Clashing sinews and sonic deities: an interview with Gregg Higgins of Venomous Maximus

Photo by Mark C. Austin

Photo by Mark C. Austin

 Rock/metal, however you wish to describe the enthralling leviathan of invading shadows and seriously addictive melodic alchemy that is the music of Venomous Maximus it is a confrontation which leaves you gasping and hungry for more. The recent worldwide re-release of their debut album Beg Upon The Light has slammed the quartet right in the midst of the most rapacious yet sonically rewarding bands today. Towering riffs and equally mountainous rhythms crowd maelstroms of irresistible grooves and an intensity which staggers within the impressive release backing up the almost fearsome reputation of their live performances. Given the welcome opportunity to quiz and dig deeper into the band with vocalist/guitarist Gregg Higgins, we soon realised this is much more than a band for the man and his colleagues.

Hi Gregg welcome to the RingMaster Review and many thanks for taking time to talk to us.

First of we will ask for the benefit of those yet to be fully acquainted with Venomous Maximus can you give us some background to the beginnings of the band and its members?

I am an artist and a tattooer. Our drummer Bongo builds motorcycles. Trevi is a math mathematician and a hot sauce master and Christian makes everything happen. I moved to Houston 6 years ago and had been planning for 4 or 5 years on starting the band. I was just waiting on the perfect time and the right people. Then everything fell into place…the end.

Was there an immediate connection musically and in thought about how the band would progress between you?

Yes of course. We weren’t getting anyone involved if they had to be taught anything. I think that’s important when putting together a band. Not just finding members that can just play the music. They have to understand the master plan.

Some bands have a ‘leader’, a founder who is the prime force behind the direction or creative input is that the same with Venomous Maximus or is it a more democratic process within the band?

It’s like being on a submarine. It’s a tight ship with not a lot of space to move around. Everyone has a role and job in the band and doesn’t have to be told what to do. I am the main creative force but it’s just a bunch of ideas. Everyone puts in their input but they are the ones that actually make it happen.

You are seemingly tagged as anything from an occult rock band to a doom or heavy rock. I am not sure any of those truly describe your intense flavoursome rock’ n’ roll, how would you describe your massive sounds?

The whole name game that is involved with underground music is getting pretty silly now days. None of it really matters it should be just for fun and a way to describe and communicate what bands sound like to friends. Our goal was if we play a metal show we are the rock band. If we play a rock show we are the metal band. A chameleon if you will.

I have to ask the about the seeds to the great band name, which alone raises images personally of an insidious dark unknown with

gladiatorial strength and purpose.

You have given the best description of the name. When I hear it that’s what I think of… A titan or god from the ancient world. It basically comes from a tattoo design from the 60s and 70s of a solider that has been away from home a little too long.

Lyrically your songs also approach and investigate the unknown and unspoken shadows. Is this an interest which goes beyond just writing songs?

Yes of course. All of the material comes from experiences or situations I have found myself in over the years. I am not signing about graphic novels or movies or religions. This shit is real man!

Your excellent originally self –released debut album Beg Upon The Light has just been given a re-release through Napalm Records, did they come to you with the offer or were you searching for a wider outlet for the release?

We have always had the attitude whatever happens… happens and Napalm was very interested immediately. Some other labels hit us up but we didn’t wanna get lost in the mix so we decided to go with our gut.

So they were not alone in showing interest over past months or so?

Yea I guess I don’t know what your idea of interested is. We can be pretty picky and choosy about dealings with our band. But most of the buzz has started again in the last couple months. The material on the record is getting old to us and time for some new tunes.

942460_10151622495054738_934875440_nBeg Upon The Light was very well received on its first unleashing, were you more confident with this world wide release or in some way more nervous than before?

Truthfully this band began with a spark and I have always known that we would grow into a flame. It’s kinda like when you meet a woman. Something is a little bit different about it…things just seems to work and flow naturally even when problems arise they seem to take care of themselves, almost guided if you will. When things seem to naturally work in life you shouldn’t question them. ..that’s arrogance to me.

The album follows your first EP The Mission of 2011, and though you are still young in terms of the time the band has been in existence how do you feel your music and songwriting has developed between releases and also what you are presumably coming up with as either new material or ideas now?

Yea I feel the material has grown light years. We spent a good two years just me and the drummer working on a set to finally scratch it when the band actually started playing. We spent damn near the 1st two years playing every week, there has been more time spent on stage than in a practice room now. When your material is written in a practice room compared to being written on the road and in a fully functioning band you really see what you’re made of. Right now we are in the process of writing the next record. I truly feel that it is a true interpretation of what we have wanted to sound like. Much more mature song writing with more of a classic approach to rock n roll than just metal or doom or fucking yea. Hopefully there will be a group of people that don’t like it because it’s not our old material… hahahaha…but they can live in the past and do nothing

How does the song writing process work within the band and are songs as good as completed before entering a studio or do you prefer evolving ideas within that environment more?

