One of the UK’s most confrontational and extreme bands of recent years are Venom Prison. They have the rare gift of having that cross appeal, they can tour with Suicide Silence and play Download Festival, but also play Damnation Festival and tour with Darkest Hour. Before their tour with Suicide Silence, I had an in-depth chat with Larissa and Ash from the band about the band’s origins, their terrific Animus album, playing Download and balancing work life with Venom Prison.
Jack: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you?
Ash & Larissa: Anytime and very well thank you.
Jack: What are the origins of Venom Prison?
Ash: We were all in bands previous to Venom Prison, most of us played in hardcore bands but have always been into metal so when I left my previous band I took some time to write something a bit different from what I was used to playing, chose a band name and got a demo together. Asked the people who are now in the band if they were down with this idea and they all said yes.
Jack: What makes playing extreme music so satisfying?
Ash: For me personally, it’s the energy, aggression and how far you can push a piece of music. How fast can you play, how heavy can you make it, how outspoken you can be lyrically/the message, the underground scene that follows the music. This isn’t what you find on your average radio friendly song.
Larissa: Personally, I find performing that kind of music very therapeutic. You let everything go when you’re on stage and you can feel the energy and adrenaline bursting through you, it pushes you to your limits.
Jack: What are your musical influences?
Ash: This is always a tough question as saying my music taste is wide range is always a boring answer. I grew up listening to all sorts of music which kind of leads to now why I understand what influences me and not just saying “because I like the song” bands like Napalm Death really are always the perfect example… for a band considered a grindcore/metal band I can always hear the hardcore/punk elements which gives the songs that certain edge that in my opinion a lot of bands miss. This is what influences me when writing a Venom Prison song.
Larissa: I can only agree with Ash, hardcore and punk culture is definitely what drives me the most, bands like Napalm Death and Phobia being a perfect example and a great influence.
Jack: Has being from Wales influenced you at all?
Ash: Only Jo and me are from Wales, in fact Ben might have been but he spent a lot of time here when he did one of his other bands. However, Ben and Mike live in Bristol now, which is only like 30 minutes from where 3 out of 5 live. Larissa was born in Russia, then moved to Germany THEN Wales, so she has only been in Wales now for the last two years, I believe. If we are talking from my perspective, I would say yes, it has influenced me growing up. We had a lot of people putting on hardcore and metal shows so I got to see a lot of good touring bands come through here.
Jack: Animus came out last year to rave reviews. How did it feel to get rave reviews from more than one continent?
Ash: The response was better than I could have expected, really grateful for all the kind words. I always take into account what reviewers and people say, the negatives make you improve and the positives are what motivate you.
Larissa: It was mind-blowing to get such great response, we are grateful for every review. It’s amazing to see your work being covered in magazines that you were reading as a kid.
Jack: Animus deals with lots of confrontational issues, such as mental health, the return of fascism and rape culture. Did any event in particular inspire you to write on these subjects?
Larissa: I have been involved into underground politics since I was 13/14 years old. Growing up in Germany and being faced with its history has definitely influenced me a lot. Germany has always had a very active Neo-Nazi scene and there have always been Nazi marches in my hometown and as I was hanging out with a bunch of punks I got involved into protests and was active in different antifascist and animal rights groups.
Having close friends experiencing sexual and emotional abuse in the past, I just wanted to send a massive fuck you. We don’t speak about experiencing and surviving sexual assault enough in public. Survivors shouldn’t be anxious about sharing their experiences without being judged, shamed or facing disbelief. Rape culture is real and it’s a living nightmare for an alarming amount of people.
My lyrics have always been political and that didn’t change with Venom Prison, this is who I am. I’m not telling you what to do or how to live your life; you can take away from it whatever you want.
Jack: What was behind the title Animus?
Larissa: Animus means “hostility”, “ill feeling towards something or someone”, it can also be a “motivation to do something”. We felt that “animus” represents the lyrical content and the idea behind the songs very well.
Jack: Was it an intense recording process?
