Interview with vocalist and bassist Tony "The Demolition Man" Dolan
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 6, 2016
Abaddon, Demolition Man and Mantas make up Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel. Those familiar pseudonyms should be well known to Heavy Metal fans, right? Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel may be a controversial band to those people who think Cronos is at the helm of the only true Venom. Then again, every coin has two sides. Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel was born in 2014 when a promoter asked Tony Dolan (bass/vocals) about the possibility of playing classic Venom songs with both Abaddon and Mantas. That got the ball rolling and one thing lead to another.
Since 2014, Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel have come a long way and played many concerts around the world based on huge demand by both promoters and, most importantly, fans. It could be said that the Venom Inc. engine breathes fire and brimstones more strongly than ever and nothing seems to be capable of stopping them now.
I was lucky to catch up with a polite and friendly Tony "The Demolition Man" Dolan via email on the verge of their upcoming headlining European tour while Tony was packing his bags. Here are the latest thoughts that Tony had on his mind regarding the past, present and future of Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel...
Thanks to Tarja from Alpha Omega Management for setting up the interview with Tony.
Luxi: Hey Tony, how's it going? Thanks for accepting this interview request from The Metal Crypt, of course...!
Tony: Hey Luxi...All is good, thank you. It is my great pleasure and I thank you for asking.
Luxi: As for the history of Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel, it all started in 2015 when the three of you decided to get together due to the huge demand to see you guys playing live again. I guess you haven't regretted that decision one damn bit since Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel has actually been more popular among the fans than Cronos' current Venom from what I have heard, based on peoples' reactions to both acts' recent live performances...
Tony: In 2014 I was approached by a promoter asking about the possibility of doing a show and introducing Abaddon to perform with myself and Mantas (who were at that time touring and recording extensively as M:pire of Evil) and playing classic Venom material from Welcome to Hell, Black Metal and Prime Evil just to give the fans a chance to hear those songs all these years later. Mantas' first reaction when I decided to take the idea forward was no, while Abaddon was open to the idea. After some discussion between the three of us we decided we should do it. Mantas and I had just completed a tour of Russia and so it was impossible to rehearse so the three of us selected five songs and flew to Germany separately and hit the stage. It was just supposed to be a one-off for the fans and for fun but what happened following the show was off the map. Tour offers, album offers; it all went nuts and I am not talking about weeks or months later. The next day I was getting messages, emails, etc. The video of us playing onstage had gone viral.
So I sat down with the guys and told them what the offer was and asked what they thought they'd like to do. We all agreed we should just say yes and as long as people were interested and asking, we should just do whatever came. This is how we have continued to this very moment; no plan, no ultimate goal, just write, record but mostly, PLAY.
Initially there were outspoken comments against us. Of course many attacks came from the 'OTHER' camp ('Camp') but also from some fans that felt we were doing it for money or felt we were attacking their icon, but the reality is that after touring the globe more than once in the last two years, LEGIONS of fans are getting it. It is about the legacy, the music not someone's personal grievance or jealousy. We don't have time for all the lowbrow politics, for us, it is about the music and the fans, full stop!
This year alone we did 60 shows in the USA and that says it all. We cannot force fans or promoters to want us, ha ha ha!! We went because they wanted us to go; simple as that. The words against us were just words so forget them! So many fans have told us, me in particular here, that they came to the shows a little dubious or curious but left understanding and convinced this is the real deal.
The demand and the support across the world has been off the scale and we are very humbled by it. It is truly amazing and we feel very privileged.
Luxi: Do you see this more like a win-win situation for everyone as there are two Venoms out there and people can go to see Cronos' Venom and/or they can also come to see Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel? This situation should not hurt anyone's ass, should it?
Tony: Exactly. As far as I was concerned it was a win-win for fans and at the end of the day this music and this band are theirs. They make the choice, they decided what they liked or didn't like. If they liked this one or that one, great, or maybe they hate both, so be it... Ha hah ha!!! Choice is our human right and should always be championed. To have one group spending all their time attacking us, with sideswipes instead of head on, well that's not needed and very weak. If you think you are so good then just get on with it. The real fans do not care or want to hear that crap. Just do your job.
While one band is a cabaret version of course wanting to play their new material only, we are just going into the front line and playing with the spirit the band was famous for in the first place. You know, what has been cool is that fans wanted the other band to play more "classic" tracks and not the weaker new material but I think ego and arrogance came into play and was preventing that in order to establish the new band as legitimate... Go look at how the set list of the other band has changed; more classic material and almost mimicking our own set in some instances (*lol*). That's funny, of course, BUT the fans are now getting what they wanted sonically so I am happy we made that happen by just being here.
