Interview with Tony Dolan by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy
Venom Inc. vocalist and bassist Tony Dolan chatted to us ahead of their special ‘Black Metal’ 40th-anniversary set at Bloodstock Festival UK, which takes place on its final day, 14th August. He talked to us about the festival, their follow-up album to their 2017 ‘Avé’ titled ‘There’s Only Black’ due for release later this year and how Venom came to reform in 2015 with the 1989-1992 Venom line-up under the new rebranded Venom Inc and more!
Firstly let’s go back to the beginning. How did you form under the revitalised 1989-1992 Venom line-up with Venom Inc’ in 2015, and why then?
Well, we actually agreed to make it happen in 1988 after my last ATOMKRAFT tour, but anyway, what happened was Oliver Weinscheimer from the Keep It True festival saw me performing the Future Warriors album in full at a retro festival, and I had Mantas onstage for two songs… then he contacted me asking if I knew that Abaddon was in the audience… and suggested playing for some 2000 fans at his annual festival together as a surprise for the attendees.
I said it couldn’t happen as the old members couldn’t seem to get on for more than 5 minutes, but he said if anyone could make it happen, I could. So I asked Abaddon, who said yes right away, as he’d been out of music for some time, and then I asked Mantas, who said no. But after some discussion, I convinced him we’d only play five classics after performing our M:Pire of Evil set, that we’d leave the stage and return with Abaddon and play… then we’d all go our own ways again, and that was that. But it didn’t work out the way I thought it would…
2000 fans went crazy, and the next day I was getting texts, emails and calls as people had seen it online and wanted to book us to do more shows. Within several weeks of that appearance, we’d be on tour as VENOM INC. Which was a name we ended up with after the merchandiser I had made some one-off shirts for the event made VENOM INCORPORATED into INC to save space…
We did have a full title – VENOM INCORPORATED – IRON & STEEL, but people just said VENOM INC., so we conceded and gave up on the full name. Somewhere in time, we were born!!
How happy were you with the response to your return under Venom Inc. and your debut album ‘Avé’?
It was incredible. We expected nothing really, as I didn’t want to make an album, as it always causes conflicts and applies pressures, and I was happy just touring and playing live. But after Jon Zazula pushed me into it, we recorded some demos (Mantas & myself) and sent them to Nuclear Blast only, who asked us to join them and make a full album.
Everything about the album is special to us, but to get the response we also received was an amazing and very unexpected joy.
1.2million streams just on Spotify blew us away and was so great we never stopped touring. It was for fans, and they made it more than we could ever imagine, so we are very humbled and grateful.
Your new sophomore album, ‘There’s Only Black’, is set for release on September 23rd 2022. How does this compare to your debut?
Yes!! Well, we feel it’s an extension of what we started, a natural progression. It has all the elements of our live power and energy while keeping the atmosphere we created on AVE… yet it feels more aggressive, frantic and visceral, yet holding the hand of AVE %100 at the same time.
The production feels more stripped back and raw in some ways, but it’s definitely VENOM INC. without a doubt and you won’t be disappointed.
Other than the obvious references to Black metal and perhaps your ‘Black Metal’ album, what else does the new album title mean to you?
Ah, ‘There’s Only Black’, well, it has many depths of course, as you’ve outlined, but mostly… I had a different title and art, but then Mantas sent me his track and explained it was about his death after his heart attack… it was called ‘There’s Only Black’. And that was it for me. I said THAT is the album title and recreated the layout artworks. It says everything while being simple, so for us it has many meanings.
What are the main lyrical themes, if any, explored in the new release?
As before, I think humankind can endlessly search for cancer cures while shooting each other and cruelly destroy each other with wars. Then enjoy sport, art and music together yet steal, hurt and attack each other.. all a little crazy. So we explore that, heaven and hell, good and bad. We are the creators of the heaven – the good, while we create hell and the bad. We are all good and evil. We don’t need help from any deities to be one or the other. So I guess we explore the dark side of humanity and the endless questions of what comes next? Death, the end of the universe, tomorrow, the future…like turning all your lights out, it’s impossible to know as when all is unknown, “There’s Only Black”!
What was the writing and recording process like this time around? Did covid change the process at all or make it more challenging?
Well, it made things easier actually. Normally you are writing as you travel, and in gaps when you’re not touring, then plot in studio time etc. and then there’s pressure as the labels have to plan advancing the releases. But with the world paused with covid, we were given time that we don’t normally have to just write and record, and not rush. As a result, we had a total of 24 songs recorded in the end, so we could (along with NB) choose 12 songs we thought would translate the idea – the theme of the album. Mantas has his studio in Portugal, and The Warmachine has his in Tampa, Florida, and of course, I have my own home studio in London, so sharing recordings etc. was easier for us than some, I think.