Ash: We slept in the studio for a week straight, that was the only intense part. We recorded at Vagrant Studio which is owned by our friend Tom Dring. The recording process is one of my favourite parts of being in a band hearing something you’ve written come together is always great. I’d like to think we are an organised band as before recordings we will always produce a pre-production demo beforehand just so we know exactly what we want before committing to recording something you may hate, I advise any band that can do it themselves or have a friend that could demo songs they have written before going to a studio.
Jack: What’s it been like working with Prosthetic Records?
Ash: Only word I can use is great. They’re really motivated in helping push the band, which in this day and age is rare. Record labels that just say “Hey we will do your record” press your record then never speak to you again unless it’s bad news to kick you off the label because you didn’t promote or sell enough records. Labels have just as much responsibility in pushing a band/record as the band does and I can honestly say Prosthetic push their bands forward which is the way it should be.
Jack: How was it touring with Trap Them?
Ash: This tour was good for Venom Prison we got to play to a lot of new people and places apart from the van almost rolling off a cliff in Switzerland. I can’t really complain about anything. The day we left for the Trap Them tour is the day our album Animus was released so it was cool to tour the album from the birth.
Larissa: Being able to see Okkultokrati every night and learning to appreciate what they are doing was also a big plus for me on this tour. All three bands had freshly released records on that tour and were hungry to play!
Jack: Was playing Damnation nerve-wracking at all?
Ash: I was asked the same question on the day of Damnation and I said to that person no matter how many shows I’ve played I always get a bit nervous before playing but as soon as you hit that first note it all goes away and you just get into the songs you’re playing. However, before that first note in your head you’re like “fuck I wonder if people will like us, I wonder if we suit the line” but that all becomes irrelevant once you start playing. I checked out some reviews and stuff people said on the Internet and it was cool to see how many people liked our set.
Jack: This year you’re touring with Suicide Silence, when did you discover their music?
Ash: Being 25 now I would have discovered Suicide Silence in my school years which I would have been about 15 when I first heard The Cleansing which at the time I hadn’t heard anything as heavy as that album. I didn’t imagine 10 years later I’d be touring with them. Despite all this hate on them at the moment on this new direction of sound they have taken I can safely say if you like it or not I fully respect the decision and risk they have taken on this new album and if they’re proud of what they have created that is all that matters in my opinion.
Jack: You’re also touring Europe with Darkest Hour. How is Europe different to the UK?
Ash: This answer goes hand in hand with the last question really, another band I listened to growing up, Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation I remember a friend giving me the whole album on MSN messenger it took me a whole night to download; I had to leave it on over night just so I would have it ready for the walk to school the following day. Back to the question though about Europe and UK being different, if you’d ask me couple years ago I would have said yes they are different but they’re becoming more similar as time goes on. A lot of younger people are getting into booking shows in the UK which is great, more shows the more influence for people to start bands. Most promoters in the UK are providing food and drinks for the bands, which Europe has always been good at doing, nothing worse than sitting in a van for 7 hours and just wanting something to drink or eat and it’s a Sunday with no shops open.
Jack: When you were announced for Download, many (including myself) were surprised to see you on the bill. You will share the stage with Exodus and Lost Society. Were you surprised to get asked too?
Ash: Yeah, I got the email and was pretty surprised, sharing a stage with Exodus is surreal. People were surprised we got onto Download but at the same time allowing extreme metal bands to play alongside different genres of bands is cool. Venom Prison may not be everyone’s taste at Download but we will just do what we do.
Jack: Venom Prison are very active on the road, do you have day jobs outside of the band?
Larissa: We have full-time jobs or full-time education outside Venom Prison. It can get very busy sometimes!
Ash: Yeah, what Larissa said, it’s difficult organising stuff all the time around real life but that’s how it is.
Jack: What are your plans for the rest of the year? Any update on the US tour?
Ash: We have quite a few things planned, which we are currently working on musically and tour plans. US tour yeah we also have something planned but I can’t say just yet, you’ll find out soon.
Jack: Finally, what’s the best show you’ve ever played?
Larissa: So far Damnation was my favourite! We played a tight set, the room was packed, the whole festival has been organised perfectly.