Venom's Cronos: The Guitar World Interview
GW Venom’s third album, 1983’s At War with Satan, was a concept album that featured a sprawling 20-minute song as Side A. Was that album an attempt to broaden the band’s perception?
CRONOS No, it was just me being a huge Rush fan and wanting to do something like 2112. [laughs] I had been writing this story called “At War with Satan” back in school, and it basically tells the story of how Hell revolts and takes over the heavens and throws God into Hell and whatnot. And by the time the third album came around I had all these cassettes with all this music I had been writing. So when I started writing “At War with Satan,” I knew that I didn’t have to go verse-verse-chorus, etc., but that I could go riff to riff to riff to riff without the song repeating itself.
GW How did the metal community respond to it?
CRONOS Oh, people didn’t get it. It freaked everybody out—they were like, “where’s the three-minute track?” Looking back on it, I do feel that concept albums are suicide for a band unless you’re a concept band like Rush.
GW Your 1985 album, Possessed, was obviously a response to people’s reaction to At War with Satan — a more traditional Venom album, if slightly off the mark.
CRONOS Unrehearsed bollocks was what that album was. It was around the time that Mantas was just, like, staring at the wall — his heart wasn’t in it anymore. He wasn’t even talking — he was just lost, his mind was on other things. And when he didn’t show up for rehearsals, me and Abaddon had to rehearse all the songs alone. When it came time to record, I just felt that the songs were so stale. None of the songs had found the right speed or integrity or intensity. That’s one of the reasons why I rehearse my stuff — because a song needs to find itself.
GW Also in 1985, you toured with Slayer and Exodus in the U.S. The New York City concert was filmed and released as a home video called The Ultimate Revenge, a now out of print VHS tape that was many fans’ introduction to these three seminal bands in a live setting. Why is the Venom performance on that video from a U.K. performance instead of the night The Ultimate Revenge was shot?
CRONOS We were sitting backstage at Studio 54 in New York City, and all of a sudden the video guys from Combat Records came back and said how they were planning to shoot the show. And we asked them to see a contract, and they were like “What contract?” “The contract where we get paid,” we said. They just hemmed and hawed and said they had the right to film the band, and no one seemed to have the balls to be able to stop them, so I took an axe off the wall that was next to a fire extinguisher and severed their cables right before we went on. So they couldn’t film us. It was amazing to me that these guys were all prepared to film us, to have Venom footage that no one else would have and would sell it for the next 20 or 30 years, and yet they weren’t in way going to make a deal with us. One of the things we found out early on was that, in this business, if you let somebody rip you off, then it’s a free for all. And you just didn’t do that to Venom.
GW You’ve spoken out about the 1993 “Norwegian black metal” murder of Mayhem’s Aarseth by Burzum’s Count Grishnackh — an incident that saw Venom’s name back in the press being cited as an influence on these bands and the various murders, suicides, and church burnings that brought their scene worldwide attention.
CRONOS Look, civilized creatures on this planet who have all gone to school and learned about society should know the difference between burning churches and fantasy. We are entertainers first and foremost — if I wanted to be a murderer or a Satanist, I’d do that full time instead of playing songs for a living. And if the guy in Norway wants to blame Venom for what he did, that’s entirely up to him — but I think he should blame himself.
GW It must make you proud when you think about how black metal is still thriving today — still going strong from what you, Mantas and Abaddon created 25 years ago.
CRONOS It’s a massive scene now, and I really enjoy it. It’s always nice to hear that we came up with the phrase “black metal,” but I get a lot more pride from seeing just how much metal is out there now. I mean, a long time ago I had an idea for a band, and I thought that idea was only mine and the two guys I was with. But when I realized that there are so many millions of people around the world who also like that style of music, well, that’s just the most amazing thing in the world to me.
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