In-depth Interview With Von Frontman Jason ‘Venien’ Ventura

By Andrew Bansal

San Francisco-based black metal act Von, led by vocalist, bassist and songwriter Jason ‘Venien’ Ventura, have been around since 1987 but they only recently released their long awaited debut album ‘Satanic Blood’, on Venien’s own label Von Records. He has plenty of things planned for the year of 2013, and the first of those has already been announced, the ‘Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves’ album which is set to release on March 22nd. A few weeks ago, I spoke to Venien about recent live shows, Satanic Blood, future plans and bootleg releases. Read the conversation below as I found Venien in a very talkative mood, and check out the band online using the links at the bottom.

Recently you played a show at the Black Castle in LA. How did it go and what did you think of the venue?

Yeah, everything went as planned, I suppose, and the Black Castle seemed to fit us okay. It had a dark atmosphere, very cold and dark. So it was fitting for what I needed to do.

You played that show in November and a show in New York city in December. Weren’t you also supposed to play a San Francisco gig?

San Francisco I had to cancel due to some contract issues, and we did play New York at the Saint Vitus bar in Brooklyn. As far as 2013 goes, I’m in talks with several people in Europe for festivals, shows, possible tours but as far as the United States there is nothing planned as of now.

So, your debut album ‘Satanic Blood’ officially came out on October 31st. It must be a great feeling knowing that it has finally happened. How has everyone responded to it?

Well, this is something I started a long time ago and I feel comfortable in what I’ve done. I have gotten negative and positive response to my release, but for the past 20 years I was fully aware that was going to happen. So it’s nothing shocking or overwhelming. So I’m not very surprised on either side of the coin, of people liking it or disliking it or hating it or loving it. It’s all over the board, so as far as I can tell, there’s all kinds of responses to the album. My main concern is my material getting out there to people that want to hear the material, not to people that want to judge it or want to rave it or pillage it and disgrace it. That’s sort of my take on what I feel about the album. I’m not really interested in critics and people that want to pick the album and dissect it. It’s not really for everybody. It’s not an album you can sit through at one time. It’s not an album you’ll listen to everyday of the week. It’s an album that if you feel like you want to rage and let off some steam. When you feel like you want to smash your head against wall, then put on Satanic Blood. It’s not for everybody, but it was never meant for everybody. It was just meant to be made and that was it. So to answer your question, it’s hard to gauge, you know, because there are so many people worldwide that have heard this material in demo form so long ago and for so long, that’s all they know. When I did all the songs in my studio, I properly did them the way I always wanted to do them for a release, it’s just that I never got the chance to do it. Now I got the chance, and I just really don’t concern myself with people that have any kind of response. I just keep moving on, I have 70 songs of material over three or four albums that are going to be releasing within one year, so Satanic Blood is just a blip in the landscape of what’s Von’s coming with in the new year.

You’ve put 19 songs on this album, so just for people who aren’t familiar with the band, can you give a timeline on the material? Is it all old stuff or was some of it written recently for the album?

The track listing on Satanic Blood is all old material, 1987 through the 90’s. The bonus tracks are the ones that I never fully developed. They were just loose demos that weren’t really put on any demo. ‘Litanies Of Von’ was more of a piece that was put together at the last minute with all the spoken word pieces in the demos, and some newly written stuff by myself that sort of brought it all together as far as the story is concerned. But there’s a bigger story that Satanic Blood is connected to, so until that’s revealed nobody will truly understand what’s going on in the tracks. But as far as all the material, the 19 songs on the album are in some way, shape or form, from the incubation period of Von, the demo years when I first started the band.

You said that you already have a lot of material which will be released soon in new albums. Do you already have the plan in your mind as far as the near future is concerned?

