Interviews

Interview: Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and Jeff “Mantas” Dunn of VENOM INC

Venom are an English heavy metal band formed in 1978 in Newcastle upon Tyne. Coming to prominence towards the end of the NWOBHM Venom’s first two albums—Welcome to Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982)—are considered a major influence on thrash metal and extreme metal in general. Venom’s second album proved influential enough that its title was used as the name of an extreme metal subgenre: black metal. Over the years the band’s lineup has resembled a bit of a soap opera in terms of band members coming and going, and offshoots. Two versions are currently in existence Venom containing one original band member, and Venom Inc which contains two. While Venom are largely content with living off past legacies, Venom Inc have actually recorded a new album in their own right – Avé, released last year. Recently touring the UK to promote that release, I was afforded the opportunity to chat to Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and the original guitarist, Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn.


Venom IncANTIHERO: Evening, I note surprisingly that you have a different band line up on this tour. No Abaddon?

Tony Dolan: Yes.

ANTIHERO: What happened? And tell me about the guy that you’ve got on the tour.

Tony Dolan: Well basically, we finished the US tour We were due to start the European end of the tour, and Nuclear Blast were quite keen to get us into Europe to promote the album, so we started the whole Bloodstained Earth tour, to do the planet, as much of the planet as we could but what happened was I’ve got a hip surgery I’m supposed to have. But also, then we had a logistical problem with Goatwhore who are going to be on the tour. So kind of like towards the end when we were stepping off the US tour, about to pick up the European tour, and there were some logistical problems, which we tried to resolve, and then we were like, we’re going to have to push it back but then it pushed back into the surgery time, and the whole thing was becoming a bit more difficult so we made the decision, let’s just not try and make it work, because we might not be able to put some of the shows in, and I didn’t want to miss those shows out, people purchased tickets.

So, flip me into the new year, where we knew by February we’d go to Australia and Asia, and then as soon as we come off that we’ll go straight into Europe, and then we can get straight into South America so that was the plan. But Abaddon was having a baby, and the baby’s due in March. His wife’s quite young with her first baby, of course, he’s all that, and he was panicking. They haven’t had any problems, but of course, it’s one of those things where you’re panicking a little bit. And so, he then thought, I guess he made the decision, that maybe he should be here for the baby. And, it’s due in March, so it was like, “Okay, is it going to be a day, is it going to be a week, or how do we do this?” And then he said, “I think it’s better if I take March totally, and then I can be there for the birth, and to help with anything else.” So, I’m like, “okay”. But we didn’t already push the tour into March it was like, “Ah fuck, now what do we do?”

So, we had a couple of ideas about bringing people in, and Tom from Exodus offered himself, so we had a few drummers call and, “We can help you out,” and we ended up taking Jeramie Kling. Jeramie was our sound guy in the US, so he did the whole US tour with us and we thought, “Well, he actually knows how we sound, he’s a drummer and he’s on right.”

ANTIHERO: Familiar with the set.

Tony Dolan: Exactly, he knows the set, and we thought, “well, that’s probably the obvious option, isn’t it?” And he just launched his own band’s new album so, it was like, right, so, people will see that, know that, and go, “well, he’s already committed to something else,” so it’s not like we brought another drummer in.

We did think about Mark Jackson, from M-pire [of Evil], and even Francesco from M-pire, and even Francesco La Rosa, we used in M-pire, but we didn’t want people to go, “Well, if I’m going to listen to M-pire.” No, it’s not M-pire, that’s the whole point of it.

ANTIHERO: Exactly, because people would obviously draw that conclusion.

Tony Dolan: And so, this is the way we flipped it over. So we thought, “well, Jeramie is the best option,” and it’s been tremendous, you know. it’s worked out really well. It’s kind of in a way we’re supporting one of us who’s having a baby and wants to be off, and I didn’t want to have to cancel it again. Abaddon was the one who kind of was like, “well, just put a dep in,” so it was like, “okay. Okay, well we could do that.” Because we just thought, we’ve already canceled people’s tickets.

ANTIHERO: Sure. Fans wouldn’t want another cancellation.

Tony Dolan: As much as people go, “what I want to see is that,” I know you do, and we want you to, and you will, but at the minute, if we cancel again, you’d be like, “Fuck. It’s the same thing you canceled.” We try to do a third time, you’ll be like, “Well, are they going to cancel?”

