1987.10 Metal Mania Away Interview
Metal Mania – October 1987 by Monte Connor
Long ago, in a faraway country Europe, a horde of blood-barbarians called themselves Voivods. It is said that they destroyed entire villages, impaled the villagers, and then celebrated their victory by drinking their victims’ blood.
This tale of horror and brutality was unfolded within the nightmares of Michael Langevin, better known as Away, visionary drummer of Voivod. Away used these dreams as the foundation for the whole Voivod concept, a concept that has been continuously evolving throughout the band’s six-year existence.
Away’s talents are not restricted to music alone. He is also a gifted artist with a dynamic and totally unique style of drawing. His bizarre pictures serve as doorways into his mind and it is no accident that his artwork adorns the covers of all three Voivod albums. These album covers depict the coming of age of the Voivod creature, but in actuality, they also characterize the progress of Voivod, the band.
“The War and Pain (Metal Blade) album was just our beginning,” says Away.” We were not very strong at the time but we wanted to be. This is represented by the very primitive Voivod creature. He is just awakening from a nuclear war and doesn’t have many weapons, but he is ready to fight and prove to the world that he can become something very strong.
“On the second album, RRROOOAAARRR (Combat/Noise), our music became more complex and technical. The Voivod, now called Korgull, has also become more sophisticated. Korgull is a new age Voivod and has lived through the experience of many nuclear wars. He looks like a machine and is very strong and mechanical.”
The third sequence in the Voivod saga has just been revealed on the cover of the brand new opus, Killing Technology (Combat/Noise).
“On the third album we became more spacey,” claims Away. “The music is kind of space metal. I wanted to show that the Voivod destroyed everything in his land, Morgoth. He was forced to find a new place to show his power so he went into space. Now he is in the cockpit of a space shuttle.”
Killing Technology is certainly a milestone for Voivod. The last few years have been spent cultivating and refining the Voivod sound. These years of hard work have finally paid off as Voivod have finally laid to rest their status of musical nomads. I feel that the band has reached the elusive plateau of self-actualization. The music they are producing now is true Voivod. The new album shows them to have a unique sound and style, something that not many bands can boast in this age of assembly-line death metal.
“I think Killing Technology is the result of a perfect evolution,” says Away. ” We’re very happy with the album. I think each song has its own style and personality.” Originally the album was supposed to have nine tracks, but “we had to cut two songs due to lack of space. We weren’t very happy about that but we do feel that we kept the seven best songs. The other two songs ‘Cockroaches’ and ‘To Scared to Scream,’ will appear on a picture disc that will be released later this year.”
The LP was recorded in late ’86 in Berlin and this is the first time the band has recorded outside their homeland of Quebec. How does the band feel about their trip? “We’re all very happy with our trip to Berlin,” replies Away. “The atmosphere there really helped us to get the right feeling for the album.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Voivod’s brief European trek was their opportunity to work with producer Harris Johns, most noted for his work with Noise label mates Kreator and Helloween.” He is really a good professional worker,” says Away. ” He gave us a lot of ideas, he is a song alchemist.” This was the first time the band ever enlisted the services of a professional knob twiddler.
Away feels that Killing Technology shows a new side of the band: “The whole concept was improved. Now we take more positions against what we are not for.” Evidence of this can be found in the title track,’ which documents the dangers of abusing technology. “We are all into computers and future technology,” explains Away, “But we don’t like the political side of it. We are against the Star Wars project and we feel the government is abusing technology by building more bomber planes and nuclear weapons.”
Though Away still feels strongly about Voivod’s first releases, he is quick to recognize their shortcomings. “There are many mistakes on the first two albums but when we recorded them we did the best job we could do at the time. We were totally satisfied with them when they came out. The more albums we make, the more we realize our earlier mistakes.”
The band has surely come a long way since their formation back in the summer of 1981. It was guitarist Piggy who took the iniative of forming the band. Piggy had been searching for several wild musicians to start a band with, but finding the right people proved to be difficult.
His luck changed when he stumbled across Blacky in a local pub. Blacky quickly agreed to play bass in Piggy’s band. But there was one slight problem: Blacky didn’t know how to play bass! Fortunately, Piggy was musically adept and he took Blacky under his wing. Blacky knew Away from high school and the trio joined forces to harvest their own brand of noise.
It didn’t take long before problems struck.” Everything went wrong because nobody could play,” recalls Away. “Piggy was the only true musician.” Blacky and Away simply needed time to develop their skills, so as a result the band split up for a one-year period. In November of 1982 they reformed and Voivod was officially born. Two months later they found a horrible creature whom they called Snake. Now Voivod had the throat to propel their devastating power and sound.
By now, I’m sure you’re all wondering where these French Canadians came up with their lovable little nicknames. “We got these names before the band formed,” says Away. “People gave us these names because they fit perfectly with each of our personalities. Now they have become our real names, nobody calls us by our old names anymore.
