought up “Venom Incorporated”,meaning that we’re doing our own thing and we’re incorporating Venom because we were all part of Venom. Mantas and Abaddon founded the band and I was in the band for a period of time. So we can justify it. Initially, the Venom management and Cronos were saying that this would be confusing to the fans. But no fans are confused. They know exactly what they are getting…they know who he is and who these guys and I am. 

We’ve no intention of not completing the Mpire album, it’s just now we’ve got to add a Venom Inc. album to it.  We’ll do both and if we have a gap in the Venom Inc schedule, we’ll finish off the Mpire album and we’ll do shows when folks want to see Mpire and do Venom Inc when we don’t have Mpire stuff going on. At the end of the day, we’re all musicians, we’re not just 3 guys in a “band”…we’re 3 musicians and we all have our specialties and we all do other things. It’s all part of the game, you know…it’s not about being a one trick pony. It’s about developing everything we’ve got and enjoying it. Just playing music. If Venom Inc. is booked for the rest of the year and all we have are Venom Inc shows, then that’s what we’ll do. If there’s a gap, then we’ll get Mpire shows in. It’s not about leaving one thing out at the expense of the other. People assumed that we would bring Abaddon into Mpire of Evil, but I was never looking at anything like that because Mpire is a different thing. But having Abaddon in Venom Inc. , that’s pure, that’s real. 

People were saying we didn’t do a lot of material from the “Prime Evil” or “Temples of Ice” albums. Well, that was certainly a period of time in the band’s history…we will get to it! But what I wanted to do, if we’re doing to be real and 100% emotional, we need to go back to the start and then we need to travel all the way through the first two albums, we need to travel through “At War With Satan”, we need to travel through “Possessed”. We need to play all those songs that were so huge, that made everybody stand up and notice the band. It doesn’t matter if Cronos is singing it, it doesn’t matter if I’m singing it, it’s about the feeling of the songs. If we put 100% into every performance and we make those songs feel real, that’s what the audience needs, that’s what they want. When we play “Cry Wolf” or “Welcome to Hell”, we want people to feel like they’re hearing it for the first time. When we do “Sons of Satan”, it’s with total intent. When we do “Witching Hour”, it’s like the first time we play it. It’s all about getting to the core of it, much like they did when they wrote it. You know, it was chaos and they were young guys when they wrote it, with a ton of energy and they wanted to make a statement. Somewhere along the line, musicians age and they refine themselves and they get all cool and suddenly one day you’re on stage playing your greatest hits! It doesn’t feel the same. I don’t give a fuck if people care if I’m up there or not. When we play “Black Metal”, I want us to feel like when they wrote and played it for the first time. That’s what we’re after, that’s it, really. 

WC: That’s very commendable. It’s rare that you want to visit almost every era of the band. There’s a band that I like called Asphyx who have had a variety of lead singers over the years. When the original lead singer Martin van Drunen comes back to the band, they just perform the songs he sang on and ignore all the rest. For you to say what you did, that proves you’re very fan-centered.  Everybody wants to hear some of the hidden gems of Venom…

TD: Exactly! Cronos is never gonna play “Manitou”! He’s not gonna play “Red Light Fever”, “Dead of the Night”, “Lady Lust”. All those great, great songs. I just think the legacy of the band far outweighs the personalities. If we can stand on stage and play “Dead of the Night” or “Poison” or “Red Light Fever”…those are the moments people remember.  I had someone the other night in Chicago I talked to after the set. I asked, did you enjoy the set? He answered, oh yeah, oh yeah. Well, what was your favorite song? He said, “Buried Alive”. When you finished “Buried Alive” and went right into “Raise the Dead” and played the whole thing, I almost had tears in my eyes, it was so beautiful. And that’s the point of what we’re doing.

WC:  To be able to evoke those feelings is a rare thing.

TD: That’s it, that’s it. It’s difficult to evoke those feelings. You can reminisce, you can feel a retrospective feeling when you see Kiss and they play “Strutter” or something like that.  You go “Oh my God!” and you want  ‘em to play “Rock N Roll All Night”. The last time I saw Kiss was a long time ago and when they played “Rock N Roll All Night”, I was back in Cobo Hall in 1975 watching them play it. And I want to do that with this lineup.  We wanna dig right inside your soul and pull that young 16 year old back out again. You are still that person, you still have that energy, you still have that inside you.

WC: That’s fantastic. On the other hand, you are musicians and at some point, I take it you are going to want to add to this legacy?

