Daniel Löfquist of the Swedish web magazine CriticalMass.se recently conducted an interview with mainman/bassist Conrad “Cronos” Lant of British black metal pioneers VENOM. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
CriticalMass.se: In the past, you’ve repeatedly said that VENOM would never do a show where you couldn’t do the full show with the pyrotechnics, the big lights and all that. Nowadays, though, you’re playing plenty of smaller venues as well. What made you change your mind and how are you liking playing the smaller shows?
Cronos: Well, I’ll tell you what it was. Five or six years ago, I got a call from Kerry [King, SLAYER guitarist] because SLAYER was playing up in Scotland on the “Unholy Alliance” tour. It’s only an hour and a half from where I live so I drove up there to see the show. I was expecting SLAYER to have the blood in the lighting rig and for SLIPKNOT to have their pyro, you know, but there was nothing like that. So I told them, “Fuck, where’s the show?” you know? And they said, “Well, we can’t do it in this venue.” So I asked them “But you do it on this tour?” and they said, “Yes, in the venues where we can do it.” They told me that the fans were okay with that because they knew it was because they couldn’t do it in that venue. I always thought that we should only do the full show because that was they way that the fans wanted it, they didn’t want VENOM without the big pyro and all that. Then I started to get feedback from fans who were saying, “Bullshit. We’d love to have you play our small club here in Poland,” and things like that. That’s when we decided to give it a try and it’s been amazing. We just came back from a show in a medium-size venue in Bucharest — no pyro, just a great light show, nice backdrop, drum riser and some Marshalls, you know, and it was amazing. [See video below.] So I’m taking a leaf out of SLAYER‘s book, really. We can do that kind of show, we are, and we will. We’ll do the big production when we can and if people wanna come see VENOM even when we can’t, now they can. It’s made it so that we’ve been able to play in lots of places that we’ve never even been before so it’s just great.
CriticalMass.se: Can we expect a lot of touring and maybe some festival gigs for “Fallen Angels” then?
Cronos: Oh yeah, that’s what we’re hoping for. We’ve been touring for almost two years before recording the album, so we’re really itching to get back out there. We’re hoping to play everywhere next year so we’re busy talking to Australia for example and trying to get some shows in Japan also. But we’re definitely playing Europe and there are several festivals in Sweden that are of interest. I know our management has been talking to two of them so you can pretty much guarantee a show in Sweden next year.
CriticalMass.se: What is your relationship with [former VENOM members] Mantas and Abaddon like these days?
Cronos: None, really. The only contact is through the business side of it all, because I’m working with Universal and all the back catalogue, and obviously, we have to pay those guys that are on the albums. That’s the only contact there is. Nothing to do with the music today. Ten years ago some people would be saying crap like, “The only real VENOM is the original lineup,” but nowadays the audience consists of more young people who might have started buying the albums from “Resurrection” and onwards. A lot of the kids in the front row, and those who make up the majority of the crowd, are singing along to the songs from “Resurrection”, “Metal Black” and “Hell”. It’s the older guys that are closer to my age who are the minority, standing at the back with their arms folded and waiting for the rendition of “Bloodlust” and “Witching Hour”. Sure, the young guys know the history of the band and they know those songs too but I think they can be more passionate about the newer material because those albums came in their time. Some of them weren’t even born when “Welcome To Hell” came out. But they’re now the majority of the audience, so it’s been ten years since I heard anybody whining to me about “VENOM is not VENOM without Mantas and Abaddon.” That’s history now. People don’t give a shit about the old guys anymore.
CriticalMass.se: When you reunited the original lineup back in 1995 there was a massive insurgence in VENOM collecting and the prices on your old vinyl releases doubled and tripled in price. There are VENOM releases today that routinely are priced at hundreds of pounds if you can find them and collecting VENOM has almost become like collecting a band like KISS since there are so many different and odd releases. Clearly you never see a dime of the money that is shifted around for the rare collectibles, especially since many of the most sought-after items are bootlegs as well. How do you feel about there being such a lucrative aftermarket for your old stuff and bootlegs in particular?
Cronos: There are different ways to look at it. At the end of the day, the fans are being ripped off and I really hate that, but the people who are making this stuff are not getting rich. There’s really not much we can do about since it’s not like they’re producing thousands of copies and making millions of bucks. They’re making a few copies, maybe five or six, they sell them for a couple of hundred pounds and then they disappear. You can’t even find a lawyer to go after these people because they pop up and then they vanish. With such small volumes they’re never going to be millionaires, but it’s unfortunate that we have such passionate fans who will spend that kind of money. Hey, I’m a fan of music but even I draw the line somewhere saying, “Fuck it, I’m not paying that.” When we did the boxed set [“MMV”, in 2005], one of the songs was off a compilation we did many years ago, a song called “Senile Decay” that we at the time didn’t want to put on one of our own albums so we decided to put it on this compilation, and I’d been seeing bootlegs with that song on eBay. I thought I’d put a stop to our fans being ripped off so I went into my cellar and took the original master tape, digitized it and put the song in the boxed set. So now the fans don’t have to get ripped off on eBay, they can just go and buy this song in the shops, you know.
Read the entire interview from CriticalMass.se.
Photo credit: Terry Attwater