Yes, I definitely have a plan. I have a timeline. I’m planning to release the first part of the new Von album ‘Dark Gods’. Part I is called ‘Seven Billion Slaves’, and I was trying to get it out by end of December, early January but it’s now set to release on March 22nd. And then part 2 is called ‘Rise Of The Ancients’. That full-length album is probably coming out in July, and both of those albums are already recorded. They’re just in the mixing and mastering phases. And the third part of Dark Gods is called ‘Ancient Blood’ and I’m still doing tracking on that, and hopefully it will be released in December 2013. And then between that, I’m already mixing and mastering my solo album under Venien, my name. That has 24 tracks which is all solo material that really didn’t fit the Von albums. So I sort of put them all together from different albums, from the demos in the early years to now, it’s all 20 years of material. There’s well over 70 songs that are recorded. I have some bonus tracks and people I’m working with from other bands will be revealed soon. There are bands from Europe and from here in the US that I’ve worked with on this. So there’s a lot of stuff coming in 2013, but as far as the release dates go, it’s going to be done steadily through my own independent label Von Records, by myself.

In the recent live shows, what did you exactly play? Was it only the Satanic Blood material or did you also present some unreleased tracks?

The Ritual Of The Black Mass is pretty much what I call my presentation, my tour, my events. I present myself, I present Von, I present anything else I want to present. But it’s all under myself. As far as the material used in the set, it might change. But in LA we had done a 90-minute chat. We had used material from all the albums coming up, all the Von albums, some tracks from my solo album, and we wrapped up the remaining part of the set with Satanic Blood songs. So, it’s about 90 minutes of music and it does have a lot of new stuff but it has old stuff too.

There was something weird I read on the Von facebook page about bootleg releases of Satanic Blood. How did you become aware of that and what did you feel? Those people were pretty much releasing unauthorized versions of the album.

Yeah, exactly. That’s what I said. The Satanic Blood album that you have and that you’re talking about, is the album. I wouldn’t put an album out again. It’s an album by the creator of Von. So anything else is a demo or a work-in-progress or a cassette tape, or something that either involve me or didn’t involve me, whatever format it was. It was never a true album. People just took the material and packaged it the way they wanted to, and raped the band and the creators and released the material however they seemed fit. So, years later when the creators of this band and this material found out about it, it got us to thinking that it’s not right what people are doing. With the birth of internet, it led to us being able to find out that this is actually happening. We always wanted to do the album but life took its toll and things happened. Now that I was in a position to do what I had to do and finish what I had started. So if it’s 20 years, even if it was 50 years from now, I choose to do my music and I’m going to do it regardless of who is going to package it and bootleg the material made by me. So, all I can say is, it almost feels like when someone steals your car and says, ‘I’ve had your car for a week now and it’s mine. It’s not yours anymore. Would you still want your car back?’ So are you going to believe that guy because he’s telling everybody that it’s his car? It’s the same concept, man. It’s called bootlegging, it’s called chop-shopping, it’s called doing shit illegally, you know. Basically fuck all those people that are doing that. They have no right to it! They can spin it and say whatever they want to say. They do it because they have interest of making money from it. So obviously they’re going to say whatever they have to, and people who bought it don’t want to look like assholes and look like dumbasses. They don’t want that to happen so they just stick to their story and they don’t want the truth to happen. It’s not something that appeals to me.

As you said, you always knew that Satanic Blood was going to be released at some point and it didn’t matter to you how long it would take. But, how did you manage to do it now? What was different as compared to the past 20 years?

Money, man. I’ve got a family. I’ve had companies, I’ve had things that everyone of us living our lives had to do, to pay bills and be a part of society and be a slave to the grind, you know. I’m just one of those people. So now that I have the money, the opportunity and the education behind recording and making my own record label and getting it off the ground and gathering all my thoughts and material over all these years and actually doing it, I’ve put myself in a position to actually do this now. If it took this long, it took this long. It doesn’t really matter to me. I have a life, and I don’t sit in a basement eating Cheetos, like these kids who are talking shit about me. So it’s really just the economics that made it work and made this release happen. As far as I’m concerned, Von doesn’t fit in anywhere to be honest with you. I just do whatever I want to. They call me black metal. I didn’t know I was black metal. I just fit in with Von, that’s all.