The man who can rightfully claim to have invented a music genre leads us through an array of questions and hilarious anecdotes about Venom.
31st October 2020
HS: Hiromi Sugou (UPP-tone Music + Host)
GW: Glenn Williams (Moderator)
MK: Mariko Kawahara (Interpreter)
Warm Up (pre fans joining)
Once we had the levels sorted and sound-check done, we had a few minutes spare so I asked Jeff a couple of things.
GW: You know when you were chatting during John Gallagher’s fan meeting, you mentioned that the Hammersith Odeon was Venom’s first gig...
JD: In the UK, yes.
JD: Yeah. Previous to that we used to rehearse in a church hall in the West End of Newcastle so we did a little gig there and our very first gig as a four piece with Clive Archer singing was my girlfriend:s birthday party. It was in a social club on the dockside in Wallsend which is the home of Neat Records. It:s weird Glenn because as I’m writing more and more of this book, I’m finding everything is interconnected. A place I’ve been, a name from here, a face from there...but yes we did that and then we played a church hall in Westgate Road, then the Church Hall of the Methodist Church on Station Road in Wallsend called The Meth which was actually round the corner from Neat Records! It was a Friday or Saturday night, a youth club that had sort of morphed into a Rock club so we did a gig there and after that two Social Clubs in Newcastle (laughs). Literally after that, one weekend we were back at the church hall one weekend and then the next weekend, we were in Belgium playing to 3,000 kids; it was as quick as that. That was our first international show, then we went to America, then back to Europe for the Seven Dates Of Hell tour which was six in Europe with Metallica supporting us and the Hammersmith Odeon.
GW: You’re still doing your book then?
JD: Yeah I’ve written shitloads Glenn! I honestly had no idea there world be so much involved in writing this thing and I’ve written it like I:m talking to you. I’ll be talking about something and then go off down another avenue - it:s not ABCD...
GW: Let’s get more to that later. Time to let a few more people in.
Fan Meeting begins
In addition to the above mentioned, we are joined by fans, several of whom ask Jeff questions, namely:
MK: Mirai Kawashima
MB: Mike Bessler
GS: Gabriel Stan
GW: Ladies and gentlemen we are live with the one and only Jeff Dunn AKA Mantas! How are you sir?
JD: I’m very well and good morning, good evening, good afternoon to wherever you all are around this planet! Hope you are well.
GW: Now I believe you have a little ditty to open the proceedings.
JD: Yeah why not? Apparently some band called Venom did this song a long long time ago and some nut-job called Mantas wrote it so I thought I’d play it for you and see how it goes.
Jeff plays live guitar to a backing track of Live Like An Angel, Die Like A Devil.
GW: So what’s the story behind that one Jeff?
JD: Well many many years ago when it first came out, I bout the album Overkill by Motorhead and Venom in the early days - even as a four piece with Clive Archer - we used to play a track off that album called No Class. If you go even further back, ZZ Top did a song with the same riff called Tush. What I’m getting at is that they both have these little things called double-stops which became very prevalent in all of my writing in Venom songs. They are also prevalent in Blues and everything comes Blues at the end of the day and they are the 5th and the high octave of a power chord. So if I were to play Live Like An Angel with power chords, it’s far too much work on the guitar so we started doing these little double-stops. We used them in Welcome To Hell, Die Hard, Leave Me In Hell and all the way up to Ave with The Evil Dead and Forged In Hell. Every songwriter in every band has a formula of some description. There are very very bands that I can think of who have had massively successful careers who don’t have a formula to their songs. One of the few that hasn’t is Queen and I think the early Queen stuff is Progressive and massively Heavy. My first single as a child was Seven Seas Of Rye and much later on you get Fat Bottomed Girls. Forged In Hell by the way is my little tip of the hat to the Jake E. Lee era of Ozzy Osbourne. I am nowhere near the guitarist Jake E. Lee is because he:s phenomenal but if you listen to the song you can hear the influence, again with the double-stops. The other thing I got from Motorhead is that really loose rhythm (plays a brief excerpt from Motorhead and then demonstrates the same rhythm in Live Like An Angel). As you get older, you realize where your influences have come from and both Fast Eddie Clarke and Ace Frehley had a massive influence on me.
GW: Ok let’s throw this open for fan questions now. First up is Mirai Kawashima.
MK: In 1984 when Venom played at the Hammersmith Odeon, there is a legendary MC that you said that everybody was waiting for Venom to make mistakes. Were there many people back then who were jealous of the band back then?
