1986 Metal Mania magazine interview
1986 Metal Mania magazine interview
First and foremost, the question on everyone’s tongue is, what exactly is a Voivod? According to “Away,” drummer for the band with this strange name, it is a Warrior that lives in the land of Morgoth. Obviously, this creature, and this place, are products of his very vivid imagination, which continues to create new avenues and settings to house this curious, ferocious creature. Away (who’s real name is Michel Langevin) came up with Voivod and it’s concept in 1982. He then formed a speed metal band with friends Blackie, Piggy, and Snake (obviously not their real names either), other and incorporated his science fiction ideas into the band’s makeup. Four years later, we see Voivod (the band, not the warrior) rising steadily on the hardcore metal scene. Since their formation, they have moved from their small hometown of Jonquiere to Quebec, where they landed a record deal and put out two LP’s, War And Pain, and RRROOOAAARRR. A third release entitled Killing Technology, should be out sometime this winter. Voivod’s success could be due in part to their creative talents, and their never-ending persistence. Away, (who also happens to be the member most fluent in English), spoke to us about his creation, and its growth.
How did the whole Voivod Image and concept evolve?
Away: I created the whole Voivod concept. When I was younger, I read about the barbarians that were living in the f north of Europe, and they were called Voivods, They ate their people, and drank their blood. I imagined them with nuclear weapons in their midst, and so I created the concept of the band around these Voivods. I told the story to the rest of the guys, and they really enjoyed it. they felt it would be the perfect image, to correspond with the kind of music that we were going to play. And so we Created all our songs around this nuclear Voivod.
But what came first, the band or the concept?
Away: I wanted to form a band around this concept, but at first I didn’t explain this concept to the guys, I only asked them if they wanted to be called Voivod, but they didn’t like the name. They didn’t understand it. Then, a couple of months later I explained the whole thing, and then they realized that it was a perfect name.
How and when did the band come together?
Away: Myself, Piggy and Blacky, got together in November of 1982, and then in January of ’83 Snake joined us. Piggy and I knew Blacky from school, so we got together. I also knew Snake, and I introduced him to the guys. It wasn’t really difficult because we lived in a really small town where everybody knew each other. Voivod is the first band for each member. None of us has ever played in another band.
Is this the only kind of music that you would consider playing?
What would you call it?
Away: I don’t really have a word for what we’re playing except for ‘power metal,’ but some people call us ‘nuclear metal,’ which I also consider an appropriate term. We really don’t care about what we’re called, as long as they don’t call us ‘black metal.’ We’re not into Satan. “It’s funny, ’cause we’ve been compared to Venom many times. When we released our first album in 1984, there were a lot of new bands. You were either compared to Venom, Slayer or Metallica. Snake’s vocals are maybe similar with Cronos’ vocals, so that’s probably where they made the comparison. But we’re not like Venom. We’re really not ‘black’ or ‘death metal.’
It’s pretty unusual to have a band that’s totally based and revolves around one concept Would you ever consider being in a band that has no concept?
Away: No, Never! If we dumped the concept, then I ‘d prefer not to play in the band at all! because a band without a concept is a band without an image. You can’t put your ideas out if you don’t have an concept behind them.
Speaking of image, how come you haven’t really done anything in the way of costumes to promote the Voivod look more?
Away: Each time we do a new album, we’d like to do something new with the look; but right now, like all young bands, we have problems with money. The money that we do have, we use for equipment. But we are thinking of making some Voivod equipment with fiberglass, as well as some weapons. Something to put the Voivod image more onstage.
Do you like other kinds of music besides ‘power metal?’
Away: Yeah. Every member listens to many things. We’ll listen to metal, hardcore and film soundtracks, and also stuff like Killing Joke and Bauhaus. Stuff like that. There are many influences in this band.
What are some of those influences?
Away: At first it was Motorhead, old Raven, Tank and Metallica’s first demo. Then it was Slayer, Venom, and also bands like Discharge, and GBH. And after that, Corrosion Of Conformity, DRI, and SOD.
So you like hardcore?
Away: Yes. We don’t listen to much metal, except for Kreator, or Motorhead. Piggy’s the one that listens to the most metal, for the guitar playing.
Who does he listen to?
