Jeffrey Dunn, known more likely to the metal community as “Mantas”, is the picture of a rock star. Adorned in leather from head to toe and one foot on the table, it’s textbook cool and it’s almost intimidating. After serving his time in the legendary NWOBHM band Venom, and forging a name for his side project M-Pire of Evil, tonight he plays show number four of a month long European tour as part of Venom Inc. He’s alongside former Venom bandmates Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and Anthony “Abbadon” Bray, who’s replaced by Jeramie Kling on this run of shows.
Despite all the factors that might make you think otherwise, Venom Inc are establishing a name for themselves in press circles as one of the nicest bands to make an acquaintance with and Mantas only solidifies this in the way he benevolently discusses the band’s fanbase. We also got a insider’s look at their debut, Ave, where they plan to take the band next and he even sheds some light on a new M-Pire of Evil album. I’m still giddy.
It’s been really good, this is the last show of the UK leg. Glasgow was a very small venue, tiny little venue but it was packed with typical Glaswegians, they were loud.
How have the newer Venom Inc songs been going down alongside the classic Venom songs?
Brilliant, honestly. Every band says that they’re so proud of their new album and all this kind of stuff but I genuinely am. The fans’ reaction to the new songs and the album itself has been unbelievable. It’s far exceeded my expectations. Talking about Glasgow again, they raised the roof on the chorus of “Ave Satanas”, they really went off on one with that. That’s what I’m all about when I’m writing songs, it’s getting the chorus where you want it to be joined in.
Am I right in thinking Jearmie Kling is standing in on drums for the moment? What’s the situation?
Yeah, Abbadon’s wife is having a baby which is due imminently. It could come any day now basically. Originally, I think he was talking about doing the British leg of the tour but we’ve just come back from Japan, Singapore and Australia and when we were in Australia, he had a phone call from his wife saying “Where are you?” So I think they’re both shitting themselves really. It’s her first baby so Abbadon said he needed to take March off completely. We had the tour booked, it was already sorted and obviously last year, we were supposed to hit Europe in November and that got cancelled due to logistics and other problems that we had, so we thought “We don’t want to cancel again, we don’t want to get a reputation for cancelling”. So, Abbadon agreed to take this month off and Jeramie, who was our sound man in America and he’s got his own band, The Absence, agreed to step in, which is brilliant. I mean, we could have taken one of the drummers we had with M-Pire but you get that tag so we didn’t want to do that. We needed to take on somebody who’d be replacing him for this tour and that’s it. It’s working out great, it’s been really good.
I heard he got the spot from always playing his band’s stuff while you guys were on tour…
Yeah, he’s a great drummer.
So how’s he fitted in with the group?
Brilliantly. He’s slotted in so well. We came back from Australia and we had two days off in London, one of those days was a rehearsal day, so in the first rehearsal everyone had learnt their parts, then we came together in that one rehearsal and played through everything straight away, no problems. It’s just got better and better as we’ve gone on. Last night’s performance was great, he’s really fit in well, Jeramie’s a big hitter. He’s great, he’s a powerhouse (laughs). I was talking to him before and he was like “Fuck, man, you played ‘Black Metal’ so fuckin’ fast last night” and I said “Well you gotta keep up” (laughs).
Put him through the rings!
Yeah, he’s gotta work for it (laughs).
You’ve done some cool VIP things in the past before and you’ve got this end of tour party in London at the beginning of April. What’s your relationship like with the fans? Is there an element of trying to break down the barrier between band and fan?
Absolutely. I’ve always said that without the fans, we don’t exist. It’s as simple as that. There’s plenty of videos on YouTube where I’m saying to fans all over the world that they are the most important part of the music industry. It’s like having a Ferrari on your driveway. If it hasn’t got an engine, it’s going fucking nowhere. That’s what they are, they are the engine. They are the fuel of the music industry and we’re so lucky at our age that we’re being given another shot at the title so to speak. It’s coming up to three years since we’ve been together as Venom Inc and close to four with these shows and that’s been all fan-driven. This was never supposed to last more than one show, it was going to be a one-off and that was it. We were going back to M-Pire. The fans are the ones that keep us doing what we’re doing. From everything they do like sharing things on social media, buying a concert ticket, a CD and a T-shirt, whatever it is, if everybody in the world at one point decided “I’m never buying music again”, think how many bands would fucking fall off the planet.
We appreciate Every. Single. Fan and it takes nothing to stop for two seconds and sign something or have a photograph taken. There’s a lot more artists out there who should realise that as well. We’re travelling in an RV, we don’t require rose petals or champagne in the dressing rooms or anything like that, it’s all about the music and the fans and this tour, this is the first tour we’ve had any kind of production on. We’ve got a backdrop and two side screens and that’s it. There’s no fancy fucking pyro or anything like that. The first year of these, maybe 18 months before our manager came on board, we were just turning up to the venues. I’d stand up there with the guitar lead and say “Where do I plug this in?” It was us, the music and the fans. That was it. At the end of the day, we’re a rock ‘n roll band. I know Lemmy said that but that’s the way we look at ourselves. We just get onstage and we play music.
Has it been a similar sort of thing at these Australian and Japanese shows?
Yeah, exactly the same. Exactly the same. We went over there, no backdrops, nothing there. What side-screens we have here, if we had the availability, we hung them over Abbadon and that was it you know? It’s all about the music, it’s all about the fans and that’s it. At the end of the day, that’s where it stops.