ANTIHERO: What about your health that you mentioned? I understand that you are currently awaiting a hip operation. I mean, how does that affect you on stage?

Tony Dolan: Well, it’s difficult at times, because I do need a new hip, and then I need a back surgery. I guess the problem was, and then we went and took the time out and I thought, this is my elected time because the NHS decided they weren’t going to do any hips, backs, and anything like that. Only emergency surgery, so I couldn’t get it done. I ended up going to Asia without the surgery anyway. So, it was an important time for fucking no reason because the NHS is in disarray.

But you suffer after the show, and you’re recovering during the day. The show time is fine, I feel like I’m 16, so it’s like, now what’s the matter, you know, stuff … doctor, health, but after the show, that’s the harder time to do it. But, you get the rest of the day to recover, so it’s not terrible. It would be nice to be free of the pain, but you know, it’s all rock and roll, isn’t it?

ANTIHERO: Yeah. Taking you back personally, can you recall your first introduction to the music of Venom?

Tony Dolan: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, the first time I went into Neat Records was to record a demo with my band. They said, “Yo, there’s a new lad upstairs was here to show you around the studio.” And that was Conrad, Chronos, a very skinny-

ANTIHERO: I remember him……:)

Tony Dolan: Yeah. And he showed us around, we chatted about loads of stuff, but where I lived in World’s End, there was this block of flats across the road, and Jeff’s girlfriend lived like two blocks of flats up from where my mom’s house was, so he was always up and down. Her brother played guitar, so he was always coming across. So, it’s kind of all around the same thing and of course Abaddon. If I went into town I’d see him out. This was before I realized they’d become a band.

I was in actually a girlfriend’s house, a girlfriend … I went with my girlfriend to her girlfriend’s house, and she was like, “Oh, my boyfriend, his band, they’re going to make a single.” And I was like, “no way.” So, then she was like, “look, they’ve just done some photographs,” and pulled out these photocopies of these photos, and they were on a hill, down on the beach. And I go, “why are they on the beach?” And she was going, “oh, they just did loads of them.” So, I saw all these, and then I was like, “oh, that guy, that guy there.” “Yeah, he’s going out with somebody’s, Malcolm’s sister.” So I didn’t even get a band and it all comes together.

Then, of course, Malcolm brought over the first single. I actually listened Live Like an Angel first, I listened to that and I was like, “I fucking love that. I love that.” Then In League was on the other side, that was the A side. I listened to the B side first, it just seemed right. It kind of where I was with my band, not the satanic thing, but I was into loud, dirty, heavy sound, and that sat perfectly with me. So, that was like my first introduction.

ANTIHERO: And now you’ve got a band and an album in your own right. How do you view it now that it’s out? Did it live up to expectations?

Tony Dolan: I don’t think there were any expectations.

ANTIHERO: I mean I just wondered about the legacy and that, it’s got to bring some pressure and weight of expectation.

Tony Dolan: That was the thing. Mantas did the composition. We decided, the way we kind of work with M-pire is we just write. If he writes, he writes. If I write something I like, we just throw it back and forth. Because it was signed to Nuclear Blast, because we had a big project, I wanted to do visuals, and I wanted to do all that, the business side of it because, I kind of like that.

Jeff was composing and that’s where he just kills himself, his old writing stuff. So, it was like, “okay, well, we’ll write some stuff.” And he would pass some stuff to me, and I would pass some stuff to him. But I guess the first three or four songs he passed, they just were like … I was like, “that’s it”.

Then he passed another one, and “yep” and then he passed another one, and then he went, “you haven’t sent anything to me yet.” I was going, “I don’t need to, just keep doing it, just keep writing.” And he was like, “well, is it going in the right direction?” I said, “it is because it’s you.” And there’s an honesty about-

ANTIHERO: Not forced.

Tony Dolan: It wasn’t forced, yeah, we didn’t try to plagiarize it, we didn’t try and copy an album, just did what came out and tried to capture what we do, the essence of what we do live. And that was the key behind it. I think from that point of view when they then wanted to go into production, they wanted to co-produce us, because they had money on the table and then went, “right, so who should we get to produce?”

