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Venomous Maximus

Submitted by Commandrea on February 1, 2011 – 7:16 am6 Comments

by Ramon LP4

Venomous Maximus is (clockwise l to r) Bongo, Gregg Higgins, Trevi Biles, Christian Larson.

 

It is summer of 1968 and deep in the jungles of Vietnam there is a squad of American soldiers on patrol. The heat engulfs the men like a fog and beads of sweat roll down their skin and soak their shirts. They hold their weapons at the ready for they can smell the enemy nearby and their instincts are correct; they are in-fact surrounded. Yet, the VC hold their fire and let them pass for they see on the arms of the Americans a symbol they fear - a tattoo that heralds death itself. It’s maker, Norman Keith Collins, is better known by the nickname Sailor Jerry and lives half an ocean away in Honolulu. A former Navy man himself, Collins is a tough old right-wing libertarian bastard who not only can hold his own in a fight but also plays jazz saxophone and hosts a radio show to boot. Now it’s a fact that soldiers are competitive when in comes to tattoos and Collins, having tattooed fighting men for years, is quite aware of this and so he developed a new tattoo but this was not just any tattoo, this is one that had to be earned and one that Collins will only give to the baddest of the bad and the toughest of the tough. It is the tattoo that strikes fear in enemies and respect from peers - the Venomous Maximus.

Flash forward to January 14th 2011. It’s exactly 100 years since Sailor Jerry’s birth and Gregg Higgins, guitarist and vocalist of Venomous Maximus, is up in arms, “See people don’t know the origins of shit! They just press Google and the first thing that comes up they fucking run with it! They need to do their fucking homework! It’s a lot older than fucking Cobra Kai!”

“I don’t think any of us knew about the GI Joe thing,” adds guitarist Christian Larson, “until Space City Rock posted something like ‘Venomous Maximus - I heard it’s great but I hope they didn’t name themselves after a GI Joe character.’”

“See, fuck all that G.I. Joe shit! We don’t even know about that shit. I got it from the origin of where that shit came from. The idea was the soldier who had done the most kills - the Venomous Maximus of the soldiers - could get that tattoo. I saw that tattoo and I was like, the band I want to put together has got to be the Venomous Maximus of bands.”

The fact that the band’s name comes from a tattoo is not surprising given the fact that tattoos are what brought the band together. Higgins grew-up on the heavy stuff - heavy metal, black metal, and grind - and then moved from Victoria to Houston where he opened up Secret Tattoos. “Bongo was coming to the shop getting tattooed and I would listen to old records and stuff and one day he popped his head in and was like ‘Hey, you like that kind of music?’ I’m like ‘Fuck yeah! I wanna start a band!’ and he said ‘Well, I’m a drummer…’ and it was like OK, let’s see what can happen.”

“This is like the heaviest band I’ve been in,” admits Bongo, “I went through a bunch of shit when I left Nashville. I was really upset about the music scene there and I winded up moving back here so I really wanted to so something with a lot of heart. This is the last band I’m ever gonna be in. After this, I’m quitting. So either this works or I’m not gonna play music anymore - it’s either do or die.”

“The funniest thing about it,” says Higgins, “is that this is actually the softest band I’ve ever been in. Everything else was like a hundred miles way fucking heavier. Our whole idea for this band was fuck all these styles going on, let’s play what we grew up listening to: Black Sabbath, Mettallica, Ozzy…nothing special, nothing underground just the straight meat! Me and him jammed out for like a year in secrecy - nobody knew and we knew we needed members and one by one we got them.”

Larson was getting Tattooed at the shop and as he put it, “Gregg hit me up like a 19 thousand times, ‘Dude you gotta play guitar in our band!’ He kept talking about it and talking about it and talking about it and I finally said ‘OK, let me come by check out the jams.’ I did and it was good so I was in.”

When I ask how they came to know Trevi Biles, Higgins responds with a laugh, “Who don’t know Trevi around here? We just knew the bassist we needed was Trevi just from his years of experience and because he knew exactly what the hell we were playing because he’s old as fuck. “

Biles takes up the story, “I knew that stuff - The old Celtic Frost, the old metal kind of stuff, the old rock stuff - I grew up listening to that when I was 16 years old but I was playing in Whorehound when they first asked me. Then, a week later, the guitarist from Whorehound left for Austin and I knew the long distance relationship wasn’t gonna work so I gave Gregg a call and it ended up working out.”

“Trevi’s in that band! That’s all I heard,” exclaims Bongo, “Me and Trevi have known each other for a long time way before I moved to Nashville. We knew all the same people and played together.”

“This was about a year ago,” continues Biles, “The first show was in March 2010 with Torche and Nebula then I think it was High on Fire and Pentagram…We are shameless in pulling our connections. If someone comes up and says ‘You haven’t paid your dues!’ I’ll say bullshit I’ve paid my dues since you were born.”

