KEVIN SHARP On VENOMOUS CONCEPT's New Punk-Oriented Sound: 'It's Grindcore's Hungover Uncle'February 8, 2023
By David E. Gehlke
The friendly cackle on the other end of the line is none other than former BRUTAL TRUTH throat, Kevin Sharp. The vocalist has stayed active since BRUTAL TRUTH's 2014 disbandment, currently volleying between the extremity of LOCK UP and now the anthem-laden punk sounds of VENOMOUS CONCEPT. Sharp doesn't sound as worried as a regular musician would over a change in style, offering a carefree take on how the metal public may perceive the band's new studio offering, "The Good Ship Lollipop". A record like this — complete with Sharp now singing — is simply a way for him and bassist/songwriter Shane Embury (NAPALM DEATH) to fulfill a longtime creative wish. In that respect, VENOMOUS CONCEPT has already succeeded.
Sharp has been open about his struggles over the last few years. The Covid lockdown was particularly difficult for him, but as he would tell BLABBERMOUTH.NET, the opportunity to record more music with friends keeps him going. And with new VENOMOUS CONCEPT songs already in the works and a project with MASTODON guitarist Bill Kelliher and MUNICIPAL WASTE drummer Dave Witte starting to come together, Sharp should be a busy and productive man.
Blabbermouth: Considering the background of everyone involved with VENOMOUS CONCEPT and how "The Good Ship Lollipop" turned out, was it freeing to do an album like this?
Kevin: "It was a new experience because I had time to work on things. Usually, by the time I step in and track, we're out of time and money. I had the opportunity to think about what I was doing. Shane and I had been talking about doing something like this forever. It sort of happened. We were working on this and then all of a sudden, we decided we wanted to do something different. That's the thing with this band: We're constantly running in circles, chasing our tails. Shane mentioned something about coming over and hanging out. We did the PRIMATE record. We wanted to create something super-spontaneous. We got sidetracked with that, but we were working on some last-minute ideas when I went over to track this record. We ended up doing a noise record, VISCERAL COLLAPSE. It's a 26-minute avalanche of vodka. It's a crusher. Two days later, we were tracking this melodic punk record."
Blabbermouth: You recorded "The Good Ship Lollipop" during the Covid lockdown. You have been open about some of the things you went through during that time. Was it therapeutic?
Kevin: "None of us do well sitting still. Everybody's going through personal shit. I don't know anyone who didn't. The whole thing triggered nightmares in everyone's personal lives. I went through a divorce and those kinds of things. [Laughs] 'And those kinds of things.' [Laughs] I'm no different than anyone else. I have friends who are dealing with it. I can be worse. I have friends who are dealing with serious illnesses. Friends that are at the tail-end of the illness that will take them. My personal life is no different than anyone else's. But I ended up with a handful of records. I'm just working through them right now. This record had a lot to do with a lot of things. My wife at the time had chronic illnesses and disorders, and now we're beginning a new chapter. Of course, you work through things. That's why people make music—to keep their heads screwed on."
Blabbermouth: Staying productive is huge.
Kevin: "The least you can do is write a good song out of it." [Laughs]
Blabbermouth: Speaking of which, Shane is always productive. You two go back, but what's it been like being in a band with a guy who writes so much?
Kevin: "We've been talking off and on with him forever about this kind of record. The older you get in this kind of thing, you look at your hourglass. You can only do so much. You got X amount of time left in the hourglass. The time is now to check things you always wanted to do. Of course, there will be people who freak out and go, 'What the fuck is this?' But, my advice to them is to go ahead and record your own record. This is the one I wanted to record. I'm fine with it. Hopefully, you'll like it and if you don't, I understand. It's not a grindcore record. It's grindcore's hungover uncle. I don't even know. [Laughs]"
Blabbermouth: That sounds like a great t-shirt slogan.
Kevin: "[Laughs] Shane and I recorded hundreds of songs. This record is a little different. If it's not your thing, maybe the next one will be, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it."
Blabbermouth: You had a fairly set direction on the first few VENOMOUS CONCEPT albums. "The Good Ship Lollipop" isn't really like those records. Did you just toss out the rulebook here?
