Serpent Venom: An Interview With Nick Davies
UK Doomers Serpent Venom and have around for a couple of years now, but 2011 certainly saw them turn the dial up to 11 with the release of their debut album ‘Carnal Altar’, a string of live dates throughout the UK and Europe along with an appearance at Germany’s Doom VI Festival.
With all this going on, it’s hard to believe that the same year saw the band receive a devastating blow when founding member and guitarist Pete Fox left to live in the States. Undeterred, they recruited Roland Scriver as a replacement and as the band prepare to hit the road once again in a few weeks alongside Conan, Undersmile & Grimpen Mire, I thought now would be a good time to fire a few questions over to bassist Nick Davies, so read on to see when the serpent will strike it’s next victim…
Hi Nick, so this interview has been in the making for what must be 18 months, maybe more, but for one reason or another, it never seemed to happen, so let’s finally get it kicked off with a quick introduction to Serpent Venom, the current members and what they do in the band.
Hello Lee, we’re finally here that’s the main thing! Hope you and the Shaman guys are all well.
Garry Ricketts on Vocals
Paul Sutherland on drums
Roland Scriver on guitar
Me sodding around on bass.
2011 was quite a year for you and just as things were starting to move, guitarist and founding member Pete Fox announced he was moving to the States, that must have been quite a blow at the time, but he was quickly replaced by Roland Scriver, who was also in Sloth with vocalist Gaz, so how has he settled into the band?
Well here’s the thing, Pete wanted to start a new life over there with his missus as he was sick to death of the UK and who can blame him? It’s been shit over here for a while with the country in a bit of a state. We were about to go away on tour to Europe so asked Roland as a favour to fill in, as we felt we had worked hard enough and wanted to go and play the shows. Of course we were massively gutted about it. Almost like the rug had been swept out from under us, but we’re old and ugly enough to realise it’s what Pete wanted to do and respected his decision. After the tour, Roland felt good playing doom again and we all agreed that we’d give it a shot. Obviously he and Gaz are old comrades in arms and Paul has known them all for years. In short, he’s settled in well and he’s also a gin fiend like me haha.
That year also saw the release of your debut album ‘Carnal Altar’ via The Church Within, firstly, how did you hook up with Oli and secondly, how well has it been received from the press and fans alike?
Well, we had a couple of guys suggesting distribution deals for the demo and full length, but Oli got in contact, said he liked what he heard and asked if we could do an LP with him on Church Within. He’s incredibly fair to all of his bands, a real nice guy and just wants to build his own family. It was more than we could have hoped for and knew he was the man.
We’re in great company for sure and proud to be part of it. When the album came out we got some real high praise, especially from yourselves, which we are incredibly stoked about, people were chatting a lot about it on forums. It was nice. We also busied ourselves playing shows and did our first headliner with Matt from Human Disease Promotions, so we had a lot of fun. There were a small few reviews that were less excited, but that’s the nature of the beast. You can’t please everyone all of the time. It’s not bothered us in any way because we set out to do the band for fun and we’ve had loads. Our live reviews have been pretty good on the whole. We’ve also had a shitload of support from a lot of great people and bands, I’ll be thanking them a bit later.
You played the Hammer of Doom VI Festival in Würzburg, Germany, a festival that had a great line up, but seemed to get little exposure in the UK, why do you think this is? Also how did the festival go for you, both as a fan and a band member, and would it be a festival you’d encourage people from the UK to attend?
Well, the Hammer of Doom thing came up by chance. Seamount were on the bill and for whatever reason they couldn’t do it. Oli called and asked if we would fill in as we would be over there anyway. We said we would if it didn’t upset the Seamount guys and with their blessing we went and did it.
The day before the festival we had a day off to chill out, so we had a wander around the town with the Orchid guys, we all went to a restaurant together and then went on the piss. We woke up and had to rush to the venue as we got a little carried away on the Kreuzberg (one of the greatest beers I’ve ever had) and when we walked into the Post Halle, all of us saw the size of it and thought ‘holy shit, it’s HUGE!’.
We got onstage around half one and there were already people milling around checking out the record/merch stalls. By the time we had finished a song there were a load of people there and slowly we managed to win a lot of them over. After the set, when I looked up and saw a sea of people, a fair few of them were cheering and it felt so good to see that people made the effort to turn up early. It was especially good chatting to some of the crowd after, knowing they had stayed up all night watching the epic metal bands and STILL dragged themselves out for the Doom side.