JD: In Newcastle where we were from, there was a lot of fans from our hometown but there were also a lot of people that hated us. At that time, there was this thing that you were supposed to be working class and do your job and all this and I was talking to Mark Gallagher when we were in Sweden together a long time ago and he told me that the bands at Neat Records were watching us going away to play stadiums. They were all hard working bands - we just got a lucky break .Every band on Neat Records were far superior musicians, far harder working but we did something different that the world latched onto. We were in the right place at the right time but there was a lot of people waiting for us to fall and Mr Geoff Barton* was one of them. He admitted in a review of that Hammersnith Odeon show that he went along there to see us fall flat on our arses; that’s why I made that speech. You know, if want to listen to Venom, stay at home and listen to the records because tonight you are getting one and a half hours of pure fucking mayhem. To add to that, a lot of things did go wrong at that show. The drum riser rose up at an angle and tipped Abaddon off the back and all sorts of stuff and we knew there was a massive potential for things to go wrong. We actually set fire to the Greater London Council’s fireproof curtain! On the video you can see what looks like smoke billowing out from the sides of the drum riser; that was fire extinguishers and the GLC trying to put their curtain out. Just before we went onstage, our manager Eric Cook said to us ‘If anything goes wrong, smash the fucking lot and run! (laughs) That was the premise.
GW: Classic! A question now from Sylvain.
S: Hi Jeff. You said some time ago you wrote a song that would change Heavy Metal forever - Black Metal. Do you feel proud of that song now?
JD: Absolutely! Probably everybody now has heard the tale of how I wrote it but just in case anybody hasn’t and this is absolutely true. In the morning when you get out of bed and have a cup of coffee and then you need to go to the toilet - you know what I mean right? Well some people take a magazine or a newspaper and one day, I took my guitar. So I’m sitting on the toilet, messing about and the first few chords for Black metal came out. When I had finished (ahem!) I went back into the lounge, I had my father’s little cassette recorder and recorded the little riffs I had come up with and I finished it in probably ten or fifteen minutes and then myself and Cronos put the lyrics together. To think that that song gave birth to a genre which is still thriving today and that it changed a lot of things....it’s a very simple song. People say ‘Where Venom Black Metal?’ and the answer is yes. We said ‘We are Black Metal’ and that was just youthful arrogance and it was meant to individualize us and alienate us from everybody else. We didn’t feel a part of the Metal scene at that point as everything was very squeaky clean and we were rebelling against that.
GW: Your next question comes from Mike Bessler Jeff.
MB: Hello Jeff. S there anything particular that lead you to your exclusive use of Caparison guitars?
JD: Basically what happened was that I was on tour with Empire Of Evil in 2012 an we were out with Onslaught and on that tour I had an Epiphone SG Prophecy. Onslaught’s bass player, Jeff Williams, had something to do with the artist relations for Caparison and their guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies had one and Jeff asked me if I had ever tried one. I have to be honest and say that at that point, I had never even heard the name but I tried and thought :Oh yeah, that’s pretty nice’. When we got back off tour, I got an email saying would I like to try one as they were doing a new series called the Angelus C2. I received the prototype and still have it. It’s the first one I ever received and it’s been around the world now. That was the start of my love affair with them and all I can say is I wish I had discovered them years and years ago. The other one I use now which is my back-up to the red one and is a Horus. I also have an Orbit but my favourite of the whole range is the Angelus.
GW: Next up is Gareth.
G: Hello Jeff.. Is there a guitar you don’t have in your collection that you would really love to own?
JD: I’ve always liked the look of the Zakk Wylde Bullseye - I’d like to have one of those. I’m not really a guitar afficionado and Caparison is my main brand and always will be because they’ve served me well. The company has been amazing with me and you just can’t beat the guitars but I did some research on a brand a while ago and my family got me for my birthday, a Harley Benton Les Paul. I have since bought a Strat and a Telecaster; the Les Paul was 249 Euros (aprox 31,000 yen) and it is amazing! For the price, I don’t know how they do it. Other than that, the guitars I would love to own are Greeny which was owned by Peter Green and Gary Moore and now Kirk Hammett has it and well done to him because he is out there playing it - it’s not locked away and I have much admiration for that - and the other one is what started everything for me and I bought a copy of it and that is KK Downing’s Gibson Flying V which was bought by a collector. I think that was cherry or wine red.
GW: I think there’s a third one Jeff, I think you’d like to have Ace Frehley’s rocket firing guitar from the seventies.
JD: Awwwaaggh! You know what? When I did the Scooter tour in 2006, I was using a Jackson Randy Rhoads and I used to fire rockets off that guitar every night! Brilliant! I fucking loved it!
GW: I’ll bet you did! Let’s have another question , this one from Gabriel Stan.
