Interview with Venom Prison @ Download Festival 2017: “We always say to the lighting guy, set it to kill”

Venom Prison Promo Photo 2017

Venom Prison are one of the most exciting young bands around right now. They have been having an incredible year promoting their latest release ‘Animus’. They have completed tours with Suicide Silence and Darkest Hour, as well as being nominated for awards at the Metal Hammer Golden God Awards and the Heavy Music Awards. I was able to catch up with Vocalist Larissa Stupar, Bassist Mike Jefferies and Drummer Joe Sheehy at Download Festival to discuss all of the above, playing Download and what the future holds.

So first question: How does it feel for you guys to be at Download?

Larrisa: It’s a bit overwhelming.

Mike: It’s the festival I grew up coming to, so to get to play it is pretty fucking cool.

The overwhelming part must be walking around and seeing everything, then thinking ‘we have to go and play this later on’

Joe: There’s so much stuff, it’s ridiculous (laughs).

Larissa: We’re glad we’re playing the small stage I think (Laughs).

Mike: But even that’s quite big as well.

It’s roughly the size of some of the venues you have been playing on these current tours you’ve done.

Joe: Yeah. It’s really exciting. It’s a bit overwhelming but it’s a bit of a privilege really to get to play Download.

Do you think doing the recent tours with Suicide Silence and Darkest Hour where you have played to fans that aren’t your own has prepared you for playing Download and what the audience might throw at you?

Joe: Yeah definitely I’d say so. It’s always quite interesting to play for people that aren’t that affiliated with the music that we play and like because it can always change people’s minds. I mean all the Suicide Silence and Darkest Hour shows were really nice and people said a lot of nice things about us.It’s different crowds.

Larissa: Especially with Darkest Hour it’s very different. We’re a lot more extreme than that, so some of the fans weren’t prepared for that.

Are you expecting to see a lot of your own fans in the tent today? Fans that you may have made on this tour?

Larissa: Definitely. When we did the Darkest Hour tour, there were people there that had seen us on the Suicide Silence tour and came back just to see us. So, that was pretty cool.

I will admit that when I saw you with Suicide Silence I thought you were the band of the night. But I think that is because there is no compromise with you, everything is full force. You have a choice to stay and watch or leave. There is no middle ground. Is that something you pride yourselves on, being very in your face?

Joe: From the very start of the set, there is that feeling of ‘it is going to be like this for the entire set if you don’t like it then leave’.

Mike: It’s very loud, there’s a fuckload of strobes, you probably are going to feel uncomfortable, but it’s cool.

Larissa: The funny thing about the Suicide Silence shows was all the kids that were really there to see Suicide Silence and were are the front from the start of the show and wouldn’t move from where they were had to witness us play (laughs).

Joe: They were there pulling their hats over their eyes and covering their ears (laughs).

Mike: Yeah a lot of hats being pulled down, but it’s cool though.

I found myself just trying not to be blinded by the lights. (laughs)

Joe: Yeah we always say to the lighting guy, set it to kill… (laughs)

Mike: We want you to feel uncomfortable…

That is one thing I have found with Venom Prison. Your music and your lyrics make you feel uncomfortable in ways that other bands like Cannibal Corpse et al don’t. Because what you are singing about is coming from a real place, rather than the fictional place most bands come from. Was it important for you as a band to convey honesty in your music?

Larissa: Definitely. I don’t like singing about dragons and stuff like that. I just wanted to give something away that’s kind of bothering me because we are surrounded by all of these things day by day and no one really wants to talk about them. I just like to let people know without really telling them what to do or think about.

Do you think after people have listened to Venom Prison and read into your lyrics and certain songs specifically do you think people approach you a little more cautiously now?

Larissa: No, not really. I’ve only heard positive things about that so far.

Joe: I think people are saying that it’s nice that bands are kind of looking at subjects that most death metal bands don’t look at. Again, as you said a lot of death metal is based in fantasy. I think it’s quite a positive thing that Larissa is writing lyrics that are real.