Luxi: Just out of curiosity, have you personally gone to see Cronos' current Venom live somewhere? If so, what did you think of it?
Tony: I understand. No. I think Abaddon would but Mantas? Never (*lol*). Myself? I don't care either way. Anyone can play the material but not everyone can BE the band. I think the last lineup that truly interested me was with Antton and Mike Hickey but that's just me. It lasted for a moment like always and was gone, which is a shame. More to the point, I just have not had the time. Apart from working 24/7 on the band I also do a great many other jobs so have very little free time. The recent Bloodstock festival would have been a possibility but in the end there were two things that prevented the trip. One was that I was on a job for a TV company looking at a new TV series and the other was that Cronos had told the festival organizers that no ex-member or associate should be allowed to attend ha ha hah!!! Again, very funny but whatever...!
Luxi: May I politely ask what your current relationship with Cronos' Venom is these days? Is there still bad blood between you? All I know is he wasn't too happy finding out that you decided to use the word "venom" in your new band's name. Is Cronos still angry about this decision?
Tony: There is NO communication between parties. He isn't happy; he wasn't happy then and I know he isn't now. He and his band have said, in many interviews, negative things about us and they have tried desperately to rally the troops to listen to what he has to say but to be fair he has tried to re-write the Venom history over the last 10 years so that's nothing new to anyone who knows. It is actually boring now, like an ex-girlfriend who tries but cannot stop being unreasonably jealous. No one in this camp has or will say anything but the truth about the history when asked. There is nothing to make up as the facts speak for themselves and are more interesting anyway.
The fans and the agents pushed us to use the name or at least include it in our title so we just went with the flow. At the end of the day, and after much discussion, it was decided we should just use it as the name was in existence prior to Cronos joining the band and more than that the actual logo was designed and drawn by Abaddon. Couple that with the fact that around 92% of the first two albums (THE ALBUMS) were Mantas constructions with contributions from Abaddon and some again prior to Cronos joining. People were confused why we were even considering not using the name somehow. I supposed when we looked at it like that it was a no-brainer. I added the "Incorporated" but the reason was because it would do two things in my mind. 1., distinguish ourselves from the other band and 2., incorporate all we do aside from Venom Inc. sonically as we all have other musical projects we love, so it was a term, not corporate or constructed as an industrial term as some suggested ha ha ha...!!! It is simply to gather all our works into one place.
Luxi: Moving on, since the day the three of you gathered together and started discussing Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel, did you feel right away that the chemistry was there, like everyone was on the same page and fully dedicated to this idea?
Tony: Well you know, we just arrived in the same spot at the same time and went onstage and played together, after a long break since the last time (*lol*). It wasn't perfect, as Mantas was very sick on that day, very sick but it was something different from the first chord. We knew it and the fans knew it and we did not plan or construct anything based on ego or money, we simply said yes to a show and went to have fun with it. Everything else has grown from there. Lots of bands spend days every week rehearsing together. That's good if there is lots of new material coming but as Abaddon still lives in Newcastle, Mantas now in Portugal and myself in London for the past 24 years (when I am not in the USA working) it isn't so easy for us but I think that only emphasizes the point you asked and the point I now make. Some bands feel they must rehearse constantly to retain a certain level of interest in themselves and what they are doing but we came together after many, many years, did not question it or look to refine anything and we just clicked. That is what we continue to do; we are an event and no two events are the same and we play every show as if it was the first. That is what defines us and makes us stand out.
Luxi: Since the band was formed in 2015 there's been a huge demand for your shows. During your short existence you have managed to play in countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, etc., and nothing seems to stop you from doing shows at the moment. Do you feel that there's more demand for shows than you could possibly play?
Tony: YES. What's more, it is almost as if we stop and think, "OK let's look to writing new material" and boom we are off again. For every place we have been, 10 more ask and in South America, for example, when we got off the plane in one country, the promoter asked if I would consider bringing the band back. I said, ''but we only just arrived and have not even performed yet." He said, "I don't care I want you back again," ha ha ha!!! That's crazy but it happens over and over to us. This is now October and we start a month tour of half of Europe this week and so far this year we have done almost 100 shows. By the year end close to 200 and we finished the new album. 2017 is mapping now and it looks like a year of tours across the planet with new territories and the second half of Europe. It's mad but incredible to do what you love and have people who feel it too. What more could anyone ask? WE have the greatest fans on this planet and we know it and will always respect each and every single one of them and be thankful because WE know; without them, there is no us.
