Venom - Cronos

Venom - Cronos

VENOM is one the most influential bands in the entire Metal scene and that’s not an opinion but a fact. This band is responsible for pushing the boundaries of Metal by releasing two legendary albums back in the 80s that simply changed the Metal history. So, the band is about to release “Fallen Angels” in a month or so and METAL KAOZ had the privilege to speak to Cronos about the album and then some more. Being a die-hard VENOM fan I was amazed by his straightforward attitude and absolute passion for this music. Read most of what was said during the 30+ minute video chat.

Cronos, it’s great talking to you! What is the current status in VENOM? Do you have a lot of promotion for the new album?
Hey Dimitris, I am very well, thank you. We are trying to get as much press attention as possible for this; apparently everybody is very excited about the new album. Sometimes you have to chance the way you approach things especially when there are lineup changes. So, this time we decided to go right back to the beginning. When we put together with VENOM in 1979 we didn’t think about record deals, publishing, contracts and stuff like that. It was some guys who enjoyed Rock music, who wanted to make a difference, have fun and create some great music. You know, we all are big fans of DEEP PURPLE, LED ZEPPELIN, KISS, JUDAS PRIEST and stuff like that. Back then and especially in England, people were saying “well, Rock music is dead, is finished” and we found that really unacceptable! (laughs) There were so many great bands out there but nobody was doing like lots of gigs; I mean, JUDAS PRIEST could get arrested. It was terrible time for Rock. So, we decided to take all of the great elements like the KISS show, the BLACK SABBATH lyrics, the JUDAS PRIEST studs and chains and MOTÖRHEAD’s heaviness and make one group that have all of those things; but also Punk Rock was a big influence on VENOM. The Punk scene came and went really quickly. So, we decided to add Punk into the Metal to make it aggressive and nasty. Anyway, we decided with this album to go back to that way of thinking and in April of 2009 we got Danté and also we kept Rage who has at the “Hell” album and we said “fuck it, let’s not worry about the business, let’s just concern ourselves with this band”.  We went on tour in South America, including Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and we had a fucking great time! The legions were going crazy, was fucking amazing!

(interrupting) …they love you there!
Yeah, a lot of people came said to us "Come to South America" and in fact there are not that many bands playing there live. And those guys knew all the words and singing all of it even during the lead breaks back to back. In 2010 we did some festivals around Europe, we visited some territories we have never been to, like Poland and Moscow, so that is when we started to record the material for the new album. Because the band was so tight and everything was going so well, we said “again, let’s think back to the way we did in the early VENOM days”. I think from “Casting Stone” and onwards we started to use the modern day technology like putting samples on the drums. And really, it was like the band went to record the music and then, it was the producers who were doing the whole work and we simply decided to go right back to the old days and record the music just like it is played live. This is how we worked in “Welcome To Hell” and “Black Metal” with microphones on the drum kit and on the Marshall stacks; no producer tricks, no Pro Tools crap, you know. Let’s get back to that. It’s really great to see bands working like that; Dave Grohl, a good friend of mine, told me that the last FOO FIGHTERS album was recorded the same way using the just the basic setup.

(interrupting) …did you record using analog equipment?
We used both; digital is good because it doesn’t lose data; so when we had the recordings the way we wanted, we transferred them into digital for safety. Because, if you keep playing the tape again and again, you lose quality. I think this is an honest and very raw album. Also, all the band members wrote for this album. It wasn’t just me. Sometimes when I was late for the rehearsals, ‘cause I was talking to lawyers or something, I found Rage playing the guitar and Danté the drums and I was like “what’s that? It’s fucking excellent!” and they said “It’s a new riff”. So, you see the album came out as a real band effort.

How long did it take you to write the music?
We really started throwing ideas in 2009 but actually sit down and record I would say maybe about August last year. We finally mixed the album in April of this year. We also wanted to get the right artwork and get all the deals right. We also wanted to do something different for the cover and not just use the same pentagram style artwork. We got a lot of offers from several artists and there was a guy, Tari József, who had already done some VENOM artwork, I think it was for “The Waste Lands” album, who sent me a painting of his for “Fallen Angels”. So, our artistic coordinator got together with Joseph and the “Fallen Angels” cover was created.

Yeah, it’s great! So, did you produce the album?
Yes, I have been producing the albums since the very beginning. The first time when we got in the studio Neat Records said that we should have Steve Thompson to produce the recordings; but he made a mess and I had to remix “Live Like Angel” and “In League With Satan” and swap the tapes (laughs)...

Yeah, I know the story; back in those days you didn’t know that much about production, right (laughs)?
You are right but I was learning to be a studio engineer, but I was still a kid, you know?

