Lords of Metal
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Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan: “Mantas dropped me a track he’d completed and said it was about his death experience, where he had seen no light, no angels, no golden gates or burning fires, only a vortex of black and I asked what it was titled. He said, There’s Only Black…

Venom Inc behoeft zo onderhand geen nadere introductie, eigenlijk. De ‘tweede’ Venom band timmert al sinds 2015 aan de weg en haalt de ‘andere’ Venom met rasse schreden in, met inmiddels twee zeer sterke albums en een indrukwekkende lijst van optredens over de hele wereld.  Met de aanwinst Jeramie ‘War Machine’ Kling als drummer kreeg de band een turbo boost en dat is dan ook te merken op het tweede, onlangs verschenen album ‘There’s Only Black’. Zanger/bassist Tony ‘The Demolition Man’ Dolan nam even de tijd voor wat noodzakelijke vragen.
Winston Arntz Ι 13 oktober 2022

Hi Tony, thank you for taking the time for a couple of question. With the Avé album (2017) as the bands first release, when and how did you set out the plans for the follow up we now know as ‘There’s Only Black’?
Following our end of season show at WACKEN, I was due my hip operation so decided while I was enjoying the recovery period over Christmas 2019 and into 2020 myself and Mantas could spend time in Portugal at his studio writing and completing some new music, possibly release early 2020 then go back on the road. However the pandemic halted plans for travel, so we each completed writing at our home bases, while awaiting a green light to travel. But that never came, so we changed track. I didn’t think we should rush, seeing as we wouldn’t be able to produce physical material easily and certainly not tour until the disease had subsided, or governments had gained control of it anyways. So we shared files, ideas and produced around 24 tracks by the time we were ready to compile the album, which brought us all the way to 2022.

The title track refers to Jeff Mantas Dunns heart attack, back in 2018, where he got a glimpse of nothing at all on the other side. Can you relate to that? Is there something around that dark corner?
Well, the original title was ‘Nine’ based on Dante’s Inferno, one’s journey from birth to death and those challenges we meet along the way. But then, while working in the studio, Mantas dropped me a track he’d completed and said it was about his death experience, where he had seen no light, no angels, no golden gates or burning fires, only a vortex of black and I asked what it was titled. He said, ‘There’s Only Black’…and it just hit me like a brick and the images, ideas and meaning bounced around my head immediately and I said: “that’s it, that’s the title!”.
It had so many far reaching meanings, of course Jeff’s own ultimate experience, but beyond that, it raises that very human question, “what’s it all about? Why are we here? What’s next? What is beyond what we know?” etcetera. So I changed the cover and it also fit the theme of the whole album. I even chose not to use our famous logo on the cover, but took a font I saw on a gravestone in a famous London cemetery, because it just fit the whole theme.

The addition of Jeramie “War Machine” Kling to the band was a direct match, as the gigs with him proved from the very start. How did that influence the music of Venom Inc?
Hugely! But only in a way that we both felt free to create anything and Jeramie would do what he does so superbly in performance. The restrictions and limitations that we had, applied to us on the previous album were lifted and so we felt stronger.

As you three are living far away from each other (England, Portugal and USA), how did you make plans for the album? Songwriting recording and producing must have been something else, given the Covid-19 circumstances I guess.
The initial plans after Wacken were to have my hip replaced and while in recovery go to Portugal and work on new songs. That fell apart with the whole Covid thing, so as it became clear, travel wasn’t going to be an option. We just got on with writing in our own locations, using the internet for meeting, chats, playthrough ideas etcetera. It really was invaluable as a tool to help. So the distance was reduced to nothing and as we all have studio access, it made it even easier. We shared an idea immediately and respond in kind also as if we were all in the same room.

Venom Inc (Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan) live at Alcatraz, door Erwin Thoonen
Venom Inc (Jeff "Mantas" Dunn) live at Alcatraz, door Erwin Thoonen

Nuclear Blast decided on the track listing and maybe even order of songs for Theres Only Black. You sent in 24 tracks and 12 appeared on the album as far as I understood. Were you surprised by the final choice?
We asked them to select the running order and singles after we decided and sent the 12 tracks. We recorded 24, then decided on the 12. Yes, I’m very happy and it runs perfectly!

And of course the question; what will happen to the other 12 songs? In the 80s Venom used to release EPs with 3 new tracks. Ideas to revive that perhaps? Fans would love that, I’m sure.
Perhaps exactly that, or Part II of ‘There’s Only Black’ or the singles released as 7” vinyl’s with B-sides

Out of those 24, or 12 if you like, which songs would you say carry a personal feel of yourself?
All of them! We (“Jeff and Tony”, ALOM)  composed 12 songs each, then selected 6 each that complemented each other for album part 1. We both in fact, so did Mr. Kling by execution, put all our personality stamps on everything. So we are displayed in all.

The Covid-19 situation was unfortunate for the whole entertainment business. You kept busy with several projects, how was that for you and for the other members as well?
Yes, I did and the other guys too were creating music online, doing projects, guest spots etcetera It was a very rich time for artists, creatively, while bad for actually making any money. It did bring artists closer to fans. Well, those who bothered and those who appreciate fans.
Myself, I did the SABBATONERO album and voice work as well. As a list of guest appearances; from Metal Injections ‘Slay At Home’ where we covered a Metallica classic, to ‘Metal Against Corona Virus’ and other support based musical projects.

2022 sees the 40th anniversary of the legendary, ground breaking album Black Metal. At the Keep It True Rising II festival there was a re-creating the famous Hammersmith 1984 stage set. How did this come about?
Oliver (Weinsheimer) asked me if I’d consider celebrating the album at KIT and I said ok, but it would need  to be something special and not just a playthrough of songs from that album. I suggested a show to commemorate the Hammersmith show and the album. Oliver agreed and we set the machine in motion.

Do you remember your first reaction to that album back then, as you were already close to the band in those days?
I Loved it, I was around when they were making it and had no idea what to expect, following ‘Welcome To Hell’. The production as well as the songs…just blew me away! There was a malevolence to it that even they didn’t and still don’t get, but I understand why now. You can’t judge from the inside.

What are your hopes and expectations for this period and /or after that?
I hope people like the album and keep coming to see us deliver, to keep going up, the festivals that ignore us to accept and invite us. Driven by fans, increase our streams from 1.4 million to 2.8 million. Facebook from 90k to 180k, Instagram from 63k to 126k. Expectations? None, it’s a fickle world and best to experience as it comes but not to expect anything; just work hard!