GS: What is your opinion of the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the 1990s?
JD: I’m going to be absolutely honest here and say I really never explored the scene and the reason for that is because I didn’t want any other influences into my music. I’m old school and everything comes from Priest, Motorhead, Sabbath and all that kind of stuff. There’s two bands that came along but they may have been later but I do very much respect and that’s Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth. As for what was done in the name of Black Metal, you know the murders and the church burnings, (holds hands up in defiance and despair) it’s music guys, it’s fucking music.
GW: I think you also had another question Gabriel...
GS: Yes. What made you start a band?
JD: Oh that is the easiest question on the earth to answer! 1979 Judas Priest at Newcastle City Hall.** That moment I saw KK Downing run onstage, the leathers, the flying V...everything! I had been going to shows since 1977 and my first gig was Blue Oyster Cult. Before that it was T.Rex, Slade and all those. I was always into guitar driven music as a kid; guitars and martial arts have always been my thing all the way through my life. I always had this fascination of what it would be like to be in a band and I bugged my Mum and Dad to get me a guitar for a long time and the first guitar I ever got was a cherry red SG copy with a single humbucker. I think it cost about 30 pounds (4,200 yen) and even back then, my Mum had to finance it because we didn’t have the money to get it but yeah, 1979, Priest Newcastle City Hall. I still have the tour program and the ticket. (Jeff goes and gets and proudly displays his program, ticket from the tour. The ticket has KK Downing’s signature on the back and the program is signed by Rob Halford). Rod signed my program in 2012 when I went to America. I knew he was going to be at the same trade show so this program was the first thing I put in my suitcase. When I met Rob he said ‘My god! You’ve kept that all this time!’ (Jeff then displays a silk scarf from the tour).
GW: Wow! Whatever happened to silk scarves? Nobody sells those anymore...
JD: Oh come on! (Jeff waves silk scarf in the air)
GW: Let’s move on. Mirai I think you have another question.
MK: Yes. In 1985, there was a North American tour with Slayer and Venom and Exodus but you didn’t go.It was reported that you were ill but others said that wasn’t true and that you didn’t want to go. Do you mind telling us about that?
JD: Right. The actual reason I didn’t go was that the week before the tour was scheduled to start, I got ill. I thought it was the flu or a cold and I didn’t feel too good. At this point, the whole band were still living at home with our parents and this was a Monday and I was due to fly on the Friday. So on Monday I felt a bit rough and by Wednesday I couldn’t move. Wednesday evening the doctor was called because I looked like a pizza and it was Chicken Pox. It was horrible, the worst...but anyway, I missed two weeks of that tour and I actually joined in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom. To get there, I traveled from Newcastle to Heathrow, took a helicopter from Heathrow to Gatwick and flew from there to O’Hare airport in Chicago. This was the time I was ready to leave remember and Les Cheetham from Avenger and David Irwin from Fist had been doing my parts and I got picked up from the airport by our manager Eric Cook and I remember saying to him, ‘If the two guys are prepared to stay and finish the tour, I’m going to get on the next flight and go home’. I was that adamant about leaving the band. In actual fact, I stayed a lot longer than I anticipated and it was when the Brazilian and Japanese tours came up that I thought I couldn’t do it anymore and left.
GW: A question from Koga-san...
K:I am a big fan of the first Mantas album, Wind Of Change.Could you tell us something about that album please?
JD: Thank you. Well I left Venom in 1986 ad I’ve never disclosed the actual reason that I left but it had nothing to do with finance or musical differences. It was an incident that happened in 1985 at the Loreley Festival in Germany which was absolutely disgusting and totally unnecessary. Certain things were supposed to happen and they didn’t and at that point I said That’s it, no more.’ and actually, it was at that that point that Venom were supposed to come to Japan for first time. I got a phone call to say we were going to Japan and it was my lifelong dream to get there and I had to refuse on moral grounds. The Winds Of Change album basically came about when Dave Woods at Neat Records called me at home and asked me what I was doing and I was actually working in the operating theatres of a hospital in among the blood and guts so I told Dave I wasn’t doing anything and he offered me the chance to do a solo album. Now, if I’m going to do something different or something outside of what I am known for, I like it to be radically different. You know, if you have a white wall in your room and you want to change the decor, why paint it white again? That’s what Winds Of Change was. It was fun, it was a relief from what was going on in Venom at that point and what was going on in Venom in 1985/86, it wasn’t a band anymore, it was a traveling circus. You know the guy in the video, the keyboard player Steve? He doesn’t play a musical instrument at all! He just looks good so we said come along to the video. We were due to do some shows but then I got contacted to do the Prime Evil album. The video for Deciever by the way is the first time myself and Tony Dolan appeared onstage together.
