Antton Lant Reveals His History In Metal And How He Puts Def Con One First
When speaking to drummer Antton Lant, it is obvious one is dealing with a musician who has an extensive background in the metal community. He commands respect with his decade playing for Venom and other groups and brings a certain element of heaviness to any project he's been involved in. But Antton is not a musician who is content to rest on his past laurels. He created his band Def Con One years ago to be involved in a group where he could bring his own ideas of what a heavy metal band should sound like.
Def Con One is the group he always wanted to be a part of, and is now doing that full-time. He feels that a group should be fun and not some routine job, and that is what he and the members of Def Con One convey - pure energy. As the band plays countless gigs in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and other cities in his native Britain, Antton took to time to dish with me about his involvement in Def Con One and other areas of his past projects in metal bands.
Sonictherapy: Antton, you have a rich history in metal, ensuring yourself a key place in it by having drummed almost a decade in Venom. Tell us a bit about those times and growing up the brother of Cronos.
Antton Lant: Ten years seems like a long time eh! Lol. Most of it was great, playing on "Resurrection" was cool but the most fun was "Metal Black." We had some great times headlining festivals and touring. I got the chance to play some big festivals and meet a lot of bands I really like and made some good friends too. I think the album "Hell" was a weird period for Venom. The recording and the writing process seemed very forced, not much of it came naturally and I think this comes across in the songs. I personally did not enjoy it, and too many aspects of the recording process were wrong too. I never expected to have to play some of the guitar parts on the album either.
Sonic: Drummers seem to run in your extended family as well. Your brother Graham was the percussionist for the English band Prefab Sprout. Are a lot of people in your family musically inclined and did this have a big influence on you growing up?
Antton: Graham is my oldest brother. He’s played drums for as long as I can remember and it was him that got me into music. I shared a room with Graham for a lot of years and he loves music of all kinds. I like to think there is only two kinds of music, good and bad, lol. He used to take me to concerts and took me to see Van Halen in 1980 which was killer. Yeah he played for Prefab Sprout. He has gold and platinum discs on his wall too for Prefab Sprout. But he also played for the punk band the Angelic Upstarts too; he is very versatile as a drummer. I used to play on his drums from time to time, then one day he decided he wanted to move to London to live and left his drums with me.
He said I could play them as much as I wanted so long as I replaced anything I broke. Then one day I swapped him my Steve Vai Jem guitar for his kit and the rest is history as they say. I also have cousins in bands too. My cousins Jimmy and Roy were both in bands and they are still involved in music today. Roy plays in a punk band called the Me Me Me’s that punks up classic songs - they're great. I also have a cousin that plays in Enthroned. Very musical family I guess.
Sonic: You left Venom to concentrate on a few bands you were starting up. On the first one, Primevil (later changed to MPire of Evil), you, Mantas and Tony Dolan (all former Venom members) played homage to many of the greats of metal with several covers. What made you decide to leave MPire of Evil? Were there many reasons?
Antton: Yes there was. Over the years I realised we all have very different views about what kind of band we want to be - or should I say I did. And, I was drifting more and more away from what they had in their minds. Also the plan was to play original songs live and throw a couple of Venom tracks into the set - “ya know promote the album” - not to play mostly Venom songs live. I did not want to rely on playing Venom songs live in order to get the fans into our gigs. I have no desire whatsoever to be in a Venom tribute band. I noticed in a recent interview they said I left because I did not want to tour? Bollox, total bollox. I have no problem touring. I did, however, have a few problems with the way that tour was being organised.
I spoke to the manager about my concerns and he totally understood were I was coming from. But communication got out of hand and messages were getting read wrong. The original plan for the band was to gain exposure by playing festivals, then look into touring later in the year or maybe even leave touring properly until next year. Then we got some stupid offers and I said 'what is the hurry?' And I wanted to know why we were gonna tour before the album release. Why not wait one month? I have toured America and loved it - our bus air con failed and we broke down three times but it was still awesome. The gigs were great and the fans were awesome.
Sonic: I had figured it had more to do with you wanting to concentrate on Def Con One. You've spent three or more years honing this band into a groove monster. You have stated that in creating Def Con One you are going for a sound that is unattainable - to not copy something. Tell us about it.