Away: He listens to everything. He’s the oldest member, so he has old influences like Grand Funk, Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper. He also listens to guitarists like Yngwie and Akira from Loudness, just for their playing. He’s the most technical player in the band, that’s why he writes the basic tracks for the songs. Then he brings them to us, we add to it and Snake writes the lyrics.
Do you ever listen to any commercial music, like pop, or rock ‘n’ roll?
Away: No. We don’t listen to stuff like Motley Crue or WASP, but we like bands like U2, and Lords Of The New Church. I like some new wave bands.
Away, what was the concept behind your first LP, War And Pain, and how is it different from your second, RRROOOAAARRR’?
Away: The first LP is about a Voivod that just woke up after a nuclear war. His flesh is totally maimed. On the second album, it’s after five or six nuclear wars, so he is stronger and more powerful. He’s also got new equipment that’s more technical and sophisticated. He’s become Korgull, The Exterminator. On the third album, he will evolve even more. Now he’ll be in space.
You say that you are not a political band, and yet your whole concept involves nuclear war.
Away: I don’t like the political side of let’s say, the Star Wars project. We’re into the technical side of all the nuclear weaponry. We’re not for or against nuclear war, we just talk about it. Just like a cartoon or a comic book. Some people think we’re political, but we’re really not, that gets old pretty fast. People will get sick of that really soon, just like Satanism.
Basically, Voivod has the ‘survival of the fittest’ concept.
Away: Exactly. I feel the message is that the band are Voivods, and like the guy on our album cover, we fight, Voivod is really a part of us. We are Voivods, we fight for survival. We want to the the kids to do the same thing. If they want to do something, they shouldn’t let people bring them down. They should just fight and they will make it, just like we did. We had thousands of problems since the first album. We had all our equipment stolen and much more, but we kept fighting and we’re still here. You’ve just got to fight to survive.
So then, this band does have a message, and it’s a positive one.
Away: Yeah. The message that comes from this band is if we are where we are today, it’s because we believe in what we do, and we work. We’ve worked a tot to be here, so that’s the message. If the kids see us, that’s what we’re gonna tell them. If you want to do something in your life -I don’t care if it’s just to be a mechanic- then you have to believe In yourselves. And the only way to get there to is work at it.
So, the Voivod concept will keep evolving with each album?
Away: Yes, The third album will be called Killing Technology and it will be about the Voivod in space. Everything on earth will be deceased around him, so that’s why he has to go elsewhere, to space. I’m already thinking about the fourth album, which could take place in the outer dimension.
Away, since you are an artist, how do you come up with ideas for drawings?
Away: I don’t know. They Just come to me. Sometimes I walk around in the streets and try to take the morbid side of life and put that in my work. I don’t really have to think about it. Ideas just come to me. Sometimes I even get ideas from my dreams.
How long did something like the album cover drawing take you to do?
Away: The first one took me about two months, and for the second one, I really took my time. I did it in about six months. For the third one, I won’t have that much time, ’cause we’re going to start recording in November, but I’m not worried. I’ve bought some equipment that will help me do it better, faster. I already have the whole idea for the Killing Technology cover.
Do you do any other kind of artwork, aside from the voivod drawings?
Away: No. I’m really too busy with Voivod drawings to do anything else, except for sometimes. Like this Montreal hardcore band took my drawing to do the cover of their demo and also a band from Seattle called Accuse asked me for some drawings, and I sent them some. Usually, though I really don’t have time to do outside stuff.
I see that you also do the Voivod logos. Are those going to keep evolving and changing as well?
Away: Yes. On every album it will be more technical and mechanical. Every time I make a new logo it’s going to be different. I don’t ever want to draw the same thing twice.
Do you also appreciate other forms of art?
Away: Yeah, I really like paintings, and also cartoons. I want to do cartoons. If I do any I will call them Morgoth Tales. ‘Cause I want to show the story of life on Morgoth, and the Voivod.
Musically, how would you say that your two LPs differ?
Away: At first, technically, we weren’t very good. Except for Piggy, none of us were very proficient on our instruments. When we started the band, that’s when we started playing our instruments. Piggy knew how to play guitar, and he showed Blacky how to play bass. And I only played drums for like a year-and-a-half in my room. I had no outside playing experience. So on the first album, it was not very technical. On the second album all of us really improved, even Piggy. We all got better on our instruments, and the music is stronger and more united. We made a big progression because we had a lot of time between the two albums. It could have been our third album.
