Serpent Venom releases their first demo around 2010, but the band establishes its foundation a few years prior. Can you take us back to how it all began? I also understand some of you were previously in Sloth and Olde Crone among other bands?
Nick > Pete and Paul wanted to do a doom band. They began jamming with Tas, who moved on to join Electric Wizard. Since Tas was doing vocals and bass they needed a singer so they asked Garry and then they put the feelers out for a bassist. I've known Garry and Paul for a while from seeing each other at gigs and Paul had bumped into a mutual friend and mentioned he was doing a new doom band to our friend. He asked our friend if he knew anyone up for it. Our friend suggested me, so I met Gaz for a beer, they gave me a rehearsal recording to listen to and I jumped on board without hearing it and a few days later I was rehearsing with them, learning the songs. Pete came from Olde Crone, Paul from Blood Island Raiders, Garry from Sloth and I came from playing guitar and bass in two different local extreme metal bands.
Your latest effort; the full length Carnal Altar was released around mid 2011. Can you tell us a bit how the album came to be developed? Did you encounter various obstacles during the recording process or did it all come about rather smoothly?
Nick > When I joined the band, they had five songs done and I just needed to add the bass to them. As I learned the songs, Pete walked in with new ones. I was under the impression he pretty much had all of Carnal Altar already done in his mind. The songs really took shape when Paul would get jamming with his drums, they changed the dynamic and brought life to Pete's already crushing riffs. I only had to ape the guitar to keep it heavy and only had a few subtleties to add. When Garry added his vocals in the songs we jammed them fully, they evolved and came to life. It was a cool feeling.
We rehearsed twice a week for a few months prior to recording the album to make sure we were match fitted and jammed the record in 4 days. Bass and drums were done entirely live, some of the live guitar tracks were used as we were really on it. Pete wanted to craft his playing and spent time on the guitar parts, swapping with Garry to preserve his voice. Chris Fielding, who engineered and produced the record really spent his time effectively mixing songs as he went and got the best out of everyone. The last day was just mixing really with us ducking in to listening only. We trusted Chris to keep each song consistent and he did a smashing job. You have us playing pretty much live and he captured that performance extremely well.
Following the release of Carnal Altar, did you take to the road in order to promote the album? In that matter, does the band find itself as frequent tour partakers or do you prefer to play at a local level instead?
Nick > We had been gigging quite a lot anyway. The band is a hobby and we love jamming live. When the album came out we played some real cool shows with a lot of really cool bands. There was a European tour booked for support of the album. We were part of a 3 band package for Church Within, with Seamount and Orchid. As is quite well reported Pete left a couple of months before as he was moving to live in the USA, so we enlisted the help of Garry's old band mate in Sloth, Roland, and we went away anyway. The tour was a lot of fun and we covered dates in Germany, Poland, Holland and Belgium. Roland joined permanently after the tour.
As far as playing live is concerned, we all have jobs, lives and responsibilities away from the band so it is kind of an extravagant hobby. We fit each gig or tour around this. We love going on the road for any amount of time, from a long weekend, to a couple of weeks at a time, who doesn't? It's hugely fun being with good friends, meeting cool bands and spending time meeting great people and making a loud noise in the process.
As for the 'level' you mention. We pretty much will play anywhere at any time. From smaller clubs, to larger venues and festivals. We have had the honor in playing the Hammer of Doom and Desert Fest. We will be playing Doom Shall Rise and the Hammerfest in the coming few months. It's easy to get carried away with this sort of news, but our feet are firmly on the ground and you'll always find us in the bar instead of hiding away pretending we're rock stars haha!
The sound that Serpent Venom emits, that oozes out of my speakers is nothing short of riff paradise. How does it all come together for the band? Is it a collective process when it comes to song writing or is it more of an individual coming up with ideas?
Nick > Riff wise Carnal Altar was mapped out already by Pete. As said previously, the songs came into their own once the rest of us got on board and created songs from the riffs. With regards to new material, myself and Roland have jammed on guitar ideas with each other and then presented them to the others in the rehearsal room. We have all been really relaxed, jammed on ideas until they became songs and everyone has put an equal say and ideas towards it. That's not to make out the previous efforts as some sort of one man thing, it was just the way that came about.
I'm sure equipment has a lot to do with such a massive sound. Would you care to elaborate a bit with what kind of gear the band uses to achieve such a sound?
Nick > Guitar wise, Pete favored Sound City amps with Fuzz. Roland uses fuzz too, but with Laney GH100s. Paul uses a lot of Pearl drum stuff and has some massive old bass drums and floor toms. He hits so hard, you could put him behind a pile of tin cans and he'd make you go deaf. I favor American made Ampeg gear. It has to be all valve for that natural warmth, distortion and volume. A bit of fuzz doesn't go amiss live either.
Carnal Altar was released almost 3 years ago, are there any new songs or releases in the works?
Nick > Plenty. We are on the cusp of recording the next album. There's about ten songs I think, but I could have forgotten some. We have other ideas and riffs that are borderline half songs. We record every rehearsal so we can hear what's working and not, but there's so much of it that it is easy to forget without going through every rehearsal tape. I think we have a good idea of what is going on to the album and the remaining stuff will more than likely make itself onto a future release, be it splits with other bands or possibly kept back for some sort of single or new album. Nothing is set in stone. We aim to record as much as possible when we go to the studio and see what sounds best together. We're all looking forward to getting it done, releasing it, then going to play it all for everyone.
It seems that over the last few years Doom Metal has been gaining momentum. With more and more bands popping up, more established festivals gaining pace and newer ones also coming to light and overall more attention is being given to the genre. What are your thoughts on the trajectory of Doom Metal over the years and where it can take the listener to in times to come?