Well, Jeff wanted to produce it, and he produced our M-pire stuff and, so the question came from the manager, like: “We’ve got these couple producers,” and I said, “Jeff wanted to produce it, he asked to produce it.” But it’s a big project doing that. I mean, well yeah, who knows this better than Jeff. I said, “it’s just playing his songs, it’s like we can go to a great producer, but would he capture who we are?”

He will capture who we are. So, he worked his tits off, and did a phenomenal job and passed the first three songs off to them like, “Yeah, this is working”. But I think that was the big turn, particularly for Jeff. Because of the compositions, which he’s kind of sure about, but because of the production, it’s a lot of pressure.

Venom IncANTIHERO: Are you satisfied yourself of how it sounds? The end result?

Mantas: Absolutely, yeah.

ANTIHERO: The album sounds incredible.

Mantas: One of the most stressful times for me doing something like this because, in the end, you’ve got to deliver it to…

ANTIHERO: You mean friends and families and people that you know as well? You’ve got a closer link than maybe just another producer would have.

Mantas: Yeah. The more I have to do. So, I mean, each song was tracked as its own entity. There wasn’t a sort of box-standard template. We did have templates for certain things, like guitar sounds or the vocals and stuff like that. When it came to the songs, you can’t mix a track like Ave Satanas the same as you would mix Time to Die.

Constantly different tempos, and things. So, that was tracked a little bit differently. Once we literally signed the contract and then the deadline came, it was like, “whoa.” It’s like a reality check. We met the deadline and when the final master was sent to Nuclear Blast, I was just thinking and then word came back that…

ANTIHERO: Didn’t require any adjustments or anything?

Mantas: A huge sigh of relief. Now that it’s out, I’m really proud of that album.

ANTIHERO: Have you got a copy of it in your house?

Mantas: I’ve got one CD. I’ve got the original because what I always do is once I’m comfortable with the track mixed and mastered, I’ll burn them to CD in the running order. Then I’ll just play it the house in any system that I’ve got or even just take it the car and have a listen to it because it’s fair enough to listen to stuff like that through studio quality speakers.

But then you got to listen. I’ve cross-referenced on a lot of different speakers, I’ve got speakers from in the studio, big studio speakers, right down the shit little fucking things that I bought in a Chinese shop or in Europe. So, I’ve referenced it on all different speaker systems, and then just on the home stereo, and a lot of people listen to this stuff in the car. It’s like, play it in the car, once you’ve got a good balance and everything. I think there was probably about five mixes before I went, “yeah, that one.” And then it was mastered. I can’t think, off the top of my head, of the two folders, which are on the hard drive, with master one, master two, and then the eventual folder was Last Masters.

ANTIHERO: What are the record sales like these days? Obviously, I mean, changing times. Has it been selling well?

Tony Dolan: Well, it has, I mean, a lot of the down … I mean the streams we hit over 200,000 in the States in the first quarter, which was a surprise. It’s like physical copies really can’t, but the first press US, I think in three weeks we hit three to five thousand and then it’s just been going up from there. You know the European sales, they were very, very happy with. I don’t know what the figures were for that, but they seemed very happy with it. One of the things that were quite important was to make vinyl.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, Nuclear Blast does that with a lot of releases, different colors.

Tony Dolan: Exactly. Make it something interesting. I mean, the first single we had a Flexi disc, on Decibel Magazine, because I wanted a Flexi disc.

ANTIHERO: Old school.

Tony Dolan: Exactly. We just finished the At War 12-inch, which will be ready to go. We’re just going to be doing the Australian Assault series, the Brazilian Assault series. We want to do what the band did in the original days and actually make a product. I’m trying to get us onto cassette. It’s doesn’t matter if anyone has a cassette player. But the vinyl was important, and the CDs will carry all the time. Usually, we have them with us. We don’t have them to Europe on this one, but we bring stock out and it goes, because people want it. Once it catches the younger generation, they’ll want a piece of it.

ANTIHERO: You’re getting a new generation of fans for music?

Tony Dolan: Totally.

Mantas: Oh, god yeah.

