To commemorate the release of their eighth studio album entitled ‘Icon’ Peter Dennis spoke to lead singer of local darkwave/electronic group Venus Fly Trap.
The band was formed in Northampton in 1986 by brothers Alex and John Novak (who played together in local punk band the Isaws). They released their debut single ‘Morphine’ in 1988 which preceded their first album later that year. Like many local artists they felt a need to leave the town to gain recognition and, while often underappreciated in their native UK, they toured Europe extensively and built a large fan base (their debut album ‘Mars’ was released on the French label Danceteria).
Throughout the years the band have undergone numerous line up changes before settling on their current incarnation of vocalist Alex and guitarist and programmer Andy Denton. The band have a sound that is constantly evolving and contains a nice mixture of surgical electronics and organic guitar and vocals.
How does Alex feel he and Andy gel together?
“As far as writing, Andy would come up with an idea, as in a piece of music, and then I’d try to fit some lyrics to that. The music would suggest some lyrics then it would go backwards and forwards. I tend to write some lyrics on pieces of paper then expand it. He would do one thing then that would inspire me to think of something which in turn would probably make him think of something else musically. So it kind of goes back and forth.”
The latest album follows 2011’s ‘Nemesis’ meaning the new record has been seven years in gestation. Why did it take so long?
“In that period Andy had a child. The best of (‘Metamorphosis’) came out on vinyl in 2016. I reissued albums by my previous bands The Tempest and Religious Overdose and then there was the planning of my art exhibition. It takes a while to write an album, to physically be in one place at the same time, to start with an idea then flesh that idea out. The biggest thing is the actual mixing, it’s the thing that takes a lot of time.”
‘Icon’ was mixed by Martin Bowes from Coventry darkwave band Attrition. What did he bring to the process?
“I used to be in Attrition in the mid-80s for an album. It’s good to have somebody from an outside viewpoint, looking at it and adding the final touches. That’s what his studio is geared up for: doing finished product. He gave it a bit more breadth and depth. The one thing with electronics is it can be quite dense. You need some air in there so it can breathe.”
How do you feel the new album relates to previous Venus Fly Trap records? Would you say there’s a clear lineage or do you consider this a fresh start?
“I think the albums ‘Zenith’, ‘Nemesis’ and ‘Icon’ are part of a trilogy. Andy and I have been involved in all three of those. They’ve certainly been in a similar area. I think a lot of work does come in three’s and those three albums have a strong connection. I think those three albums are a triptych.”
Each Venus Fly Trap album is connected by a loose theme. For example ‘Luna Tide’ explored urban soundscapes while ‘Dark Amour’ examined the darker side of love. From where did you draw lyrical inspiration for ‘Icon’?
“Generally ‘Icon’ is about fame, or how we elevate people very quickly. I think terms like icon, legend and celebrity are overused. There’s also a religious connotation as an icon is a religious artefact or object so the album is basically about the elevation of ordinary people to the level of demigods.”
The cover is quite striking. Does it relate to the albums theme in any way?
“Mannequins and showroom dummies: they are in human form but they are not real, but they look real so they’re things that’ll never age, almost like statues. It’s ambiguous, it’s not a person who exists, it’s an idealised version of a human being. They’re not in motion, they’ve just been stopped for a while. People in the future might think that this was a god from this period.”
Now the album is released how do you plan to promote it?
“We’ll do all the obvious: radios and magazines. We’ll get out and play, we’ll do as much of that as we can. There’s nothing like going to see a band then buying their CD or record. There’s an immediacy there.”
Is there anything you’d change with the finished album?
“No, because that’s an endless process. You can always go back and tweak something, then you’d go ‘I could tweak again’. You’d never finish it. It’s done and that’s it.”
‘Icon’ is released on Glass Records. It’s available online and from Spiral Archive on St Michael’s Road.