Nick > Doom certainly has gotten a lot more attention these days. Rightly so in my opinion. For metal, it is simply one of the heaviest offshoots and very enjoyable. There is a real sense of community with bands and fans alike, everyone seems to know someone you do and everyone tends to get on very well. It's a good time. I think the rise in popularity is steady enough to maintain a healthy fan base but it will more than likely attract the band wagon jumpers and they will go on towards the next fad when the magazines start covering something else. Hopefully many of them will see the light and stick around. I personally think that doom will always have a foot in the underground and will return there in the future. The music is certainly too heavy for commercial success and I'm happy with that.
Doom Metal has also seen a rise in women fronted bands coming forth. Many of which are just stellar performers in my humble opinion. In fact, I find that it is the genre which probably does indeed attract more women to sing in a "metal bands" per se. Why do you think this happens with more frequency within the genre than any other?
Nick > I think heavy music has seen a rise in female fronted bands on the whole. How many of these operatic singing ladies have you seen fronting bands? Is it a good thing? Yes it is. I know several bands with women involved and they are just as relevant as us blokes in expressing themselves. The girls do a bloody good job within the community I'm a part of. Dani from Ishmael can stand toe to toe and scream with anyone, Hel and Taz are doing interesting things with Undersmile and more well known you have Liz from Electric Wizard smashing out a mean guitar for those guys. There's plenty more. I can't tell you why there appears to be more women in doom, I expect the reason is the same as myself. We love the music and want to do it.
Are there any particular artists' you look up to and would say have been influential in your career?
Nick > I grew up listening to my brother's records. Loads of NWOBHM and thrash stuff. I discovered other stuff as I got older and listen to a wide range of music not just metal and its sub divisions. All of us in the band have a common love for the doomier side of things. I suppose you could say we are all united by Vitus, Pentagram, Sabbath, Sleep, Cathedral etc, but we share mutual love for classic bands like Zeppelin, Deep Purple. I could really go on for days about bands and artists I love from 20s blues through to Japanese psych, obscure 70s stuff to soul and r 'n' b acts like bb king and death metal. How long have you got? Haha.
You mention your brother as the person who is responsible for having those legendary records readily available for you (hehehehe), is he a fan of the Serpent Venom and perhaps go out to see his little brothers' gigs?
Nick > I'm not sure if he's a fan per se, but he has liked the album and always shown a lot of support for me. He drove out to Holland when we played there to see us, it was a very nice surprise. He doesn't tend to come to every gig or anything, but he's my big brother and always looks out for me. I do the same for him. Family is important.
Will you continue to work with The Church Within Records for your next release(s)? Also, while were talking about TCWR, would you mind discussing how they got involved with releasing Carnal Altar?
Nick > Oli at Church Within heard our demo and emailed saying he was interested in putting out a full length with us. We had some other guys offering distribution but Oli literally showed blind faith and trusted us enough to go to the studio and make an album. We couldn't ask for better than that so we went and recorded and he was pleased with the result. Of course our next album will be released with him. He's a great guy, a friend and all of the CW bands are like a big family. We're in good company and don't want to necessarily change that!
Any recent/newer doom bands that have made you stop on your tracks and say: "Whoa, this isn't bad at all!?"
Nick > There's quite a lot of bands that have done that to me. In recent years I could happily admit to Pilgrim, Bell Witch, Elder and I'm very fortunate to say I've made friends with Slabdragger, Ishmael, Grimpen Mire, Undersmile, Black Magician, who all knocked my socks off. Also keep an eye out for Crypt Lurker, who are doing a demo soon and Atragon, who were a very new band we played with in Edingburgh (Scotland) and showed a lot of promise.
Any plans to come visit us obnoxious and obese American metal heads?
Nick > Our love of beer has rendered us a bit on the portly side ourselves, nothing like a bit of self depreciation and racial stereotype for an interview huh? Haha, We would love to come to America and play there. If promoters are willing to work together then we are very much open to discussions about a plan to get there and see our cousins over the pond.
Favorite beer and food?
Nick > Oh there's loads. I'm a big fan of Westmalle Triple, Kreuzberg, Tribute, Doom Bar, Bishop's Finger. I'm also a big fan of spiced rum and good whiskey/whisky. I'm happy with most ales to be honest, not a fan of lager. Food? Thai. Most Asian cooking with chili is a winner.
If you had a time machine and were able to travel back in time, are there any particular bands you would have to hunt down and see live?
Nick > Loads and loads. Hendrix, Janis, all Deep Purple line ups. Rainbow. The early Sabbath days. California jam would have been a good one. Hawkwind, Bessie Smith, Truth and Janey, Led Zep, Death, Captain Beyond, Blues Creation. Pretty much any band and artist in their early days.
New material in the works and possibly touring. What else lies ahead for Serpent Venom? Any short or long term goals you would like to accomplish this year or in the years to come?
Nick > I prefer to stay relatively in the present. I want to get this new record done and go play it. We have some great shows lined up already. Hopefully we'll have another CW band tour for the summer. Every rehearsal jam and gig with my friends is a great occasion, it always has been. I look forward to catching up with all the friends and bands I've met along the way and meeting new people who share the same love for music. I don't have huge goals other than to have a lot of fun and build memories with my friends and to keep doing it. We're driven enough by the love of the riff to keep going. I expect, as an individual, I'll be playing music for as long as I can. It's in all of our blood. This band has already given me so much, with the bands we have done shows with, all of them, the friendships, the good times. You cannot ask for more really.
Any last words?
Nick > Last words? Thanks for getting in contact! It's always nice to speak with people who are interested in what we do. If you made it this far, I haven't managed to bore you to death with my dribblings!
In doom we trust,