Antton: I have spent about fifteen years on Def-Con-One and it is, and always will be, my baby. Me and Johnny started it after playing together in a band called Sanity’s Edge. It’s taken a long time to get the right people into the band with Steve on bass and Davey on vocals, but it’s been worth it. Some bands give up after five minutes if it’s not working but not Def-Con-One. We have strived for a long time. I would always put Def-Con-One first and the way things were going something had to give.
I will be honest with you, Def-Con-One in my opinion is the best band I have ever been in, and these guys are like brothers to me and not just good friends. I know I can go out and play gigs and we are 100% on the same page. We all want the same thing, we all live for Def-Con-One. I don’t have to baby sit anybody and make sure everything is just right for them or any shit like that. We all just dig in and get the job sorted. I want this band to be judged for what it is not some past glory thing.
Sonic: How did all the members of Def Con One meet up and decide to create a band? You emphasize that you are happy with the unit that you have all formed and do all your song writing and lyrics as a team where everyone contributes.
Antton: Like I said me and Johnny had worked together in Sanity’s Edge. We had a different bassist Craig for a few years but things didn’t work out for whatever reason, can’t remember now lol. We are all still good friends with Craig though. And we had a second guitarist Bob - I can’t even remember why Bob left now. But were still all friends; Bob and Craig still come to local shows to show their support etc. Then Steve came along, and Steve loves punk music so he brought a different aggression to the band. It was cool for me and him to jam out old Pistols and Damned tunes too.
We nearly put a Damned track into the set at one point. We’ve had a few different singers but we always wanted someone with more range and melody in their voice. I had worked with Davey in a band called the New Future Cowboys, and I really wanted him to try out. One day I bumped into him in Newcastle and started talking bands, etc. I said 'let me give you some new track ideas we have.' Davey loved them, and he came down to a rehearsal and it just clicked straight away. We all got on musically and we all get on as friends, something I always wanted. I look at being in a band like being in a gang, us four.
When we work on tracks it's all of us; we all put our input in from riffs to lyrics, grooves etc. We will, and do, try any ideas that get thrown into the pot - whatever works best stays. So from artwork to merchandise to riffs to lyrics etc etc, we don’t care what it is. It’s all shared equally as Def-Con-One. It's really great working like this. I’ve worked with people in the past were they want total control like they know best - edit your parts and re-record peoples bits etc. Bollox, that’s not a band that’s megalomania.
Sonic: Def Con One's song themes are ones that anyone can relate to. I also like that picture of all the intertwined skeletons on your band page for the track "March of the Dead," a song about people who just exist and don't really live. That's one thing you'd never want to be, right?
Antton: We want to write music that we want to hear, we cover whatever subject we want and we like the fact we have total freedom. I think the album has a wide variation of tracks on it too, it’s not twelve 'Warfaces' hahaha imagine that. We even have an acoustic track on there. That pic was posted on our page by a friend lol, its killer…
Sonic: You had Mike "Mykvs" Hickey lay down the solo for that song. He's played with Cathedral and Carcass before. Tell us about having him come in and contribute guitar.
Antton: Mike is great, great musician and a very good friend of mine. When he quit Venom I was gutted because I’ve known Mike for a long time and loved writing with him etc. He loves Def-Con-One and when we wrote "March of the Dead" I sent him a copy and said 'feel free to rip open a killer solo on the track bro.' He said he loved the track and sent a solo back a few hours later. I think the solo is awesome too; very musical and rips like crazy near the end - it fits awesome. He never actually sat in our studio though, lol. He sent the solo over the internet…
Sonic: The working title of the new Def Con One album will be the name of your new popular single "Warface." I hear you have secured a deal with Scarlet Records for a June release?
Antton: Yes indeed, we are stoked to be working with Scarlet. They are really cool people and love their metal.
Sonic: The "Warface" track has become the unofficial anthem for Def Con One. But you also have the track "My Halo." Tell us about these two different sides to you.
Antton: There are a few sides to us, we're always trying new ideas. Since Davey joined he has opened up the spectrum for us. As soon as he put the melodies down on the track "Blood" we started writing slightly different and it’s funny because the ideas seem to come a lot easier too. We have the really heavy stuff with the aggression but with melody too.
Sonic: When you're discussing the subject of substance abuse in "Blood," has someone particularly close to you been in a battle with those demons?
