Shaxul Records: Where is Von based at this particular time?
Venien: I'm based out of Phoenix, Arizona. 3 of us live in Phoenix. The drummer lives in Chicago and another guitar player lives in Florida. So we are all a bit scattered, but we basically rehearse here...and we been doing all the recording here, at Von Records.
Shaxul Records: I understand you have a show coming up soon in San Francisco?
Venien: Yeah, we're gonna be...[doing] that and New York...we're gonna be announcing in a little bit. Yeah that's all in the works right now. Yeah, L.A...that's been booked and is being promoted right now for November 9th.
Shaxul Records: Why did you decide to re-record all of these Von songs now after all these years?
Venien: When we started this with another guy named Shawn Calizo [a.k.a. "Goat"] in the late 80s we had made a bunch of material that was never realized or recorded properly. It was just a work in progress of tapes and demos. Nothing that we were gonna release as an album ever. Those demos were passed around with tape trading and stuff like that I guess. But nothing on the album level. So because the band had a short lived time together...in 2006 when I started this stuff back up and I contacted Shawn and we had been talking about doing it...we had found out that through the years we had stuff that was released on vinyl and stuff. That was not though us at all. So all that stuff was not from the band. So when we got back together for the London show Shawn wanted to re-record some songs just for the show because he was taking a different direction with his Von Goat stuff. I was in a different viewpoint of what we needed to do because we were doing the show and it was last minute. So we went along with it, I actually financed it. Put the little 7" out just for the show. And we'd both been working on solo material. But through all the years I've been making songs with all the other old songs and stuff so all that material...at this point I wanted to release the "final recordings" you know, finally release an [official] album. Technically here was never a Von album. Through the years I guess people call demos "albums" but to us that's not the case. When we came back from London and Goat had quit the band again to focus on his Von Goat material...so I wanted to finish what I started from the 80s. He wasn't part of the [new] recording or anything...his guitar player [in Von Goat] Giblete Cuervo, he quit Von Goat and came over to Arizona and started playing songs with me for my solo album [Von Venien a.k.a. "Venien"]...and we recorded all the material I had as far as Von is concerned. And that's over 70s songs. So the songs I had from the early years...that obviously goes into the "Satanic Blood" album. All the works from the very beginning with Shawn...as far as I look at it [the upcoming "Satanic Blood" album] to me it's the final recording of that [old demo] material. It finally has a "proper" release and this is the only album. As far as everyone else is concerned, these other companies that released stuff on vinyl and CDs and stuff like that? To us that's bootleg material. We found out about it through the years. And now that we've come back into the fold we realize that people thought that was an [official] album. It IS NOT, you know?
Shaxul Records: Well I think the "Satanic Blood Angel" release on Nuclear War Now! is regarded by people as "official."
Venien: Yeah, they do but it isn't. It's pretty simple...when people bootleg it? No matter how you package it or how you promote it or what people think? The facts are the facts. I don't have any business with those people...unfortunately Shawn does. He had been approached by NWN in London...they dropped a box of records off and gave him a check for back pay for all the stuff they bootlegged but they had never approached me on any level. I never seen a dime on anything Von related to date, except for stuff that I put out. So with that, Shawn had actually signed a contract to do a Von Goat album, or "solo album" with them. So that's probably, in a nutshell, why he quit the band because he was already doing other things with them. And he knew my feelings about that whole situation. So with that, I moved forward with all the recordings that were already in progress without him. I did all the vocals. I'm on the bass, Brent is no longer with the band, he's nowhere to be found. And Joe was really never technically with the band so...nobody from the early years is part of Von anymore it's just myself.
Shaxul Records: You said that you weren't completely satisfied with the direction of things when you first reformed and released the 7". What would you have preferred to happen with the band's direction?
Venien: Well it had probably been a year or 2 we were discussing albums and...I had already started on the "Dark Gods" material on my own. I have material written [for release] after "Satanic Blood" but there is so much material it was [decided it would be] split into 3 albums. So the stuff on "Satanic Blood" we were going to start recording...I'd flown those guys in from L.A. to the Salt Mine studios where we were rehearsing, we decided we were gonna record a couple songs just to give to the fans at the show. We had all been practicing the original material that we had created...but it was a deal breaker for him [Shawn] for whatever reason, he didn't wanna re-do the versions he wanted to change it up and all this and that...and it was a deal breaker for him. If we didn't do it, he wouldn't record. His Von Goat album, it's a different style from Von. SO he sorta applied that to the recording...it was like 2 or 3 times we had dropped the project of the recording because of that. And then at one point I just said look, let's just record whatever you got. Let's just do it and I have to get it out and package it. So I went along with it but I said "this is just for the London thing." I wanted to record everything the way it was. Why do something different than we already had? It doesn't make sense to me. When we started to record the stuff here he already quit the band and cancelled any shows that I arranged so at that point his guitar player quit Von Goat, came out to Arizona, and we just went head to toe with all these songs. So the songs [on "Satanic Blood"] are as close as possible to the original versions that we did...in a nutshell it's the truest form of what I wanted to capture as far as this album is concerned. As far as the 7" I wasn't really happy with the situation. I was involved with the mix and he was calling in every once in a while but at the same time I wasn't happy with the whole situation you know.
