VENOM – From the Very Depths – A Conversation with Rage
On a rather cold, windy, and rainy Thursday afternoon in late February I had the honor of interviewing Venom guitarist Rage, which was a treat. Not only do I love and cherish the last two killer Venom records, those being "Fallen Angels" (2011) and "From the Very Depths (2015), but Rage turned out to be one hell of a cool and funny guy to talk to, so I was literally all smiles throughout the interview. If any of you sorry-looking a-holes have not acquainted yourselves with "From the Very Depths" yet, or "Fallen Angels" for that matter, then I strongly suggest that you do so ASAP. Anyway, I digress. Let us get on with our little chat with Rage, which, frankly, went by in a flash, even though we spoke for half an hour.
Hey Jens, you alright?
Yeah, I am good.
How is it going?
Great, I am really excited about this. I am psyched! How are you doing?
I am alright. It is very cold over in Newcastle, which sucks…so, yeah, but I am fine. All better now that I am speaking to you, haha.
I got a whole bunch of questions here for you. Are you ready to get cracking?
Anything you want, man. I was born ready, haha.
(© Ester Segarra)
Well, first of all I have to say that I love your new album. It rules!
Thank you very much.
In my opinion it is one of the best Venom albums ever released and conceived. It is just so varied and heavy on atmosphere, and there is so much energy, intensity, and aggression on it.
Yeah, man, that is what it is all about.
It is. So, what is the atmosphere within the Venom camp like these days now that you have got this monster of an album out?
Yeah, you know what, it is probably want the fans want to hear, but it is great. We have got a great relationship together, which was forged by this line-up five years ago. Actually, it may be six years ago now that Dante joined the band. Yeah, Dante has been in the band for the past six years now, so the line-up has been going for a little while. I have been in the band a little less than ten years now. Everyone gets on. We have all got the same sort of beliefs, wants in life…and the same humor. We arrive at the same sort of stuff and we are interested in the same stuff as well, and I think that just made this album a bit more cohesive and a little bit more together, you know? As with the original band we have the same beliefs in that we want to put out good music and keep Venom going for the next ten-twenty years, but we just get on so much better and we socialize and all that. That results in really good music. Nobody is standing there going "I don’t like that stuff" or "My songs are better than their songs", or anything like that. We are all in it to keep the band going for the next ten-twenty years. On a personal note for me and Dante, we did not join the band to make a name for ourselves or make millions of pounds. We wanted to just play good heavy metal and that is what we are doing, and I think the fans see that we are honest as people. We are not in it for fame or anything like that. We are in it because we want to make sure the fans get a good album and a good live show.
The new album sounds so honest.
Yeah, that is what it is all about.
It is weird, because the band has existed for 35 years and it is surreal to receive an album by such an old band that just blows everything away. You usually do not get that with old bands. I guess surreal is the only word that I can come up with right now.
On "Fallen Angels" we sort of tempted people with the idea that this line-up could be really, really good, so that was a good time. For me, personally, I just wish that this had happened ten or twenty years ago, like maybe right after "Resurrection", and I that had been in the band longer. I am not getting any younger and I just wish that I had 30 years of Venom-history, haha. But yeah, I think it has taken a lot of people by surprise how a bunch of old farts from the north of England can actually pull it out of the bag, haha.
Yeah, exactly, because usually the old bands get…a lot of them…you know…
Yeah, they get worse and worse as the years go by, don’t they? I do not mean to slag them off, but there is a very well-know band whose name starts with a letter not too far removed from V, and their new album is all cover songs and stuff like that, and it is like "What are you doing?", you know what I mean? You just got to have the drive for it. We are never satisified. We always want to do better. Like when we do gigs and go to Norway or Germany and you see the fans, and that gives you the fire to do good stuff. We are older and everything, but we have still got the fire and we still want to do this.
Absolutely, and as a fan that is what matters. On the new albums the solos are flying like bullets and the drums are like nails being punched into your skull.
What more could you ask for, right?
We look forward instead of looking backwards. Some people always look backwards and think that things were better back in the day, but we keep looking forward and keep playing the music to the people that want to listen to it.
(© Ester Segarra)
How do you guys go about writing songs? Do you meet up in the rehearsal space and jam and come up with things there and then, or do you write stuff on the road or at home?