TD:  That’s exactly it. I always classify musicians as two types of people: there’s a guy in a band and there’s a real musician. The original 3 members were guys in a band. But beyond that, they’ve continued to evolve as musicians in all sorts of guises. They’ve been creative in every way, artistic in every way. That’s the difference with this.  We aren’t just guys in a band, we’re musicians. And so, creatively, Venom never stopped creating no matter who was in the band. So we have to do a new album because that’s who we are…creators. It’s doesn’t stop with just playing retrospective music. The beauty is rediscovering some of the songs you thought were one-dimensional and finding out that they were actually multi-dimensional. You just needed the musicians to realize that. But beyond that, we have to create new music…we have to! It will be based on who we are and how we’re playing. It will be authentic, it will be real, it won’t be manipulated, we won’t look for an angle, we won’t try to sell something that we’re not. It will be who we are, how we play and when you see the live show, that’s what you’ll get on the new album. You’ll get that intensity, that alive feeling, that total brutality. And it will be done in analog. It will be one guy sitting on a drum stool, two guys plugging into amps and playing. It will be that simple.

WC:  Many years ago, Venom did one of the best interviews I’ve ever read in a rock magazine. It was in Kerrang! And very early in their existence. There was a quote where Cronos said “We call this death metal or black metal, not heavy metal, because that’s for the chicks!” Another quote said, when we go into a studio, we just stink up the place. We want it to be like a pile of rubble when we leave!

TD: Exactly! There was no finesse. The story goes, the guy who was interviewing them had a copy of a previous issue of Kerrang! On the cover of that edition was Jon Bon Jovi. The interviewer said, you guys are heavy metal. And the guys were like, whoa, whoa, whoa! We’re not heavy metal. Well, if you’re not heavy metal, then what are you? They pointed to Bon Jovi and said, if that’s heavy metal, we’re not heavy metal. You can call us black metal, speed metal, whatever. And then that stuck! It was a way to disassociate themselves from what the genre was. It did include Sabbath, Motorhead and darker and more extreme feelings, but it also incorporated Foreigner and Toto. Well, fuckin’ hell, that’s not heavy metal. It was a way to alienate in one way, but make a statement that what we do is extreme compared to this stuff.

WC: (laughs) They picked some fights, brother! There was another band from around that same time that I actually kind of liked, called Demon. I don’t know whether it was Cronos or Abaddon who said it, but he said “Father Time! I’d slit that cunt up a treat!” (laughter)

TD: And it was as simple as that! When they played drums, they just put them in the studio and played them as loud as possible. And when they put the amps in, everything went up to 11! They put as many amps as they could in there! There was a ferocity to it. It wasn’t about smoothing it out with a palette knife so it looked all shiny and marketable and cool. It was about being ugly and extreme. If somebody said you can’t do that, it was the first thing Venom was gonna do!

WC: And yet the growth in the music between “Welcome To Hell” and the concept side of “At War With Satan” was immense.  They kept the feeling but musically, it was a different ball game.

TD: Right. The first two albums were written by Jeff (Mantas) even before Cronos was in the band so those songs had been sitting around since the conception of the band.  They were real songs when they did those albums, but “At War With Satan” was kind of like Cronos’ “2112”. He composed that during the “Black Metal” era, which is why the outro on “Black Metal” led into “At War With Satan”. They were running ahead with ideas before they realized it. What I loved about Venom personally was that they were always on the verge of chaos. You went to the live show and it was quite possible they could have played from beginning to the end, but it was also quite possible that somewhere around the middle, it might have fuckin’ exploded!(laughs) Everything would have died there and then. Same thing with the records. There was a chance that everything would be linear and in order and nice and polished, but then something absolutely off the map, ugly and distorted and against everything that was conformist would come out…and it would be beautiful!

There was always a tongue in cheek element, they were always laughing and having a good time. I think that put people on the notice that this band was fuckin’ enjoying what they were doing and they didn’t conform. If you look at their singles, no two singles were the same. You can’t see the link between “In League With Satan”, “Seven Gates of Hell” and “Manitou”. They just did whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do it. However it came out, that was Venom! And that’s the beauty of the band. That’s what we want to continue, to continue that legacy. Not to make the best album in the world. To some degree, Cronos has been trying to remake the classic albums. With “Metal Black” he tried to remake “Black Metal”, with “Hell” he tried to remake “Welcome To Hell” complete with bad production. It was on purpose to try and re-establish the band. You don’t need to re-establish the band! You don’t need to reinvent anything, you just need to keep the same chaotic feeling going. It’s not about sitting in a studio and cleverly trying to replicate “Black Metal”, it’s about writing the next “Black Metal”. At the time that was written, there was no plan to write catchy songs that captured the imagination. They didn’t care about that, they just wrote songs and it just happened to be that song. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to control it, we’re not trying to manipulate it, we certainly not trying to capitalize on it. We’re just playing the songs. And those songs are driving us to make more music in the same vein. We won’t have an overproduced, overpolished album that comes out from Venom Inc.  I want to have the album so when you put it on, you feel like you’re on a fuckin’ dog leash and you’re straining so hard that it’s gonna snap and you’re gonna go running down the street. That’s the feeling I want to get. When you see us live, it’s gonna be unbridled. We’re three fierce men coming at you and you can’t escape. When you put “Welcome to Hell” on the first time, it was so ugly…it was like you just said. Do I like it or not? And then it seeps into your soul. It might be something really great…I feel moved by it!