Shaxul Records: Regarding the upcoming "Satanic Blood" recording, upon first listen I first noticed perhaps a few more layers of guitars on there?
Venien: Originally it was just Shawn playing guitar and I was tremelo picking on my bass as well. So I'm on the rhythm with the drums. We stuck with the 2 octaves...tremelo picking and we put some chords in there to fill it up a bit. But as far as everything else it's pretty much right there with what we were doing on the original versions. But to translate the way I wanted it to translate all the way across the new albums? We picked the formula, picked the sound as close as possible to the raw sound I came up with in the 80s. We sort of brought that in and added on top of it. I didn't wanna take away from what the original was, but I wanted to add a little more to it so it would all fit together with the new stuff. It's not Shawn playing guitar, it's Lord Giblete playing the guitar. The "Satanic Blood" demo Joe had filled in on bass during that recording because I had business to take care of. They actually had to go in and record the 4-track demo for that. And all the material he [Joe] played - he didn't do too much tremelo picking - he was just single picking. I play with a pick so a lot of the sound on the recording reflects that. There's a lot more rhythm low end. The tape you are familiar with, the one with Joe, it was never meant to be performed that way. All the material was never played that way. So that is one change in the elements that you may hear [on the new recording].
Shaxul Records: Do you do any vocals previous to the upcoming "Satanic Blood" recording?
Venien: When we started out I did vocals and Shawn did guitars and you know...it was the 80s and he wanted to be the front man you know, he wanted to do the vocals in the early days. Originally I was gonna do the vocals but he wanted to be the front man so I let him do that. He wrote all the lyrics on "Satanic Blood" but as far as all the arrangements and the songs and the riffs? That was me and him. I mean if you listen to all the songs it's all bass lines. But as far as this new recording if you listen to the vocals, that's all just me. There's a couple different variations on top of myself, but it's all what I do during a live performance and during our rehearsals. So what I do is I stay true to what I wanted to have for Von in the beginning. When we first started Von we had discussed what we wanted to sound like. From the picking to the drums to the vocal delivery. Even playing a set without stopping. All the way from front to back you know "we're not here to sell drinks" you know what I mean? "I'm just here to play my show." So when I came and did the recording 20 years later it still applies today. Everything you heard on the [old] recording, and that goes for the new [upcoming] albums as well. But as far as "Satanic Blood" I tried to say as true to form to the demos, even using them as scratch tracks to try and stay as close as I can to the original stuff without going way off.
Shaxul Records: What about the 1990 "Satanic" demo? Did you sing on that one?
Venien: I played bass on that one. That demo was the first time we actually recorded any of our stuff. Not everything was on there and some of the stuff we changed through the months. That was the only recording we did actually we were just lazy [laughs]. We weren't really into recording ourselves at that point. We actually threw the mics up around the pipes around the ceiling. That's what you got. The few songs we'd done for that night. All the rest of the material we had been just working out.
Shaxul Records: On the "Satanic Live Ritual" DVD, which I guess is a boot - I think Goat is wearing a mask and as a Samhain fan, right away I kind of noticed that the band looked very similar to Samhain in terms of the image. Were you big fans?