Antton: Yeah, I guess it relates to a lot of people battling addiction. I think everyone has someone in their lives or knows someone that is addicted to something. Pity they won’t listen and won’t seek advice, and it can ruin families too. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try to help them either, they have to wake up and realise that they have to make the decision to stop and seek help. The people they surround themselves with are not friends, they are either selling you the stuff in the first place or want something from you. Horrible and sad I guess. When I hear people say shit like 'I haven’t got a problem because I can afford it' it’s sad and ignorant.
Sonic: You recorded all of the "Warface" album in your own home studio The Room of Doom. You do all the mixing and mastering and can change things that sound wrong much quicker. Tell us about your sound studio and which one of you acts as the sound engineer?
Antton: The studio “the room of doom” is basically our rehearsal room and in one half of it we have our recording equipment. Johnny handles most of the recording. He has worked with me on two Venom albums and the MPire album too. All the drums for "Metal Black" and "Hell" plus the MPire drums were all recorded in our room by Johnny. But, we all have our input. The best thing about it is we can record the tracks as many times as we want and as many ways we want. If we have an idea like 'hey try this riff here,' we can try it out straight away to see if it will work and were all there. If Johnny works on anything by himself he will send us mp3’s to check. I’ve known a song to change quite a few times in one day, so its mp3 crazy.
There is no way in hell he would change anything without letting us know about it. I’ve had people chop my drums up and edit them without my consent and they haven’t even asked my opinion - megalomaniacs. Who gives anyone the right to fuck with another musicians performance? The outcome is me never working with them ever again. Simples. The recording process is very old school though, no clicks or simpty or anything - just us jamming out the tracks. We feel it helps a lot with the feel of the track and the groove is much better when it’s just us playing together. I think clicks can sometimes make it all a bit stale. Then, once we have a take were happy with then the bass and guitars are redone and then all the vocals added.
Sonic: Def Con One plays non-stop festivals/gigs all over England and you have shows lined up from May to October. Describe to us the scene at a Def Con One show and what the concert goer can expect from you.
Antton: We try our best to give 100% every night, our music is extreme and intense so we have to have days off too. I’ve seen too many bands put on a half arsed performance and it’s simply not acceptable. We want to be what we want to see. We want to entertain the crowd, and maybe even get some people up to sing backing vocals or whatever - it’s a metal party. But it’s got to be fun. We love what we do and there is no point playing in a band if you ain't having fun.
Sonic: Antton, is it a challenge being a father to a young child and also having a breakneck schedule to perform as a musician? Has your son shown any enthusiasm for the drums and what you do?
Antton: I think being a parent is very hard and very easy at the same time; the rewards are the best thing ever, ever. I think it must be even harder for a soldier, but I guess anyone that goes away from home, like oil rig workers etc. It’s hard, but some people work long shifts or night shifts etc. I got given a drum kit for my oldest son but he doesn’t seem that interested, hopefully he will get a proper job, lol.
Sonic: On a side note, you are a huge Pantera fan. Share with us your favourite Pantera moments and songs, and some of your other special musical moments and bands that have influenced you.
Antton: Oh wow, how long will this interview be, lol. I first got into Pantera after my good friend Gary brought "Cowboys from Hell" around for me. It must have been right around the time of "Vulgar.." because it was only about two weeks later he brought that round too. I saw them live on the Far Beyond tour and they simply blew me away. To me it was like watching a metal version of Van Halen. They were killer - the show got pulled though because the kids were ripping seats out and the power went down a few times, crazy stuff. The next time was Glasgow on the Reinventing tour. I got to hang out with the guys from the band and I got to stand right behind Vinnie's kit watching him play, awesome.
I met Vinnie and Dime again at Download when they played with Damage Plan, got a few shots and got very wasted, great time. Then in 2006 I was at a Down gig and we just found out Venom and Down were both playing Gods of Metal. I was like 'Phil has gotta get up and sing a track with us.' When we played Phil sung "Die Hard" and for me it was surreal having Phil Anselmo up on stage singing with us. In 2009 Phil asked me to get up onstage with Down to play "Bury Me in Smoke." I was shitting myself, being up on stage looking out and seeing Phil, Rex, Kirk and Pepper right there in front of me. All that was going through my head was 'don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up.' Hahaha, it was awesome and an honour to play with those guys.
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