GW: We are well overtime here Jeff, are you ok for a few more minutes? (We had originally scheduled a 30 minute chat but we had already hit one hour).
JD: Yeah don’t worry about me mate!
GW: Thanks Jeff so let’s go back to Mike who has another question.
MB: I was wondering if you know what happened to Clive Archer. Everything I’ve read says he just didn’t show up to practice one day. Do you know if he is still alive?
JD: Clive is very much alive. I have been in touch with him and I need to get in touch with him again about the book I’m writing because I want some input from him. The last I heard he was singing with a Blues band and it wasn’t a case of he didn’t turn up and he wasn’t fired either. With Clive, I don’t think he was comfortable with the direction the band was going. Clive and I had a really good connection - huge Judas Priest fans. I remember the first time I ever met him and he had The Ripper embroidered on his jeans and I thought ‘He’s a good man!’. You know, it often makes me wonder, particularly now that BMG have released this church all tape what would have happened if he stayed and let me clear up a few things about that church hall tape. It was recorded by me, at a rehearsal in Westgate Road church hall on a Saturday afternoon, 1979 and recorded on my father’s cassette player here my friends, is the original tape. (Jeff shows the tape to camera) That’s the original tape with all the takes of Angel Dust, Buried Alive and it also proves that a lot of those songs were written before Cronos joined the band.
GW: That’s Rock history there Jeff. Now, time to wrap this up but Gareth has come up with one more magnificent question that I think may end this with a smile. Gareth...
G: Thanks Glenn. Jeff, would you consider bringing back the silk scarf as part of the next range of Venom Inc. Merchandise?
JD: Oh absolutely...we’ve got to! Those things are iconic; who wouldn’t want one of those? They were a brilliant item and I remember the bootleggers outside City Hall used to sell more than the official ones! They were great. In fact, in the early ‘80s, Venom actually had silk scarves. I don’t have on anymore but they were around.
GW: I can tell you the last one I bought, Queen on the Crazy Tourin 1979.
JD: Wow! Have you still got it?
GW: I don’t think so. It’s not in Japan but it maybe with some of my stuff in Australia.
JD: I think there’s another question just popped up...
GW: There is Jeff and it’s from Anna. Anna, over to you...
A: Hi Jeff, what do you consider Venom’s most Spinal Tap moment?
JD: (laughs) Have you got a few days? I think probably what were speaking about before, 1984 Hammersmith Odeon. That concert had just about every Spinal Tap moment you could possibly think of. We had this hydraulic drum riser that was built in Wallsend and it worked on a scissor system and at the front we had the pentagram so as it went from two feet to ten feet (60cm to 3 metres) it revealed the pentagram at the front. Now the GLC came in at the soundcheck, they put a flame to it and it burnt so they told we couldn’t use it as it wasn’t fireproof and gave us a black cloth to use instead. Now during the gig, when we played Seven Gates Of Hell, this riser was supposed to take Abaddon to the top and the riser was loaded with gerbs†around the kit and these motherfuckers threw sparks for 45 seconds over 15 feet (5 metres). They started firing at the bottom, the place goes nuts but the scissor mechanism jams - you can see it on the video - and eventually as it goes up, you can see the smoke at the sides which is from the fireproof curtain that caught fire. The best part though is that as the riser goes up, the cameraman jumps on it and completely unbalances it. Watch the video and you’ll see Abaddon playing away but looking at the cameraman saying ‘Fuck off! Fuck off! Get off!’ The riser was going up at an angle, the front higher than the back and Abaddon and his kit were sliding off the back and it took all of our roadies to push the back end up and they held it up with pieces of wood for the rest of the concert. And that’s only one story!
GW: That’s brilliant. You must tell us more next time Jeff. Thanks so much for doing this, it’s been a real pleasure. Finish us off with the imminent future.
JD: Yeah there’s a website coming with all my stuff, new stuff, all of my animal support things and in the next few weeks, there will be a video that goes up that a lot of you will go ‘Really?!’ So stay tuned!
GW: We will! Take care mate.
JD: You to and thank you to everyone attending and will watch this because without you guys, I wouldn’t even be doing this now. It’s all down to the fans, they are the lifeblood and the heartbeat of everything that we do.
*Geoff Barton was a journalist and editor for Sounds newspaper and also started Kerrang! Magazine.
** The Hell Bent For Leather Tour. Priest played two nights in Newcastle, 23rd and 24th May.
† A pyrotechnic that throws a jet of sparks