Since their inception in 2009, Venomous Maximus has grown from a fledgling local band, enduring the growing pains of establishing their brand and building a fanbase; today, they sport an ever-growing resume of music, videos, tours, and… hot sauce? With two albums and two EP’s to their name and a live show bursting at the seams with heartfelt energy, the band has steadily climbed the ladder of the Houston metal community and is now branching out across the nation. Marked by distinct vocals, haunting ambience, and a vintage sound riddled with both intensity and groove, Venomous Maximus offers heavy ingenuity with an ever-present nod to nostalgia.
Bassist Trevi Biles and Guitarist Christian Larson recently honored me with the opportunity to interview them on all things Venomous Maximus. In a dark (and I do mean dark… photos nor legible handwritten notes were a feasible option) corner of Houston’s Grand Prize Bar, I sat with the bandmates and let my voice memo app go to town.
VH: Art for show posters, merch and albums is a big component of our experience with music and with the metal community. I know Houston-based artist Kyler Sharp has done some pieces for your band. Who else do you use to capture the artistic aesthetic of your sound?
CL: We use Dan Miller for almost everything. He’s done all our shirts and albums. He’s with Sex & Death out of Austin. Have you seen the Beyonce/Venom shirt? That’s him.
VH: What about the vintage sound is so appealing to you? How do you stay true to it in an era of automation?
TB: I’m the old guy in the group and so for me that’s just what I grew up with…
CL: All the bands and records from the 70’s all had something special that a computer can’t recreate. You have to do it yourself which most people aren’t a fan of these days.
VH: You guys have some pretty impressive tours and shows under your belt [Down, GwarBQ, High on Fire, Fu Manchu, Pentagram, just to name a few…] Has playing out more and to larger crowds manifested itself in your new music and, if so, how?
CL: I’m not sure our new music is influenced from the different bands we play with, but the experiences change how you see things and open your eyes to things you have never seen before, influencing us way more than just hearing bands.
VH: How do you balance music with your life responsibilities? Does an increase in popularity make it more difficult?
TB: It’s always about passion. I have always known that’s my life- it’s about metal, it’s about music and creating.
CL: I mean it is tough that you have to sacrifice some things to do what you really want to do, that doesn’t necessarily make you a bunch of money. But, at the same time, you aren’t going to NOT do what you really want to do-
TB: But, at the same time, when you go out and do what you really want to be doing, it’s like-
CL- Yeah, it’s great! You’re doing what you’ve worked hard for and it’s amazing. Being on the road can be hard for us, when you aren’t home, you aren’t working, it can be a little tough. But, our wives and girls really step up and help to make it possible and they are at least okay with us being gone for two weeks or a month and that’s huge.
TB: I have great support with my job. They know this is who I am and they are supportive when I have take the time off to go play.
VH: You guys had the opportunity to play GwarBQ in 2014 – tell me about that experience?
CL: We played the B4BQ – the pre-party which was a big soldout show with the Black Dahlia Murder and was amazing. The next day Goatwhore was scheduled to play the second stage of GwarBQ, but they couldn’t make it, and so we had the opportunity to play. It ended up being the greatest thing ever. People we hanging from the rafters, giant pit and it was packed. We went out and celebrated afterwards, of course. Trevi was supposed to fly home at 9am the next day so he could be back for work in time and the rest of us were supposed to wake up by 11am in time to check out and make the 20-hour drive back home… I woke up around 10:30 and start thinking Trevi is supposed to be on a plane. Right as I’m about to wake Trevi up, I hear him yell, “SHIT!” and then you just see him scurrying around the room, throwing everything in a backpack and flying out of the room.
TB: Yeah, I’ve missed a few planes home… going home and teaching the day after ending a tour is rough.
VH: I can imagine. After being on the road and not knowing what day it is, what time it is, just knowing where you need to be next, that has to be a crazy adjustment to make so quickly?
TB: Right! Those things don’t matter on tour. I get home and bandmates and other bands are texting to check on me to see how I’m doing… it’s rough. I get it done, but I feel it, especially that first day.
VH: You guys have label support – who are you currently with?
VH: Let’s talk about Houston a bit, as a scene and as a city. Do you feel Houston has started to come into it’s own in terms of metal, or has the scene always been reliable?
CL: The scene goes up and down-
TB: Yeah, it’s cyclical-
CL: Like, right now in our particular scene, there seems to be more bands breaking up then starting.
VH: Any upcoming shows in Houston or Austin you are looking forward to as fans?
CL: I think we are split on our excitement for Venom Inc. I just saw Venom play FFF Fest so I am curious to see how it compares.
TB: Venom is no good anyway! I’m still going to check it out! It’s Abaddon and Mantas, but not Cronos. It’s 66.6% Venom! 66.6 repeating. 666, it’s more metal than Venom is! Hell yeah.