Yeah, it worked very well I think. So, you have a new drummer, Danté, in the band; what did he bring in the music of the new album?
For me personally, this is being a long struggle for VENOM because Abaddon is a Rock drummer and this was how VENOM developed the Metal style. Abaddon is a DEEP PURPLE and LED ZEPPELIN fan so to find a drummer who loves bands like these was really hard. There is all this new Metal with SLIPKNOT, PANTERA... and don’t get me wrong, those are fantastic bands and some of them are really good friends, but it’s not VENOM. And so finding a drummer was the problem. Antton in “Resurrection” was trying very hard to continue Abaddon’s style and even for the “Metal Black” album, he was trying so hard but he was very frustrated because he said he wanted to put his style. And then there is “Hell” an album I think is brilliant but the drums should have been a bit less busy, a bit more Rock. And Danté who has worked with Tony Martin, (ex-BLACK SABBATH singer) has a musical background with ZEPPELIN, PURPLE exactly where we started. So, when we got him in the band, in April 2009, we started to rehearse with “Witching Hour” and “Bloodlust” and it picked it up like that. Actually for the first time, if Abaddon would listen to the new album he would say “ah, this is a VENOM drummer!”(laughs)

I was wondering, are you still in touch with Abaddon?
Only when it comes to business, not socially. But we have business because Universal released the old albums and made compilations, so we’re in touch for the business.

You said that the three of you worked in the new album; so it’s not like VENOM is Cronos’ band, right?
No, I made that very clear: I don’t want to be a solo artist. I like the idea of being in a band, this is how I grew up, you know? Even when I left VENOM to do something different, and I got some songs that I said "this is not VENOM", we went and made the CRONOS project the other guys wanted to called band CRONOS. I had all these names in mind like TRANSANTLANTIC or GHOST but these guys said we should use my name. But then, it sounded like it was just me and not like a real band. It’s Conrad’s band and like that - I wanted those guys one to be as important but at the end of the day they argued above me and we call the band CRONOS but it’s misleading.

I know what you are saying. If you were to compare the new album to the previous VENOM albums, what would you say?
I would say it’s probably (at least for me) the best album we have recorded in the last 20 years because it’s a very honest and true album and also I like the production values. When I decided, after the climbing accident I had in the early 2002, to remake VENOM for the “Metal Black” project I said “look, I want to show people this is not a party. This is not VENOM from 1984, this is not Mantas, Abaddon but this is VENOM of the 21st century”. This is why I called the album “Metal Black” just to show people Black Metal is up to 1999 and from 2000 it’s Metal Black. We had some stupid people who said “oh, can you not think of any new names?” There are 13 songs on the album so we could have called the album any one of those songs, you know? Sometimes people say the stupidest things, yeah? So, “Metal Black” showed VENOM of today. VENOM still have lots of ideas and are here to stay. Then it was the “Hell” album that was realistically my way of saying that VENOM can do more and that “Metal Black” was not a one-time thing. Here is a load of new ideas; yes, we are still fresh and we still current. But “Fallen Angels” is quite an arrogant album because it’s like this (making a grand hand gesture). Everybody is freaking out about the new album. “Fallen Angels” is very much back to basics, it’s a really fucking great album! I'd like also to tell you that I like listening to the fans. And there was some criticism for not having songs like “Teacher’s Pet” for a long time, so on the new album we have got two songs; one is called “Pedal To The Metal” that is a good fun track and the other is called “Punks Not Dead”. These are great Rock ‘n’ Roll songs and not about Satanism and stuff like that. So, this is a real VENOM album with all the right elements.

So, you do listen to the fans, right?

That’s a bit strange for the nowadays’ bands because most of them don’t care about the fans, I think.
For me, I make the VENOM albums the best way I can while a VENOM concert is for the fans. When we play a show, I wanna make sure that the fans get everything they want. But for the album it has to be the way I want and I just hope that you will like it. For a VENOM show I have to guarantee that you like it. Let me just say it’s the fans who have kept VENOM alive for 30 years. Even during the times when VENOM were not that busy doing albums and show, the fans were still wearing the t-shirts and some of them being in band were still playing VENOM cover songs.

