In 2009 the release of “Metamorphosis 1987-2007” CD album collates all of the singles, popular album tracks and 2 brand new numbers (“Human Fly” and “Gemini Lounge“) of the English band, Venus Fly Trap.
The band comes from Northampton-UK and since the 80’s, they keep releasing albums and touring Europe.
So far, they toured France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Austria and Poland.
Major festival appearances have had the band sharing the stage with the likes of New Model Army, Das Ich, Psyche, Clan Of Xymox, Two Witches, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Frontline Assembly and others.
One thing I have to admit is that, knowing Alex Novak for a lot of years now, it slipped my mind that he was a member of one of my favourite bands, The Tempest.
The Tempest released two great singles, the 7″ “Lady Left This” and the 12″ “Montezuma” while their last offering was the LP “5 Against The House” before calling it a day in 1984.
Q. Alex, I have to admit that The Tempest sound is very close to the Venus Fly Trap’s. “Montezuma” especially, which sounds like the beginning of the bridge that brings us to where Venus Fly Trap stands today.
What do you think?
I guess I have always been involved in alternative music in one form or another so there is a thread that runs thru all my projects -post punk kind of covers it- because it draws on a myriad of influences but with a dark psyche.
But before the Tempest I was involved in a punk/new wave band Isaws. We didn’t release anything until recently, a round up of all our studio recordings. Burnt Offering CD (big blue) was released recently.
Then I got involved with Religious Overdose, we did three singles for Glass records, but no album.
The Tempest and Isaws material is now available to download via Cherry Red records but I hope to have both the Tempest and Religious Overdose material available on CD sometime. You can also check out www.myspace.com/isaws.
Q. How was the post punk scene back in those days? Was it difficult for a band to find venues or find a record deal?
Both RO and Tempest received good airplay on John Peel and Kid Jensen (Radio 1) and a fair amount of press coverage via Sounds/Melody Maker/NME and it seemed like everyone was doing a Fanzine then.
So that helped getting gigs we played with Bauhaus(Hammersmith Palais), English Subtitles, Attrition, Eyeless In Gaza, Strawberry Switchblade, Alien Sex Fiend, Skeletal Family, Quando Quango, Theatre of Hate, Fall…
As I said RO was on Glass, so it was natural to release the first single via them, we then went on to Anagram records to do another single and an album.
Q. Why did The Tempest split?
Well part of the band had another band, Syndromes, which they decided to concentrate on. Mark Refoy the guitarist for Tempest went on to join Spacemen 3/Spiritualised and still plays with Slipstream when he’s not touring with the Pet Shop Boys.
There was an attempt with another line up featuring Patrick Egan from Furyo (x-UK Decay) but that fizzled out.
Q. You spent a year and a half with Attrition. How was this experience?
I then went on to join Attrition. I had been in touch with Martin Bowes from the RO days.
My first job was to design the sleeves for Voice of God and Shrinkwrap 12” singles, which is another thing I have always been involved with. I also designed a sleeve for Marc Bolan, Wizard 7”(re-issued via Cherry Red).
It was a productive period and introduced me to the industrial/experimental/electronic scene, working and playing with the likes of Legendary Pink Dots (who we shared a studio with), Bourbonese Qualk, Stress/Adventures In Reality label…
We toured the UK and Holland (my first tour abroad) and I did one album Smiling at the Hypogonder Club (Third Mind)
But I guess it was always someone else’s baby so I decided to do my own project.
Q. Any relation to the Bauhaus apart of coming from the same town?
Well I was at Art School with Kevin Haskins (drummer) doing Graphic Design, also David J and Daniel Ash were also there doing the same course but a few years above us.
Kevin played in a Punk band Cardiac Arrest. They split. Formed Jack Plug and the Socketts. They also split. Pete Murphy came into the picture and the rest is history. Isaws did some early gigs with them when they were known as Bauhaus 1919.
I must mention this is the period I also met Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, From Hell. comic writer) for the first time. He is also from Northampton.
I really liked the recent Watchmen movie. He won’t like that as he’s refused to watch any of the films I digress.
Q. When did you decided to create Venus Fly Trap?
Basically it was mapped out in my head on a coach back from Norwich after a failed attempt to get a band going but basically its always different doing your own project rather than joining an established set up.
