They say that age is no limit, so why should you have to be some young buck to follow your rock n' roll dream? Well in the case of Venrez frontman Ven, the answer is you don't. At the tender age of 55 this charismatic singer - who was first hassled into putting his voice down on record by a friend - decided it was time to get out on the road, walk the stage and hit the rock n' roll heights. Two albums, Sell The Lie and American Illusion, have found the band performing with the likes of Slash, Alice Cooper and Buckcherry, with new release Children Of The Drones set to continue that trend. Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid quizzes the band's main-man for the details…
First up Ven - and excuse my ignorance here - but up until I heard your excellent new track "Hang The Predator", Venrez were a band I'd read about but never actually experienced. So, if you don't mind, can you tell us how Venrez came to be?
My room mate back in 2009 had an idea to build a Tiki Bar out on this huge sun deck we had. I told him to go ahead and the next thing I knew he had all these guys out on the deck building this thing. Several of them were accomplished musicians and one in particular was Jason Womack, my songwriting partner, backing vocalist, writer of the Venrez music and producer of our albums. We hit it off right away and agreed to work together to make music full time for life!
Some people may recognise your name as a respected movie producer in Hollywood. So what, at the age of 56, drove you to get so heavily involved in the world of rock n' roll?
Well, it was actually when I was 55 but have not bothered to correct that error in the press! I used to sing and dance karaoke to a few sets on my I-Pod when I got home from work. I had purchased a PA system and found it to be a lot of fun and good exercise. One day a producer friend of mine was coming over and I told him I would leave the front door unlocked for him. He walked in about half way through my set and heard me singing. That guy bugged me for three weeks to go into the studio to start recording tracks. I thought I was too old and that my fronting a rock band dream had vanished years prior. Well to make a long story short, I caved in and six months later Venrez played our first live show. The rest is early history so far.
Do you still try to juggle movie producing and Venrez? Or are the two just too time consuming to work alongside each other?
I have juggled it for five years now. It is not an easy task as I am constantly working from the road when we tour. But I have found a way to make it all work so far.
Now, I notice from the band's website that it is only yourself and Jason who are mentioned as being in the band. However for your new album, 'Children Of The Drones', you've been joined by Nico D'Arnese on bass and Ed Davis on drums. Did these guys take part in the recording of the album or did they join later?
Eddie has been our drummer from day one. He was, for three years, formerly the drummer for Juliette Lewis and The Licks, so him and Jason had worked together in her band as Jason was her bass player. When Jason had his baby shower, I was over and Ed showed up. I asked him what was going on and he said "I'm broke and got no work." I hired him immediately. Nico has known Jason for years and was the clear choice to bring in when our bass player Mike Bradford had to bow out for the year. He is an amazing person and player, plus, we have all been friends for years and all get along very well. When Mike could not tour, and second guitar player, the famous Alex Kane, had some scheduling conflicts, Jason decided to play all the guitar and bass parts on the record. So only Jason, Eddie and myself are on the new album. We brought Nico in to tour and have decided to keep it a four-piece for now.
Jason and I felt it would be best to just feature the songwriters, him and myself, on the web site so that any changes in players in the future would not create new photo shoots and confusion for our fans. Slimming the band down to just the four of us wasn't planned. Circumstances just arose that there were conflicts in scheduling. Alex is a muchly sought after man in rock and works with several projects. We are still great friends and he continues to work with the band as a consultant and with bookings. In fact, he booked two of the nine upcoming UK tour shows. However we have never sounded better - the rehearsals have simply been out of this world! Who knows what the future holds, but I think this is the best line up we have ever put on stage. Jason is one of the most amazing rock guitar players on earth, and the four-piece now allows all our fans to see for the first time just how phenomenal he is.
So, to your new album 'Children Of The Drones'. On many levels that's a topical title for the record. What's the intention behind it?
We decided to name the album after the track "Children Of The Drones". Jason and I felt the name was cool. The track has a Vegan message which speaks to respecting all living creatures and the horrible consequences we face by killing off the bees on earth, combined with the message to not be a sheep and step out of the "factory thinking" mind and be an individual.
The album has a diverse, yet focused feel. The likes of "Spin The Top" harks back to the excellent early Alice In Chains twin-vocal, thick guitar sound, whereas "Reflection" brings a more sprightly attack; still heavy, yet with darting guitars and even a hint of stoner. While "Devil's Due" is more about melody and energy. It all comes together beautifully while keeping the listener on their toes…
Jason wanted to really define the Venrez sound with this album. I think it's a fantastic progression forward for the band. The music is still heavy, the lyrics I write have not changed with the messages, lessons and stories. But Jason added a tad more psychedelic sound to the music.
However I think that the aforementioned lead track from the album "Hang The Predator" serves up a cracking one song hit of what Venrez are all about.
Well I feel the entire album is all Venrez. We just felt that "Hang The Predator" would be the best song on the record to release first to our fans. It was a tough call between that track and the title track "Children Of The Drones".
As you mentioned, you're just about to embark on a nine date headline tour of the UK. Have you guys played in the UK much before?
Yes we have toured the UK a few times in the past. Most recently with Buckcherry in November/December 2013. Our main focus is to see how we do as a headline band. This is our first headline tour anywhere in the world!
Although, previously, as you mentioned, you've bagged some prestigious opening slots with the likes of Alice Cooper, Slash and Buckcherry. Are you hoping to line up anything similar this time out?
We are in talks right now for a USA tour supporting a big name. Hopefully, it will all work out. There are several tours we are looking at after this UK run. We plan to tour all year world wide.