Although Venom are 15 studio albums deep into their career, the band’s longtime singer-bassist Cronos surprisingly admits that he still doesn’t feel like he’s “made it” — despite influencing countless metal acts over the years.
But with the arrival of the group’s latest offering, Storm the Gates, few veteran metal bands have remained as ferocious sounding as Venom this far into their career.
We recently ran Part 1 of our interview with Cronos, where Venom’s long-time leader discussed his band’s influence on other bands, silly record label advice from back in the day, and refusing to embrace the mainstream, among other subjects.
In Part 2 of our interview, Cronos talks about how Venom gave Metallica one of their first big breaks, befriending Brian Johnson before he was even in AC/DC, getting sampled by the Beastie Boys, and why he considers most modern metal bands to be “Crap! Fuckin’ crap!”
ON TAKING METALLICA OUT ON THEIR FIRST-EVER EUROPEAN TOUR
It was a great time. And it was a good time for those guys to actually be able to hit the European shows. We were looking for bands like us, because as we always said, “We have a different crowd. We’re not pulling the same kind of crowd that would go and see… Mötley Crüe or whatever.” A friend of mine used to have a bootleg stall, and he came to me one day with a VHS tape, and said, “I’ve seen this band in San Francisco, and they are just like you guys.” And it was a Metallica show, with Dave Mustaine wearing his Welcome to Hell shirt.
So, when we got the opportunity to get in touch with Jon Zazula and go over there, we said, “There’s a band on the other side of the country…” Now, we traveled 3,000 miles from England to New York, and those guys traveled 3,000 miles from the West Coast to New York, so that’s fair — we’d meet in the middle. And then after that, I remember I told James [Hetfield] that story, and he said, “Oh no, no, no. There is a band that’s really, really like you guys.” And that’s when he told us about Slayer. He said, “There is a band in LA just like you guys.” And then from there on, it went from Exodus and everybody started coming out — it was amazing.
But the Metallica boys, they’re hardworking guys. Fuckin’ hell, I couldn’t take that away from them. We were getting to the end of the 7 Dates of Hell Tour in Europe [in February of 1984], and we were all getting ready to go home and put our feet up and start working on the next record. And I said, “What plans have you guys got?” And I remember Lars said, “We’ve lined up our own tour.” And I was like, “Wow, you guys never stop!” I don’t give a shit if people say, “This album is terrible or that album is terrible.” Every band that has a long career is going to have good and bad releases. And I don’t give a shit about what people say about Metallica’s career as a whole — they were hardworking guys in the early days, and nobody can take that away from them.
ON BEING LONGTIME FRIENDS WITH AC/DC’S BRIAN JOHNSON
He’s a very good friend of mine — he lives up the road from me. He just lives around the corner, really. I remember when I first went to his house with my first single, and he was saying, “Yeah! The apprentice rock star!” [Laughs] Yeah, Brian’s been a good friend. He was in a local band in Newcastle, called Geordie, and they used to do covers by Nazareth. He’s got that kind of a voice, like Dan McCafferty. So, he was perfect for AC/DC. I heard the stories straight away — when he went for the audition, he met the guys in the pool room, had a couple of games of pool and a couple of beers, then went in, went through “Whole Lotta Rosie” and a couple of other tracks, and Angus and the boys looked at each other and said, “We’ve got our man.” That’s so understandable, because Bri is such a down-to-earth guy. He’s a very private guy — he keeps to himself. I haven’t seen him since he’s left the band, unfortunately. He’s off spending time with his family. But I’ll bump into the guy soon, I know I will.
ON WHEN THE BEASTIE BOYS SAMPLED PART OF A VENOM STAGE RAP FOR THEIR SONG “MARK ON THE BUS”
That was great. The Beastie Boys are the Beastie Boys — they’re just trying to have fun. A lot of people get offended by them, but I don’t see how you can get offended by those guys. They came and did some shows here in England, and when they got to Newcastle, they couldn’t stop talking about Newcastle Brown Ale — the beer. And all night onstage, “Cronos lives in Newcastle! Yeah!” Those guys don’t mean any harm. If people take them wrong… then get a sense of humor guys, come on.