Venien: Well obviously I am not on that, that was actually when I was dealing with some family stuff. Lemme just tell you a little bit about that. All that stuff you see on that DVD or those 2 shows they did while I was gone? That had zero direction or zero to do with what I had in mind for Von. The elements of blood and some of the more evil or dark tones of what Von is...[long pause] It doesn't even touch the surface of what I was trying to do for Von. So when I wasn't there...everything you see on stage - the mask...it had nothing to do with me. You know he [Goat] had long hair, I had long hair, Brent had long hair. We are were just headbanging, you know, crazy. You know, punk style, intense kinda band when WE played together. But when I saw that [the DVD], just like everybody else, I just sorta laughed about it wasn't really what we had intended to be. But I definitely know that he [Goat] was into that kinda stuff. You know he was into Danzig and the Misfits and Samhain you know...we all listened to that stuff back in the day. I was a big Septic Death fan you know. I was a punk rocker. I lived in the Bay . I listened to nothing but punk rock. Skateboarding in San Jose and all that. I was in the scene in the 80s and all that. So everything I had was in the punk world. As kids you know, those bands were part of it. The Samhains and the Misfits and all that. It's all obvious now looking at his stuff and pictures while I was gone. That all happened when I was taking care of my family. So when I got back to the Bay they had already all broken into their own camps. They all moved out of the Bay. Back then you didn't have cell phones and this and that. Nobody paid their bills and no phones were connected so I finally found Shawn like a year later. '93 or whatever. He had shown me the Sixx stuff he had done, he gave me the demo tape that him and Joe and Brent had did. "Satanic Blood" Demo. And he's like "yeah we recorded this when you were gone." Nothing was ever realized or formed we sorta had a short lived band. I never got a chance to do the album with them because you know, because of life! Everybody sorta moved on. And I came back to an empty city, you know?
Shaxul Records: What was your first impression of the "Satanic Blood Angel" stuff when you first heard it?
Venien: It was cool. It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it was pretty close. I asked him [Goat] "well where's all the other stuff?" And he...he wanted to get away from Metal. He's like "I don't wanna be part of the Metal scene. I wanna act." He had played in some pop bands. He'd played in a band called Balinda Deluxe [?] Tansanso [???]. So he was sorta in a different direction with his musical career. So that sorta chilled it all right at that point as far as us finishing the Von stuff. At that point, it just sorta ended.
Shaxul Records: So you weren't part of Sixx at all?
Venien: No that happened at that same time period that I was gone. He turned me on to all that stuff later. I was just like "wow!" Surprise, ya know? But years later Joe, who recorded on the demo, Joe Allen...we grew up together and he was the best man at my wedding so we were really close. I asked him to play with the band while I was gone. Me and Shawn got a call in like '95 or '96 and it was Joe and he had been approached to sell that demo to somebody. And me and Shawn are like "absolutely not." [laughs] We don't want our material...you know, that's not a proper album! And he sort of hung up and told us to fuck off and that's the last time I ever spoke to Joe. Years later in the 2000s I'd gotten a bunch of calls from people I knew in the Bay area saying "I want a copy of your vinyl!" [laughs] "I want a copy of your CD! I want a shirt!" And I was sorta shocked I was like, "I never released an album." A lot of people were pissed off and told me "someone sold your demo." It was probably Joe. So 2006 came about and I was like, I gotta ring this in you know it's getting outta hand. I'm seeing bootlegs EVERYWHERE you know? And people are telling me "this has been out for years man!" When I talked to Shawn he said he had no part of it and he didn't know anything about it. We both assumed that Joe had sold the demo to these companies or whatever. So we weren't too happy about it.
Shaxul Records: My recollection of the early 90s underground Metal scene in San Francisco was a pretty bleak one. Do you think Von was bourn of that environment specifically in a way?
Vienen: Yeah you know, I spent a lot of years in San Francisco. I definitely have that vibe of the Bay Area. I'm a "Bay Area kid" you know? And I totally understand what you're saying...I'm 41 years old, but...I was into the punk scene more than anything. I dabbled with friends that had thrash bands and speed bands...but as far as my attitude I was just a punk you know. Literally a punk. I had an attitude with everybody. And just living in the Tenderloin you know dealing with the bullshit of the streets. Just dealing with day to day, doin drug dealing, and it was just hard surviving as you know...if you do that kinda life in San Francisco. Always pissed off. I was a drug dealer so...I can't hide that you know? I was goin around sellin drugs. Like that you just didn't respect anybody...When I came back in and started developing the Von stuff with Shawn...you know, we lived together for a short time and we'd sit there [with] no food or this or that, angry at the world and the city. It definitely did affect what we did. We wanted to display the brutal part of our life. We were young and we were pissed off and...it was evil and darkness everywhere so. Even today some of that stuff is still around but I translate it into actual records. All the "Satanic Blood" stuff was just a real primal state of what we were into as young adults. It was just a brutal assault. We just wanted to kill it every time we played. You know the environment and the time period and just the way the scene was? Yeah it definitely affected me. We were sorta at that point where we didn't even wanna record ourselves. We didn't even wanna play shows. We were just anti anti everything! [laughs] So many hair bands back then. There was a lot of super technical Metal...I had a lot of friends that played in bands like that but...I was listening to Sodom and Kreator and goin to Gwar shows and Slayer shows...but at the same time I was goin to punk shows and skate type shows. And the decline as far as I could see was just the glam and glitz of all the bands around us. It was a constant rejection from clubs. Like I'd show up to a club and I'd be like "hey man I got this band, Von." They'd check it out and they'd be like "we definitely don't want to have anything to do with that. That's not even something we'd consider. Sorry!" You know? "Play some Metallica" you know? Do something that's "goin on." It was constant rejection, and even if we did play bars or this or that - it was just like this blank stare. Everyone just had this "Pink Floyd-ish" just stare at us. We did our set, just non stop. We were in we were out. No response. No negative, no positive, just like "what the hell was that?" And that's what I remember. We were so disconnected from the scene because we weren't accepted by the scene. We didn't really even notice a decline or upcline or...[laughs] I was too busy hustling on the street.
