Thrash Hits verdict: “Occult Rock” is apparently “a thing”. What with Ghost signing the most ludicrous record deal (for the label at least) since Gallows, and the likes of The Devil’s Blood and Ancient VVisdom being critical darlings, a lot of people are investing a lot of capital, both financial and reputation-wise, in this trend catching on in a big way. While we’re yet to be convinced that the metal scene is prepared to embrace this scene/genre/whatever anywhere near to the extent that its backers are hoping for (we guess Ghost’s headline spot on the £5 Jägermeister Music Tour later this year will be the first true litmus test here in the UK….), if it is going to, then it’ll be bands like Venomous Maximus doing the serious legwork when it comes to convincing the doubters: dirty, hefty riffs with a grimly dark edge and some seriously sorcerous hooks. We got in contact with their vocalist/guitarist, Gregg Higgins, to find out what the score with this bunch of Texans is.
Describe your sound in 3 words.
Heavy Metal Rock.
How did you meet?
We all met through my tattoo shop, and going to shows in Houston.
What made you want to start a band?
The lack of the kind of music I wanted to hear bands playing in our town.
Where did the name come from?
Classic wartime tattoo from Norman Keith Collins. It was a tattoo designed for solders that had gone little over the edge.
Where did you grow up? How do you think it affected your music?
Victoria, which is two hours south of Houston. Small towns are 10-20 years behind the rest of the world. I grew up camping, swimming and listening to classic rock. Also the closer you get to Mexico the more everything is like Mexico; I learned a lot of Mexican folklore, myths, Tarot and from my friends families and Brujas. It heavily influences our lyrics and outlook.
What are your non-musical influences?
Movies are a big influence on me. Also tattooing in general has always influenced me and the band. Due to it’s a visual world of symbols, that kind of stuff is great for lyrics. Daggers, Hearts, Skulls. Great images to go with lyrics.
So far, what has been the best thing about being in a band?
Earning a chance of being a part of something bigger than yourself. Also being able to travel to place I would never get to see, finding out what artistry we are capable of, and making dreams real.
With which band would your dream support slot be?
King Diamond, Judas Priest, Ozzy.
What bands do you consider as part of your scene or as your peers?
I feel anyone playing for the right reasons and paying respect to the past is all part of the same scene. Preserving rock n roll. But if you want band wise I would say Hour of 13, Borrowed Time, Altar of Oblivion and Ancient VVisdom.
What marks you out as different to other bands around at the moment?
Our unique combination of influences in the senses of songwriting. Metal and the underground have always been against commercial music. I understand the ideas and have followed them but I love 70s rock way too much to deny those great songs. We are not afraid of mixing different genres of music, we’re not afraid of labels, and we play what we want to hear.
What’s the best – or the funniest – show you’ve played?
One of the most unusual shows we played was at a place called The Orange Show in Houston. It’s a crazy museum. Kind of like playing a Willy Wonkas chocolate factory.
What have you got planned for the future?
Same thing we have been doing. Touring this spring and summer and writing material for the next record and hopefully get to Europe.
What other bands should everyone find out about?
There’s a lot of new bands such as Convent Guilt that are great, but I suggest going back and listening to all the records you never really jammed from classic artists. It’s like digging for diamonds. Hawkwind is one of the best underground bands, and Blue Öyster Cult have lots of records that people just never gave a chance.
Venomous Maximus first proper full-length album, Beg Upon The Light, is out now on Occulture Records – you can pick up a copy from their Bandcamp page. The band are getting ready to support Down on a short run of dates in the USA later this month and for February, and will (allegedly) make it over to the UK later this year. So yeah, you might get a chance to see them at a festival or a tour in a couple of months. Which’ll be nice.