You have also recorded two bonus tracks for the limited edition. Are those tracks that in any way didn’t make it in the album or you just recorded to be bonus tracks from the first place?
When we recorded the album, we had just recorded 15 songs. And then we had to choose 13 songs for the album because that what the record company requested. But usually when we do a release, for Japan for example, we have to have bonus tracks. The song “Blackened Blues” is not really an album track; when you know you had done your job and have recorded everything you want and then you have time to play that’s always a great sign. We used to do things like that with songs like “Dead Of The Night” where, if you remember, at the end of the song it goes crazy. So, with “Blackened Blues” I wanted to create the Blues but in the Black Metal style. Also I had this crazy idea: I mean you love Heavy Metal, and I love Heavy Metal; so when people say “Heavy Metal is just a noise” I don’t understand them; to me Heavy Metal is fantastic. So, I wanted to create some Heavy Metal that was insanely crap and annoying and something that even Heavy Metal fans would say “oh, turn it off”! So, we created a song that starts like the Blues but it is really depressing and then…I don’t know if you have even been in a rehearsal studio where a lot of bands playing in different rooms and it sounds like a noise. This happens to “Blackened Blues”; while listening to this one you start thinking “is there another band playing?” and just turns into this fucking insane noise that will make you want to bang on the ceiling and yell: “Shut the fuck up!” (laughs). And when it gets into the loudest point it simply disappears... I think this is the best track to be a bonus one.

(laughs) That’s interesting! What about “Annunaki Legacy”?
I mean that could easily be a track on the album. The thing is, last week the record company said that they’d make the regular album with 13 songs and put the bonus tracks on a special edition and then they said “let’s just leave it”. Let’s not have it as a special edition and let’s just have “Fallen Angels” with 15 songs. And I said “cool”. You know, it’s not that these songs didn’t make it to be in the album because they weren’t very good; it’s just they originally asked for 13 songs.

Great! What are your plans about getting on the road?
On the 12th of November we are going to play in Romania which is so great because we have never played there; there’s a festival in Bucharest called ‘Rock Legends’ and also we’ll have some young unknown bands to be on the billing so we can help them the same way we did with METALLICA and SLAYER. On the 26th of November we will be the headliners at Germany’s ‘Christmas Metal Fest’. This is one of the biggest indoor festivals in Europe so, we are going to have the full stage show with all the pyrotechnics and everything! We haven’t played live since Portugal which was in April, earlier this year so we are really into getting to do some lice shows.

Is there any chance to bring VENOM in the US?
The US has been very difficult to VENOM since 2006 because the government has changed the laws so much. Apart from the fact that it costs a fucking hell of a lot of money just to set the tour up, the way the US is now working is the road crew all now get taxed and they can’t make enough money. So, it’s very difficult for VENOM to get a road crew. We are not even thinking America because the law needs to change because it is impossible to tour. If I had a hundred thousand pounds to throw into the tour to lose then yeah we could come to America. But it’s fucking very expensive and impossible to afford to do the tour. The bus prices are way expensive and the venues still want to get paid their money so it’s impossible.

And nowadays things have changed very much economically speaking in the Metal scene. So, I totally understand you.
Yeah, it’s crazy in America. I mean I was talking to the guys from IMMORTAL who came to America earlier this year and they lost so much money. VENOM has always been one of those bands that never toured to make money. We make money from records. So, VENOM always put the money back into the tour because we like to have a stage show with pyrotechnics, the lights and the right stage crew  So, we always put the money from the show into the show.

And this is why you didn’t make a lot of money from playing music.
Well, surely not from playing live. It’s never been something that we wanted to do. We can make money from albums. We don’t need to try making money on the road. But in America we actually have to pay money to play.

Fortunately I had the chance to watch VENOM live back in the mid 90s in Greece.
When was that? Was it with the “Hell” album?

No, it was with EMPEROR, ROTTING CHRIST, VIRGIN STEELE, and THEATER OF TRAGEDY, if I remember right. I think it was in the “Cast In Stone” tour…
Yeah, I remember that show. There was a guy from the crowd who threw a flair into the stage, that was great!

Yeah, it was an amazing show! Well, nowadays many musicians write their own biographies. Have you ever thought of writing such a book?
Well, we do have plans for that but at the moment all we have is the big biography in the VENOM website which goes back how the band formed up to the present day. I mean, there are plans for a biography but it’s not something that we are immediately thinking of. There are a lot of Heavy Metal documentaries out there that in fact they do not know what they are talking about getting all the facts wrong. We would like to write the history of VENOM in the right/proper way.

You have a lot of things to say to everyone.
I think we do. We saw a METALLICA documentary and basically it was said on the documentary that they formed in San Francisco and then they went on tour with MOTÖRHEAD and then they started off with their career. They didn’t even mention that they came on the road with VENOM. Aside from that, I should add that I don’t like how METALLICA have ended up. Everybody just thinks they are a joke now, you know? Have you heard the new album?

Not yet.
James is singing “I’m a table” or something; that would be crazy. But Rock ‘n’ Roll is about musicians who play music; it’s not about gimmicks. And now they have no ideas and they have to find people like Lou Reed to give them ideas. It’s crazy!

Yeah, you can say that again. I’m done with my questions, Cronos. It was an honor to talking to you. I’ve been trying to do this interview for at least 10 years!
It’s been great, Dimitris! It was excellent to speaking to you, my friend! Thank you very much, cheers!