CL: It’s as close as a lot of people will ever get to seeing Venom, so I get it-
TB: I’m going to jump all over it, man. I’ve looked up the set list and they play the good shit. The singer though, you know he’s an actor. He was in that sea movie, Master & Commander, or something? He is in that! He’s one of the boat crew, doing all the Cronos shit, like *insert best Cronos vocal impression here*
VH: What was the defining moment when you knew music was it for you? Was it a show, or a certain album?
CL: Someone gave me a Guns n’ Roses tape in 1992. Within the first ten seconds, I was in, I was sold. I was a child, and I had no idea I was getting into a lifetime of torture and masochism to do this shit. Just tell me where to go, what I need to do and let’s do it. I was hooked!!!!
TB: Yeah, driving who knows where, loading in heavy cabinets up ridiculous stairs for $20? And then you play and you’re like fuck yeah, let’s do it again!
TB: When I was 6 or 7, I had this really hot babysitter named Dawn. She had that Farrah Fawcett hair, it was 1977 – super hot. I had this super crush on her. She would bring her records over, and one day she brought over Kiss’ Destroyer. I was really into horror movies, and this album was like a horror movie, with Gene Simmons and Detroit Rock City and that whole vibe. I was done. And when I realized The Demon played bass, that was it for me.
VH: What is the comedown from tour or a show like for you?
CL: If you take a break from playing, or go too long between shows you’ll just start being off… being snappy. Also, you start finding yourself at the bar more often, like why am I out drinking? I mean, we like going to the bar, but when you aren’t playing you almost find yourself there by surprise and then it’s like, ohhhh-
TB: It affects me more when I’m between bands. Coming home from tour or a show, I understand how life is and it’s fine, but there was one point when I went 6 months between bands and I became an asshole. Just bitchy. People around me were pushing me to go find a band, you know?
CL: Even if we take a break as a band between jamming. We go crazy. We might not realize it until we practice again, and then you look back and realize how off you’ve been.
VH: So what’s next for Venomous Maximus?
CL: This year we start working on our next record. Get together the songs and demo them and this summer we’ll go up to Portland to record them with Joel from Toxic Holocaust. It’s badass, we’re so excited to do that.
TB: We were supposed to play Portland but lost an axle on our trailer and had to cancel, so we’re ready to get back up there for sure. Portland is great. I’m a vegetarian and it’s so easy to do that up there.
CL: I’ll actually willingly eat vegetarian with Trevi when we go to places like the west coast and New York, because it’s easy and it’s delicious. But, you can’t commit to vegetarian on the road with Trevi. Because if you slip, at all, Trevi gets pissed. He holds you to it for the entire trip, and I’m sorry, but if it comes down to us being at a fast food spot, I’m not eating a bowl of lettuce from Whataburger.
TB: I am vegetarian. I used to be pescatarian. The best is how our stage manager, Greg, had never heard the term pescatarian prior to me using the word, and he kept calling it presbyterian. The entire tour he thought it was part of the religion, asking if eating meat meant you went to hell, all kinds of things.
VH: I know some of you are really influenced by movies. A lot of bands are starting to put a heavier value on their music videos. Huntress, for example, recently partnered with Phil Mucci for their latest single, Sorrow. Your imagery seems to lend itself to a short story video option – is that something you guys are considering?
CL: We would totally do that if funds allowed-
TB: Yes, absolutely. We would love to go that route.
CL: Let me say this: Anyone out there who wants to shoot a short film for us, especially someone famous, just contact us!
TB: If I could co-direct, that would be awesome.
CL: Seriously. Call us.
VH: Describe your stage show to someone new to Venomous Maximus.
CL: It’s really just about leaving it on stage, like every show is the last show. 95% of the shows we play, we do whatever we can, we get offstage and some of us can barely stand. You’ve got to give it everything
VH: You guys have some shows coming up – when and where?
CL: We’ll be in Austin on Feburary 25th with Darkest Hour at Dirty Dog. We also have a SXSW showcase on the 17th at The Lost Well and Heavy Metal Parking Lot March 19th at The Lost Well with Pentagram and others. Come see us!
VH: When you guys aren’t playing or working, how do you spend your time?
CL: Bill (Fool) and I are started DJ’ing at Next Door Bar here in Houston on Wednesday nights. Bill leans more towards punk and rock, but I stay pretty true to playing metal. Check out the Snowblind event page on Facebook for drink specials and more info!
TB: My wife, Becky, and I have our hot sauce company, Big Daddy’s. We do the hot sauces for Goatwhore, Eyehategod, Fu Manchu, High on Fire and the Flaming Lips. We just finalized one for Venomous Maximus that we are taste testing here tonight. The Fu Manchu has a this amazing ginger, sweet flare to it and the Goatwhore flavor is heavy on the black pepper and habaneros. The EHG is fun, it has the holy trinity in cajun cooking, smoky ancho and ghost peppers. The bands really get into them, they sell them on their pages and at shows. Becky and I just bought a bus that will feature our sauces, as well other local artists’ wares and works.
VH: Thank you both so much for hanging out and taking the time to speak with me!
Venomous Maximus is:
Gregg Higgins – Vocals, Guitar
Christian Larson – Guitar
Trevi Biles – Bass
Bongo – Drums