Talking about the fans, Ave came out August of last year, how do you feel it’s been received?
Like I say, it’s far exceeded my expectations. When I saw the first few reviews come out, the reviews were excellent. I was getting sent more and more reviews by Nuclear Blast and they were really happy with the way things were going. Some of the reviews, I was like “Wow, that’s fantastic,” some of them even said “This is another classic Venom album” and I thought “Wow, that’s high praise”. But then, to have the fans say that, that’s more important because you can have someone in a magazine, or a webzine or sitting in an office writing a review of your album, it’s still only that one person’s opinion. But then when you get the fans coming up to you and saying to you “That’s a fucking great album”, that means the world to me. It really does. It’s justification of what I’ve done.
Am I right in thinking this was recorded in Spain or somewhere around there?
It was in Portugal, that’s where I live and I’ve got my recording studio at the bottom of the garden. The drums were done in Newcastle and the files were sent over to me, all guitars, bass, vocals, orchestrations, everything like that was done in my studio.
Did recording in such a relaxed, laid back environment go into the music at all? How do you make aggressive music when you’re so happy?
Do you know what it is, man? My girlfriend actually said that to me, she says “We live in this idyllic little village and then that comes out!”
The last thing I’d be thinking about is Satan…
(Laughs) But then you get people like Stephen King who was probably a normal person and then he writes all this horror stuff. I think it’s just in me somewhere. Naturally, I’m a very shy, quiet person. I’m a bit of a recluse to be perfectly honest. I don’t do well in social situations, I’m not a people person but when I get into a studio environment, that’s when I feel at home. Being creative and coming up with all this stuff. The heavier and more evil, the better you know? It’s not me, it’s an extension. It’s the same as being onstage. When people who know me personally see videos of me onstage, they’ll look at the video and look at me and go “What the fuck, I can’t put those two people together” you know? But for me, it’s a release, it’s great. I’d probably go crazy without music. Honestly.
Why did you decide to put Ave through the Venom brand? As it’s a similar line-up, did you not want to put it out through M-Pire of Evil?
No, M-Pire is a completely different animal as far as I’m concerned. When this first came together, it was M-Pire that was booked for the Keep It True festival in 2015, and then Oliver Weinsheimer, who runs the festival said “If Abbadon was there, would you jump up and do some Venom songs?” and I immediately refused, but then Tony Dolan said “It’s only going to be 5 or 6 songs, lets do it”. We didn’t rehearse, we didn’t see each other, we just turned up and did it. The result is that we’re sitting here today. It was totally unexpected. Totally unexpected. And even now, the work we’ve got ahead of us this year, the demand is there all the time. There is a new M-Pire album in the can so as soon as we find a space in-between the touring, Tony’s going to come over to my studio, we’re going to finish that album off and hopefully get the M-Pire album released and in what time we have, we’ll go out and do some more M-Pire shows because I love to do M-Pire stuff. I loved all that stuff, there was more freedom to do anything that I wanted in M-Pire…
Whereas with Venom Inc there’s a certain sonic expectation…
Yeah there is and that was one of the things when I was writing the album. What helped was that we’d been out, previous to the album doing so many Venom Inc shows and we were playing what the people call the ‘classic venom songs’. We were playing them night after night after night so you get back into that groove again. When it came to writing… it happened. It was like putting an old pair of shoes on. It felt comfortable again.
You said earlier that Venom Inc was supposed to be a one time thing, but at this point, do you feel there’s room for another album?
Oh we’re definitely doing another album. I’ll probably start writing for the new album around September and look to go into production December/January. While it’s going and while people want it, we may as well keep hammering away at it. When I wrote for Ave, there was in excess of 25 songs written for that album so there’s a lot of stuff left over which I don’t usually revisit, but I remember there was a lot of good stuff there that I didn’t actually finish off because of time constraint really. As soon as we signed the contract with Nuclear Blast they sent the deadline through and when I looked at the date I was like “Ooh, well that’s fucking close”. So yeah, there was in excess of 25 written so I know there’s still a lot of good riffs kicking about and that phone (on the table in front of us) is full of them (laughs).
Everywhere I go, if something comes up we capture it straight away. A lot of the riffs came off one of the tours that we did and they went on that phone and then went on Ave. A lot of the lyrics are on that phone as well. When I go into that creative mode, it never stops. I’ll be out shopping with my girlfriend and something will happen and I’ll say “Two seconds, babe” and I’ll start typing away and she’ll say “What the fuck are you doing” and I’ll just be typing lyrics you know (laughs). I think the “Dein Fleisch” lyrics are on there, the “Ave Satanas” lyrics are on there, everything just in sketch form you know. When it comes to the creative side, that’s it, I’m tunnel-visioned.
Do you like to write much when you’re travelling in between these shows?
Yeah, I mean sometimes when you’re soundchecking, you sound check the drums, you soundcheck the bass, you soundcheck the guitar, I’ll just mess around and I’ll think “Oh, that’s OK”. Then it’s straight down to the dressing room to capture it straight away. There’s always ideas coming out and I’m the kind of person where if I don’t get those ideas down and if I can’t get them out and release them, it fucking annoys me. But yeah, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to another album and I’m gonna make a prediction… it’s gonna blow the fuck out of Ave (laughs).
Fair enough, that’s the kind of prediction we wanna hear!