“We gave Snake that name because he is tall and can do a perfect imitation of a worm or snake. Blacky has black hair and Piggy is big like a pig . They called me Away because I created the Voivod concept and I’m not really into this world.”
September 11, 1984 is a date that will forever be inscribed in the annals of thrash metal history, for this is the day that Metal Blade released War and Pain to an unsuspecting underground. The album was received very well by both the fans and the press, although Voivod became more of a cult interest than a household name.
The year 1985 started as a nightmare for Voivod. A major falling out with Metal Blade resulted in a year-and-a-half of inactivity, with their only release being a self-distributed live tape called Morgoth Invasion. But not wanting to be left for dead, the quartet financed the recording of nine new songs. It was these tracks, collectively known as RRROOOAAARRR, that persuaded Noise Records of West Germany to offer Voivod a three-year, three album deal. This signing held particular significance for Noise as they expanded their horizons by signing a non-European band.
“Noise is the best company we could have signed with considering the type we play,” says Away.” We’re not in a hurry to sign with a major label. It’s not that we’re not ready but we feel they are not ready for our kind of music. They really don’t know how to manage and promote speed metal bands.” Away feels the band’s long period of inactivity hurt their momentum, but the surprisingly strong sales of RRROOOAAARR proved otherwise.
It must be difficult for a band from your area, Northern Quebec, to communicate with people and be heard. “Yes, definitely,” Away agrees, “Quebec is a separate part of Canada. We speak French. We are different from all of Canada’s English-speaking people and we are different from Americans. It has taken us a long time to become known and the fact that we are French and live in Quebec has not been to our advantage.” In contrast, it’s Voivod who have been instrumental in placing Quebec on the international metal map. On November 30, 1985, the band headlined the now-legendary ‘World War III’ festival. About 3,000 fans from all parts of Canada and the U.S. poured into Montreal for a night of thrashing with Voivod, Celtic Frost, Destruction, Possessed, and Nasty Savage.
On stage, Voivod are very flashy and visual, especially Piggy and Blacky. But it is vocalist Snake who is the real star of the show. He has developed into a highly effective front man. Snake is a never-resting bundle of energy. His reptilia figure prances about the stage, his face twisted into a series of weird contortions and grimaces. He is so full of genuine charisma that even my grandmother loves the guy (no kidding!)
While just about everyone knows the Voivod sound, very few people know the men behind the music. The four band members all share the same apartment and they really are one big happy family. The wild antics of “The Dynamic Duo,” a.k.a. Snake and Blacky, are offset by the serious sides of Away and Piggy, achieving a kind of balance. Voivod is their lives totally, and since they no longer need day jobs to support themselves, they now have even more free time to devote to the band. “Nobody works anymore,” admits Away, “We have a lot of things to do. I have to write the concepts and draw everything. The other guys have to work on their guitars, help with the fan club, and write the music and lyrics.”
Currently, the warriors of ice are in the midst of an extensive U.S. tour that will take them from coast to coast. A Voivod live show is the next best thing to nuclear war. Be sure and catch the boys at your favorite local bomb shelter. Warning: No one will be admitted without gas mask.
What does the future hold for Voivod? Well, the band has already started work on their fourth album. “The whole concept for the next LP has already been created,” says Away. “The concept involves a journey that the Voivod will take into another dimension. This new dimension is called Hatross and it will be created in the Voivod lab. The whole thing is very difficult to explain. The LP will be called Dimension Hatross and it will be a concept album with eight songs. Some early songs titles are ‘Chaos Mongers,’ ‘Experiments,’ and ‘Cosmic Drama.’ This album will be a new wave in metal, both lyrically and musically.”
Personally, I feel the band may be getting in above their own heads. The music and themes might be a bit too complex for the average Joe Thrasher. Away shares those fears: “It’s a fact that we will probably lose some fans. But the fans who stay will be the ones who really understand what we’re trying to do.”
“We have always wanted to play music for ourselves,” he stresses, “the way we like it, not the way others want us to play it. The music really won’t be much more complex than on the new album and I’m confident that people will like it and understand where we are headed. I hope we will not be misjudged by our fans.”
Over the last few years, Voivod’s slogan, “To The Death,” has come to represent a philosophy or way of life. Voivod are ready to fight to the death to come out winners. “If you are in Voivod,” says Away, “you have no choice but to be in it to the death. We want everybody to follow us and we hope that those of you who loved War and Pain will still love us now and on the next LP.”
Though people were against Voivod from the very beginning, the guys have always know that one day they would triumph. I can safely say that day is coming. Just like the ancient Voivod hordes of Europe, they will fight. They will celebrate their victory in the midst of the chaos, as they raise their glasses of blood in a toast
To The Death.