Q. I know you own the record shop “Spiral Archive” in Northampton. When did you start it? I guess you experienced the whole transformation from vinyl to CD…
Which format do you prefer and why?
I have been doing the shop for about ten years so CDs have been around for a while. It’s down to price; if its reasonable then people will buy.
Vinyl is another matter; it’s the aesthetics of the sleeve/artwork, more of a unique object and they will hold value. Check out www.myspace.com/spiralarchiverecords, www.stores.ebay.co.uk/spiralarchiverecords.
Q. Being a record shop keeper and a musician, gives you a perspective of the underground scene. Did things change? Is it better now or worse?
It’s helped if you’re plugged into what’s going on but I also promote gigs in Northampton.I have put on Front Line Assembly, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Attrition, 999, Penetration, Vibrators, Anti Nowhere League, Jazz Butcher, Slipstream, Meteors, Vice Squad, Deadline, Subhumans, Varukers… so you get direct feedback.
But I also DJ at the main alternative night club Blast Chamber at New Roadmender along with other nights so it keeps me busy and able to promote what I do.
With the advent of the internet its certainly easier to promote what you do but you’ve got to do more to achieve the same as one play on John Peel or a review in the NME which had greater influence when everyone listened or read the same thing.
Q. Venus Fly Trap released so far the following 8 CD albums: Mars (1989), Totem (1990), Pandoras Box (1992/2002), Luna Tide (1995), Dark Amour (1997), the compilation and rarities Anthology of the Food (2000), Zenith (2004) and Metamorphosis (2008).
You also released the DVD Celluloid (2005).
Most of them came out through a big indie German label, SPV.
Why do you prefer a German label instead of an English one?
Is there any release I forgot?
With labels its just the way its worked out. Danceteria/Tuesday (French) were the first to ask us to put something out. We then went to Spectre/Soundbuster (German) by recommendation. Then SPV via Big Blue in Poland. So long as they can get material out there, geography doesn’t matter. Big Blue have just sorted out a deal with Plastichead in the UK.
We have just released a best of Metamorphosis via Big Blue-and were mixing a new album Nemesis, hopefully out this year.
Q. You were also running the “Bizzare zine”. Can you tell me about it?
A moment of madness just wanted to cover music I was into but being ignored by mainstream press you can still view back issues via spiralarchive.com.
Q. With the chance of your cover on the “Human Fly”… any favourite bands you’d like to mention? Who influenced you?
I like the Cramps obviously but also there influences 50/60s garage/psyche/rock’n’roll. My tastes get wider as I discover more music.
My first jolt was punk/new wave explosion that really got me tuned in to what was going on, especially that smaller bands/labels could be doing something interesting and exciting.
But I’m always listening to new and old material especially as I do a bit of DJ-ing, I’m always listening for something that stands out.
Q. Do you usually change the line-up of your band?
Line-ups change the band not thru choice but because of circumstances.
Q. Do you see things changing due to Internet download? Do you believe that the music industry will change from the “physical” record labels to the “vintage” record labels of the Internet?
I believe there is room for everything. I noticed someone selling cassettes again recently.
Q. I know it might sound funny but… London or Northampton?
I have lived in London, liked it, but a lot of time was spent just getting from A to B. In Northampton I can get things organized quickly.
Q. Do you see any differences between the English audience and the Continent’s one?
With VFT the continent’s audiences have always been receptive but to explain why bands work in one country more than another it’s about hitting a zeitgeist moment.
Q. For those who haven’t heard of Venus Fly Trap, “Metamorphosis 1987-2007” will be a good guide. What is this album for you? A kind of your personal history book, maybe?
It’s showing what we’ve done so far before we head off into the unknown again. The material chosen was deliberately picked to be tracks that would not be ignored.
Q. What does the future hold for VFT and Spiral Archive?
As I mentioned before a new album Nemesis I’ve reformed Isaws for a gig to do stuff from the various bands we’ve been involved with. Spiral Archive to be in one place so I can concentrate on other things…
For further info on VFT:
Thank you for this interview Alex.
I wish you the best of luck with your latest release and all your activities in general of course.