The last time, after the "Hell" album and all that, we wanted a bit more dynamics, so what we did was that I would bring riffs in and Cronos would bring riffs in, and we would either have complete songs or parts of songs, and we would then work out the arrangements and so on.That is how we did "Fallen Angels". On this one ("From the Very Depths") we just came in and had small bits of ideas, and this one was nailed a lot more in rehearsals. We sort of just started there. Me and Dante would be jamming on a riff and Cronos would hear that and we would develop it from there, or he and Dante would throw something at me and I would sit and listen and come up with stuff afterwards or while we were playing. Me and Dante, and Cronos as well, grew up with Rainbow and Deep Purple and stuff like that. Then once the 80s came we got into heavier stuff, but what got us listening to music was Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, and all that. They were jam-bands, so that is what we did a lot of. Jamming riffs and you would get like twenty minutes of riffing or even an hour. Some of it was really bad and if you listened to it you would probably stop liking the band, haha. But some of it was really good. We sort of did that with the song "Blackened Blues" on the last album. If you listen to the middle of the song you can hear the jam-part coming into it. That was what we did, a jam-cut really, but we decided to make it a proper track as a bonus. It would be a bit more atmospheric, and I think that may have been lacking on a few of the later albums, that sort of satanic and evil atmosphere from the earlier albums. I think that was what was missing. I am a big David Lynch fan and a movie fan, and I will put "Twin Peaks" on and watch that for a couple of hours and then come up with some really spaced-out riffs. I think that has helped bring a little bit of atmosphere back in the music, and I think that is what works for the album. Some bits sound like some really weird Italian horror film, haha.
It is funny you should mention that, because one of the reasons that "Fallen Angels" and "From the Very Depths" are two of my favorites is due to the atmosphere, and I was going to ask you if you find any inspiration in movies, literature, and so on.
I am a massive David Lynch fan and have been so for years and years, and I get a lot of stuff from him. When Venom were first coming out they were one of those bands that would stick two riffs together that really should not go together. They had that something that made you go "What?" and "How did they manage to do that?". I think that is sort of where I get the David Lynch-y stuff from where things take a massive u-turn and go left-field. To tell you the truth, and this is not bullshit because I am talking to someone from Norway, but the riff from the "Fallen Angels" song was actually written at the Hole in the Sky Festival (in 2010 – ed. note). There was a technical problem at one point and I needed to go down while the crowd was there and I needed to play through my amp to get the sound sorted because the microphones had been knocked. I did not want the stuff that I played to be Venom songs, so I just started playing this riff and that turned out to be the "Fallen Angels" riff. I looked into the crowd and noticed that they were nodding their heads and getting into it. The guys who were helping us with the stage gear from Norway were sort of grooving along with it, so I went backstage and all the guys from Immortal were there with the guys in the band, and they were like "What was that riff you were playing?" and I was like "Ah it was just a riff I came up with", and they were like "That is going on the next album", haha. Maybe it was the Norwegian air in the area that corrupted us, haha.
It makes sense to me. The new album is slightly more cohesive perhaps, but "Fallen Angel" is heavy on atmosphere.
"Fallen Angels" is like foreplay and "From the Very Depths" is like getting a good shagging, haha.
(© Ester Segarra)
It was really cool that you brought up that song "Blackened Blues", because I bought that limited edition CD version of "Fallen Angels", and "Blackened Blues" is downright infernal and almost like a movie soundtrack.
It is weird how it takes that blues-thing with the whole "your dog is dead" or "your dog has left you" and "your wife has buggered off" and it is just like…arghhhhh…and then the jam-track comes in around the middle and it gets really loud at the end. It is just weird, haha. That was the song that came up near the end of the album and was a little more atmospheric. That was what we wanted to carry over. What some of the Norwegian bands were really good at and that I think they took from Venom was the atmosphere. They took more of that from Venom than the actual music. The corpse-paint or whatever you want to call it was part of an atmosphere. I do not hear a lot of Venom musical influences apart from the DIY sort of thing, but this atmosphere of the music of like…how they had this feeling and sense of gloom to them…sort of like…FUCK!…things are really SHIT, you know what I mean? It is like having a bit of wood and it is soaked with rain and dirt and fucking nastiness, and it is warped and gone wrong, and it was fucking awesome that the Norwegian bands took that. Everybody misses that. Everybody goes "duh, they are copies of Venom" and "They copied everything", but they just took the atmosphere of the era and amplified it and the feeling that you get from that. Everyone misses the feeling that you get from that.
Yeah, like when the hair stands up on your arms.
You know what it is? It is impending doom, haha. Like, "Your life is going to end very shortly", you know? Black sabbath were trying to do that, and they did not accomplish that total feeling of impending doom. The Norwegian bands took the atmosphere.
