Founding VENOM Guitarist JEFF 'MANTAS' DUNN On Early Tourmates METALLICA: 'They Are The Sweetest Guys'

July 17, 2022

In a new interview with Friday 13th Metal, ex-VENOM and current VENOM INC. guitarist Jeff "Mantas" Dunn spoke about his relationship with early tourmates METALLICA. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I love METALLICA; I love James [Hetfield, vocals/guitar], I love Lars [Ulrich, drums], I love Kirk [Hammett, guitar]. When we toured with them, Cliff [Burton, bass] was still around — bless him. And I've met the guys a few times since, and they are the sweetest guys.

"I remember the last time I spoke to JamesJames actually came to see VENOM INC. in San Francisco, and he was in the balcony headbanging all night, singing the songs, everything," he continued. "And he came backstage and he was talking [to us]. And I remember saying to him there and then, 'Man, I've gotta say this, and that is you deserve everything that you've got. Every success that you have got, every accolade, you deserve it, because you worked so fucking hard for it.' And they did.

"I remember the last time they actually opened for [VENOM] was at the Loreley festival in 1985, and they fucking destroyed us — absolutely fucking destroyed us that night. They were so together, so slick, and they had the audience — James, his craft as a frontman was amazing. And look where they are now — the biggest metal band on the fucking planet."

For its very first European tour in 1984, METALLICA hooked up with VENOM, on the black metal pioneers' "Seven Dates Of Hell" tour, which included concerts in Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Aardschok Festival in the Netherlands. Dunn reflected on the trek in a 2021 interview with "The Chuck Shute Podcast". He said: "Lars was pretty fucking rowdy. I remember we were in a motel somewhere, and it was my manager that stopped me coming out of the motel room, 'cause I was gonna go upstairs and kill Lars at one point, 'cause he was just partying all night, and we had a flight to get to the next day. He was, like, 'Oh, no, no, no, no.' He said, 'I'll go and sort it out.' I was going, 'I'll fucking kill him.' I mean, fucking hell.

In a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, Hammett said that he and his bandmates were "super-psyched" about embarking on their first European tour with VENOM. "I thought I was worldly, because I'd stayed in New York for a few months," he said. "But to go to Europe, for James, Cliff and I, the culture shock hit us pretty hard. It was the food, the language barrier, the fact that stores were opening and closing at different times of the day. On Sundays, you couldn't get anything. The television was different. You couldn't read anything when you looked around. We got over it after awhile, but it was so different than any of us expected.

"Six months previous to that, I was sitting in my Volkswagen, drinking vodka, driving over the Bay Bridge, cranking VENOM on my way to hear some metal bands play in a club in San Francisco. Now I'm on tour with them. It was quite a leap for me. I went from being an über-heavy metal fan to being a heavy metal musician, to being in it."

Three years ago, VENOM frontman Conrad "Cronos" Lant looked back on his band's tour with METALLICA in an interview with Consquence Of Sound, saying: "It was a great time. And it was a good time for those guys to actually be able to hit the European shows.

"We were looking for bands like us, because, as we always said, we have a different crowd," he explained. "We [were] not pulling the same kind of crowd that would go and see… MÖTLEY CRÜE or whatever.

"A friend of mine used to have a bootleg stall, and he came to me one day with a VHS tape, and said, 'I've seen this band in San Francisco, and they are just like you guys.' And it was a METALLICA show, with Dave Mustaine wearing his [VENOM] 'Welcome To Hell' shirt. So, when we got the opportunity to get in touch with [Megaforce Records founder and former METALLICA manager] Jon Zazula and go over there, we said, 'There's a band on the other side of the country…' Now, we traveled 3,000 miles from England to New York, and those guys traveled 3,000 miles from the West Coast to New York, so that's fair — we'd meet in the middle. And then after that, I remember I told James that story, and he said, 'Oh no, no, no. There is a band that's really, really like you guys.' And that's when he told us about SLAYER. He said, 'There is a band in L.A. just like you guys.' And then from there on, it went from EXODUS and everybody started coming out — it was amazing.

"But the METALLICA boys, they're hard-working guys," Cronos added. "Fuckin' hell, I couldn't take that away from them. We were getting to the end of the 'Seven Dates Of Hell Tour' in Europe [in February of 1984], and we were all getting ready to go home and put our feet up and start working on the next record. And I said, 'What plans have you guys got?' And I remember Lars said, 'We've lined up our own tour.' And I was, like, 'Wow, you guys never stop!'

"I don't give a shit if people say, 'This album is terrible or that album is terrible.' Every band that has a long career is going to have good and bad releases. And I don't give a shit about what people say about METALLICA's career as a whole — they were hard-working guys in the early days, and nobody can take that away from them."

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