Tony Dolan: Totally. Last night in Bristol, obviously people wanted to take photos and talk to us and everything else. There were four young boys, they said to some guys, “Can we get some stuff signed? Can we just bring the stuff in?” And we’d literally just come off. So, we were “Yeah, just bring it, we’ll sign it.” Then like half an hour later, they said, “somebody wants to take a photograph,” and these four young lads, teenagers, the one kid went like, “I just got this done a few months ago, a Welcome to Hell tattoo.” And I was like, “no way,” and they were just young lads, but they were covered in the patches…

ANTIHERO: It’s a genre of music that never dies, not really. It’s everlasting. Yeah, I remember my mum used to say, “when are you going to grow out of that?” She still asks me that!

Tony Dolan: Exactly. When you see homogenized music, like the Spice Girls Syndrome, I call it, where they aim to a demographic of eight to 13-year-olds, and then when that demographic has moved on, they’ll moan that like, “why are we not as popular as we were?” It’s because it was eight to 13-year-olds, and they’re all grown up. So, give them another ten years, they’ll be nostalgic, and you can do a tour. But right now, they’ve grown out of that. That’s their childhood. But with rock music and metal, it hits you in a way that it just becomes part of you. And you never grow out of it.

ANTIHERO: Indeed. You talked about your producer hat, different roles that you played. I was surprised that you’ve done a bit of acting in your time. Is that something that maybe you would like to explore further in the future?

Tony Dolan: Accidental. For me, life’s challenges and you just say “yes,” always say “yes.” If you say yes to something you can say “no” when you’ve shit yourself, and again, more “no.” If you say, “no,” you’ll never know.

ANTIHERO: You want to try it.

Tony Dolan: So, you got to try it. We were in India. We didn’t have any cover, apart from one assistant that was covering all the rules, so if anybody went down he would go and he would do it. The director had come over and they’d both come to meet Mother Theresa. I turned up at work to do my checks on the set for the show and there’s this man outside of the tent “we’ve got problems.” “What’s the problem?” “Someone’s sick.”

Okay, but, Nick isn’t here so, fuck. What are we going to do? We’re like, “get an Indian actor,” because Shakespeare is popular there. “But you love Shakespeare.” I was like, “yeah,” and they went “and you know this play?” And I was like “yeah.” And they went, “so why don’t you go on?” And I was like “me?” Then I thought “yeah, why don’t I go on?” I’m India, who knows if I’m shit. I will do it.

So, I went on and I had a good time and I didn’t think about it again. Everything was normal, went back to London and then transferred to London. I was on another show as a technician and then I got a call from the director on a Wednesday night. My wife said, “look, there’s director on the phone”, so I picked it up. “What’s the problem?” He said, “remember when you were in India and you did Shakespeare before?” I said “yes, it was brilliant. It was great fun.” He said, “well, I’ve got a similar problem again and I just went into the dressing room and said ‘fuck, what are we going to do?’ Because we’ve got these shows, five shows, I’ve got no cover. Can anybody think of anybody?” And he said, “oh, just get Tony Dolan.”

So, he said, “would you do it?” And I was like “fuck it, yeah, I would. When do you need me?” He went “four o’clock.” I went, “I’ll see you there.” When I got there, I said, “okay, I’m a bit nervous,” I said, “but, I’ll do it if you teach me how to act properly.”

A month later, I was on the set of Judge Dredd. I actually worked on First Knight with Richard Gere and Sean Connery. Then I was doing Judge Dredd, a small part. Then I felt like, oh, I fancy this as a gig. You’ll never get an agent. I had two agents lined up and I was on the set of Battlefield Britain and then I was like … I mean, it just happened like that.

That was actually in … when I did Master and Commander, which is the biggest one, I was installing for Queen, “We Will Rock You”. My agent called and said “look, can you get up to Park Lane?” and I was like, “when?” They were like, “this afternoon.” I was like, “yeah.” “You’re meeting the director.” I was like “okay.” They went, “yeah, they saw you in something and everybody wants to see you.” I was like, “okay.”

I was in my work clothes, installing lifts, so I ran up to Park Lane and went to this person said, “I’m here to see Peter Weir.” I didn’t know who he was at that point. When I went upstairs, and he opened the door, I realized it was the guy who directed The Truman Show, Gallipoli, Picnic at Hanging Rock and I was like “oh fuck.”

