John “Rage” Dixon Discuses “Storm the Gates” and Venom’s Legacy
It feels silly to introduce a band whose patches can be spotted at virtually every metal festival across the globe, but not allowing space to give Venom’s longevity due credit is equally as preposterous. Since 1978, the black metal power troop has found success in staying in their own lane of Newcastle, England, producing album after album despite substantial lineup adjustments. Venom now features founding member Conrad “Cronos” Lant on vocals and bass, Danny “Dante” Needham on drums, and John “Rage” Dixon on guitar.
On the heels of the release of his latest record last Friday, Storm the Gates, Rage describes his drive to carry on Venom’s glory while keeping things fun and fresh for Legions everywhere.
Congrats on the new album. Thirteen new tracks from you guys is super exciting. Would you mind explaining the concept behind Storm the Gates?
The new album is three years of glorious songwriting. In 2015 we embarked on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise where we played two live sets. One of the sets was to play the entire new album [at the time] From the Very Depths live, and during our rehearsal for this show we also started firing new riffs and beats at each other, which turned into a jam of new ideas. Some of them transpired into new songs for the Storm the Gates album.
It comes very naturally for this line up to create new ideas together and having Cronos at the helm to mold both mine and Dante’s ideas into a Venomous opus is a treat to behold. We can freely crank new tunes and beats in the knowledge that he can magically take the most basic of ideas and go off on a tangent, adding other sections and dissecting the sections into a playable, understandable format, ready for his evil lyrics to form a new song.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of carrying on the legacy of one of the most iconic extreme metal artists?
When I first joined Venom, Cronos spoke to us about being original and developing the black metal style, as he wasn’t looking for musicians who would just mimic others. He created Venom like no other band, taking many risks musically and progressing the style over many decades. I find this to be an important factor with Venom, as not only has Venom created such an impact on the music industry, but the fact Cronos isn’t happy to stand still or just keep repeating the theme; he actually wants to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and this is both refreshing and challenging.
I am also a big fan of bands like Slayer and xx, and if Venom’s legacy is to act as a catalyst to inspire other artists to create new styles of Metal and continue to create more great music, then I’m happy to play my small part in this and feel fortunate to be part of such an amazing band. Dante and I have both studied the history of this band, and we’ve played every song from every album. This is so we can put the band into perspective as we knew we’d be expected to play songs from albums we were not part of, but we still wanted to give the songs the commitment and integrity they deserved.
Cronos has stipulated time and again that Venom is about progression, but without losing perspective of what Venom stands for. We hear many bands who after three or four albums sound nothing like their early albums, and Venom cannot be accused of this, as the same Venom fans who love the early albums are also very vocal about which new songs they want to hear in the live set. It’s very satisfying for me as a member of Venom to have the fans ask for songs that I actually helped write, so I’m not just playing songs from the 1980s I had no part in writing. It is incredibly rewarding for me to be given the opportunity to be part of this iconic band and considering the success of Venom today with Cronos at the helm, with increasing album sales and bigger show attendances, I’m also humbled to meet the Legions who support this amazing band.
While Scandinavia tends to harbor much of the glory for extreme metal by more or less being the squeaky wheel, the "movement," for lack of a better word, is also very much indebted to happenings in Britain. Are you ever resentful or any of these re-writings of history, or does it not matter to you so much in 2018?
It makes no difference to Venom’s legacy. The history books will always tell the story. Venom started the genre when Cronos merged rock/metal with punk in the late 1970s, and for ten years developed the style of progressing those ideas. Then in the 1990s, bands in Scandinavia who were influenced by Venom developed a progression of the Venom style with a new wave of black metal. Cronos has always said he doesn’t see that style as black metal, as true black metal is a combination of power, speed, death, and thrash metal, etc., so the Scandinavian scene should have their own term like "corpse metal" or "Norse metal," etc.
I think it was just a lack of originality by the press at the time, by just lumping these band in that category as they didn’t know what else to call them, and some bands did jump on the bandwagon instead of having the originality to invent their own name. They admit they were influenced by Venom, and I know Cronos is happy those bands took what Venom did and progressed it to a new level, so that’s it really. I don’t see why there should be any resentment. I just plan to progress the style even further, there’s no end to our ideas, so let's see what will come next.I know it will be amazing.
Besides an extensive Latin American tour, which I’m sure will be killer, what else does Venom have in store for next year?
Yes, our management is currently in discussion for another South American tour in 2019 and some other shows around Europe. It is unfortunate the entire festival we were due to play in Italy [Colony Summer Festival] was cancelled. For this reason we don’t normally announce our shows until there’s a signature of the contracts, but rest assured, there are some cool shows being negotiated as we speak.
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