Its 3 parts me in my bedroom. Then brought to the practice room and then worked out for the stage. Once the kinks are worked out for performing the song, then the studio. All of the salt and pepper is put on in the studio through intense examination and then its dead to me.

Are you quite strict with yourselves over ideas and things that do or do not work when writing? Do you have a mound of elements discarded or shelved for another opportunity?

We treat the band as if it was a being. As if it’s a ghost. He has his own personality and own opinions and knows what he likes and if he wants to change or stay the same we have to respect his decision. We are just here for his voice to come through. He does half the work we do the other half, so not all the decisions are up to us.

Is it riffs or melodies which generally come first for songs, or do are more often triggered from the lyrical side of your invention?

Actually goes back and forth. A lot of times its lyrics and thoughts that really drive me to write a song, or it could be as simple as me jamming Fleetwood mac and going to the guys with we have to write a song like this our way. Which is normally slightly faster with a little bit of chuggy and a blues lick laid on top. If you got a sharp year you could relate every one of our songs to The Cure, Madonna, David Bowie, all the everyday music that elitist underground’s lie about how much they love. We don’t give a shit about any of that. One of my favorite bands is Enya and she ain’t even a band. hahahaha

Beg Upon The Light is an inventive and intensive ravishing which does not really allow any breaths to be taken within its leviathan like confrontation of towering riffs and equally mountainous rhythms as well as enthralling of invading shadows and seriously addictive melodic alchemy, well how we see and feel it anyway. Is it a deliberate intent to have the listener use every part of body, senses, and emotions within its encounter or just something which naturally evolves?

I believe that all artists that have suffered and given their lives up so that they could interpret their experiences to art hope that other people will pick up on what you’re putting down. What you’re explaining is pure projection. It’s the same as someone is lying to you. You can sense they are full of shit, but when people are truly disturbed and upset to their core you can literally feel. Their emotions are so strong and being amplified so much that they literately travel from your body to yours…that’s one of the 12 super powers humans are naturally born with. It’s a shame that people in this modern technology world of information don’t even know the 12 special powers that only human beings possess…or I could be lying about all this. All that really matters is what rings true to you.

You hail from Houston, how would you say the city and surroundings have impacted on you as musicians and band either positively or negatively, if at all?

Houston is my home and I have many friends here but Texas is where I am from. Houston itself is a hell hole of grime and multi cultures. It’s like the New York of the south. One thing that it has provided for us is all the many flavors of culture. So it’s helped us be a little more diverse and not seem like hippie grass eaters from Austin or Pantera rednecks from Dallas. We love all the cities here we just love to talk shit too. It’s a Texas thing. Fun loving shit talking.

Is it a supportive metal scene there for new and emerging bands?vm

Texas can be the easiest and the roughest crowd anywhere you go. People don’t care about the bullshit politics of what kind of band you are. All the crowd wants is for you to play your hardest and get off stage and have a beer and talk to them like a real person. Everybody in Texas thinks about themselves as a rock star on or off stage. So the crowd doesn’t give a shit who you think you are. They wanna drink a beer with you.

You have a great reputation for your live performances and have played with the likes of High on Fire, Down, Guns and Roses, Mastodon, Pentagram, Eyehategod, Fu Manchu, Torche, Black Tusk, Bison BC, the list goes on. Apart from great experience and recognition, what has playing with bands of this calibre brought to your own headlining shows now and in the future, again in a good or negative way?

From day one the bar has been set super high. More than 1/2 of the bands we have played with the members have been playing longer than I have been alive. The intimidation and self-consciousness got to a point of almost conquering me but I am not really one to fail. I will bite my own leg off to get out of a trap. So we had to really bear down and focus and stay out of the bar to figure out if we were gonna do this it’s gotta be all or nothing. But it was just a trial period. When things are forced to live up to a certain expectation after a while that’s just the level it becomes and then you get bored and you take it up a notch and up a notch and up a notch. It’s truly up to you if you ever want to stop progressing because the second you do. You can clearly hear it.

I sense you guys love the live side of the band intensely, more than the time and creative process involved in writing and recording new songs?

Our band is more than a band to us. It’s more like a cult. It’s taken over all of our lives and the wives of the band, but in a good way. It’s became something that brings us all together as people for birthdays, weddings, movie nights and just straight up weekend partying. Not everyone in the world still has the family they had when they were children but everyone needs a family whether they are blood or not. A band or anytime humans group together creativity and happiness should arise. so to answer your question yes this is way more than a band.

What has Venomous Maximus in store for the rest of the year and are we able to talk about a successor to Beg Upon The Light yet?

For the rest of year we are working on writing and recording the new record which will have videos, new line of merch, and a short film. We have a few shows sprinkled in the next couple months but we have worn ourselves thin so right now we are juggling our personal lives, writing and recording and planning most of next year.

Once again a big thanks for sparing time for us, anything you would like to say to the readers?