Shaxul Records: It seems a big part of the early Scandanavian black metal scene began as a sort of rebellion against the then very popular death and thrash metal scene. Maybe Von spoke to them in a more basic way than is typically acknowledged?
Venien: I didn't know there was such a thing as "black metal" till later on. I'll be honest with you. People say "they call you black metal." We didn't know! I mean, truly, we didn't know what we were! I have to be honest. I didn't know we were black metal. I embrace that. I represent that now because this is what the people and the culture...it's bigger than me. But at the time all I did was infuse what I listen to. I was listening to "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" ya know? Septic Death. Pushead screaming on his microphone. Led Zeppelin ya know? Those huge drums and those toms hitting. The Bonham hits. So I'd tell my drummer "hit that tom every time you crack that snare" it would be like, tied into a Zeppelin beat. I really enjoyed that work. I had a full 70s heart you know? But at the same time I had a punk mentality and liked punk beats and style...and I loved Metal! So throw a little Venom and Black Sabbath on there? Shit, you got Von. [laughs] That's what we were happy with. We knew we were something, but we didn't know it was just too early. And so for people over the years to sort of dissect it and see what it's all about...I guess it has its' own place. I was turned on to the whole Norwegian thing and all those sorts of bands just in the past 10 years. People will be like "check this band out" you know this band has your band's name you know like Watain and...and all these bands and at the same time I can understand why people are drawn to that pure adrenaline. That rage. That "fuck everybody I'm not a fuckin slave." It's just expression and dealing with the darkness that's in everybody's heart. It's rage that people have for everything. It's not an occult thing, it's just at the time...at that age...you deal with what you're told or what you know or what you learn. You believe in a god you believe in a devil, you believe in...as you grow older you learn a lot, you decide, you think for yourself, and you ascend from a child. So that "Satanic Blood" and Von and what we were at the time was crucial for me but it's still part of me...so I still represent that. But it's so much bigger now. There's so much more meaning to it. I wanna finish what I started but I have so much art and so much material and so much to tell that I really wanted to...let's do this [Satanic Blood] and let's do it right this time around. And release the people that are gonna hold me back. And release the people that are gonna cause issues and problems and cater to young kids who are thinking "this is how it is" or "this is what it's supposed to be." If you're gonna be subject to what people say or this or that then you're never gonna get through this project you know? I still have that in me. I just don't care. I just keep goin.
Shaxul Records: How did your solo project Von Venien [a.k.a. Venien] come about?
Venien: Well Shawn had done Von Goat and he said "well you should do Von Venien" and I quickly made that jump for that. But after the fact and after I pressed it up and I wanted to change it so bad but it was already in play. I was like "that's just too confusing for people." So I said, "no I'm not gonna be like him it's confusing people." You know, my name is Venien. It's VAY-NEN! So If I do material that is more personal or more of a psychological kinda thing on my music, that would be my solo material. So I'm siting there going through all my material and pulling stuff that just doesn't fit with the Von stuff. So truly, it's a Venien project. It's still got the Von elements in it, it's just different material. It's a little confusing and that's why I changed it quickly back to "Venien."
Shaxul Records: Yeah I thought you guys just sat down and planned it that way.