So, I did about ten minutes of just chatting to him to the camera. Did a bit of ad-libbing, left? And then my agent called and said, “well, how was it?” I said “well, fuck it, I’m in there. It’s a big movie. Apparently, it’s 20th Century Fox, I’m not going to get that.” Plus, I’m doing this Queen musical.” So, I went back to work, and a week went by, I’d forgotten all about it. She phoned through, and, “he loved you. You’ve got the part. You’re going to be in Mexico for five months.” I was like “what?” She went, “yeah, it’s Russell Crowe,” and I was like…

ANTIHERO: I’ve actually got that on DVD. I must go back and have a look at that again.

Tony Dolan: I’m Mr. Lamb.

ANTIHERO: So, that’s not something you’re keen to return to?

Tony Dolan: It’s always there and I did a few things afterward, Dirty War, and stuff. But then I just went back to my technical role, so I was like, in The Lion King, and a few other shows in town, you know what I mean, just doing systems, hydraulics, because that’s what I do. Then I worked … moved to another company, did some of the Olympics, and some of the shows for big bands, like we’d be setting up for the Stones, we did Radiohead and Coldplay, Brit Awards, and all of that.

So, I never thought about it, ’til he called me. Jeff called me one day, went like, “trying to get back on the bike musically,” and I was like, “well, yeah, I always liked working with him.” But I said, “if we do it, we don’t put any towels back under the bed this time. We do it, do it.” And we went, “let’s do it.” And that’s what we’ve done. And it’s been better than ever. It’s been better than ever. Any bit that we’ve done before, I think it’s been better.

ANTIHERO: As I said, music has changed as a career. Are you able to work full-time as musicians and sustain that at all? I have chatted with a lot of musicians, and they’ve always said that music’s a sort of backup or a hobby. Going to have to go out and work still, in other jobs and occupations to finance, to live, basically, because they’re just not paying them enough.

Mantas: I was thinking about that, we’re lucky in that respect, because the amount of demand we’re in at the moment, there’s a tour. I mean, the tour is exhausting.

ANTIHERO: You go around the world, I mean, you must be playing countries for the first time.

Tony Dolan: Oh, well, we played … We went Japan, Bangkok, Singapore, Singapore, Bangkok, Australia. We did all the cities apart from Melbourne in Australia. But in the meantime, we went to Tasmania, then we went to New Zealand. Then we flew back to London, and drove straight to Bristol, and kicked off last night in Bristol.

When we finished this in March, we fly to Turkey, headline another festival, then we get to go home for almost two weeks, and then we’re straight into South America. Now they’re talking about while we’re in South America, going straight into North America. In the meantime, you got Bloodstock, Psycho Las Vegas…

ANTIHERO: But you enjoyed that. I mean, you don’t feel it’s too exhausting. I mean, with respect, nobody’s getting any younger. Do you find it more, the touring side of things that it becomes a little tiring and tedious? A bit more difficult, more demanding physically?

Tony Dolan: Yeah, it’s odd. I’m not going to lie. From my personal point of view, it’s hard. I’ve always said I’ve got a love-hate relationship with touring anyway. I mean, I love being on stage, I love performing. It’s this, it’s being away from home.

Mantas: Yeah.

ANTIHERO: Family.

Mantas: You know, my daughter’s just come down to visit me there, from Newcastle just for the afternoon, in Portugal, so I don’t get to see her. So, her and her husband dropped down. Wasn’t expecting them at all. So, that sort of hits you a bit, you know. But, once you get on stage, up there, you’re doing your job, and then, obviously, when I come off stage tonight, it’ll be, I think, a cup of tea, and then an early night.

ANTIHERO: Rock and roll. Changed times, I’m sure. Yeah, you’ve got to look after yourself as well.

Tony Dolan: The other bands are on a tour, but somewhere in a camper van… That’s all rock and roll and stuff like that, which is great, but they’ll be up ’til deliver really hard on stage, but you have to recuperate, you know? We try and condition ourselves, and the rest is really important.

ANTIHERO: Cigarettes and strong coffee.

Tony Dolan: Yes, exactly. But I think that’s … We got very used to it. The very first tour we did, when we agreed to it, the very first tour, we did the first recordings and got pushed straight into US tour. 30 days you’re on solid. And we both sat there and went, “if we can do this, 30 days, no days off,” and we never take days off, so if we do 30 days, wasn’t any rest days, it’s bang, we hit them hard. And most bands won’t do that.