Luxi: Like you just mentioned, on October 18th you'll kick off your European tour (part 1), compromising 18 shows in all. Have you made some changes to your set list compared to previous tours and can your audience expect some pleasant surprises? How about playing the epic Venom song "At War with Satan" at one of your forthcoming shows? ;)
Tony: Yes we do and yes we have. The problem is with an extensive and rich catalog of great songs it is always easy to include a song but then you have to exclude something and the fans hate that, ha ha ha ha!!! They want more songs in but nothing left out but we have some surprises you're gonna love for sure. AWWS??? I'd love to and there is a huge plan for it but not yet (*shhhhh*) Ha ha ha!!! I can promise some old faves and some things you don't expect and to be honest, I cannot fucking wait!!!
Luxi: What will follow after this European tour? Do you intend to take a break from your touring and start doing some new songs with this line-up? Or is a Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel album out of the question? I am quite sure people have been asking, correct?
Tony: We have a deal pending and we are recording the demos now. Once the tour is completed, we will continue to record and complete the deal and start the album completion to be ready for release around April 2017. I have 10 days or more in South America in December with Atomkraft while the boys enjoy some time for family things.
Yes, we get asked all the time, ha ha ha!! In fact two shows into the first European tour, after only one appearance, we were offered a considerable amount of money for a live album. Now that was crazy, ha ha ha...!!!
Luxi: Nowadays you are in the caring hands of Alpha Omega Management, which is located in Italy. How did you end up signing a management deal with them?
Tony: I had known Tarja from Metal Shock Finland and am very fond of her. She introduced me to AO. I met several operatives from the company and liked the whole idea. Alex, the head of the company, is a great person and producer and everything he thinks and says I believe and agree with about the industry and how it can work so I was excited. Unfortunately, or fortunately, old friend Jon Zazula (Megaforce Records and was management for Metallica, Anthrax, Soilwork, etc.) who is my sage and shoulder to bounce things off, came in and wanted to take over management directly. His management company also has Testament's Chuck Billy and Adrenaline PR and he believed the time was right and we needed to step up to the next level so we discussed it and we made the move. Alex at AO was supportive and very positive about it all because he sees the potential but I wanted to remain connected in some way and am still hopeful because I believe in the team and the whole set up as well as love the people.
Luxi: Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel is known for the charity work that you have done in the name of humanity. Pick Collectors Against Cancer and Animal Welfare Charity Auction are just two organizations that Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel have been involved with so far, which is of course a great thing. Do you also want to prove to some religious organizations and groups by taking part of these types of charity works that not all Heavy Metal bands are bad to the bone, so what if they sing about Satan, hell and all other things diabolic?
Tony: Ahahahaha!!! Fuck no! We have no thoughts about religious groups or anyone else when we do those things. They are not done to "look cool" or to appear a certain way. We three are all individuals but have also experienced life and death. When we are asked to support, we support. The Heavy Metal community is one of the greatest and strongest on the planet; loyal and honest, passionate and proud. What others say about our music, our lifestyle, our approach to the establishment is of no matter to any of us. What is important is community. All for one. If we can help those in distress, then we will. It is easy to not care or be evil. It is just as easy to be nice and kind (until you are challenged to not be). Treat all with respect and kindness until they do you wrong, then, there are NO rules...
Luxi: When you think of today's Metal scene do you find it as fascinating and interesting as let's say, some 30+ years ago? Do you think it has sort of become one big faceless mass in which no band wants to differ from each other and many bands unfortunately end up sounding the same basically, having no true identity at all?
Tony: I think identity crisis is apparent in many cases but that is a construct by the corporate labels attempting to control everything so they keep making their money. The diversity and the creativity are still there but do some bands stand out like 30+ years ago? YES, very much so, I have seen them everywhere in the world. Do they get seen by a wide audience? No. Why? The corporate controlling body called them and the fertile ground that brings them into the world "the underground" which means "not controlled by us." You said in this interview earlier some very kind words about us, "the demand, the profile, what people seem to want." We are British, a British band. Do you know how many British Metal/Rock magazines have asked to interview us? None, ha ha ha ha, none. Why? Because we are not on the corporate roster. Magazine covers are paid for, stage position at festivals are paid for, features in magazines are paid for. Look, I honestly don't care either way but everyone knows Baby Metal were playing clubs for years right? WRONG (*lol*)!!! When a record company these days invests they need to capitalize and in order to do that must create a trend so they do and some bands want a deal and want to tour and want to be famous and make videos and they buy into that trend. It's a trade-off. The ones that refuse are "the underground" (*lol*) but that IS our mainstream. Not the Spice Girls approach of "sell 'em fast and quick 'coz they'll be gone tomorrow." Is the quality still out there? Yes, 100%, we just need to take it back. Take control back and that's the thing everyone needs to remember; YOU, the fans ARE the industry. If you want vinyl, they will make it. If you want to change it YOU can. Without you buying music, going to shows, buying the merch, investing money YOU earned in any of this, then it stops. Use your power and take it back!
