Interviewed by Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
We spoke with Jeff Dunn of Venom Inc. about being dead and coming back to life, his thoughts on Brexit, and the follow up to their 2017 album Ave.
Alan: Hi Jeff. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Is it ok to call you Jeff?
Jeff: Of course! None of that Mantas shit. It’s just Jeff!
Alan: It was a great show today. Obviously, it was the first time Venom Inc. have played Bloodstock, and you obviously didn’t play here as part of the original Venom lineup. So what are your first impressions?
Jeff: No. It’s our first time. Cronos played here last year. I’m not kissing ass, but this is our favorite festival so far. We’ve done a lot of festivals and obviously back with the original lineup of Venom, we did a hell of a lot of festivals as well. As Venom Inc. we did Alcatraz yesterday which was great. The crowd reaction was phenomenal. We were on the plane coming over to do this festival today and we were thinking, you know, it’s England, an English band. How are we going to go down with an English audience at an English festival? Because you know, Venom never played Donington or Monsters of Rock or anything like that. We were never invited to do it. It’s made me so proud. The reaction far exceeded my expectations. And everybody has been so kind. The organizers, the crew, and to get the compliments that we’ve just had in the tent and offstage, and obviously from the audience who are the most important part of it. I’m absolutely gobsmacked.
Alan: Will you have a chance to enjoy some of the festivals while you’re here?
Jeff: I hope so. I fly home tomorrow. I live in Portugal now. I’ve got an early flight tomorrow morning, but I think we’ll hang around for a bit today and see what’s going on. I would have loved to have seen Judas Priest yesterday, but we were playing yesterday. It’s just nice to be here. The atmosphere is great. The weather is good. Back home in my village in Portugal, it’s 47 degrees. We’ve been there four years now and I still can’t get used to the heat. We’re not built for that shit.
Alan: How’s your health now after your heart attack?
Jeff: It’s getting better. I get tired quickly. I’m scarred from there to there [points out a large area on his chest]. Sneezing and coughing are painful. To have your breastbone cut in half and then all your ribcage opened up… I actually died in the back of the ambulance. They fought for over five minutes and shot adrenalin through my ribcage into my heart and I was shocked and got CPR, and then I was taken straight to the hospital. They tried to introduce a stent in through my arm, but that didn’t work. Then I was stabilized in the hospital for nearly three weeks before I was transferred to Lisbon to have the double bypass. But I’ve trained in the martial arts and weight training since I was ten years old. My diet has always been immaculate. I don’t drink alcohol. I did smoke, not a lot. But the doctors said it’s hereditary. It’s genetic. My father passed away at 49 from a massive heart attack. They said it was going to happen at some point in my life, and it happened now.
Alan: Is it true what they say about people seeing the white light when they have near-death experiences? Do you remember what happened?
Jeff: What I do remember is pretty scrambled because my wife was outside the ambulance and she since told me this: She came to the side door of the ambulance because they wouldn’t let her in, and she just popped her head around the side door and she said “Are you ok?”, and I was lying there, and I turned to her and I said “I think the pain’s gone”, and at that point, I died. The doctor kicked the side door shut, and two Portuguese ladies grabbed my wife. She was obviously hysterical outside. When I came to, all I can say it was like electricity all around my body. You know when you see those photos where it claims to be someone’s aura? That’s what it felt like. And then it sort of came in on itself. I was lying flat on my back, and I went very cold and I asked for a blanket. And I looked at my lap and there was something there, like a vortex, just spinning and spinning, and it got smaller and smaller and I watched it disappear. What the fuck was that? But I had no conversations with God. Nothing with the Devil. No white light. It was instantaneous. Here, gone. It was scary.
Alan: Has it changed your outlook on life?
Jeff: Oh fuck yeah. I’ve always been a very positive person. I’m not religious. Not in the Satanic side. Not in the Christian side. I’m just not religious at all. I believe in Universal creation, the law of attraction and destiny. Life presents opportunities for you, and it’s just how you take them. You have things like Déjà vu and coincidence. Is it? Or is it something else presenting an opportunity to you? But I’ve always been the person who said that I never want to be sitting in the old folks’ home with my teeth dropping out, thinking “Oh, I wish I’d done that” or “I wonder what would have happened if I tried that”. I want to do it all. And I’m still of that mind now. But what has come back with me is much less tolerance to anybody who doesn’t do their job. I’ve got no time for it. Whereas before, I would have been very patient with people. Now I’m not.
Alan: It almost sounds like you don’t want people to waste time?
Jeff: That’s it. That’s why me and Tony Dolan work so well together. He’s 24/7. He’s on it more than I am. When it comes to the creative side, we bounce constantly. But I’ve done exactly what the doctors have said. When I was allowed to drive and train, I started to do those things again. Very light training. Nothing compared to what I was doing. I’m training four times a week in an outhouse in my back garden. It’s getting better. I’m keeping a diary and I’m looking at the weights going up. I’m just glad to be here.
Alan: Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re getting better. I understand you’ve had to cancel a show next week at Psycho Fest in Las Vegas.