ANTIHERO: Must be a strain as well, vocally. And physically as well.

Tony Dolan: But we thought that first tour because it’s so hard if we can do that, we know we can do anything. And we got to the last day, we basically fucking collapsed in Washington, but we both went, “we did it.” So, anything from there is, we can push and pull, and control it. So, that kind of helps. But, like Jeff said, it’s hard at times. But that’s why we end up traveling like this. So, we’re not in party central. We’re in comfort central. We can come back, get into comfy clothes, have a cup of tea, go to bed.

ANTIHERO: What are you most proud of in your lives, having achieved? Is it something personal, like family, or is it the latest album?

Mantas: I suppose we have, top of the list, my daughter, and grandson that’s just been delivered to me. But yeah, you look back at this career, when it started, and what it evolved into and everything, and you meet fans, and even the support bands and your peers, and even industry; it’s like everybody will go to a bar without you, but you know, none of this, “you’re the reason I play guitar”-

ANTIHERO: The reason those kids got to tell you.

Mantas: Yeah. I don’t know what to say, apart from “thank you.” But it all goes … You can take it … they’re saying that me, I’ll say, that mate, you’re on tour, so it’s … There’s always somebody that sort of sets the spark and gives you that desire to do it.

Tony Dolan: I think that I just got to back that up by saying that, as I mentioned to Jeff as well, when we went to Tasmania, they’re all going, “nobody’s going to see Tasmania.”

ANTIHERO: I mean, is there a rock audience there?

Tony Dolan: Yeah. There was.

ANTIHERO: That’s surprising.

Tony Dolan: And one of the kids at the show, young lad, 20, head to toe, Venom. Everything he had on him was Venom. I thought, “fuck if I cut him in half he will bleed Venom. Now, that kid couldn’t afford to go to Australia, and he said he couldn’t get to New Zealand. So, when someone said, “how come you’re getting Tasmania and nobody comes?” I said, “that kid right there. You want us to fly over him twice, when obviously it means so much to him when he can see it, smell it, but he can’t touch it.” I said, “you can’t do that.” But I said to Jeff, “isn’t that amazing?” Because he has a young lad, living in a place where nobody goes, that we had no idea about. We’re all sitting up in Newcastle, as a young man, writing a song that this kid connects with. This kid, on the other side of the world, in a piece of dirt where nobody goes, and you spoke to me. And he can’t believe you’re here. And he wants to tell you what it means to him.

ANTIHERO: Incredible experiences of what you do.

Tony Dolan: And, like Jeff just said, that influence, when people come up and go, “you’re the reason,” and you know, “if it wasn’t for you,” it’s like, how do you comprehend that? When fundamentally, you were a kid with a guitar playing some songs. And in a band, when you’re in a band, you’re just having some fun, and you don’t realize that kind of influence that you’re having.

ANTIHERO: Any regrets?

Mantas: No comment.

Tony Dolan: For me, personally, no. Because everything that occurred … You know, when people go, “if you could go back, what would you change?” I go, “well, if I went back and changed anything, I wouldn’t be sitting here now.”

ANTIHERO: All roads and paths have brought you to where you are now.

Mantas: Yeah.

Tony Dolan: Yeah. I mean, this person here probably, I don’t know, he’s a brother. He’s a brother I never had, and I love him more or as equally as any of the family that I love. And I’m closer to him than anybody else. And you know, I love being with him, I love being around him, and playing with him is the most fun I’ve ever had. There’s a synergy with us, and it just transcends anything, and it’s just-

ANTIHERO: You don’t clash in anything? I supposed you’ve known each other that long…

Tony Dolan: Exactly. It’s about knowing what annoys and when to step back.

Mantas: Well, we both know now, even … We’re in a confined space here. And even now, we both know, you get up in the morning, and, “hey, morning,” and one of us goes, “oh yeah, morning.” You know it’s like-

Tony Dolan: Someone goes, “what’s the matter with him?” You know, he just wants to be quiet.

Mantas: It’s exactly what Tony said. We are essentially brothers, and I love you as much…

Tony Dolan: In America, we were just waiting to go on stage, and he turned around, he was like, “fucking love you, man.” It was like…

Mantas: But that’s the way we are. And it is that connection that we’ve got. I don’t know what it is, it’s just, we’ve known each other for … I mean, the very first time we ever got on stage together, can you remember? The very first time you were on stage with me.