Kevin: "I think the 'rules' in VC are our childhood and the '80s. This record happens to have a lot of HÜSKER DÜ and even AC/DC. One of the blessings of being in VC is the lack of expectations. We don't have to do whatever. It's always been something that we felt like doing at the time. We did all the Swedish stuff in the beginning, then some New York stuff. You can listen to record-to-record and reach around the '80s. 'Lollipop' is more English in production, but overall, the loose guideline is the '80s, when we grew up, the music we got turned onto and that developed what we did with our lives."
Blabbermouth: And it's nice because Shane isn't tethered to NAPALM and you aren't to BRUTAL TRUTH anymore.
Kevin: "Exactly. You also get to a certain point where you want to do something fun. I'm at the point where I want to record with as many friends as possible while I can still do it. I'm super-fucking grateful that I've been able to play music my entire life. I'm super-fucking grateful that I have friends that can write interesting music. That's the life I live. Overall, I'm going to continue to make records win, lose or draw."
Blabbermouth: And you still have LOCK UP on the side.
Kevin: "I just started a new thing with Bill [Kelliher, guitar] from MASTODON and Dave Witte [MUNICIPAL WASTE, drums]. In fact, Dave is coming down at the end of the month and we're going to start writing."
Blabbermouth: You're doing a lot of singing on the new VENOMOUS CONCEPT. You've made a career out of doing extreme things with your voice. What was it like to lay down vocal hooks and melodies?
Kevin: "It's different and nice to have the time to think about things. Some of the stuff I worked out in advance. We were working with Simon [Efemey, producer]. He's mixed most of the tours I've been on. He did PARADISE LOST. He's an old mate. He's also vocally trained, so it was interesting to work with him because I never had anyone make any kind of suggestions. I've always rolled around with what was in my head. I wanted to try something different. I went in with my ideas and whenever he came up with an idea, I would do it. I figured I'd already done me. [Laughs] Now was the time to try something different."
Blabbermouth: Your vocals on "The Humble Crow" and "Slack Jaw" are fantastic. Did you surprise yourself at all with what you did?
Kevin: "When you have ideas of what you think will come out great, you get surprised when they do. 'The Humble Crow' is pretty cool — there's a lot of shit going on. It's not a straight-up hardcore song. Something like 'Clinical' sounded really cool. Some of the ideas I had for hooks and I tracked them and it's like, 'Wow, that was a good idea!'"
Blabbermouth: You were a music writer in the 1990s for "Metal Maniacs" magazine. What's your take on the current music writing landscape now that it's so easy to create a blog or website and write about music?
Kevin: "There's a handful of writers that I follow. I think it's important to have a good grip on the process if you're going to write about music. That's the one thing. Everyone has opinions, which is cool. Some of the things that were off-putting back in the day are still off-putting. [Laughs] It's hard for me to buy into someone writing about music when they can't tell when something is out of tune. You go, 'Oh, that's cute. Okay. Get back to me when you can tell me something about music.' Social media gives everyone a platform to be opinionated. I don't get fucked off by it. If it makes people feel better about themselves, so be it."
Blabbermouth: That had to be a fun time to be a writer, though.
Kevin: "You had people like ['Metal Maniacs' editor] Katherine Ludwig, who was a total fucking warrior. There was Alicia [Morgan] from 13. Mike Williams [EYEHATEGOD]. There was a flurry of musicians who knew what they were talking about and were well-informed about music. It was an exciting time. I was in my 20s, but it's hard to tell how special a time is when you're in your 20s. I look back and I think about some of the stuff I did and I was doing what I did, but it was cool. I look back on it now and all those great memories and that sort of thing. I'm also on the back end of that story now. I've done that life and I've done a family life. Now I'm back at the other end, where I'm back into making music more full-time. If you look at some of the people ahead of you on the timeline…hopefully, I have friends who will say, 'Hey, man. It's time to stop.' [Laughs] If the music starts to suck, I'd appreciate someone I value sitting me down and having a conversation. [Laughs]"
Blabbermouth: While on that subject, do you think BRUTAL TRUTH could have kept going?
Kevin: "Dan [Lilker, bass] was really burnt out on writing. At the time, [Eric] Burke [guitar] left. He had some personal things. I think Danny was out of ideas. They wrote a handful of songs that, for some reason, I thought they were going to record with someone else. It didn't work out for me. We lost the plot to a certain degree. I didn't feel right. I look at it like this: You have to be honest with the music you're coming up with. You have to be able to back it. If you can't, then it's time to can it."
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