You guys write songs about a lot of different things, so there is a certain diversity there. I was listening to that song "Annunaki Legacy" and I started thinking about the whole end-of-the-world-thing that was happening back in 2011.
Cronos came in one day and said "I got an idea for a song called "Blackened Blues" and we came up with a riff for it, but it did not fit. It was my idea of blues, but it was not blackened enough, you know? So, we left that riff to the side and then came up with the stuff that ended up being "Blackened Blues", but then we still had that other song lying around and we went "What shall we have for lyrics", and then Cronos came in with the ones about the aliens and stuff like that. It was like "Wow, I did not expect that to fit in there with that bluesy riff", haha. But yeah, I totally get what you mean with the whole 2012-thing and where the world is going.
It sounds to me as if some of your ideas come about somewhat spontaneously and intuitively.
Yeah, absolutely. The idea for "From the Very Depths" had been sitting there for a few years and was originally about the great noise about the witches and the witch trials, and we had an idea for the last album about this. "The Great Noise" was the noise of all of the witches being tortured, but there were no riffs to go with it. We decided that it did not really fit in with "Fallen Angels". On this new album that was where we wanted to go and we changed the name of the song to "From the Very Depths". It is about the witch trials from three different perspectives: the person doing it, the person getting it, and the outcome. We talked about "Smoke" about four years ago and had an idea about it, but then sometimes it takes a while before things kick in. There is still some stuff lying around lyric-wise that was supposed to go on the album that was really dark and deep, but it did not go on the album and is yet to come out. I have a friend who works for Mayhem. He is from Sweden but lives over in Norway, and he tells me these folk stories and stuff like that. I then pass those stories on. In Scandinavia there is this wealth of dark tales, you know? Obviously, we are coming back over to Norway this year for the Tons of Rock Festival, so we will be getting even more evil tales then.
(© Ester Segarra)
That is awesome. There is so much mythology and folklore that you can tap into
Yeah, and nobody has used it as well. A lot of people just use their sort of local tales as an inspiration in terms of how they write songs, but not many delve deeply into the folklore. I know that there is Amon Amarth with the viking sort of stuff and all that, but there is still an undercurrent of stuff that has not been used or tapped on. We are always ready to steal ideas from different countries, haha.
Sometimes it kind of bugs me that people always associate Venom with blasphemy, Satan, and Hell. To me, there is just so much more to it.
Yeah, people always do that. There are turn-of-the-cheek sort of songs such as "Teacher’s Pet" and "Long Haired Punks" and all that, there is always going to be them things. You just have to have those things where you do not have to take things so seriously. There are different sorts of aspects, and, sure, there is the stuff about the Devil, but it is not necessarily all about Satan and so on, you know what I mean? You have got "Crucified", which is aspects of people taking the piss out of you, like
born-again Christians that took a lot of drugs and did a lot of drinking and then blame it on somebody else and they pin it on Satan and it is all his fault. People sort of miss that point and go "Uhh it is all about Satan!", and yeah, sure, some bands are into that, but get into the music instead, you know what I mean? You do not need to worship Satan to listen to Mayhem or Immortal. You do not have to be a serial killer who hits women in order to listen to Cannibal Corpse.
One final question; does it ever feel surreal being on stage with Venom?
All the time. At every gig. When I was a kid growing up in Newcastle we were told that you had to move to London in order to be famous and get in a band, but Venom were like 5-10 miles from where I lived and they showed us that we could tour the world and release albums, because that is what they succeeded in doing, and they were just down the road from us. That gave me the motivation and idea that "Yeah, we can do this!". And now 25 years later I am on stage with them and is a member of the band. Every year it gets more weird. The first two years it was like "Fuck, I am on stage with this band that I grew up with", and now there are people who listen to black that listen to my songs or sing along to songs that I helped write, and that is the really weird bit. I look over to the side of the stage and I see bands that I grew up with and whose albums I still buy standing there watching us. I have become friends with Candlemass and Arch Enemy and so on. I get to do interviews and I get to put my view across as a member of Venom. That is amazing and there is no money on this planet that can pay for that. I always wanted to be a songwriter and now Venom has made me exactly what I wanted to be.
I remember when growing up I was sitting in this house and I had this Venom "Nightmare" 12" LP with the demon and the woman on it, and when we played that song on stage a few years ago I remembered exactly how I felt and I could picture myself as a kid and I freaked out, haha. Things just get better and better.
VENOM will perform at the Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway, on June 19. Be there!