I wanna thank all the people that have taken their time to take a second glance at something and follow their gut when they feel that there’s a deeper meaning in things. If you ask the question is it going to happen to me that means it is and that’s the truth.

And finally what have been the five most potent inspirations on you musically or personally?

Music I would have to say Beethoven, Pink Floyd The Wall from 5th grade, The Crow and the Doors from 6th grade and for films that helped me get a visual for music. The lists can go on and on. I am the kinda of guy that’s good with lists. For some reason music from people who are sad or disturbed has always just made me happy. It’s the people who relish in superficial joys that make me angry and Kenneth Anger is the shit. Read books so you don’t have to wait

https://www.facebook.com/VenomousMaximus

Read the Beg Upon The Light review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/venomous-maximus-beg-upon-the-light/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 26/07/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

http://www.audioburger.com

Venomous Maximus: Beg Upon The Light

VM Composite - Large

Released in North America last year, Beg Upon The Light the debut album of Texan Dark Occult Metal band Venomous Maximus gets its worldwide unleashing via Napalm Records, and a powerful deep mark it is sure to make. Ten tracks of towering riffs and equally mountainous rhythms alongside a web of potent irresistible grooves and an intensity which sweeps you off your feet, the album is an enthralling leviathan of invading shadows and seriously addictive melodic alchemy wrapped in a classic metal inspired embrace. It and the band stand as a major stoner/doom clad player, their presence sure to be an inspiration to many.

The album follows their EP, The Mission of 2011, a release which set thoughts and appetite in strong motion with its promising start for a band which formed in 2010 and has since risen to be one of the most successful and important metal bands from Houston in recent years. Equally live the quartet has earned an enormous reputation  as they have lit up stages alongside the likes of High on Fire, Down, Guns and Roses, Mastodon, Pentagram, Eyehategod, Fu Manchu, Torche, Black Tusk, Bison BC and many more. Now thrust into the faces of the full expanse of the globe Beg Upon The Light will take little time in persuading, one suspects, that it is one of those classic moments which defines a band and their presence in the ears of the world.

The ominous emotive keys opening up Funeral Queen instantly engage the imagination, the brewing darkly exotic atmosphere a 485 Venomous Maximusspark to devil spawned thoughts and challenging sonic caresses. As it closes the distant but distinct vocals of Gregg Higgins add their corruptive presence though his tones truly stand eye to eye with the listener at the beginning of the next up Path of Doom. His part spoken resonating tones provides here and across every song a glorious unique narrative which invites irresistibly the listener into the heart of the dark realms explored. From its opening crescendo of energy and potent sound the song prowls the senses with scorching flames from the guitars of Higgins and Christian Larson licking at the ear whilst Trevi Biles brings further menace with his bass lures. The track continues to roar and growl through to its thick and provocative conclusion, the band providing a sonic fire to eat at and ignite the senses.

From the immense start things only reach to another depth and plateau with firstly Give Up the Witch and then Father Time, the first of the pair a fresher version of a song from their first EP. Stroking the ear with sinew driven riffs and firm rhythms from drummer Bongo from its opening breath, the track is a primal contagion which incites the imagination and toys with the passions through spires of sonic wind and tumbling cascades of addiction causing rhythms whilst vocally again Higgins pulls us through an invocation of devilish mystique. It is a slice of compelling excellence soon matched by its atmospheric successor. With keys crafting the intriguing ambience a lone guitar colours thoughts with its emotive description whilst Higgins again paints the scene in his unique style. It is only a brief song but quite delicious as its sets up the climate for what is to follow.

Complete with bulbous beats and stalking rhythms the outstanding Dream Again (Hellenbach) is next to inflame the passions, its thick stoner fragrance a sizzling temptation within the uncompromising intensity and power of the track. Another major highlight of the release with grooves and sonic colours wrapping greedily around the listener, the song encapsulates every rich aspect of the individuals within Venomous Maximus, their absorbing songwriting and its invigorating burning realisation, and the union of everything into what surely is a major breakthrough into the echelons of metal for the band.

All through the exhausting Moonchild, the predacious Battle for the Cross, and the dramatic and antagonistic triumph that is Venomous Maximus, the album reinforces its riveting authority over the passions with inventive ease whilst Mother Milk is simply another emotionally conjured delight with strings providing a mesmeric melancholic cradling of the ear whilst quaint keys paint their equally suggestive hues. Quite stunning it is a masterful fascination leading into the final blaze of inventive ravishing, Hell’s Heroes, a lasting confrontation which sears and chews on the senses with rapacious riffs and rhythms veined by sonic radiance and vocal intimidation. Complete with more ridiculously contagious grooves it is a mighty end to a magnificent album.

Though lyrically you can question some of the ‘comic book’ like tales and the band does not break into many new arenas of invention with Beg Upon The Light, you will not have heard it before in the individual and thickly persuasive style as brought by Venomous Maximus. The album is an insatiable treat and one setting the band as a true force in world metal.

https://www.facebook.com/VenomousMaximus

9/10

RingMaster 07/07/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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