Mike Vennart’s upcoming solo LP ‘The Demon Joke’ is a celebration of freedom and a creative canvas on which he has been doodling for a number of years.
To hear of this up coming release was a cause of great excitement. A huge Oceansize fan, I was more than aware of Mike’s capabilities. When I discovered that the tracks also featured Gambler and Steve Durose (both of Oceansize fame) and Denzel (a Newcastle sticksman whose amazing antics I’ve been aware of since his Calcius Repton days), I was extremely eager to hear this release.
Oceansize have not been active since 2011 and as such Mike has been performing in arenas around the world with Biffy Clyro, where most of The Demon Joke tracks were conceived:
“All the initial ideas were recorded / thought up in posh hotel rooms whilst on tour all over the world with Biffy … they’d be snatched in private onto an iPhone memo” explains Mike.
The opening track ‘255’ is evident of this, starting epically under swathes of well produced guitar, synths and drums, the melodic instrumental idea glides over the interesting percussive rhythm, typical of Oceansize. This suddenly drops to a demo quality guitar, sounding almost as though it has been taken straight from the original iPhone demo, which Mike starkly sings over. This is then relieved by the opening refrain again, with the top quality production supporting the continuation of Mikes vocal – before the whole track erupts into oscillated-fuzz noise which introduces the following track seamlessly.
The Demon Joke was recorded at Mike’s home studio and is an exercise in liberation and obsessive tinkering. The second track ‘Doubt’ features numerous interesting guitar, synth and drum sounds and production techniques – all typically held together via Mike’s melodic vocal hooks.
Track ‘Rebirthmark’ is a thing of beauty. A repetitive arppegiated riff looped on what sounds to be a keyed instrument is later joined by a percussive drum groove, requiring a calculator to figure out the algorithm – that is until Mike’s voice binds the whole work together along with some tastefully placed, melodic violins.
Mike states: “Comedy is a kind of lifeline to everyone … there’s a lot of comedy in these songs, but also a lot of joy in being able to do whatever I want. There’s moments of beauty but also lots of weird noises and things that are designed to irritate people”
If the irritation within the ‘Duke Fame’ track is intentional then it is genius, if its serious then to my ear it is perhaps more questionable. The irritation I’m referring to is the forced, ‘rock’ vocal avec 80’s style vibrato. Iron Maiden fans will adore this, but (for me gladly) this is the only track where this vocal technique is applied on the whole album … if this is a joke, well played Mike sir!
‘A Weight In the Hollow’ is another beautiful track, custom to the Oceansize school of composition. Vocal octaves singing a melodic hook over picked guitars and different time signatures which all work together, ingraining a solid groove.
‘Operate’ is a track which Vennart promoted to fans through the albums pledge music campaign, a platform allowing pledgers to access exclusive products and information direct from Vennart in regards to The Demon Joke album. A personal favorite, this track sores above the rest and has been repeated on many occasions. ‘Operate’ epitomizes the sound that Mike has achieved through years of performance and composition with his Oceansize compadres and the more recent influence of playing with Biffy Clyro. Melodic instruments crafted to perfection, weaving and building throughout the track, culminating in an epic and anthemic chorus hook. Mike commented that:
“Operate is a special song to me and pretty much encapsulates the vibe, intent and essence of ‘The Demon Joke’ album. Writing it cleared my head and gave me a much-needed kick up the arse … this was the song that opened a lot of doors, creatively, on this record. It’s pretty much the best chorus I’ve ever written. It’s the kind of heavy pop song I’ve been threatening to write for years. It’s simple, but it’s still got a few weird tricks up its sleeve.”
Operate by Mike Vennart
Vennart has always been a strong creative force; his ideas, composition, ear for melody, effortless vocals and cutting edge performances, has earned him a loyal following through previous projects. Since religiously attending Oceansize and Biffy Clyro shows for years (they were even on the same tour 2004 [that was a good night]), I have been a fan of Mike – and this, his next logical step, has not disappointed. These tracks sound as big, fresh and innovative now as they would have ten years ago. Any fans of these, are the Biffysize associated era of bands, will thoroughly appreciate Vennart’s The Demon Joke.