1988.10 Metal Mania Magazine Interview
Metal Mania October 1988
by Jeff Kitts
It’s not exactly a thought which most of us spend many sleepless night tossing and turning over, but have you ever realized that our entire lives are controlled by and governed under one thing? No, not Big Brother. I am referring to the flourishing yet occasionally damaging world of technology.
Technology works in high gear at all times never taking a ‘breather’
It guides us, protects us, entertains us, provides convenience, and gives people like me the sick pleasure of watching it turn out digitally-deficient mothers into frazzled basket cases.
For the most part, technology is usually only associated with complex circuitry and digital readouts, but even music can be of a futuristically technical nature.
The laboratory is located in Montreal, Canada. As the test tubes bubble and the lights blink in constant unison, there is a project currently being refined and perfected. This highly sophisticated, space age project is commonly known to metallers back in March, I was fortunate enough to link up with half of the Voivod team, Snake and Away, during their promotional stint here in New York City. The Pickwick Arms Hotel in the Upper East Side served as the meeting site for the interview.
Upon my entry through the glass doors I was immediately impressed with the fashionable lobby. But as I walked through Room 1226, I then knew the lobby was merely a method of deception in luring unsuspecting tourists. As bodies shifted positions in order to accommodate the opening of the door, I was immediately dumbfounded by the insipid wallpaper, even before the initial greetings. The brown, repeating stick-figure mountains gave new meaning to the word humdrum. Only the most luxurious accessories completed the decor like… a bed, a dresser, and a hard wooden chair which yours truly painfully occupied for the duration of the visit. Well, I suppose I’d better terminate this paragraph before I start rambling on about the color of the bathroom tile. ..
November of 1982 marked the original amalgamation of the four particles which comprise Voivod, those names represent the comical side of this colorful horde: Snake, Away, Blacky, and Piggy.
The origin of these handles came not as the traditional method of attempts at “coolness,” but as early characterizations between four comrades as drummer Away (a.k.a. Michel Langevin) reveals. “We once saw Snake performing on stage in the theatre, and he was doing an amazing imitation of a worm, so we figured the name fit him perfectly. Our guitarist Piggy (a.k.a. Denis D’Amour) just likes to eat a lot; he’s a real pig around food. When we were kids in school Blacky (a.k.a. Jean-Yves Theriault) used to set everything on fire, so that’s where his name originally came from. It also has to do with the fact that he is always playing these twisted practical jokes on everyone.”
Snake (a.k.a. Denis Belanger) explains the reasoning behind Away’s pseudonym. “We called him that because his mind is sometimes not where his body is. Sometimes when he is here, he’s not really here, if you know what I mean. “Their names may be somewhat light-hearted, but the depth of their dedication, professionalism, and intelligence runs bottomless.
A pair of early demos, as well as the track on the ‘Metal Massacre #5′ compilation, announced the band’s arrival on, at the time, a weak but rapidly growing underground metal scene. But it doesn’t take a degree in physics to know that vinyl is the only way to gain serious worldwide recognition as opposed to some feeble tape. After inking a deal with Metal Blade Records, Voivod, in September of 1984, released their maiden vinyl venture in the form of the savage ‘War and Pain’ album.
”War and Pain” was really raw and aggressive,” says Voivod’s scraggly black-haired drummer, Away, in his French-Canadian accent. “It was the result of everything happening in our town (Jonquiere) at the time, which was very violent and corrupt. The album represented the physical and psychological chaos of that time.”
A straining legal battle Metal Blade resulted in 1985 being a troublesome year for Voivod. The dispute came as a result of royalty payments for ‘War and Pain’ which the band has yet to receive; and the total sales for the album are estimated as well beyond 50,000!
After careful deliberation the band decided to sign with Germany’s premiere thrash label Noise Records (who have recently opened an office in Manhattan). Noise has recently linked up with Epic in order to provide major label distribution for certain bands on the label, including Voivod.
