Tony Dolan: “Step into the black hole to find what’s inside”

Heavy metal trio Venom Inc will release its second album “There’s Only Black” in September. The band, which continues the loud musical legacy that they started with Venom in the 1980s, released its first album “Avé” in 2017. Venom Inc features original Venom guitarist and songwriter Jeff “Mantas” Dunn, former Venom bassist/vocalist Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan and American drummer Jeramie “The War Machine” Kling (known for playing with The Absence, Ribspreader, Fore, Massacre, Inhuman Condition). Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checks in with Tony Dolan to find out about the band’s forthcoming album.

After a Covid-forced break from touring, you have recently been able to do some festivals in Europe. Has it all been back to normal or are the festivals still impacted by the pandemic? “That’s right, it felt strange to be back but it is like someone just took their fingers off the pause button. Apart from minor red tape here and there, it’s like nothing really happened. The world just stopped being the world for a couple of years to have a rest.”

Venom Inc is a trio with members spread across the UK, Portugal and the US. Did you have a chance to rehearse as a band for your recent gigs or was it straight from the airport to soundcheck? “Well, we are fortunate as we all have studios we access. So, we just exchanged ideas and sound files but basically if we all learn the same songs – once we decide the set – then we can turn up and play them. It does rely on each member learning his parts well but there’s also much more excitement and spontaneity to that once we hit the stage. It’s fresh, full of energy and ferocious as the volume goes up and we let loose. So, yeah, it’s kinda fly in and off we go. I think I prefer it this way. You can be in danger of rehearing the life out of a set if you’re not careful. Of course, you wanna be right but we are as we all do our job but there’s also a vibrancy over-rehearsing can ebb away.”

You have now released two fab singles from your forthcoming album “There’s Only Black” which will be out on 23rd September via Nuclear Blast. Are these two terrifically sinister thrashy metal tracks representative of what the whole album sounds like? “I think they are the tip of an iceberg. I like to make people second guess. I did that with ‘Avé’ by not releasing the obvious ‘Metal We Bleed’ but going for ‘Dein Fleisch’ first. It made people stop and go WTF! But then they wanna know what’s next… The same this time around. Basically, the first two are going to be A plus A as 7” and there are two more double A-sides to come, so the diversity will be displayed. It’s a journey and you have to step into the black hole to find what’s inside.”

How have the three of you created and produced the new album? Have you all written and recorded your own bits separately at home and then put it all together in one evil stew? “Well, myself and Mantas wrote and then exchanged songs until we had what we liked as album songs. We had 24, then selected 12 and gave them to the label to choose album running, etc. Once we’d all agreed these are what makes, ‘There’s Only Black’ as an album, Mantas recorded the guitars at his place to a tempoed drum track and sent that to me where I put the absolute bass on. Then the tracks went to Florida where Mr Kling – The War Machine – replaced with live drums, then I received a basic mix of those and recorded my vocals in London. Following that, all audio was returned to Portugal where Mantas began producing the mixes, then once we all listened and liked those, he mastered them all. They then went off to Nuclear Blast in Germany. Quite the international project!”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Venom’s classic second album “Black Metal” from 1982. Venom Inc will play some special “Black Metal” shows to mark the occasion. Will you perform the album in its entirety at these shows? “That’s right! Well, I was approached to do a show and was asked if I’d consider – seeing as it was the anniversary – performing the entire album. I spoke with Mantas and we agreed we should, so I said OK, we’ll do it. Then the ball rolled and Alcatraz festival, then Bloodstock and several Scandinavian festivals also asked if we’d consider doing it for them. With such an influential album, how could we not and Mantas wants to celebrate that. So for me, it was a no-brainier… Abaddon is not up to playing anymore and Cronos has some very strange perspective where he considers the old material crap and only his new material of value and doesn’t wish to go backwards playing them. So, it’s left to us and fans to celebrate and while promoters approach me for performing Mantas’ songs then why not? It’s for the real fans.”

You soon have two Venom Inc albums of original music, plus your historic Venom back catalogue from the 80s and early 90s. What can we expect from your live setlists once the new album is out? “It’s just so exciting and the best thing. As it is, we could literally do a four-hour set and still be missing some great material! I think we are privileged in this position and forever grateful and humbled by it. I guess let’s drop the new album, see what people love from it and just add as much of everything as we can. Why not? Music is like oxygen, it never stops feeding us, so don’t stop breathing…”