Interview with Cronos (Venom): part IBANDS : Venom
30 minutes are way too little to exhaust 30 years devoted to metal. Still, we were grateful to be able to have a conversation with Cronos, a man who, in his words, facilitated the birth of all metal genres - from power metal to black metal. Funny, sparkling and straight to the point, Cronos is not afraid to challenge industry myths and industry rules alike.
You can read the first part of the conversation today, and there's still some smart answers from Cronos that we saved for tomorrow.
Metalfan: Hello and welcome to Metalfan. On the 12the of November Venom is going to play for the first time in Romania. What can you tell us about the show? What are your expectations?
Cronos: Wait and see, hahaha... We don’t give anything away... Just the fact that it will be a very special show.
Metalfan: So we should expect lots of surprises then...
Cronos: We are very excited to be able to come and play in Bucharest. It’s been a long time since we’ve been waiting to come to Romania.
Metalfan: We’re excited as well... All our friends and people in the music industry are talking about it, so expect a very warm audience.
Metalfan: Modesty aside, we all know you’re a legend for the metal world (especially black metal). You’ve created and helped shape this genre in 30 years of playing with Venom. Do you think that, in time, you got the deserved recognition for what you’ve done?
Cronos: Absolutely, yeah! After all, this is why we keep going after 30 years, you know... Black metal continues to increase all the time. You know, people said rock music was dead a long time ago, but they’re rock, because the music continues.
Metalfan: So you think black metal is still growing and evolving...
Cronos: Yes, absolutely.
Metalfan: We know you consider black metal to be pure entertainment, just like rock’n’roll is. But some of the bands who quote Venom as an influence took things to another level. They added new dimensions to it: occultism, satanism, witchcraft. How do you feel about it?
Cronos: It’s great that music always changes and always evolves, you know. It’s great that everybody sort of continues to come up with different styles and comes up up with different ways of approaching the music to keep it fresh, to keep it new.
Metalfan: So you don’t have any, let’s say, creative differences with such bands?
Cronos: No, I don’t, it’s all good, you know – we all just love metal.
Metalfan: Good. We’re going to make a little trip into the past – do you remember a band named Coven, who in 1969 released an album called Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls?
Cronos: Yeah, Coven... That was a long long time ago...
Metalfan : Have you had the chance to listen to that work ? If yes, what did you think of it?
Cronos : Yeah, we just thought they sounded like Black Sabbath [ed. note : probably this wasn’t the answer our beloved colleague Hellhammer was waiting for, hahaha]. You know, a lot of bands coming in the late ‘70s and the ‘80s were just trying to be like bands before them. They were all trying to be like Black Sabbath or like Deep Purple. But we wanted to do something different, we wanted to create a new style of music. Coven, Clovenhoof, all that bands were just trying to sound like bands that were before them. That’s why they couldn’t survive.
Metalfan: I’m going to name a few personalities which are quite prominent in their own fields of expertise and I’d like you to describe your concise opinion about each of them – if you have one.
Cronos : Yes.
Metalfan : What do you think about Arthur Brown?
Cronos : I’ve never heard of him.
Metalfan : Anton LaVey.
Cronos : Anton LayVey ? Hehehe, he had nothing to do with music. He was a guy who was like a fairground ride. He was like a Gipsy who used to have like... you know, when you have dungeon carts and you have those competition where you have to throw a ball to throw the coconuts off the stand... or you pop a baloon with a pin. It was like a carnival, it was like a joke. It wasn’t anything to do with black metal. It was some music who eventually came from Anton LaVey ; it was « tu-dum-tu-turrum-tu-turrum » (plays some circus/peasants’ fairs tune). This is not black metal, this is fairground music for Gypsies.
Metalfan : Hahaha, we got your point. Although this guy wasn’t a musician either, he probably influenced the career of quite a few musicians. We are not talking about Timothy Leary, a man who is linked with the invention (or at least the ascension) of LSD.
Cronos : Well, he didn’t actually invented, it was invented many many years ago... yeah... people taking drugs, well... at the end of they day you have to be careful, because I think a lot of people used to take a lot of that in the ‘60s, but it’s not so popular now, you know... And I don’t really think it works with black metal. I think the way this culture works is very different to the way bands used to act in the ‘60s, when it was all about getting stoned. Now everyone wants to sort of understand the business, make good albums and play good shows. I’ve been to a lot of concerts where I’ve seen bands who were on drugs or maybe very drunk and I don’t think it makes a very good show. I thinks those guys are so crazy from what they take that they think it’s a very good show, but I think that for the crowd who are watching the show I think it’s very boring. So I think today’s bands don’t do this, you know.
Metalfan : So you favour the more profession, « business-like » approach to music rather than the bohemian drug-influenced style of the past.