ON WHY HE THINKS CERTAIN GROUPS LIKE THE PMRC MADE SUCH A BIG DEAL OUT OF THE CONTENT OF ROCK LYRICS, INCLUDING VENOM’S “POSSESSED”, IN THE 1980s
Bored politicians’ housewives with nothing better to do. Trying to please their friends in their communities. It was all based on nothing — it’s ridiculous. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Look, the only the way trends can develop and change is with freedom of speech, and trying out new ideas. And as we know, many bands come and go and they never make it. And for all the bands out there, it’s a small percentage that really do make it at the end of the day. But when you start curbing what you can and can’t say, well, for fuck’s sake.
Yes, people do cross the line, but that’s in the name of freedom of speech. There was some American comedian that wanted to come here to the UK, and he had a really sexist show, and he got stopped and they wouldn’t give him the visa. And everybody in England was ticked off, because we were like, “No, no, no. Let him come. Let him face his critics. Because if he is up on stage saying racist and anti-feminist things and all the rest of it, well then, let’s hear it — it’s his point of view.” But I don’t think you should ever stop this sort of thing — unless somebody is breaking the law, well then, you should let people have freedom of speech. It’s the same thing, really.
ON APPEARING ON THE SONG “CENTURIES OF SIN” ON DAVE GROHL’S PROBOT PROJECT
Come on, Dave is such a fuckin’ nice guy. He’s such a professional. And there’s just no ego or airs and graces about the guy — he’s just so flat down-to-earth and straightforward. And also, an absolutely amazing musician. Working with him was such a great thing, that there were no industry people involved. Me and Dave spoke to each other — we did the deal together. We didn’t have to have big lawyers fighting over paperwork. When Dave actually sent me the music, he sent me the music for the whole album, and said, “Track #7 or whatever it was is what I was thinking of for you. But to get a feel of the album, here is the rest of the music.”
I took the song that he had for me and basically wrote three separate sets of lyrics, and I sent him a rough mix of the three different ideas. One of the versions was a bit like, “Hanging out with the guys, going for a beer, rock n’ roll,” and another was a bit sleazy — prostitutes and bars. And then the third one was kind of the Satanic element. And Dave came back, and said, “I want the Satanic element!” So, I put the bass on and did the vocals. It never was really intended to use the bass, because he’d only asked us to do the vocal. But I put the bass on anyway, and said, “Look, use it if you think it adds to the track. If not, then I’m happy for you to just use the vocal.” But he also used the bass, which I was really proud of. But Dave is Dave — he’s fuckin’ great.
ON MODERN-DAY METAL
Crap! Fuckin’ crap! Honestly, I’ve been saying this for so long now. The thing is, you’ve got a lot of people who are now just taking other people’s music on the internet, instead of creating their own. The creative side of the world seems to have hit a brick wall. Now, we haven’t had any new music or fashion explosions at all now — for at least the last 20 years. When you think back to the rock n’ roll thing of the ‘50s, the peace and love thing and Hendrix in the ‘60s, the glam stuff that came out in the ‘70s, punk, and then hip-hop… but then it stopped.
But that came with the birth of the internet and all these people making these YouTube channels. I was sitting and watching this one guy, and he said, “I started a band. I tried to make it with the band for a couple of years, but I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I put a YouTube channel together, and just used other people’s music and other people’s ideas, and now, I’m able to get the YouTube royalty.” And I’m going, “Wow. Two years… that’s all you’ve spent? Two fuckin’ years? I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I still don’t really feel like I’ve made it! Come on, two years?! You fuckin’ wimp!”
But I think it’s what’s affecting music is the lack of originality and the lack of purpose and the lack of conviction. I think people need to look at themselves and reevaluate. Because without new ideas, this whole scene is just going to get stale. But I don’t know, I’m looking at these magazines now, and looking at these young bands, and I’m thinking, “They all look the same. They all sound the same.” To me, the only bands worth going to see are all the established bands – the Metallicas, the Megadeths, the Slayers, the Venoms, the Dimmu Borgirs, the Immortals, the Behemoths. These are the bands that are still doing something up onstage that is exciting and good to watch and listen to. But these newer bands, you could swap members, and you wouldn’t even know there was any changes. Name the drummer — nobody knows. Name the guitarist — nobody knows. Which band is this? Who does he play drums for? Nobody knows. The whole thing appears to have been watered down.
Our thanks to Cronos for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up Venom’s latest album, Storm the Gates, via various outlets at this location.