TONY DOLAN Explains VENOM INC.'s Split With ABADDON, Says 'You Can Only Do So Much For Someone'

April 14, 2024

Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan says that VENOM INC.'s split with Antony "Abaddon" Bray happened because the drummer "never came back" to the band after taking a leave of absence.

In early 2018, VENOM INC. revealed that it was recruiting Jeramie Kling of the Tampa-based melodic death metal group THE ABSENCE to fill in for Bray on a European tour while Abaddon stayed home to spend time with his newborn daughter. VENOM INC. has since completed several tours with Kling, and recorded a sophomore album, 2022's "There's Only Black", before he announced his departure from the band last November.

Dolan addressed VENOM INC.'s split with Abaddon in a new interview with Johan De Jager of Into The Pit. Regarding the circumstances that led to the drummer's departure, the VENOM INC. bassist/vocalist said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Well, he was with us, and there was a bit of a struggle. The first tour was hard for him because he wasn't in the best condition. He hadn't been playing for a while. But I was considerate, as much as I could [be], for him. And then we did that. We did the album. He didn't write anything on the album, but wanted to be on the publishing. And that's what used to happen in the old days, and we went, 'It can't happen now.' And he didn't have anything particularly musically to contribute to the way that it was going. So it was, like, no. So I think that made him a little bit unhappy, although he was well paid from everything else. And it seemed fine. We went on a tour. The American tour, the last American tour, he was underperforming and it was driving Mantas [guitarist Jeff Dunn] nuts. And I was trying to support him and trying to keep Mantas happy. And it was difficult. We had a big meeting, and Jon Zazula, who I brought back out of retirement to manage us at the time, sat in [TESTAMENT singer] Chuck Billy's basement and, in front of Abaddon, he said, 'Do you think he can do this?' And I said, 'Of course I think he can do it, but it's not for me to think he can do it. He has to believe he can do it. And I don't know if he believes he can do it.' Tony was a character. He's fun to be around. He can be a bit dodgy, but he's fun to be around. He's a likable person and he's up for doing anything press-wise. But the one thing he struggles with, the one thing he doesn't like doing is playing drums, and he's a fucking drummer. And there's only three of us. So I was going, 'I don't care what else you do. I just need you to play the drums properly.' And it became so difficult."

Dolan continued: "We finished that tour. And we had another one lined up for, I think it was April or March. And I got a message from Jon Zazula that Abaddon was gonna have a baby with his new young wife. [Abaddon] didn't tell me; the manager told me. I was, like, 'Oh, okay.' And he said, 'So he'd like to stay at home because it's their first baby. She's young.' And I said, 'Oh, yeah. Of course, of course.' He said, 'So it's when the tour would be.' And I said, 'Oh, shit. What should we do?' 'Cause we [were] contracted. So he said, 'Well, we could use a dep drummer, bring someone in, just to do those. And then Tony, I guess, will come back.' So I said, 'Okay.' So he pitched that to Abaddon. Abaddon was fine. So, we had a sound guy, Jeramie Kling. And Chuck Billy had said to me, 'Did you know Jeramie's a drummer?' I said, 'I didn't know.' 'Yeah, he plays in this band.' So I'm like, 'Okay.' So I gave him the CD. I said, "Could you play this stuff?' He listened and went, 'Yeah. Easy. Yeah.' So I was, like, 'Oh, okay. Right. So do you wanna do the tour while Abaddon sits out?' And he said, 'Yeah.' And I thought, 'Well, everybody's seen him doing our sound. So it's not like we brought another drummer in. It's Jeramie. He's part of our team.' So it seemed okay. And then a week later, I get a message going, 'Tony wants to be paid from the tour.' And Mantas was, like, 'No fucking way.' And I said, 'Well, Jon, he can't be paid from the tour if he's not on the tour, because I've gotta pay for another drummer. And he's not promoting anything. He's just at home.' And he said, 'Well, I think we should give him something.' And I said, 'Well, okay. Well, I think Jeff will say no. I don't feel so good about that if we're out working.' And I said, 'Well, we can't wait 'cause we're already contracted.' So we had to say no. And I never heard from him again. After the American part two [of the tour], he never spoke to me ever. So I never knew he was having a baby, he never came back, nothing. So we did the tour with Jeramie, and then we had other shows lined up. No contact from Tony. He didn't come back. He didn't contact us. Nothing. So I was, like, 'Okay.' So I called Jeramie and said, 'Do you wanna do these ones?' And he said, 'What's happening with Abaddon?' I said, 'I don't know. He's not coming back, and he won't talk to us. So let's just keep doing it until maybe he comes back or he talks to us. Maybe he wants more time. I've got no idea.' So we just carried on, and he never came back."

Dolan went on to say that he tried his best to make Abaddon as comfortable in VENOM INC. as possible. "[But] you can only do so much for someone," he explained. "I never said, 'Get out. Don't come back.' It just seemed really odd. So, I don't know. Maybe he beat himself up too much and felt that he wasn't doing the best job, or maybe he just didn't wanna do it. I don't know. I don't know. But he certainly didn't come back. And, of course, he set a fire with a small circle of fans online, going, 'Ah, they ripped me off. They're wankers. And they fired me.' And it's, like, we didn't do any of that.

"It's about taking responsibility," Dolan added. "You have to take responsibility. If I do a show and I don't do a great job, I say, 'I didn't do a great job. I apologize.' I put everything into the songs. Whether someone likes me singing 'Countess Bathory' or 'Black Metal', as opposed to an old record with [classic VENOM singer] Cronos on, I can't change that, and why should I? He was that voice. I just want you to hear the music. That's all I want. But I do take responsibility for… It's my job to make it as real as possible, even though I'm not [Cronos]. I do it my way."

Earlier this year, VENOM INC. recruited Marc "JXN" Jackson as the band's new drummer. Jackson was previously a member of M:PIRE OF EVIL, the group formed in 2010 by Dunn and Dolan.

Kling, who is also a member of INHUMAN CONDITION, previously sat out VENOM INC.'s 2022 summer festival appearances at Alcatraz festival in Belgium and Bloodstock Open Air festival in the U.K. He was replaced at those shows by legendary British extreme metal drummer Nick Barker.

Kling made his recording debut with VENOM INC. on the aforementioned "There's Only Black", which was released in September 2022 via Nuclear Blast Records. The follow-up to 2017's "Avé" marked the second recording under the name VENOM INC., while Dunn and Dolan have a long history as recording artists together in VENOM, M:PIRE OF EVIL and Mantas solo projects.

VENOM INC. is not to be confused with the Conrad "Cronos" Lant-fronted version of VENOM, which is continuing to tour and make albums under the VENOM moniker. Joining Cronos in that group are Rage (a.k.a. Stuart Dixon) on guitar and Danté (a.k.a. Danny Needham) on drums.

Mantas sat out VENOM INC.'s fall 2023 U.S. tour after revealing that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. He was replaced on the trek by Mike Hickey, known for his work with VENOM, CARCASS, CATHEDRAL and CRONOS.

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