On the whole, the day was great. We shared a backstage room with Orchid. We also shared it with Devil, it was great hanging out with them for the day as we didn’t spend a lot of time together when we played in London. Such a nice bunch of lads. As the day wore on, we managed to hang out with a lot of the other guys there, met the other bands like Blood Ceremony, The Devil’s Blood etc. It turned into a good day’s carousing with Orchid and Devil culminating in a big after hours binge with Lord Vicar in the town centre. The flight home was…. difficult haha.
With regards to the Festival itself: It’s amazing. The venue is big, there’s room enough to wander around and check out the stalls, the bands play good and loud and the crowd is large, respond great to everyone. Die hard music fans. Wurzburg itself is a beautiful town and there are a lot of good bars, hotels, restaurants, perfect to escape to for a week and finish off with a bloody great festival. It was the perfect end to a stunning week.
Hammer of Doom was also preceded with a week tour of Europe alongside label mates Orchid and Seamount, so how did the tour go and how do fans in Europe compare to those in the UK?
It was probably the best experience of my life. Orchid and Seamount are fucking great guys. I’m really proud to be able to consider myself friends with them. We had a lot of laughs throughout and everyone played consistently well every single day. Oli and Patricia really looked after us well during that tour, we’re eternally thankful. Europe is fantastic too.
Regarding the crowds, every night there were a good amount of people in attendance, they responded great to everyone and considering we played days during the week, where people have to go to work, they still came and partied hard and made good nights for themselves and us. We saw people make the drive from from Russia even, and we managed to have a cool crowd whilst playing the same town as the Melvins! They love a gig!
Quite a few people came to chat to us all too, made us feel welcome and it was really odd being asked to have photos with some of them and tickets/CDs signed. People in the UK are no less appreciative of loud music, just a bit more calm about it. Not likely to try and crowd surf at a doom gig like the Polish guys haha!
You’ll also be hitting the road again in March for 3 days with what can only be called a behemoth of a tour with Conan, Undersmile & Grimpen Mire, some walls are gonna crumble that weekend and surely a tour you must be really looking forward to?
Absolutely! It’s a shame we can’t go away for longer to be honest. Us, Grimpen Mire and Conan are mates, so it’s going to be fun adding Undersmile to our merry rabble. It’s a good heavy bill and we can’t wait to get out with them all.
Jas and Burnsy from Volition are old drinking buddies of our Suthy, so I expect it’s going to be messy when we meet up on the Friday too! Hopefully it leads to more shows with us all together. I’m looking forward to all that thunder for three days. I expect my hearing to be ruined when I trudge back to work the day after!
Wino & Conny Ochs are also playing a matinee show before your London date at The Black Heart, are you hoping you’ll be down in time to catch that? Although I realise it’s a hell of a trek from Bolton and with the great hospitality the folk at The Alma Inn provide, my guess is you’ll all be a bit fragile Saturday morning!
By hook or by crook we’ll be making a strong effort to get down. I know Ian from Grimpen Mire wants to see the matinee, as do I, so I expect we’ll be kicking everyone until they wake up haha. Wino’s a hero and I want to see this show and pester him for a photo. In all fairness it will be also be in our interests to load the gear in before to save getting in anyone’s way.
You’ll also be playing the first DesertFest in London during April, they seem to have built quite a strong line up for 3 days of heavy riffs, so this must be another festival you’re looking forward to playing, especially as it’s right on your doorstep and excuse my ignorance if it’s been announced, do you know what day/venue you’ll be playing?
You’ll have to excuse me here but FUCK YEAH!!!! I’m really excited!!!! It’s great to see someone putting together a bill of this nature. I really hope it becomes a proper staple of the UK metal calendar as it’s totally up my street. As a fan I’m gushing about all the other bands. I’m sure as hell going to be at all three days if I can help it. We’ve been confirmed as playing Saturday 7th at the Purple Turtle. I have no idea about the other days/bands though! Let us know soon eh fellas!
Your also a band that wears your hearts on your sleeves when it comes to influences, so rather than talk about these, as let’s face it, we all know Sabbath, Vitus & Pentagram are going to be mentioned (feel free to mention others!), but hey, that’s no bad thing at all! So let’s talk about your sound instead, can you give us a rundown of the equipment you guys use and how easy was it for Roland to get a tone he was happy with, yet still complementing Pete’s original blueprint?
