After a brutally dominating performance on the main stage at this years Bloodstock Festival, we caught up with guitarists Ash Gray and Ben Thomas of VENOM PRISON to talk about how the band are building their reputation on an amazing work ethic as well as whether they think music as heavy as theirs can break through into the mainstream.
How awesome was it to blast death metal from a stage that size?
Ash: Well, that’s the only answer isn’t it, fucking awesome!
Ben: Who wouldn’t wanna play death metal from a stage like that?!
Has Bloodstock always been a festival you’ve wanted to play?
Ash: Oh absolutely, it’s been on the wish list for a while now.
Alongside your Download Festival performance you seem to be ticking them all off one by one…
Ash: Pretty much
Ben: Yeah that is the plan, we’ve still got a couple more to do, but yeah this is one that we’ve always wanted to play.
Did you ever expect to play a stage that size when you first started VENOM PRISON?
Ash: No, no I didn’t, but it is the aim if you know what I mean. When you’re playing venue to venue, the shows are getting bigger and then there’s a points when you always wonder what’s next, but until then you just play, because that’s how you get to those opportunities.
Has doing this given you a taste of what could be, making you want to return to shows this big?
Ben: I mean yeah it’s awesome playing shows like this, but we come from a scene where we play floor shows, house shows, club shows, some ones living room, we’ll play anywhere, we love it.
What sort of shows do you prefer to play?
Ash: They’re all totally different things. For me, in my head, the house show stuff is where I remember growing up, going to punk shows and hardcore shows and whatever in small clubs and practise spaces. That’s always been a part of something I’ve loved, so I don’t think we could leave that behind, but at the same time, I like the idea of progression and taking that step further all the time towards the bigger shows. Ideally, I think in all our heads we want that balance to keep us fresh.
How was the VENOM PRISON sound created?
Ben: I think we’ve all been in bands, we’ve all been in hardcore bands and we’ve been In metal bands and sometimes mixed up those sounds. I think it’s been quite a natural thing really.
Ash: When you listen to a metal band and you think how cool the verse is, and then you just think about how cool would it be if a super heavy part just came out of nowhere, and like that’s how it starts, you’re playing something fast with some blasts and then in your head you think ‘okay, I need something heavy to happen here’. I find a lot of bands drag out riffs because they want it to a ‘heard of’ riff, almost like a signature thing but sometimes less is more.
How is the writing coming along for the follow up to Animus?
Ben: Yeah pretty good, it’s been intense but it think it’s a process we all really enjoy, it’s almost like our favourite part of being in a band. Writing new stuff is something we look forward too we love it.
How far along the process are you?
Ash: we’ve had a fair crack, we’re quite a long ways through, we just really need to, when we get off this tour, just sit down and hammer it all out.
You’ve had a crazy year for playing shows this year, playing with bands like DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT, SUICIDE SILENCE and DECAPITATED in the near future. Do you want VENOM PRISON to be known for this high work ethic?
Ash: Yeah, I think I can speak for anyone on that. You always want to achieve as much as you can, while you can. If the opportunities there then you gotta grow with it, you gotta be quick. If you ain’t prepared to grow as quick as it’s developing in peoples eyes, then you ain’t doing it correctly. You need to keep going at it.
Where do you even find the time to play all these shows?
Ben: I don’t know man! We’re lucky, Ash and Larissa are studying fulltime, me and Mike, our bassist, are working full time but work is pretty flexible. If you just go for it, it’s a once in a lifetime thing.
Being as heavy as you are, your sound still went down really well because it’s Bloodstock, Do you think a sound like VENOM PRISON’s can break through to the main stream? Will we see you on the Download main stage?
Ash: Yeah, I think it’s happening now. Not VENOM PRISON specifically, but heavier bands are coming through more and more. NAPALM DEATH were on BBC Radio, it’s breaking through.
Ben: I think people are realising it’s not just some brain dead genre, they’re looking past it as ‘noise’, they’re listing to the lyrics, what it’s about and then they kinda see that attitude and then I think they can kinda relate to what’s going on more.
Clearly you do think it could happen, does this mean VENOM PRISON will try to break the mainstream?
Ash: Oh I wouldn’t dare change the sound just in the hopes of getting something else, obviously we were on the smaller stage at Download Festival, but whose to say heavier bands aren’t coming through more and more.
After all your touring, what’s next for VENOM PRISON?
Ash: It’s all very close to the chest at the moment, but there are things being spoken about a lot, a lot of behind the scenes work, talking everyday. It’s all definitely in a working progress!
Ben: We’re excited to be talking about some new things, but nothing too much.
How close are we to an announcement regarding the next album?
Ash: I don’t know myself. At the moment, to me, the second album is so important so crucial, because it’s the follow up to something everyone started liking.
Because of the success of Animus, does it make you want to take your time?
Ben: We never expected any of this, it is a bit of pressure, for me personally anyway. I work better under pressure and I think so do the rest of the band.
Animus is out now via Prosthetic Records.
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