On the eve of the release of their career-spanning anthology Time Lapse, Vive Le Rock talks to Alex Novak from Northampton post-punks VENUS FLY TRAP.
Can you give a brief history of Venus Fly Trap.
I had been in a band called Attrition who were based in London at the time, I had done an album and toured Holland/UK with them. Decided to move back to my native Northampton famous for Bauhaus, Alan Moore and the film Kinky Boots, hooked up with my brother John Novak (Isaws, Where’s Lisse) and Tony Booker an ex art school student, I had also studied at art school. The line-up has changed many times over the years: Andy Denton joined via a local band Crowman, initially as the drummer and ended up playing guitar and has done for many years.
Your new album Time Lapse collects tracks from three albums - Totem, Pandora’s Box and Luna Tide. What was your reasoning for a three-in-one rather than individual releases?
It was basically the time it would take to release individual albums: to promote those albums, and the costs, it just seemed to make more sense. If someone else would like to reissue everything in one go in the future then that’s fine. It gave me an opportunity to pick tracks and create an alternative album for this alternate reality.
You’ve talked about VFTs albums as existing in triptychs. How do these three albums relate to each other?
Well, two came out on Danceteria, the line-up was pretty consistent with the core members being present. I would say Luna Tide was a transition album with members who had joined at the time of Pandora’s Box being retained, so shifts in line-up rather than seismic changes. But generally it was a band line-up with the usual drums, guitar, bass and keys which kept it within certain parameters but with some experimenting in the studio.
There was quite a sonic shift from the post punk of Totem to more organic Luna Tide. Why the constant evolution?
As new members join they add their influences to the pot, also we replaced electronic drum pads with a real drummer (on Mars we had a drum machine) and sequencers with an analogue keyboard player so that will effect the feel.
Despite this they remain easily identifiable as VFT. What’s the aesthetic holding them together?
I guess one thing would be myself: I have been the only constant in all the line-ups and I want the sound to fit certain parameters. Luna Tide was at the edge of those parameters and I didn’t want to continue in that particular direction for Dark Amour but that’s another story.
Certainly not a metal album, Luna Tide nevertheless got a glowing review in the metal bible Kerrang!. What was the crossover appeal?
I think at that time the magazine was covering a lot wider musical tastes not just the traditional stuff but also grunge, alternative rock and goth so we fitted within that brief.
How did you decide what tracks to include on Time Lapse?
Tried to get tracks to fit together and get a flow going, changed the order on some of the tracks from Luna Tide as they seemed to fit together better.
Fans have a special relationship with songs. Were you worried about omitting someone’s favourite when assembling Time Lapse?
This is an alternative album for an alternate reality, those albums don’t exist in this reality, another time and another place the dice would fall differently.
Time Lapse seems a pretty apt title for these strange times.
Time has been changed: are we going forward or are we in limbo?
How will you promote the album in the midst of a pandemic?
Via the net, magazines, radio and whatever portals and wormholes are open to transmit information.
VENUS FLY TRAP
Time Lapse 1989-1994
Northampton’s Venus Fly Trap, like Killing Joke or Public Image, are a band in constant flux with their discography shapeshifting from it’s post-punk beginnings to a darkwave electronica. The aptly titled Time Lapse selects tracks from three albums which encapsulates the bands evolution.
Venus Fly Trap found great favour on the continent and French label Danceteria released Totem in 1989. Four tracks from that record open this collection beginning with ‘Out Of Your Depth’, an epic of biblical proportions. Opening like the gates of Babylon it finds vocalist Alex Novak wailing, as if the love child of Nico and Jim Morrison, over a tangle of discordant guitars and sombre electronics. There’s a definite cinematic quality to these songs, especially the darker end of celluloid and ‘Rainy Latvian Wedding’ would make the ideal soundtrack to some unsettling film noir such as The Cremator.
Two years later and Pandora’s Box spilled its delights on an unwary public. ‘Shadow Ministry’: a baby’s wail, guitar dripping icicles and glacial synths constantly repositions the listener as it swirls around the room like some unruly spirit. The truly haunting ‘Sidewinder’ is a midnight stroll through the grounds of Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel while the albums lead single ‘Achilles Heel’ skips along on waves of effervescence. Producer Pat Fish sprinkled his magic on proceedings and produced a busy yet uncluttered sound which mirrored the bands frenetic energy.
When they returned in 1994 with Luna Tide it was with a more organic effort that veered in a more rock direction. However, in whatever guise they appeared there’s a dark aesthetic present and no more so than on ‘Storm Clouds Are Gathering’. The Velvet Underground meets Suicide, it takes a sombre turn that jars with the metronomic explosion that is ‘Moscow Menagerie’. Ensuring the album ends as it began the funereal ‘Heretic’ is a dark procession that leads to a haunting conclusion.
Despite the years and genres that separates these tracks they hang together as a cohesive whole and make a deliciously dark that’s perfect for these dark times.