Venom - Rage

Venom - Rage

No matter how many years will pass, having a new album from VENOM will always be great news. And considering how awesome “From The Very Depths” turned out, I’d say 2015 started with a bang. METAL KAOZ got on the phone with the band’s guitarist Rage who had many things to say about the making of the new album and the immediate plans of the legendary band. So, without further ado, Ladies and gentlemen, from the very depths of Hell, I present you, Rage.

Hello Rage, it’s great having you at METAL KAOZ!
Hey mate, how’s it going? How’s the weather over there?

It’s actually snowy and cold here in Chicago…
Oh yes and here it’s cold, but it’s always cold here, man (laughs).

First of all, congratulations on the new VENOM album, it's awesome!
Thank you very much!

How long did it take you write and record “From The Very Depths”?
We started doing bits and pieces around 2013 - we tried to do things differently for this album. I mean, for “Fallen Angels” we worked on complete songs whereas in “From The Very Depths” we brought little bits of riffs and see what songs will come out of them. So, we started probably in 2013 and finished off in 2014. Once you get into the mindset of what we are going to do, it feels really easy and everything just catapults. We ended up with all these songs that have the same vibe and darkness into them which we really like. So, in total I’d say we worked on this album for about two to three months.

And I think “From The Very Depths” has more riffs as compared to the previous one; so, has this something to do with how you approached the songwriting?
Yeah, for the last album writing songs was cut in half between me and Cronos; like I said, we finished a song and then presented to others to make it complete. But this time, I wanted to do more guitars like everyone in the band who wanted to contribute more. It was a natural progression for me; I wrote one song for the “Hell” album and then I was more involved in “Fallen Angels” and even more for this one. Also, now we are really aware of what everyone can do in the band and since we knew what was needed to be done, everyone played the best they could. The band has a solid lineup since there were no changes like it happened after “Metal Black” and after “Hell”. I believe this album has the best bass playing, the best singing, the best drumming and the best guitar playing in a VENOM album for a really long time. There is unity and nothing sticks out. Everybody played at the top of their game.

Does this mean that you had all the degrees of freedom that you’d like to have as a musician?
Yeah, I have never been one of these guitarists who are happy just to play the guitar in an album and let someone else write the songs. I always wanted to be a songwriter since I was growing up in the '70s. I loved IRON MAIDEN and especially Adrian Smith who was not only a good guitarist but also a very good songwriter. I also knew from my early years that I wouldn’t become the best guitarist in the world but I could become a really good songwriter. So, whenever I was in a band, I wanted to write songs and this is why I was a little bit disappointed with the “Hell” album because most of the work had been done before me joining the band, so I didn’t have big input to it, and when “Fallen Angels” came out, it felt amazing that I had my songs there. And this is what fuels me; I am not interested in making money or people saying how good I am. All I am interested is, can my songs be heard? It’s absolute fine being a guitarist and not wanting to write music, but this is not me. I need to write music and Cronos allows me to do that and, in fact, encourages to do this. I mean, he loves the fact that he has a drummer and a guitar player who can write songs because he doesn’t want VENOM to be just him and write everything by himself.

Yes, and that’s really important to have in a band. So, let’s talk about the music of the album and first I’d like to ask you who is responsible for the death of Rock ‘n’ Roll? Is it the devastating Thrash that the lyrics are saying? (laughs)
I remember when I was messing around with a song during rehearsal I came up with a riff and Cronos was like “Whoa, what was that? We need to work on that” and this exactly what we did. Then Cronos said: “Man, I have the perfect lyrics for this song” and after he showed us what he got, we started laughing because it was so good. In fact, this is another thing that is great in “From The Very Depths”; all the lyrics fit perfectly to the music like in “Long Haired Punks” or “Death Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” which classic VENOM songs. I remember when Cronos started playing the bass riff of “Long Haired Punks” and we were like “Dude, that’s awesome” and he said “Ah, I am just in a DEEP PURPLE vibe” and then we said “Crush that thing and light up the Marshall stacks” and “devastating Thrash” because this riff was so VENOM, you know.

Yeah, I know exactly what you’re saying. Who did the production of the album? Was it Cronos?
Yes, he did that. Cronos has always a hand on this but for the last four albums, he did all the production. Also, he let me do some guitar engineering on this one, while he was busy doing stuff because I am interested in this. Like we discussed, we did more guitars for this album as compared to the previous ones. We used to have two guitar tracks and for “From The Very Depths” we did four and sometimes even more because I wanted it to sound so heavy and in-your-face. I mean, the lyrics are over the top, so I wanted the guitars to be also over the top. I am very much interested in all this stuff and I want to keep learning new thing and since Cronos has been in the music business for so long, you can always learn from him. Plus, he is self-sufficient and wants to be able to do things on his own. And VENOM used to be like that but now he has people in the band who are willing to learn stuff and get involved. This VENOM lineup is very united.

Of course it’s important for a musician to keep progressing.
Yes it is, but you can only progress having people around you who want the same.