You have released a few new singles taken from their upcoming album. How happy have you been with the response to those, and can you tell us about the track ‘Don’t Feed Me Your Lies’ and what it is about?
2 so far… the responses? Just wow!! We were so happy when ‘How Many Can Die’ (the first one) hit 62,000 but then ‘Don’t Feed Me Your Lies’ then hit over 200,000 in its first week!! Amazing, and it shocked us all in a good way. ‘Don’t Feed Me Your Lies’ is basically about someone we know personally. However, it was the perfect timing as it seemed to fit with just about every government at the time who was doing just that! As they always do, but it seemed more obvious and exposed.
Who designed the album artwork, and what does it represent for you as a band?
Well, I myself did the artwork design, and designed the layout. The Black Hole was designed by a young digital artist who works on a site my daughter uses (she is a comic book artist). And the font (which isn’t the logo) I saw on a headstone in a vampiric cemetery here in north London, which is very famous (Highgate cemetery), and it fit the theme when the logo just distracted from it. But the logo appears on our Merch and inside the album, so don’t worry, there is no other reason we didn’t use our own logo, after all, we own it.
It represents the after, the beyond, the question… what’s in a black hole? What is afterlife? What’s at the end of the universe? Why are we here? The eternal questions, but it’s also an invitation to enter the album and find out for yourself through your unique experience what lies within.
On August 14th, you are playing the main stage at Bloodstock festival and treating fans to a special ‘Black Metal’ 40th-anniversary set where you will play the album in full. How excited are you about this, and what made you choose to do this at the festival?
VERY!! Well, we were asked as one band had a tragedy, so Vicky (from Bloodstock) wrote to me to ask if we’d appear in the spot and if we could do something special. And as we are playing Alcatraz festival in Belgium on Friday before, it seemed perfect to be able to do the same anniversary show here at home.
You played at Bloodstock before in 2018. What was the experience like for you? Do you have any particular highlights?
Oh, that was incredible. It had over half a million hits on YouTube, I think too. It was so special because it’s a superb UK festival,l and means so much to me… to be recognised by our home crowd and promoters for one thing, but also because 11 weeks before that, Mantas was lying in an ambulance dead!!
Looking back at the ‘Black Metal’ album, what do you think it did for you as a band?
It was a seminal piece of music all around. There was nothing like it out there. The artwork, the atmosphere, the power and the darkness are just so powerful, and it’s a classic moment. Most bands spend several albums before they make a classic album and only a handful do it sooner. VENOM were such mavericks when they appeared. People were laughing while shitting their pants about the band, but when Black Metal dropped, the whole Earth shook, and everyone knew something quite special had just happened. As a band and all members? It made all relevant, and the influence is unquestionable. And those of us still performing still perform the songs from that seminal piece
Going back to the new album, what can fans expect from the album, and how much do you think you have evolved since your initial inception over four decades ago?
I think they can expect VENOM INC. on fire! More raw, more power, speed and some progression, as is normal with any band. But that being said, all the hallmarks that make VENOM INC. old school, but with an edge as sharp as a sharp thing sharpened to it limit. It is a natural progression from AVE without losing touch, full of atmosphere and power with a darkness and a true touch of insanity. I think the young men we were had something to say and boundless energy. I’m pleased to say that while some of us have progressed in our art and skill, we are proud that we realise those same traits in ourselves and our music while being more intricate in some ways, is just as basic in others. But our hearts are 100% true!
What else have you planned for the rest of 2022 or would you like to achieve?
Well, there are two more songs coming out as the next double A side, then the album. We have several more festivals, then the USA Part 1 tour… then Europe, USA Part 2, Japan, Australia, and South America. So it’s going to be busy. We’re planning a new music video, and anything else we can squeeze in plus a Part 2 of ‘There’s Only Black’, of course.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just that we are excited to be performing the Black Metal album anniversary set, but that we are equally happy to be getting closer to the new album dropping. 2 double A-side singles out and the next one this month (August) then the other A side will drop along with the album very soon.
For your love & support, and dedication, we salute you and thank you. AVE!
Venom Inc’s new record ‘There’s Only Black ‘will be released on 23rd September via Nuclear Blast, available to pre-order HERE.
For more on Venom Inc. visit:
Venom Inc. Play the Ronnie James Dio stage on Sunday the 14th August 2022 at Bloodstock festival to play a special ‘Black Metal’ 40th-anniversary set.
For more on Bloodstock check out our preview feature: https://darkartconspiracy.com/2022/07/13/preview-bloodstock-festival-uk-11-14th-august-2022/ and visit Bloodstock’s website: https://www.bloodstock.uk.com/