Jeff: That was also because of visa issues, yeah. Our visas ran out in April. So we had informed management that our visas run out in April, you’re planning all this American stuff, we need to get it sorted out. Basically, nothing was done about it. Then another agent came in, and obviously, in April I had the heart attack. Then we applied for the visas. The petition was done, and in the American embassy in Lisbon, there were only four appointments available in the month of August, and three of those were when I was here doing festivals, and then there’s a holiday on the 15th, and there was no chance of expediting it, so I’ve got an appointment on the 16th, when I was actually supposed to fly. It’s been an unfortunate set of events. But I suppose me dying is pretty major. I’ve put a statement out. Everybody enjoy the festival. We’ll get there at some point.
Alan: Do you think Brexit is going to cause visa hassle for everyone soon?
Jeff: It probably will. You may find that we’ll go back to the old days where there were all these borders. When we first started touring it was a nightmare. I think it’s a fucking stupid move, to be honest. I mean, why? You’re closing yourself off to be this little island, again. I know there’s probably a lot of people want that. I think a lot of it’s got to do with the immigration and stuff like that. I don’t think it’s going to affect me to be perfectly honest. I’m in Portugal. I’m still essentially British, but next year I’m eligible to apply for full Portuguese citizenship.
Alan: Let’s talk about albums. Initially, there were reports that you hoped to have a follow up to Ave done by the end of this year. Obviously, everything has changed, and I know you have a 3 track EP out right now.
Jeff: I signed one copy of it yesterday, so it’s out now. It’s got ‘War’ on it, and an extended version of ‘War’ and a live version of ‘Warhead’.
Alan: Those are obviously from Ave and earlier Venom days. Have you got any new material written or recorded for a new album?
Jeff: Oh yeah. I wrote in excess of 25 songs for Ave, so there’s a lot of stuff still on the hard drive, and while I’ve been recovering I’ve just been going down to my studio and just listening to the stuff and cataloging the riffs, and thinking “yeah, that could make it”. Even now on my phone, I’ve got loads of riffs. I’m not one of these guys who goes into the studio and practices the scales all day. I just plug in and I play. If anything comes out and I haven’t got the studio up, I just put them on the phone.
Alan: Just don’t do a Kirk Hammett on it!
Jeff: Oh no. It’s safe! But I’ve promised that the next album will blow the fuck out of Ave. That’s a promise.
Alan: Your set today was obviously mostly old Venom songs. Can you foresee a time when it’ll flip and there’ll be more Venom Inc. material than Venom?
Jeff: I would love to think so. But the fans will always want to hear ‘Black Metal’, ‘Witching Hour’, ‘Countess Bathory’ and all that kind of stuff. We decided on that setlist today because we had seen what Cronos did last year, and we thought it’s pointless playing the same songs that he’s done. There might be one or two in there that he did last year. I don’t know. But we put ‘Lady Lust’ in which is quite an obscure track. There will be more stuff off Ave. We’ve actually rehearsed more stuff. And then we’ll bring the new album in. But you look at the back catalog, and we’re one of those bands that are lucky to have a fuckin’ bag full of what people call classic songs, and everybody wants to hear them.
Alan: I notice that you’re happy to change the setlist from show to show on the same tour, unlike some bands. I saw recent reports that Metallica is using localized Spotify statistics to choose the setlists on a city-by-city basis. Do you think that’s a good use of technology?
Jeff: I think that’s pretty clever myself. Yeah, I would agree with that. I think that’s good.
Alan: How would you typically choose setlists?
Jeff: We choose the set on the way it runs and crowd involvement with the songs. I would have loved to play ‘Countess Bathory’ there today because every fucker on the planet sings that song. I’ve heard it sung in Beijing. That was incredible. But that’s the way we choose it. We like to kick off pretty quick and try to grab the audience immediately and put some light and shade in as well. Although we’re known as an extreme metal band, the founders of black metal, all that kind of stuff… Because I’m old-school, and a massive Priest fan and a huge Kiss fan as well, when I write songs, I write melodies and choruses and hook lines. I’ve seen so many bands, who are very good at what they do, don’t get me wrong, but the set seems to flatline. They start high and it stays there the whole way through and it exhausts the audience, but there’s nothing for the audience to join in with apart from the occasional “Hey, hey, hey”.
Alan: I saw mention of a show with the Metal Allegiance guys. Is that still on the cards?
Jeff: Yes. September 6th in New York. That’s definitely happening. We’re up there on the bill. That’s the Gramercy Theatre in New York.
Alan: Unfortunately, we’re being asked to wrap up. So thanks for your time.
Jeff: Brilliant. I could talk all day. No problem.
Alan: Look after your heart!
Jeff: I will do!
Legendary metallers VENOM INC. released their debut album »Avé« on August 11th, 2017, followed by countless live shows all around the globe. The band were on fire as they played to packed out venues the world over and now they’re preparing the battlefield for their latest offering entitled »War«. Including 3 tracks, the 10″ vinyl single will be released on August 10th, 2018 through Nuclear Blast. Its artwork was created by Marcelo Vasco(SLAYER, HATEBREED, MACHINE HEAD, BORKNAGAR a.o.).
Tony “The Demolition Man” Dolan stated, “In a world of uncertainty, where we are back to measuring the size of one nuclear arsenal against another (sic. Cold War) while other parts of the globe battle their perverse leanings and terror reigns down…we present ‘War’…and our very own live ‘Warhead’! Enjoy the destruction of all you thought you knew as indestructible.”
»War« – Track Listing:
01. War (Armageddon Edit)
02. War (live)
01. Warhead (live)
Order now: http://nblast.de/VenomIncWar