So, who did the album’s cover artwork?
We knew the title of the album and we wanted to do something similar to “Fallen Angels”. But this time we didn’t work with one artist but we had some different artworks that were really good because we always get stuff sent to us since everyone wants to work with VENOM. At one point, we were meshing around with the intro tape and as everybody knows that before you see VENOM onstage it says “ladies and gentlemen, from the very depths of Hell” and we immediately said “that’s the title of the album”. We went through the artworks we had and saw this one and thought “this guy must have been overhearing us” because it fitted perfectly. We changed little things like some demons but we kept the original structure. I think it has a '80s/'90s vibe and is one of those album covers that when you’re growing up, you’d say “whoa, what the fuck is that?” (laughs). It looks so cool and since I am old-school, I love vinyl. I still have all my vinyl records I got when I was growing up; all IRON MAIDEN picture discs and I used to buy albums because of the covers. This is what we wanted to do with “From The Very Depths” even though it’s not as modern as some people do other covers, and I also think this album is a reflection of where VENOM is going to go for the next 10-20 years. We are not a nostalgia act and we are not relying on history but we move forward. We haven’t forgotten the past, you know, but still we’re moving forward. For me, “From The Very Depths” has a classic vibe.

Yeah, I totally agree. By the way, who is counting in German on “Wings Of The Valkyrie”?

(laughs) Hmm, he is a very good friend but I cannot reveal his name. I will only say that he is a member of the family. You know, Valkyrie is a figure from the Norse mythology and personally when I write and record music, I do it as images; I mean, I try to picture the music as pictures or even as a movie. So, in the middle of this one, there is an almost orchestral part, so we felt it was needed something else. Sometimes when we rehearse we go “1,2 3, 4” or do this on different languages or just say something stupid (laughs). And I think it was Danté who went “eins, zwei, drie, vier” in a high-pitched voice and everybody laughed. So, when we were listening at this recording and heard this part, we thought it was awesome. So, Cronos brought a satanic demon whom he knows to do this part...

Yeah, and Cronos knows many of them, right?
Well, the truth is many of them serve Cronos... (laughs)

Of course, Rage (laughs)… So, what are VENOM’s touring plans?
First of all and since you are originally from Greece, I will tell you this: last week I was thinking of the places that VENOM have not played for a while and Greece is one of them. Last time we were there it was for the ‘Rock ‘em All’ festival and I think it was in 2008 and we've never been back since then. That lineup is no more and during that time there was a bit of a strange vibe in the band and Cronos short of knew that things had to change. Every year I feel that we have to go back with this lineup, so we just need a promoter to tell us “come over to Greece” (laughs) because we had such a great time there. I remember the crowd lighting up flares and it felt so awesome. Anyway, for this year we have confirmed five festivals but we definitely want to add more gigs in and hopefully later we will add Italy, Greece, Germany and maybe a few more Scandinavian dates. We cannot confirm anything yet but there aren’t lots of bands touring because of the money but yet if there is any promoter who wants VENOM in Greece, just get in touch. I still remember how hot it was and since we are playing satanic music, this heat is a perfect match... it was the worst heat I’ve ever felt (laughs). We understand fans who send emails asking VENOM to come and play to their country and I have to tell them we’d love to play; I mean, once we have the means to travel, we can play anywhere. We ask from the promoters for flights and backline wherever it is not feasible to bring our own. Lots of promoters organize festivals with all these bands but they have no money and this is why they cancel in the end; they expect the fans to pay all these beforehand. But there are many fans who get their ticket on the day of the event, so the promoters fail to pay the bands.

What about the rest of the world and obviously I am also thinking of America…
We did Mexico and Colombia but we still want to get back to South America and definitely tour Brazil. So, maybe we can add some US live dates; I don’t think this will be a full 30-days US tour but get over there for a couple of weeks. Again, this is on the promoters and if they want to have VENOM. I mean, visas are not a problem for us. I’d love to play in the US because I have done this just once.

Yeah man, please make a mind note to come to Chicago…
Yeah, the Windy City; we have to play there. I am an ANTHRAX fan and I have seen the DVD they made in Chicago and saw how crazy the audiences are there. So, we have to come there and hopefully we can do something after the South American shows at the end of this year. Fingers crossed we will be able to do this because we have some great fans over there. We want to play for them as much as they love to have us there. Fingers crossed, man that this will happen...

Fingers crossed and crosses inverted…
Yeah, you always have to have the crosses inverted (laughs).

Are there any plans to release a special 7” from the new album?
We released “Hammerhead” as a 10” for “Fallen Angels”, so we are talking about doing the same with “Grinding Teeth” that has been out as a single and also doing a video for it. We have also released “Long Haired Punks” as a lyric video and went really well. The thing with Spinefarm Records is that it is based on Finland and I think they have gotten some people from Roadrunner US, so the plan is to have a US release of “From The Very Depths”. Because it took a long time for the vinyl edition of “Fallen Angels” to come to the US, so lots of fans had to buy the import version and spent more money. And fans should not have to pay more money, you know. This time the album will be released everywhere at the same time. So, US fans will buy domestic copies and not imports. Hopefully “Grinding Teeth” will come out as an 10” and if not, it will be as a 7” and a picture disc. Hopefully, this will happen sometime after the album release.

Well, Rage I know you have more interviews lined up, so I don’t want to keep you more. It was a pleasure talking to you and I wish we had one hour at our disposal.
Maybe when we come over to Chicago we can have a drink and talk a little bit more about Metal. Thank you very much, Dimitris - I wish you all the best, my friend.

EARTHEN GRAVE - RELENTLESS re-edit w/ Studio track