Cronos : I think that one of the great things about music is that there is room for so many beautiful ideas... Nobody knows what ideas will work, nobody knows what ideas won’t work ; but then you have all the explosion of music since Venom – and Venom was like rock music and punk music ; and then you had other bands, like Red Hot Chili Peppers – who were like rock music and black folk music ; and then you had The Prodigy – who were like rock music, but also with hip-hop and dance. And even within the metal world, if you look at bands like Slipknot or even Pantera – again you have people who are taking rock music and trying new ideas. And I’m not talking about the fact that Slipknot wear costumes that make them look like clowns, I’m talking about the music they play. And Pantera’s music is very different to Venom, and Venom is very different to Slipknot ; and Slipknot are very different to, let’s say, Dimmu Borgir. But we are all metal bands and we all fit in the same category – we can all play at the same festival and we can al share the same fans. And that’s what I think is fantastic about our music – rock music, metal music. Whether it is speed metal, thrash metal, speed, death. If you wanted to be one of those vampire type bands, gothic bands, who were very bohemian or one of those – how do they call it ? - dickensian or shakespirian bands – I think it’s great that we can all come with very very different ideas. I think it would be s**t if we were all the same, don’t you agree ?
Metalfan : We fully agree. In fact your intervention reminds me of an interview we’ve had with Paradise Lost a couple of years ago, where they mentioned some of the bands you talk about. And, as we talked about bringing something new to metal, making a major shift, I think it was Nick Holmes saying that probably the last band to to bring something new, was [back then] probably System Of A Down. What do you think of it ? Who was the last band to make a major shift in metal ?
Cronos : I think the last great shift in metal was probably Pantera. I don’t think System Of A Down are very metal, to tell you the truth. I have seen System Of A Down live at the Download festival and I thought it was like comedy.
Metalfan : Hahahaha...
Cronos : The guitarist was jumping around like a bunny rabbit with his feet together and pulling faces to the audience as if he was like a little child. And I thought this was funny, very funny. And the guy who was singing kind of reminded me of Frank Zappa, you know... And I thought « This is a joke, this is not true hardcore metal ». This is not making a difference. And it’s not original music, I heard this kind of music before, and I heard this music a lot better. So to me, you know, System Of A Down headlined that festival and they haven’t done anything great since. And that’s because they’re crap.
Metalfan : Got your point, very well argumented, hahaha...
Cronos : For me Pantera made a great difference in metal, because they are talented. I would also say that, for the black/death metal bands, Dimmu Borgir have made a big difference. I would say even bands like Slipknot have made a big difference. But I don’t think that for all that the Metallicas and the Slayers, for all that they survived for a long time, I don’t think they did anything very original. Because they just really copied Venom. Venom, of all, was a, thrash metal, power metal, speed metal, death metal, black metal... And Metallica just became a thrash metal band and Slayer just became like a death metal band. But they didn’t change anything, they didn’t make anything new. They were just copying what they’ve already seen.
Metalfan : Still, how do you explain their success ? Take a look at the Big Four, with Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica re-united and so on...
Cronos : I just think it’s commercial and it’s safe, you know... I think with bands like Venom it’s different, because they are dangerous and you don’t know what to expect... But with bands like these it’s very safe, you know... Grandparents will go with their kids to these concerts, you know... This will never happen with a Venom gig. At a Venom gig you have wild legions who go crazy and get drunk and have a good time. When you go to see Metallica, 80-year-old grandparents can go to the show and they can take their 8-year-old grandchildren with them [...] and they can sing along to the « Sandman » song, because it’s a dead jolly song « tra-la-la-lala » - it’s all dead safe and dead pretty. And that’s why I say it’s commercial, it’s like Britney Spears, it’s s**t.
Metalfan : If you could organise a Big Four (Venom being one of the bands) whom else would you take with you ?
Cronos : Out of the four ?
Metalfan : No, no. Let’s say it’s a Big Four organised by Cronos and Cronos gets to choose the bands. Venom is just one of them.
Cronos : It has to be bands that are here now, not bands that used to be, yes ?
Metalfan : For the sake of the exercise, let’s say it can be any band, any time – whether it is still here or not.
Cronos : Oh, well... if it could be any band, any time, then it would be Venom and it would be f***ing Pantera and it would be f***ing Motorhead and it would be... let’s see... Black Sabbath !!! Original line-up! And if it was with bands still existing today, I would say Venom, Immortal, maybe Dimmu Borgir and maybe Slipknot.
Metalfan : Excellent choices, hahaha...
Cronos : Hahaha, yes we can have great fun with this game... Because I would like to see another great festival with Venom, Judas Priest, AC/DC and Status Quo. I mean, we could go on and on and on with this, haha. I just love this music, you know...
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