INTERVIEW: Venom Prison

"We just keep moving forward"

INTERVIEW: Venom Prison

By Liam Knowles

Nov 30, 2020 15:58

2020 has been a strange, trying year for everyone, and bands are no exception to that. The lockdown measures imposed by governments around the world have forced bands and artists to get creative when it comes to keeping their fans engaged while they can’t play shows. For Welsh death metal heroes Venom Prison, that has come in the form of a spot of time travel; revisiting, re-recording, and re-releasing their first two EPs as a single album, titled ‘Primeval’. It’s only been around five years since the band’s inception, but they have achieved a lot in that time, and are taking this opportunity to remind their more recent fans - and maybe themselves - where they came from. We spoke to vocalist Larissa Stupar, who seems genuinely surprised at how far her band has come since those early days.

“We had the idea of forming the band in the second half of 2014. It was just Ash and myself, we had both left our bands. I used to play in Wolf Down and Ash used to be in Brutality Will Prevail. We both lived in Germany at the time and we were kind of getting bored of not playing shows, so we decided to just write a few songs together and see what happened,” Stupar explains.

“By the end of the year we had five songs recorded, it was just Ash and myself recording in the living room and yeah, we really didn’t plan to go anywhere with this. We didn’t know if we were going to find any other members because every time we asked friends, they were like, “Yeah, yeah, sick”, then you go to practice with them once and then nothing happens after that. So yeah, we moved to the UK in January 2015, and we asked Ben to join the band and play guitar for us and then he asked Jeff to play bass. Then we had our old drummer, Joe, who’s not in the band anymore, we have a new Joe now. We didn’t intend to be very busy, we just wanted to play shows on weekends every now and then. Then all of a sudden, we wrote the second EP and then from there on, we just started playing almost every weekend.”

When you look at it on paper, Venom Prison’s rise has been meteoric. In 2014, they demoed tracks with two people in a living room in Germany. Now, in 2020, they’re signed to Prosthetic Records, with several high profile tours and festival slots under their belts, and before the shit hit the fan with the pandemic they were due to open an arena tour headlined by Parkway Drive. Despite this success, Stupar doesn’t seem to have let it go to her head, and still keeps a personal eye on how people are responding to the music she and her band put out.

“It’s been really cool because I actually didn’t expect that many people to react because it’s just a rerecording, you know what I mean? It’s been awesome to see so many people say so many positive things. It’s been kind of hectic trying to keep up with everything. It just shows you that people still care about music in general and about you as a band and probably waiting for you to get back on the road and see the songs live.

“It’s been eye opening because for me personally, I really wasn’t sure if I’m into the old stuff anymore, because we haven’t played it live for like a couple of years now. We started not liking the old stuff anymore, but then being able to re-record it helped us rediscover our love for our beginnings. We do know that we’ve come a long way from when we started the band. We were just a couple of hardcore kids that loved metal to now just playing something that we never thought we were going to be able to play and write.”

One of the things that most fans will associate with Venom Prison is their unapologetic political stance; they’re a band who have always firmly and publicly planted their flag when it comes to matters of social justice, and looking at this newly re-released early material, this has clearly been the case since Day One. ‘Defy The Tyrant’, for example, is about religion being used to uphold social power structures, which is an ambitious topic for a new band to tackle, but Venom Prison have never shied away from difficult subject matter.

“I grew up in Germany with a very strong anti-fascist scene and I was involved in anti-fascist work as well as animal rights action since I was 13. I consider myself an anarchist and all the bands that I have been in so far have been political,” says Stupar. “My last one was a vegan straight-edge band and so for Venom Prison I did feel like I wanted to step away a little bit from being so ‘in your face’ politically. That’s why I focused on having more metaphorical meanings in my political writing, if that makes sense. So I kind of wanted to make it a little bit more interesting and shift it from just being very direct, to being a bit more concealed.

“I always find it really interesting if you’re into a band and you read the lyrics that you don’t straight away understand, like that’s what they want. I find that I like people to get into it and read between the lines so they can discover the meaning for themselves. I really enjoy writing for Venom Prison. For me it was a bit of a shift, because I used to play in hardcore bands before and trying to write metal lyrics was like a big, big step for me, but it was definitely worth it. It’s kind of relieving being able to put your thoughts out there in such a creative way but still get your message across.”

Of course, being a politically active band will always rub some people up the wrong way, but this is of little concern to Stupar and her bandmates. Negative reactions to their lyrics and general political stance is just par for the course at this point. “We just keep moving forward. Stuff like that, people will always have something to moan about, they will never say it into our faces. We’ve been through that with our old bands as well. It’s just like, you have your opinion, that’s fine, we do what we want to do. We’re not doing it for you to please everyone, we’re doing it to spread the message and just play cool music, that’s what we’re doing it for.”

Whilst Venom Prison have remained steadfast in their core values, touring the world has expanded their influences and given them a much broader palette to draw from, as is clear from their full-length albums and the two new tracks on ‘Primeval’. Larissa maintains that their creative process hasn’t changed much, other than in scale.

“We just have so many more influences just due to the fact that we were able to tour with so many different bands and learn from all of these bands. Also discover new music and then constantly feeding off other people’s influences and everything that’s around this. And at the same time trying to develop as musicians, as guitarists and vocalists because we’ve always had that attitude that as soon as you write something and release it, you need to work to become better and release something better. That’s been our approach since the start and I think we’ve done it quite right so far.”

Venom Prison is clearly a band with their heads screwed on, and despite a year of setbacks, they’re still hopeful about their plans for the future.

“We have plans to play a headline tour in Europe. It was really important for us to play a headline tour because we’ve mainly only played support slots on tours so far. So we wanted to establish ourselves a bit more as a headlining band, because we know that people want to see us. And we were actually really, really looking forward to doing that. So we want to do more of that, go out and play the places that we were unable to play due to Coronavirus hitting in March.

“We were going to go to Australia and Southeast Asia, so that’s something that we were really, really looking forward to, because we’ve never been there. If you tour so much and you tour all the same places, you get a little bit bored of it, so it was kind of nice going somewhere else. So we hope that we get to see more new places. We’ve also been planning and extending our live show, so everything happens on stage. So we’re preparing to be going back and I think when we come back to playing shows, we want to have it bigger than ever.”

Needless to say, when the world is back to something that resembles normality, keep an eye on Venom Prison – because they’re coming back with a vengeance, whether you like it or not.