Tony Dolan: When he had his Mantas project when he first left Venom and he did his solo album, and then I called him from a phone box, said, “Jeff said can you give him a call?” I was like, “yeah.” So, I went to a phone box. A phone box with lots of two pence pieces. I was on the phone, and I was going, “yeah, we’ll shoot this video at the university, and I was just wondering if you were” … And I was like, “yeah, fucking great.” And I remember, I went up to my girlfriend’s, ‘ It so it’s kind of more pop rock, like AWOL or whatever you called, so it wasn’t like, extreme. It was more rock. And so, I went up to hers, and I said, “I need to borrow your black and white striped trousers, and as I put on all this stuff…

It looked amazing. But he went down, and they built the set themselves out of scaffold and tin foil, … And it was amazing. And we shot the video for it, and it was fucking fantastic. Yeah. So, that was like … And even then, the atmosphere was completely different. Everybody was just together, and it was fun, and you realized how much performance could be from-

And it should be. It should be. And I think the difference is as well, you know that … And I’ve said before in things, is that there are two kinds of people that play. There’s a guy in a band or girl, and there’s a guy or a girl who’s a musician. They’re not the same animals. They all play, but one doesn’t exist without the band, and one is a musician. And that’s the difference. You know, from Scooter to Venom, to Mantas, to Drill, to Atomkraft, to you know-

ANTIHERO: I was going to ask that later. Any albums or CDs in your own collection that would surprise people, that you listen to? I mean, I find the metal thing is still there. It’s a passion, but as you get older, my personal musical taste diversifies.

Tony Dolan: Exactly.

ANTIHERO: You dip into other things. So, what would be in your personal collection that might surprise people?

Mantas: Probably Roxy Music.

ANTIHERO: Really?

Tony Dolan: Yeah, yeah.

Mantas: Yeah, I mean, there was a band in the ’80s that I loved, and that was Go West. They had the guitarist. I can’t remember the guy who died. Phenomenal fucking guitarist. I mean they … Or there’s Level 42. Love them as well. And I love the blues as well. I love the blues. When people say to me about my guitar playing, I mean, I don’t consider myself a virtuoso, you know, bullshit. But I just say I’m more of a blues player. If you come to sound check, I’ll be sitting there in the corner just playing blues licks all the time. And even as far back as the Venom release, Black Metal. If you’re one of these people who want to analyze the fucking records, blues, and rock and roll licks, at the end of the day. It’s whatever the band did to those fucking songs when we got together that created that sound.

ANTIHERO: Do you feel like you got lucky?

Mantas: Very.

ANTIHERO: Because I mean, I’ve read interviews … Or not interviews, some reports that the band wasn’t actually that musically proficient.

Mantas: No, we weren’t.

ANTIHERO: You just got a lucky break.

Mantas: I think the world was ready for something different. All the stars aligned, and just zapped down on us. It got to be … It could’ve been anybody who was coming out at that point who was different. And we just happened to be it. It was the right place, right time.

ANTIHERO: I do remember hearing Venom on Radio 1, which was quite surprising at the time.

Tony Dolan: Yeah, I was setting my alarm to fucking listen to that.

Mantas: Surprised me more than anybody, you know.

ANTIHERO: Daytime radio? It’s like, what the hell is coming out of my radio?

Tony Dolan: Sorry, I was just going to say, I think that with punk rock, that explosion of punk rock because they weren’t particularly proficient, you know, there was a lot of shouting and scratchy guitar, and a bit sort of … But what I think that did, certainly to myself, and I think, the generation, was like, I want to do that. And I don’t have to be the best player because he’s not the best player.

You just got to get up and do it. And I think then that happened. But it happened, and then it started to die out. The industry caught on, tried to sell punk as something else, and ended up with Hurry Up Harry by Sham 69, whereas you started with the Sex Pistol and Never Mind the Bollocks. So, it’s like, oh, all of a sudden, you’ve now become radio-friendly and top 20. It’s like, “well, that’s not it.” By the time you get the second wind with this Discharge stuff, I kind of lost the thread then.

It wasn’t what it was. And now it’s become a genre that they’re selling. Okay, so it’s the gimmick and stuff. Right. I’m not saying those bands are gimmicks, but what I’m saying is that for me, it became … what was something guttural and very back-alley, became front-alley and High Street. It’s like, no, no, no. No, no, no, that’s not what it is. It’s a revolution.

And I think that kind of the same thing happened. When you think of Motörhead and Sabbath and that dirty, noisy… all of a sudden you became Saxon and Def Leppard. And Bon Jovi. And it was like, it was all smooth around the edges, and go oh because the corporates are going, “we can make money on this so let’s make it into something.” I think Venom, the cacophony that was Venom, the younger people just went, “that is ugly, it’s noisy, it’s non-conformist, it’s not what we’re being fucking force-fed.” That’s why they grabbed hold of it. For them, it’s like, eh. You know, they’ll be like dragged on call, hang on, what’s happening? We’re just here, in a band trying to make songs, and that’s what…

ANTIHERO: Yeah. If it upsets your parents, it’s all better, isn’t it?

Tony Dolan: Exactly.

ANTIHERO: Just a final one, then, I’m sure you’ve both done many of these interviews over the years, but who would you like to sit down, one-on-one, with you asking the questions?

Mantas: K.K Downing. K.K was the reason that I’m doing this now. I saw him in Priest, Killing Machine tour, May 28, Newcastle City Hall. And I remember the band coming on stage, but in particular, looking at that stage on the left-hand side, this guitarist ran on, and the Flying V, the leathers… It was always K.K for me, yeah. I loved him, just fucking hell, he was the epitome of a heavy metal guitarist at that point.

ANTIHERO: And what they did together as well was just phenomenal.

Mantas: The sound. Brilliant. But never met him, never spoke to him until we played in Auckland.

Tony Dolan: Just recently.

Mantas: Do you know what it is? We had a kid sitting there yesterday who was a huge metal fan, and he was fucking shaking, he was crying and everything. The whole nine yards.

Tony Dolan: We gave him some gifts, and he just started crying, going, “so sorry, so sorry.”

Mantas: Yeah. And I can understand his position, because when I picked up the phone to K.K, this journalist who we’ve done interviews with before, comes in to do K.K, and he made the arrangement for me to speak with him after the show. And I got thrown, I was like, “fuck,” and he said, “hey, Jeff, how are you doing “? I said straight away, I say, “K.K, right, I’m going to get the fanboy shit out straightaway, you know?” And I told him the whole tale, “you’re the reason,” … And he’s like, “oh, fucking hell, cheers.” But he is a really nice guy, had a nice conversation with him. 20 minutes. Sent me a text after the call, said, “nice to talk with you, let’s keep in touch,” all this kind of stuff.

I would love to just actually sit down with him and talk to him.

ANTIHERO: All guitars.

Tony Dolan: What’s quite amazing as well is just that … to make a bullet point, is that when he talks about people coming up to him, and going, “you’re the reason,” and he goes, “I don’t know what to say,” when K.K prior to them talking, when he was going, “you know, that guy is from Venom, you’re the reason he did exactly the same thing. K.K went, “oh my, I don’t know what to say.”

ANTIHERO: What about yourself? Not even a musician, maybe.

Tony Dolan: Yeah, yeah. Well, I love history. So, I’d like to talk to George Criston and a lot of people, but I think it would have to be, again, an inspiration, and that was Lemmy, you know? Not to ask him questions, because there’s very little that I don’t know, as everybody is, I suppose. But just to spend time with him, you know? Because not only did he inspire me from being the artist he was, but from the person he was. Because he had a way with fans. It didn’t matter what he was doing, he would turn around and go, “okay.” You know what I mean?  He would … Like Brian May. If you’re working, Brian will come into a theatre, come into somewhere, and Brian May would say “hello” to every fucking person that walks past him. “Hello, how are you? Hello, how are you? Hello, nice to see you. How’s it going, how’s it going?” You know? And the next time he comes in, he doesn’t go, “I don’t know who that is. I’ve forgotten who that is.” He knows exactly who the people are. That was Lemmy. That was Lemmy, completely. I mean … And just to be around that kind of person is wonderful. For me, it would be him.

ANTIHERO: Well, it’s been great to chat to you both ahead of tonight’s show. Thanks very much.

 

 

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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