How have you worked on improving your playing?
Away: We practiced every night, and we worked very hard. We’re not quitters.
So then you are striving to be better musicians?
Away: Yeah. We want each album to be better than its predecessor. We don’t want one album to be great, and the next one to be bad. We want to always get better.
Since Snake writes the lyrics, and the concept is Voivod, is there anything that he writes about that does not involve your concept?
Away: There are some songs that are not about Voivod. Snake and I usually talk, and we exchange ideas. When I get an idea about the Voivod concept, I explain it to him, and then he writes the lyrics. But he has some of his own ideas, and he’s done his own songs like ‘Suck Your Bone,’ and ‘Fuck Off And Die,’ which are not really in the Voivod concept. It’s more like punk. Also ‘Ripping Headaches’ was Snake’s idea, and that’s not about Voivod. For the third album, he’s really developed his own ideas around the Voivod concept, and he really understands what’s in my mind.
What about a song like ‘Cockroaches,’ which will be on your third LP?
Away: That’s also about the concept. After three, four or ten nuclear wars, I’m sure the cockroaches will still be there. And they’ll be there to eat the rest.
Then the concept is really nuclear war, with Voivod in it.
Away: Sometimes the Voivod isn’t there. Sometimes there are other people there like, The Warrior Of Ice, or the Helldriver, who is not a Voivod. All those people are in Morgoth, which is the land of Voivod. That’s all in my dreams.
On the second album RRROOOAAARRR, the Voivod is still in Morgoth, but on the third album he’ll be in space, and on the fourth album he’ll be in another dimension. If that’s the case, then after the second LP, the Voivod will no longer be in Morgoth, so then this land of Morgoth cannot be your main concept. It all leads back to the same thing, that your main concept is nuclear war.
Away: Yeah, but more so nuclear equipment. Everything that involves nuclear instrumentation. Like, we’ve got a song called ‘Uncontrolled Reaction,’ which is about the China Syndrome. It’s nuclear, but not really nuclear war.
Do you think that you could ever run out of ideas just basing your whole band on one concept?
Away: No, because there is an evolution in the concept. Like if you go in space,
it’s definitely not the same thing as being on Earth, and if you go in another dimension, that’s even further away.
Do you ever get a mental block, where you have no ideas?
Away: No I think we’ll never have this mental block, because we’ve already got ideas for the fourth album. With each album we develop a concept, and so it’s easy to find new ideas for it.
What is Voivod like in the studio?
Away: We try to capture the live sound, that’s why our sound engineer on the tour, and in the studio, is the same person, ’cause he knows how to put our live sound on tape. We’re a live band, basically, and we enjoy being in the studio, but we do it so we’ll have songs we can play live. We want this live kind of garage sound in the studio, but we don’t want a cheap sound. Voivod has a typical sound that we want to keep and in the studio we don’t fool around. We don’t take six months or five hundred hours to do an album. The first album was done in 33 hours, and the second one was done in about 90 hours.
This past summer you did an American tour with Celtic Frost. Was it your first time in the U.S.?
Away: It was our first American tour, but in April we did play a show in New York at the Ritz with Venom and the Cro-mags. That was our first appearance outside of Quebec.
And what do you think of the American audience?
Away: It’s a really good crowd. We had great audiences in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago especially.
How is an American audience different from a Canadian one?
Away: The two are very similar, except for some places, where you find a bit more stagediving.
Speaking of which, do you find that you get more hardcore fans coming to your shows?
Away: Yeah, there are more punkers here than in Quebec. We get more metal fans at our shows in Quebec.
Are you surprised that the hardcore fans like the band?
Away: Not really, because hardcore is one of our main influences, so we try to do a kind of mix between metal and hardcore, a kind of speed-core. Here in the States, the fans are a bit more violent. They’re bigger thrashers.
How do you feel about violence and the fact that your music may promote it?
Away: We have a song like ‘Live For Violence,’ and sometimes people blame us for that violent side of our music, but I think it’s kind of a canonization of the violence. The kids go to a show and they get violent, but it’s better to get ,violent at a show than in the street where you can really hurt something, or someone. It’s not as violent as a hockey game or a wrestling match. For us, our shows are therapy. It’s a release. When the show is over, you can see how tired the people are from thrashing and stagediving, and they don’t want to fight or anything like that. They just want to go home and sleep.