WC: It was beyond punk. You are trying to ride the tiger.

TD: Yeah!

WC: Do you have any thought at all on what new songs would be like?

TD: Yes! At the time we initially decided to tour, I wrote a song called “Metal Hammer” because it looked like we might wind up on the cover of Metal Hammer magazine and have flexi-disc with them. Jeff wrote a song straight away to use as a B-side, so we have those in the bag. And since we’ve been touring, we’ve just talked and talked and talked about what to do, so we have pools and pools of riffs and ideas. The minute we can stop playing live shows, the intention is just to get straight into the studio and put something together. I think it’s fair to say that all three of us have been totally inspired since last March by the fans.  We’ve been inspired by people like yourself, who come forward and tell us stories. You know, everybody’s got a story about when they met Lemmy and they think it’s the only story. It’s the same thing with Venom. Everybody remembers the first time they got into Venom. That’s a beautiful thing. So yeah, we’ve been inspired by stories from the fans. We’ve got some amazing stuff on the way and can’t wait to get it out to the fans.

WC: I’ve seen the band live twice and each time it was like an all-out riot. I saw them at Maryland Deathfest a couple of years ago and they pulled the plug on them in the middle of “Warhead”. I felt lucky that they didn’t start tasing people or shooting tear gas canisters.

TD: Yeah, exactly. When we played New York City, they said there was a hard curfew and I asked, what’s the hard curfew? They said 10:00 PM and you gotta be done by then. Is that OK? I said, that’s fine by me. They said, you’ll do a shorter set, then? I said, no, I’ll go on stage and play and when I’m finished, I’ll come off. And they said, will that be 10 o’clock? I don’t know, it will be when I’m fuckin’ finished! If you wanna pull the plug at 10, go ahead and pull it. But I’ll not come off the stage until I’m finished. If they would have pulled the plug at 10, the crowd would have torn the place apart! So we actually played until 20 to 11, we bulldozed right through it.
I’ve got one rule when it comes to Venom Inc…there’s no fuckin’ rules! That’s the beauty of it. That’s the one time in your life you should feel liberated. We conform ourselves every fuckin’ day to governments and administrations and it’s very rare that we get an hour or two of total liberty where we can do whatever the fuck we like. That’s what we want to do with these shows.

WC:  Lemmy had a great quote that fits. Think about some of these people that work in factories putting stuff together doing the same mindless thing day after day. I know what it’s like, because I did it.  You almost hate your life every day. So when those people go out to see a band, we try to make it as larger than life and rip the heart out of them and give it back to them every more. And I think Venom does that even more than Motorhead.

TD: Lemmy was my inspiration, as he was to many people. I first saw Lemmy in 78 and he changed my life. Ever since, I’ve been trying to emulate his way of being and what he taught me. Not only stylistically and his method of attack musically, but he taught me to be a gentleman. He taught me how to treat fans. He taught me what you were there for, why you were there and how to do it. I’ll carry that with me to my grave. And if I can die the same way he did, that’s exactly what I’m going to fucking do. I’m here to give people that freedom, that liberation, and to show them it’s possible, it’s all possible. And that’s why he was such a great man. He taught me beyond just playing. He taught me how to be a human and how to be with other humans and treat everybody with total respect. He taught me how to look at your fans as the total reason you exist. When you see all these tours going out and charging people hundreds of dollars or charging big money just to take a picture with the band, then you’d see Lemmy sitting at the Rainbow sipping his whiskey and playing his video poker game. If people came in and said hey, Lemmy, can I take a picture?, he would just smile and take the picture with them. He wouldn’t say “you owe me twenty bucks!” 

WC: In America, the underground metal scene is the last outpost of that sort of contact. I’m embarrassed about the state of music here in the States…

TD: Well, don’t be! It’s the same everywhere, no matter where I’ve been, be it Europe, Italy, France, Portugal, China, Taiwan, even Japan. Everybody says the same thing.” Heavy metal is not doing so well, you can’t get people to play.” But the truth is, we are one brotherhood and we stretch across the globe. They can’t kill us, they can’t get rid of us. It’s in our souls.  And if we all put one hand in another hand, you’ll see that we circle the globe a few thousand times! We’re all here! We just need to connect with each other!

WC: There are three bands that mean more to me than any other…Judas Priest, Rush and Venom.

TD: Ah! To include a band that I’ve loved and respected and am fortunate to be a part of today with those giants, that’s a beautiful thing to hear. Mike, I’ve got to go to soundcheck, but I just wanted to tell you to keep the faith. It’s not about who’s in and who’s out, it’s about the music, it’s the fan’s music, it’s inspirational and we should never ever lose that feeling. A world without Venom is not a world I want to be in and a world with more Venom than just Venom is a beautiful world!