Amp wise I use American Ampeg SVT2 valve heads. It’s just about loud enough to keep up with Paul as he’s a monster. When he hits a kit, you know about it! He’s into Pearl kits and keeps it simple. Pete used sound city 120s live and Roland favours Laney GH100s. Essentially loud valve amps and fuzz is what we have from the 6 string side of things. When you hear how filthy Roland’s sound was in Sloth, it wasn’t hard for him to get a big sound that would work for us. Both Pete and Roland have their own individual guitar style but it hasn’t changed the dynamic of the songs from Carnal Altar, complimented and done very well.
What about new material, with all the gigging & touring you’ve been doing, not to mention getting Roland settled in, have you had time to start jamming out any new tracks?
After the tour we had a couple of gig commitments to fulfil. One being I wanted to play a show for my 30th birthday. It turned into a bit of a disaster, but that’s another story. However, in the mean time we had a few things to sort out in our real lives so we had a rest through December. It’s Gaz and my busiest time of year at work and decided to cool it and start again in 2012. We’ve only really started going back to regular rehearsals recently and have a pile of riffs we’re jamming through. We actually have one new song pretty much done and dusted, but we’ll wait until its second nature before blasting it out in public. Roland and I are both guitar players, we’ve met up and gone through ideas together, we’re both into jamming stuff until it feels right. I think when we start to meet up more regularly we’ll have loads of stuff to turn into songs along with what just occurs spontaneously in the rehearsal room. There is no specific way, just do it until it feels good.
What about new releases, has there been anything mentioned about when we can expect album number 2?
We are possibly doing a split with Orchid at some stage, the idea’s out there, but will have to see. As SV, we are looking to get another record down before the year is up but again, it really depends on real life and so forth. I don’t see why it can’t be done.
Although it’s not been officially announced, you’re going to be teaming up with Future Noise in 2012 who will hopefully help see Serpent Venom hit the road even more, I will say I’m a little biased as 2012 will also see The Sleeping Shaman have a more active role in the booking side of things, but put that aside, it must be something your quite chuffed to be involved in?
Oh absolutely! We’re over the moon that there’s people who are wanting to take a very active role in helping us out and supporting what we do. It’s incredibly humbling. At the same time, the degree of flexibility to plan gigs around our lives away from the band is essential. As sad as it seems to say, we do have lives and it’s many responsibilities away from having fun in the band all the time. We all work to pay the bills and fund our noisy hobby!
Just to deviate a bit, with festivals such as DesertFest happening in the UK and an abundance of amazing bands doing the rounds at the moment (Volition, Bastard Of The Skies, Black Magician, Conan, Undersmile, Grifter, Sigiriya, Black Sun, Trippy Wicked…I could go on….), what are your thoughts on the current ‘scene’ for heavy music at the moment, in particular in the UK?
It’s incredibly healthy. There are so many people doing their thing from stoner to extreme metal and all in between. We are totally spoilt for choice. You can go to a lot of places at any given time and see some great bands if you take a chance. I see a lot of local shows and if it wasn’t for that I would have missed out on some amazing discoveries.
And finally, what else is planned for Serpent Venom, care to share what’s on the horizon?
More riffs, more laughs and more gigs.
Thanks for the interview Nick and please use this space for any final words….
As a band we’ve been meaning to actually put forward a good few thanks that for whatever reason didn’t make it into our album list. So in no particular order, as you are all fucking awesome:
Marek Steven & Skillwizard, Matt & Human Disease Promotions, Josh Retallick & Matthew Hopkins, Oli & Patricia, Seamount, Orchid & the Church Within family, Conan, Grimpen Mire, Groan, Trippy Wicked, Pombagira, Future Noise, Bob at the Soggy Bog of Doom, Doomantia, Foundry Of Doom, the DFFD forum & members, Kevin at Crestfallen Radio, Sealey for the Doomsday shows, End Of Level Boss, Paul Elphick for sorting out our new merch stuff, all the bands we’ve shared the stage with, our friends and family, all band members past and present. Also Pete, for kicking off this thing.
Lastly, but not least, thanks to you guys for your support and kind words. Cheers Lee!
More info on Serpent Venom over at www.facebook.com/pages/Serpent-Venom/109942092371705.
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards