INTERVIEW: Tony ‘Abaddon’ Bray, VENOM INC. – February 2018

INTERVIEW: Tony ‘Abaddon’ Bray, VENOM INC. – February 2018

By Shane Pinnegar

In 1981, a trio of likely lads from Newcastle Upon Tyne in England’s far north in a band called Venom released an album called Welcome To Hell, which immediately influenced thousands.

Spinoff, Venom Inc, are currently touring Australia, and this is the origin story of the originators of Black Metal, the progenitors of speed and thrash metal, and the genesis of every other extreme metal sub-genre since, as told by original drummer, Tony ‘Abaddon’ Bray.

Read the interview at AROUND THE SOUND

And read on for extra 100% ROCK-exclusive content:


There is undeniable respect for Venom’s place in the murky realms of extreme metal, something Abaddon is well aware – and extremely proud of.

“I personally think so, yeah. I think the reason that we’re still able to do this, in my opinion, is because this is a form of music – hard rock, heavy metal, whatever – where people are really interested in the history of the music. They read about it and they borrow records off their friends, and these days they Spotify [our music] and they say, ‘okay, so what’s Venom about, why is Venom mentioned all the time? I’m going to go and listen to black metal.’

“And they try to listen to black metal with a 1980s head on and they look at all the stuff that came out in the 1980s and they think, ‘hang on, this is in the middle of fucking disco and pop-rock and all this kind of shit.’ Even Queen and KISS were turning to pop. Judas Priest were doing pop songs. And Venom were going completely the other way.

“All this was around us, we were just bucking the trend and saying, ‘no, fuck that.’ Fuck the ‘rock and roll all night’ or all the pop songs that were coming out. We just said, ‘we’re not about that.’ We’re going to carry on just being Venom, because that’s what we’re about, and if people like that, then great, and if they don’t, then we’ll fold. It won’t matter because, luckily enough, we still make music for ourselves.

“We’ve made a couple of quid, and we get by – we’re not millionaires, but we get by okay, and we’re able to make music that we believe in. People who like the band and people who like this type of music, they get that. They understand that the music comes from the heart. That the playing every night comes from the heart. And that’s what people get into. You don’t just turn up and stand at the back and give polite applause, you get sucked into it. You can’t help it. It’s a party, and you can’t help that. You just get into it.”

Photo by Outback Bob


“After the band, Venom’s manager, Eric Cook & I, we had a recording studio,” he explains. “We bought it from Brian Johnson, AC/DC’s vocalist, because he’s from the same area as us. We’d been doing that for years, recording new bands… after a while I just kind of grew out of it. There were too many conflicts, too much bullshit. And I just thought, ‘fuck it, I’ve had enough.’ And I wasn’t interested in doing anything [in the music industry].”

For years Bray worked happily in scaffolding within the construction industry. “I got to throw some steel around and get fucking angry with it on my own terms. It was very therapeutic,” he laughs now.

“The only reason that I got back into this with Jeff [Dunn] was because I was at a gig in Newcastle – I still continue to go to concerts and buy records, so I went to this gig called Brawlfest and Demolition Man was playing with his band there, Atomcraft, and he got Jeff up on stage to do Die Hard, I think it was, and I was just stood at the bar, watching. And a couple of German guys were standing there, and they looked at me like, ‘why aren’t you playing?’ And I was like, ‘well, nobody asked me to play. I don’t just get up on the off-chance. Nobody asked me to do it, so fuck it.’

“One of them was a guy, Oliver, who had a festival in Germany called Keep It True. Oliver was having Jeff and Tony’s band, Empire Of Evil, play a couple of months later, and he rang me and said, ‘look, Empire Of Evil are playing – if I flew you over and got you a hotel and whatnot, would you get up on stage with them and play some Venom stuff?’

“So that’s what I did – they played half of an Empire Of Evil set, and then I got up and I played six songs, I think, and the place went fucking insane – absolutely batshit crazy. I signed shit loads of autographs that day, it just didn’t stop. And I thought, ‘it’s a great nostalgia trip, and these people have got records and this might be the last chance they get to see me to have these records signed.’

“Then the phone started ringing. The phone just fucking hasn’t stopped since. It’s been full-on tours. It’s been going to places like China that I’ve never been before, going back to Japan, going into South America a lot, and now being able to get into Australia, and we’ve never been before, the band never got down there.”

With Lant touring as Venom, and Dunn & Bray as Venom Inc, we’re duty bound to ask how relations are between the two camps. No love seems lost.

“From Jeff’s point of view,” Bray says, perhaps a little tersely, “he doesn’t want anything to do with Conrad ever again. From me, personally, I just think that we ended in confusion. I had a meeting with our manager and Jeff and we agreed, after 1996, that we couldn’t work with Lant anymore.

“I sent him a letter that I was sacking him, and the next thing I knew Jeff was in Germany recording with him. They sent me a demo and said, ‘learn these songs,’ and I just said, ‘fuck off, I’ve sacked you, I’ve had a meeting with Jeff, and we both agreed to sack you, I’ve had enough of you, I’m not going to work with you again, and if you two are going to carry on, then that’s surprising to me, but get on with it.’ And they did one more record, Resurrection, and then Jeff left again anyway.

“To be fair, it should have ended then, but Lant carried on using the Venom name and all power to him, you know? I’ve never actually fallen out with him. I sacked him over reasons that were to do with the band. They weren’t personal reasons, it was to do with the band. I’ve bumped into his drummer quite a few times and we go to the bar and we have a drink together, so we get on okay. I don’t have any problems with it.’

Addressing the issue of the name Venom Inc, it seems the two camps are at a relatively amicable standoff.

“It’s become that way,” Bray admits. “When Jeff and Tony were going out as Empire Of Evil, the promoters were wanting to put the name Venom really big in there, because Empire Of Evil didn’t mean anything to anybody, and all the posters had ‘Venom’ written really big. So Lant sent legal letters out to stop promoters doing that – it wasn’t the band doing it, particularly, it was the promoters, because they wanted to sell tickets. And Lant stopped that.

“So when we rejoined, the promoters wanted to do that again and Jeff said, ‘we need a new name,’ and Jeff wanted to call it Iron & Steel. I think we were going to Brazil at the time, and Jeff put on the poster Iron & Steel, and the promoters instantly on the top of that went, ‘Ex-members of Venom’ and the word Venom was written large.

“Lant sent us two legal letters, and I sat down with management and his lawyers at the time, because we were still friends, and we sat down and we just said, ‘look, it’s my fucking logo, I was in the band, me and Jeff formed the band before it was called Venom, we had the name Venom before Lant was ever in the band,’ so we sent a letter back and said, ‘look, fuck off. We’re going to call the band Venom-something, and you can’t stop us.’ We weren’t [even going to] at the time – we were going to leave it as Iron & Steel, but we were just defending [our rights], it was sort of chest-thrusting type stuff.

Venom: The early days

“And I just said, ‘look, you don’t have the rights to any of this. It’s my fucking logo, and everybody knows that, and Lant doesn’t even deny that. So if you use that logo with the word Venom, it’s mine anyway, and you’ve been using it for years, you’ve been selling shirts with it on, and I haven’t said shit.’

“So when the promoters knew that we were going to do that Tony, I think, came up with adding the Inc. bit. Incorporated, because the way he tells it is, he wanted it to incorporate what Atomcraft do, and him and Jeff do in Empire Of Evil. Let’s incorporate all of it – and I still do Bray stuff. So I guess that would fall into that kind of pot. So that’s where it came from and then Lant just stopped writing letters.”

INTERVIEW: Tony 'Abaddon' Bray, VENOM INC. - February 2018

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