Is there a thrash-metal scene in Quebec?
Away: Yeah, and it’s growing. When we did the World War III show with Destruction, Possessed, Nasty Savage and Celtic Frost, over 2,000 people showed up. That’s not bad at all. It’s all in marketing. Today we have a band like Metallica that sold over half a million albums in two months, well, that’s a big move. The first song from Metallica was on Metal Massacre III, and Voivod had a song on Metal Massacre V, so for us the I success of Metallica is real important. It proves that there is something new coming. I think that Metallica has opened the door for Slayer, and Slayer has opened the door for bands like Voivod, who are a little bit different.
Getting back to Canada, are there many local bands like Voivod there?
Away: In Quebec, we’ve got Aggression, which is a speed-metal band, and also a band called Outrage, who sound a bit like Motorhead. In Toronto there are some bands like Sacrifice and Slaughter, and there are old bands like Exciter and Anvil, but nobody cares about them anymore. Also, there’s a band in Vancouver called Sacred Blade who just released an album. We got their demo a long time ago, and it was really good.
What other speed metal bands do you like?
Away: I like Kreator for the music, but the lyrics are still the same pentagram Satan stuff. It’s difficult to say, because I don’t listen to much metal but my favorite band in power metal, is Motorhead. I will always listen to them. The rest of the band likes Possessed and Slayer.
Are there any bands that you don’t like?
Away: Not really. I don’t think it’s good to rank out other bands. I just read this article in Destruction fanzine, and each band puts down the other. I don’t agree with that.
When and why did you start playing drums?
Away: I started just in my room about 1980-81. I always wanted to do music, and I wanted to do art. I found that if I started a band, and did the artwork for it, then I could combine the two. The instrument that I liked most was the drums, ’cause when I would go to a concert, I would always look at the drums. I was fascinated by it.
Did you ever think of pursuing anything else as a serious career?
Away: Well, if I would do anything else, it would be either cartoons or painting. It would definitely be art.
Your first real break came when you had a track on Metal Massacre V, How did you get on that compilation?
Away: We had a 16 song demo tape, that was a practice tape done on a 4-track. We sent it around, and we got letters back that a lot of people really liked it. Then this guy we knew who lived in Jonquiere, Wayne Archibald, sent this demo to Metal Blade records, and they sent us a letter that they wanted to put a track on Metal Massacre V. They chose ‘Condemned To The Gallows,’ which was the first song we ever wrote. It has nothing to do with the Voivod concept. Hellhammer (who later became Celtic Frost) also had a track on this LP.
Did you get a lot of responses to that cut?
Away: Yeah. We didn’t expect much, ’cause we didn’t like the song. We had no money, so I couldn’t bring my drums into the studio. Instead, I had to play on a little Mickey Mouse drum kit, which does not sound so great. We didn’t like the sound, or the song. It really wasn’t Voivod. Everybody sent us letters and told us that it was the best song on the album. We were surprised.
And from there you got your first album deal with Metal Blade?
And you can’t deny, that although you had problems with Metal Blade, that compilation and the following LP, War And Pain, helped to establish Voivod.
Away: That’s very true. It helped us a lot. They helped us to break. They just put us on the map.
Why did you decide to go ahead and record the second album on your own, and then sell the finished product to a label?
Away: We had a good following after War And Pain so we decided to go ahead and do the second album and try to sell it. We had at least six offers. So we were pretty confident when we went in to record RRROOOAAARRR. The response to War And Pain wasn’t phenomenal, but it was pretty good.
Tell us a little bit about your slogan, ‘To The Death.’
Away: It’s like when the Voivods are sitting around a table with people impaled around them and they’re drinking their blood. It’s like a toast, ‘to the death.’ But it also means that when you get in Voivod, you’re in it to the death. It’s also one of the main tracks on the second album.
Is there any message that you’d like to relay to your fans?
Away: Well, we heard that a lot of people thought that we had broken up, because it took us a while to get the album out. Well, now that it’s out, we’ve just finished a U.S. tour and we’ll be back in the studio soon, we want the fans to know that Voivod is definitely still around. We’ll be releasing Killing Technology as soon as possible, so look for it.
I think that speech deserves a toast. Let’s lift our glasses, ‘to the death’!