Interview with vocalist/bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan By Nicholas Pendergast
Black metal didn’t happen overnight, but Venom’s playfully ironic speed metal certainly had a huge part in shaping it as they went from stage to stage turning Satan into an iconic symbol for legions of metal maniacs popping up all over in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. When Venom’s first audiences saw them play songs off their 1981 full-length debut, Welcome to Hell, it was a turning point marking everything that would follow.
It’s not just Venom’s image that creates the myth—it’s their consistently pile-driving music that remains in tune with the soul of true rock-inspired riffs. They never tried to become a melodic cacophony of symphony and metal; they kept the music simple and loud, with hooks listeners will remember forever.
Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan was the vocalist and bassist on Venom’s three albums coming off their ‘80s run—1989’s Prime Evil, 1991’s Temples of Ice, and 1992’s The Waste Lands—which became cult records in their discography. Dolan went on to tackle other creative ventures, including acting. His wavelength spreads across a range of fields, and it’s palpable when talking to him. He has a charm that turns every tale he shares into part of some ever-expanding folklore.
Dolan explains that Venom Inc.—comprised of the core lineup from the band’s Prime Evil era—came together serendipitously at show for M:Pire Of Evil, Dolan’s other band featuring former Venom guitarist Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn and, for that night only, former Venom drummer Anthony “Abaddon” Bray. Dolan and company decided to perform a set of classic Venom covers. “Everything came together easy,” he says of that show. “We knew that we had something. There was no tension.”
YouTube videos of the event swept the internet, and Venom Inc. were born. After a few years of touring, the group are now releasing Avé on Aug. 11 via Nuclear Blast. It’s the first time they have ventured into the studio together for a collaborative effort since 1992.
Opening up about the history and legacy of Venom—and why Venom Inc. is a necessary project—Dolan asserts, “I don’t identify with myself as a god.” Despite his modesty and friendly demeanor, his voice is instantly humbling. “This album is for you guys,” he says. “Without the fans, no band would be relevant.” Dolan’s support of the people who support him is characteristic of his roots. He was a Venom fan once too, and the gig to play on Prime Evil fell into his lap by chance in 1989, years after Venom’s boom period following 1982’s Black Metal had already ended.
Dolan notes that the creative chemistry between this lineup is strong and focused around their integrity. “‘We’re not Machine Head,’” Dolan says, reiterating a conversation held with Dunn about the songwriting on Avé. “‘You’re Mantas. Play like Mantas.’”
Indeed, Venom. Inc. lack the sweeping technicality and ranges in speed that climax at a blistering pace before descending toward brutal breaks—but those aren’t the gifts that gave birth to black ‘n’ roll. Dolan accepts the term graciously, citing rock music as the influence that helped inspire their careers and the song, “Black N Roll,” that concludes Avé. He laughs about the band coining the term all those years ago, as if it’s a complimentary honor that he still can’t believe is on his plate.
“Our shows are very honest,” Dolan says, sharing that this is what keeps the band pumped about performing. “Some people can spend $1,000; others can’t,” he continues, noting Venom Inc.’s constant routes through cities and towns all over the world, playing anything from the small bars and venues to major metal festivals. “We want to give everyone the best show. We have no one to answer to. It’s for the fans.”
“This is as close to the band in the ‘80s as you’re ever going to get,” he adds. “We want our fans to feel the energy of the ‘80s. We want to do it for people who weren’t there.”
Dolan does not understate the importance of younger fans carrying on the tradition of the heavy metal movement, continuing the cyclical spark that Venom helped strike more than three decades ago. He firmly presses the point that we are, indeed, living in a golden age for metal. “You’re in a better position than we were,” he says of the generation that followed extreme metal’s explosion in the ‘80s. “We’ve lost some of our brothers, like [Death’s] Chuck [Schuldiner], [Bathory founder] Quorthon, and [actual God] Lemmy [Kilmister]. However, you have plenty bands of the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s all releasing albums and doing tours.”
“There is definitely a metal renaissance,” he says, sharing the story of how the band tried to do an album in the early 2000s. The companies weren’t interested. They told him there was no market for “that old stuff.” Dolan told his contacts in the industry that he saw the future just over the horizon and claimed, “‘Mark my words, it will change.’”
Venom Inc. have been actively outperforming bands half their age, and with zealots surrounding them everywhere they go, there is no stopping the band who gave us all a taste of what it’s like to be in league with Satan. “You haven’t missed it, you’re living history now,” Dolan concludes, assuring the legions that, in Venom Inc.’s court, all things are still pure and true.
Avé is available via Nuclear Blast on Aug. 11!