Venien: Yeah, that was not right and I made that mistake because he sorta suggested it but I was like "nah, I'm gonna change it back." He stuck with it. I dunno why [laughs]. He should just go by "Goat" but to each its own. I mean I told him "Von is Von, we can't change who we are. Let's stick with the program." But he was always...it never felt comfortable for him I don't think. At least from my perspective. He might say something different. But to me...I was constantly energetic, you know you can hear I talk a lot! I got that energy. And he's more reserved, kicked back, and more vague about things. His direction was always a different direction. He had a couple pop bands that he'd been recording with...and that's where he was. I mean, if you really know the guy that's where he is. He's very light hearted. A big proponent of non-violence. Even at the London show I was like "let's do what we were gonna do with blood and the whole thing" and he was like "that's a deal breaker. No. No blood on the stage. No nothing." It was an eye opener for me. Because years later, he's matured. He's comfortable in what he believes in. And so now he's like "I don't want any part of any of that stuff." So as you can tell he's going on with his Von Goat stuff because it's a different style. It's a different kind of material. This Von stuff, it's just a monster and it has to be treated like that. You can cage it at some level, but it's still a monster man. You put out rage, you put out things that are pulse pounding, make you wanna smash your head up against the wall and you sorta have to go with it. And that's sorta what I wanna do with Von. I go for it all the way, there's no retreat.
Shaxul Records: To compare Von Goat with the latest recording of "Satanic Blood," the former does seem more "blurry" in comparison to the more visceral Von recording.
Venien: I'm happy with it. I mean I spent a lot of time on the mix, I spent a lot of time with the mastering, I mean we're up to the highest threshold before distortion. This is probably the loudest album he [our mastering guy] ever did. It's just got this huge rage affected pulse to it. And I'm happy and completely excited to let people hear it. And I wanted it to be as true as possible to what I created. Why fix something that's not broken?
Shaxul Records: So do you have a pretty clear plan of what comes after this Von recording?
Venien: Yeah, I've already recorded and mastered "Dark gods I" which is called "7 Billion Slaves." That comes out in December. And "Dark gods II" which is called "Rise of the Ancients," that comes out in July. And "Dark gods III" which we're actually recording right now, that comes out in December of next year. So it's a 3 part album kinda thing. They all hold their own because I sorted the songs that way. But they all sorta - Charlie Fell, he was hired to come in and do the drums on "Satanic Blood" you know, he plays with a band called Lord Mantis. He came in to Chicago and recorded "Satanic Blood" day one. The whole album in one day. And then the next day he did the whole "Dark gods" album. The first one, "7 Billion Slaves" the second day. So, he knocked out both albums in 2 days. So I took that back, mixed em and mastered those. And then Charlie went off to record a Nachmystium album. And so, he was just sort of a recording session artist.
Shaxul Records: So "Dark gods" is the next musical project for Von?
Venien: "Dark gods" is the all new material that you haven't heard. I recorded 3 new [Von] albums of material that nobody has ever heard. Some of it dates back from demos that I just recorded, you know just for archive purposes. But a lot of the stuff, like I said, I just recorded and recorded through the years. And finally some of these songs that were just more psychological that dealt with my persona as Venien? Those were separated and put as solo cuts. So I mapped out all this material and because of the story, I tied in "Satanic Blood" and there's a big story that I'll reveal at some point. But the "Dark gods" was supposed to be the last Von album. And there was just so much material...I had to do 3 albums worth. A lot of the stuff was put in a certain order to cater to the story. So each album hold their own sorta like a chapter in a book. "Satanic Blood" is almost like a prelude to the bigger story. So that pretty much wraps up what I'm gonna do with Von at this point. And then all the stuff I pulled aside...I have 24 tracks pulled for my solo Venien album which I call "Tribal Blood." So it's a double album. I split it into 2. And I still have about another album [laughs] that I haven't been able to put the tracks on. So we're talking about that if things go well, there'll probably be a sequel to "Tribal Blood" even. So there's literally over 70 songs I haven't even...in the box you know?
Shaxul Records: Is the "Dark gods" material all you? You wrote every single part?
Venien: Every song after the "Satanic Blood" album I wrote. I did all the vocals, I did all the bass, I did all the arrangements, I did all the riffs. Down to loosely helping doing solos. And even when I sat in with the drum sessions with Charlie, and now my new drummer Anthony...I chat with em beat by beat. Sorta like I did with Brent in the early days. You know, "I want this here and a tom there,"just the format of everything. I've done it since day one of Von I been there so.
Shaxul Records: Well I look forward to hearing you guys live.
Venien: It's just [the few US dates we're doing] a few pockets of shows to drop these albums. We would like to do a mini tour but it just seems there's not enough time for promoters in the United States to do their thing. So, it's not lookin too good. I would like to, but I can only do what people can do. But we're definitely gonna be full force 2013.