“That’s also something about this band,” adds Higgins, “We all know we’re not gonna fuck around! And what I like about our band is that Trevi does Big Daddy’s Ass Burn Sauce on the side, Bongo builds motorcycles, I tattoo, and Christian makes all this shit happen. We’re all crafty motherfuckers. There are no dead links.”

But the band goes beyond just the four members - consider the artwork. “I didn’t want to miss anything in this band,” says Higgins, “I wanted the logo to be just as good as the music! I wanted the song titles to be just as good! We couldn’t miss anything in this one - VENOMUS MAXIMUS!  Dan Miller was one of my clients and he was in a band called Jon Benet and now he’s in Black Congress. I tattooed Dan for years and years and I told him about this Venomous Maximus thing I was trying to put together.  I tired to explain to him that I wanted to do the Iron Maiden thing with the art. You’ll never mistake Iron Maiden artwork for any other band. So, what I mean is having the same logo and look where it can always be identified. I started telling him about things like the occult, leaders, witches, spirituality, warriors, journeys and all this stuff and he was the only person who knew exactly what I was talking about. This all came about from my actually tattooing him so we had hours to discuss all this.  So, when everything started rolling, Dan started making the art. It’s the same thing with Chris Ryan (of Dead City Sound) we trust Chris, he rolls with us, and he makes us sound better. Same with Dan. I’ll give him a call, ‘Hey dude, we need a dude in a robe.’ and that’s what you get.”

Biles agrees, “The whole imagery that Dan comes up with is just as important as anything.”

“Otherwise,” adds Larson, “you end up like one of those bands where the band is awesome but the merch and artwork suck.”

When asked how they developed the style, Higgins replies, “One thing in the underground scene that is really easy to put together is kind of like a punk band. I’m not saying anything bad about them but it’s just easy as fuck to put one together and me and Cassidy (of  Cutthroat Records) were saying man, why isn’t there metal and all this stuff we felt was missing? And that’s where we wanted to come in - with music that nobody was doing but we all wanted to hear. That’s what Venomous Maximus was. It was just combining two worlds - heavy metal with blues stoner rock. If I could be in any band it would be a stoner band or a heavy metal band. Fuck it! Let’s put them both together. Venomous Maximus! The Maximus!

The songwriting process is just as inspired. “Me and Gregg hide away a lot like in secret,” says Bongo, “We call each other like 4 or 5 times a day and talk. He’ll call me up and be like ‘Dude I was watching this Toyota commercial and they have this one part where they have this weird band that kicks off like TANA- TANA-WAKA-TANA.’ I’m like ‘Oh yeah I saw that shit!’ and he’s like ‘Man, we gotta Venomous Maximus that shit!’”

“We get inspired by really weird things,” admits Higgins, “I’ve written stuff off of bands, movies, but words are what really inspires me. If I’m walking past somebody and I hear a phrase like Moonbones.  Moon and bones, that’s fucking great! You know, anything dark or occult. We’re very much into the occult and I’m very much into Aliens so we have tons of influences.”

I love alien stuff so I ask Higgins about it and the rest of the band laugh and tell me that I really don’t want to keep asking or this will be a seven hour conversation. But Higgins takes the reigns and gives me a brief break-down of his take on aliens. “OK, well, first of all we have to realize that we are all half-alien. That’s part of being a modern human. We are not natural humans anymore and we have a lock on our minds right now that allows us not to experience certain things like extreme pleasures and stuff like that. That’s why you get people gravitating towards things like music, sex, and drugs to get away from this hold that is on us. Humans gravitate towards a release cause we’re controlled by aliens - the Anunnaki. But it don’t matter whether you believe in Aliens or not, all I’m saying is that there is a lock on humans that stops us from doing shit and music is one of the things that releases us.”

That may sound weird to some but once you’ve heard the crushing riffs, the brutal drums, the dirty gallop of the bass lines, and the dark vocals of Venomous Maximus you will know exactly what he means. Venomous Maximus! The Maximus!

Venomous Maximus have a 7″ out on Cutthroat Records. Look for a new EP and full length soon as well as a video directed by Brian Forrester soon.
Check them out on Facebook, Myspace, and on GreggHiggins.net

6 Comments »

  • Becky says:

    Ramone,
    Great picture of the guys, great interview and I LOVE your writing style!

  • Frustrated Fan says:

    Great story, but some parts were unnecessarily difficult to read due to frequent punctuation errors. A little editing can go a long way.

  • admin says:

    Thanks frustrated fan. You are 100% right. I will do a better job of copy editing my articles in the future.

    Thanks for not letting that slide.

    Ramon LP4

  • shane says:

    I loved the story , awsome job and a awsome band each time i see this band i get my face melted keep it up, good luck in new orleans with ihategod what a big show for MY HOME TOWN BOYS,KEEP ROCKIN

  • Bobbie says:

    Awesome. This band is taking Houston to the next level musically. Keep it up guys!

  • GlenW says:

    Well done. I enjoyed this band when they played with the Sword on NYD at Fitz. Really glad to know what their name means. Wasn’t sure what to make of it before reading.
    Thanks \m/

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