Luxi: Venom are considered the grandfather of the whole Black Metal movement, without whom Black Metal would not sound the way it does these days. When you really think about it, does this fact make you feel humble, knowing deep inside that you were there when the "Black Metal sound" was invented?
Tony: That will always be a stand out emotion. I think when Venom did the Black Metal album, they distinguished themselves, set themselves apart from everything else. The later extreme movement took the title and created a whole sub-genre but to be honest, it owes more to Bathory's sound and view of his proud native heritage. You can never rule out the fact that Venom allowed EXTREME music to be accepted as OK. Let me be clear; Venom called THEIR sound Black Metal so when I read comments from Black Metal genre fans hammering Venom as being NOT a Black Metal band it's kind of funny because the genre as a sound is far removed from Venom. Instead of saying Venom are not Black Metal, it is actually the other way around! If Venom considers their sound Black Metal and so titled it that and they do not sound like the genre bands, then think about that, does that not mean that although the genre title is there the sound of the bands in that genre, so distinctive, are not actually Black Metal as they do not compare to the original band?? I'd be curious to know. Either way the connections are irrefutable and so honourable by distinction.
Luxi: Talking about the Black Metal genre specifically, are there some Black Metal bands out there that you would say you really like what they are doing?
Many. You want a list? Ha ha hah!! If I list I will leave some out I should not and if I do not list people say, "he doesn't know any'' ha ha ha!! I like what I like and you should too. I will always love Immortal and Mayhem but there is so much that is incredible. Just go listen and support and make your own choices.
Luxi: How about early British Punk Rock music, bands like Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash? How important a role did they all play when you were a little kid and started discovering new bands?
Tony: In mine? 100%. I came back from Canada around '78 and walked from Ted Nugent, Kiss, Aerosmith straight into the Pistols, Buzzcocks, Ruts, Angelic Upstarts, etc. etc. It was like a bomb went off. I did not know what the fuck had happened but was at the right age to be influenced and want MY own voice. I found it exhilarating and exciting and threw myself into it head first. I discovered a US band called the Dickies and loved them, they had humour but were so fucking fast when they played. I collected everything and saw them as much as I could. Then I heard "Paranoid" and loved that but when someone said, "have you heard the Black Sabbath?" I hunted it down. My first reaction was, "how fucking slow is this????" Then I uncovered more and more Sabbath and the heaviness just sank onto my shoulders. Further, there was a chance meeting with a band that would change my course and history; Motörhead. I thought, "wow that sound, that bass, that voice, imagine THAT with the Dickies speed of delivery... what would that be like?" And boom, several years later, my own band and many others began movements towards the musical extremes we know as old school today... (*lol*)
Luxi: I guess it's fair to say you still have a lot of this true Punk attitude in you whenever you perform live with Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel, right? The thing is you cannot hide your true roots.
Tony: I do. I was a punk and became a metal head but as they say, you can take the boy out of Punk Rock but you can't take the Punk Rock out of the boy ha ha ha hah!!! I think attitude with your music and stage performance is what sold Punk Rock to me. Motörhead had that same honesty. I will fly that flag until I die.
Luxi: One last question and then we are done; if hell exists, an intriguing question is what would Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel's hell be like?
Tony: How would we be remembered? Or what do we expect in hell? Ha ha ha ha!!! Not sure I get the question but I'll try to answer somehow...
Venom Inc. will be remembered as a real true entity, a band that played for their fans and gave all they could to their fan base. I hope we produce some new and exciting great music that places us in the history pages as worthy for future fans.
Hell IS real. Put your TV on or glance at a newspaper. We are IN HELL. We always were. For that we must deal with it. Death is a moment of release from all. It is not depressive; we have the power we always had to change things but we must be careful how we do that. We see examples all over the planet of what not to do, we just have to figure out, what to do to change it all.
Luxi: Thank you Tony for your time and all the best with all of your future endeavors with Venom Inc. - Iron & Steel. If you have any last words, just go ahead and spit 'em out...
Tony: Thank you for a great set of questions! It was great fun. Anything else? We are what we are. Be proud of who you are, some will praise some will not but as a great man, a rock icon, my hero who has now passed once told me, '' just be true to yourself and be honest'' and I give that to you. Whatever you do, do with 100% passion, the rest you cannot control so do not try. Many thanx and see you all on the dance floor! ALL HAIL! ALL... HAIL!!!
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