Larissa: At the same time it’s the same subjects. We obviously sing about power and authority and you get that in other death metal bands as well and ours is just kind of from a female perspective and I think that is something that bothers some people. But basically, it’s not much different to a conventional death metal band.

I read an interview with you recently where you speaking about your lyrics and you were saying it’s been so far the other way, with bands talking about assaulting or killing women in songs and you were saying it’s about time that the tide had turned. Especially in today’s day and age, it’s very important for young girls, women and even boys to look at things differently and know that it’s not ok.

Larissa: Yeah definitely. I get a lot of positive feedback from young girls, and women in metal. But also people that never thought women could sing like that which is a bit funny to me, but at least I can show them that it works. I think a lot of people need to see that it works and need a role model. Some people are affected by those issues, some people are affected by rape and are rape survivors so it’s good for them to see there’s another side to metal.

It offers them a safe space amongst it all.

Larissa: Yeah I believe it does.

The album ‘Animus’ came out last year but has gained a lot of popularity this year. It’s been a big topic of conversation and the focus of your touring. How are you feeling about the album now that you have lived with it and been out touring it for a little while?

Joe: I think I’m a little more proud of it now. Because when we were recording it I had heard those songs so many times I started to get a little sick of them. But now looking back on it and seeing how well they have been received I’m proud.

Mike: But it’s also the opportunities it’s given us, like being here today and being nominated for a Golden God award. Definitely looking back it’s been a massive step for us.

Larissa: It’s really fun to play the songs live as well.

I think the songs really come alive in the live setting. I think you can tell that they were written to be played live.

Joe: Yeah I don’t think we had any interest in writing songs that were impossible to play live. That doesn’t really interest us, as we like playing live a lot, probably more than we like writing records I suppose.Like you said we always envisioned them in the live context. That’s how I look at them anyway.

Mike: You want to catch the live energy as much as possible.

Is there anything about the album that you would change looking back on it.

Joe: I think it’s great, I think the entire package is great, I’m so happy with it.

Mike: We spent more money on the artwork than we did recording it.

Larissa: We also wanted to step up from the release of it, which I think we did quite well.

As you mentioned earlier you are nominated for a Metal Hammer Golden God Award. How does that feel for you guys.

Larissa: That was crazy.

Joe: It was sort of like ‘Oh we’re playing Download, things can’t get any better, oh wait yes they can’

Mike: You get the email saying you’ve been nominated and think this can’t be true, fuck off (laughs)

Was Metal Hammer something that was important to you growing up and that you read.

Joe: Yeah I read it a lot, and I think a lot of the bands we got into were on compilations and stuff through them.

Larissa: I used to steal the CDs from the magazines when I couldn’t afford to buy them (laughs).

Mike: I mean even being in the magazine for the first time is kind of a big deal for us. It is something we’ve grown up paying attention to.

I first heard of Venom Prison through the That’s Not Metal Podcast when you did the live session and interview. What was that experience like for you guys, going in and doing that right before touring earlier in the year.

Larissa:  That was different, we had never done those video interviews before. But it was cool.

Joe: It was an interesting experience.

Mike: We’re all gear nerds anyway, so to get to go to the Marshall Factory and get shown around there was cool as fuck and a lot of people don’t get to do that.

So after all of this madness and when you come down from this high you guys are on, what does the next six months look like for you.

Larissa: We are already writing new material so we are hoping to release a new record next year. We are going on tour in August and playing some festivals as well.

Joe: We are doing a tour with Aversions Crown, then we are going on tour with Goreguts, Ramification, Havok and Fallujah.

Larissa: We have some more tours planned for September/October time

Any headlining tours?

Mike: We are still discussing that at the moment.

Joe: We will do at some point. I think it’s something that we need to do.

Do you have any closing comments for all the Venom Prison fans out there?

Joe: Thank you very much.

Mike:  We are going to have new shit out soon and we are going to keep touring so you will be seeing a lot more of us.

Venom Prison’s Animus is out now on Prosthetic Records. If you want to know what Rock Sins thought of Venom Prison’s performance at Download 2017 then you can check out the review of their set included in our extensive Download Festival 2017 coverage.

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