Voivod’s second platter was the oddly titled ‘Rrroooaaarrr’, (Noise) released in mid ’86. This album indicated the band’s desire to break away from the crude, unpolished style as demonstrated on ‘War and Pain’ (which was slagged unmercifully in the pages of Metal Forces and Kerrang).
Away, with a can of Sprite in hand adds, “On Rrroooaaarrr the Voivod became Korgull the Exterminator and he represents oppression. The music also became more mechanical and technical.”
While I personally felt Rrroooaaarrr was a bit of a let-down as compared to the sheer aggressiveness and brutality of the first album, my faith in Voivod was drastically restored back in March of last year as the band’s third and most brilliant record (aside from their current masterpiece, which will be discussed shortly) was released. Away provides some insight into Killing Technology…
“On this album the voivod goes into space, and we made the music sound more spacey—more futuristic to go along with the theme. We were heavily influenced by what happened in technology around that time like the Chernobyl incident, the Challenger explosion, and the Star Wars program. The theme of the album has to do with man’s in ability to deal with technology.
We’re very much into high technology, but we felt the political aspect of it was getting out of control. We intentionally made the music fit the theme.”
Take my word for it, Away’s comment’s referring to the futuristic feel of the music are right on the money. Songs like ‘Forgotten in Space’ and the title track have the magical ability to launch the listener straight up into the black heavens with face-flattering velocity.
This brings us to the present. The fourth Voivod album has been sitting majestically on the store shelves since mid-May. Unquestionably, Dimension Hatross is Voivod’s most phenomenal work of musical art yet, as well as the finest album of 1988 thus far. It is the culmination of everything Voivod has achieved in the past along with areas of the metal universe which they had yet to explore, until now. The primitive style of War and Pain, the mechanical feel of Rrroooaaarrr and the spaceyness of Killing Technology together with an equal dosage of originality and unbridled talent combine to make Dimension Hatross one hell of an album. As the Italian mannequins in the Ragu spaghetti sauce commercials say, “It’s in there!”
“There are a lot of new feelings on this album, and we used a lot of new things like vocals effects and electronic drums on certain parts,” says Snake, Voivod’s lizard-lean, Medusa-curled vocalist with the technological throat. “The feelings on War and Pain were kind of primitive because it was our first album, but now we have a more definitive style. We feel that Voivod is music for the future. Those who don’t care for us now will probably enjoy us more five or ten years from now because they’ll be tired of ordinary speed metal.”
And, of course, along with a new Voivod album comes the mandatory concept. Away explains: “The main concept of Dimension Hatross is this: The voivod, after going into space on Killing Technology, goes into his laboratory and creates a new dimension, and he goes into it.”
The story is about his journey into this new dimension. The story is broken down into eight chapters, and each song makes up a part of the story. Some of the story has to do with religion, but we only use Voivod language and images to explain these messages. You can find parts of the first song, “Experiment,” in the music and lyrics of the last song, “Cosmic Drama”—it’s all mixed together. On the last song the voivod is back in his lab looking back at the destruction of the dimension, and what happens next will be the concept for the fifth album.”
One would have to assume that any metal outfit working as consistently hard as Voivod does is aiming to conquer and
culminate the entire metal race, but what exactly are these guys striving for in terms of success?
“We’re already satisfied with the level of success we’ve reached, so even if we never become major stars we’ll be happy,” humbly states Away, who handles not only the amazing drumming but also the concepts and band artwork.
“Every year we have different goals,” Snake cuts in. “Our first goal is just to put out an album.Then it was to get out of our little town and see other places. Every year we have new goals, and so far it’s all happened; everything is working out perfectly for us now.”
Since 1982 Voivod have been there, releasing album after brilliantly bizarre album, dazzling us with stunning live performances, and all without a single personnel alteration. Not even Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, or King Diamond have been able to achieve such an honorable feat.
“No one will ever quit this band and no one will ever be kicked out,” says Away with confidence.
“If one of us were to die, then the rest of the band would probably break up and start new projects with different people. We’ve all been such close friends for so long that if someone were to leave, it would be like losing my head
I just couldn’t go on without it.”