1988.11 Rip Magazine Interview
1988.11 Rip Magazine Interview
by Mike Gitter
“It’s hard to describe the sound of VoiVod,” says French-accented drummer Michael “Away” Langevin “We can’t realty label what we’re doing, as it’s the result of a great many influences. But people around us are calling us everything from nuclear metal to industrial metal to space punk. All I know is that we’re an unsettling band with a metal edge e didn’t consciously decide to breakaway from metal, but since our first album. War and Pain, we’ve been searching for new musical structures, feelings and emotions. Our latest album. Dimension Hatross [Noise/Epic], is headed into a direction where others may follow, or where we may remain alone.”
Whereas the bulk of contemporary power outfits cull influence homogenously from the likes of Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth, not to mention older, traditional metal trappings, VoiVod speaks with a far more diverse musical vocabulary. Rooted in the most traditional of new wave of British heavy metal, the Montreal-based tour-piece also cites progressive jazz artiste such as John Mclaughlin and the Mahavisnnu Orchestra, punk progenitors King Joke and Chrome, and contemporary industrial outfits such as Germany’s Einslurzende Nteu-bauten as components in the VoiVod assault.
Formed in 1980 when Langevin began jamming with guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, playing mostly AC/DC and Iron Maiden covers, it wasn’t until 1983 that the band reached its current form with bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault and vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger. Credited by their nicknames on the band’s 1984 debut LP War and Pain (Metal Blade), the initial VoiVod attack was original though crude, borrowing tremendously from the then-emerging black-metal underground spearheaded by the likes of Venom, Sodom and Destruction. “When we first started playing, with the exception of Piggy, none of us knew how to play very well,” explains Langevin.
For Langevin, the band is an outlet for a lot of strange ideas that have been banging around in his head since childhood. During his psychologically troubled adolescence, Langevin created a fantasy world called Morgoth and populated it with a variety of techno-barbarians, including the VoiVod , the terrifying Korgull the Exterminator and the battle-hardened Warriors of Ice. “I had a lot of psychological problems,” he reveals, “and I needed that sort of world to rival this one. I was more myself in that world, and I couldn’t honestly accept this one. There were so many points about it that I didn’t like, so I fell more self-assured in my fantasy world than I did in the real world.
I learned to control my schizophrenic nature and use it for creativity so I could come up with some new, fresh ideas. There’s a lot of artists who have the same sort of problems, but what I see with a lot of people who have mental disorders is that they’re treated like under-people. Society will put them in special places so they can take their personality away from them. Scientists should be doing the opposite and helping these people develop their creative personalities. Who can say what normal is anyway? I think everybody is a bit schizophrenic.”
Thus, by adopting Langevin’s nasty never-never-land as a jumping-off point, VoiVod became a concept band. “When we formed, we agreed that it would be cool to have the old VoiVod legend as a name and to use the VoiVod world as a concept, It was something new and different from what most metal bands were doing at the time, which was either satanic or had to do with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. We continue the concept with each record, and it represents both our thinking evolution and our musical progression.
“We put forth our point of view by images,” explains Langevin. And tine images chronicle the changes the band has gone through. Check out the grinning VoiVod character on the cover of War and Pain. and you are confronted with visions of raw, bellicose aggression. On their 1986 follow-up, Rrroooaaarrr (Noise), the image of a machine-like character. Korgull the Exterminator, represents the band’s increasing musical technicality, as well as their ability to survive legal hardships in their separation from Metal Blade. Last year’s groundbreaking Killing Technology (Noise) portrays the Voi Vod moving out into space, representative of the band’s near total separation from the traditional heavy-metal aesthetic “With Killing Technology we were getting back into a lot of our earlier progressive-rock influences, as well as getting back into a lot of industrial stuff and a lot of stuff like Killing Joke Chrome and Bauhaus, after we had gotten sick of a lot of speed metal and hardcore.”
Dimension Hatross represents VoiVod ‘s continued evolution beyond typical metal or hardcore restraints. “The new album is a bit more direct than our previous record m a musical sense,” Langevin explains, “but it you read between the lines, you’ll see its just as unpredictable. In the song ‘Tribal Convictions” there’s a line that says. ‘Who’s the dog and who’s the god?’ The whole concept is reflective of VoiVod moving into a whole new dimension.” Following the exploits of Langevin’s VoiVod character as he moves into the savage Dimension Hatross, where he is hailed as a god and forced to struggle for his life, the VoiVod crew comments on such issues as religion, terrorism and nuclear war. “It’s a pessimist’s point of view,” says Langevin. “We are nihilistically minded, but there’s some amount of optimism as well. We want people to realize that there’s more than simple, satanic themes.” It is obvious that VoiVod is far from a band of conventions. Both musically and lyrically, they’ve moved beyond the limiting “black metal” trappings of their earlier work, replacing thundering volleys of thrashing guitars with moody, evocative chording and replacing chants of “To the death?” or “Suck your bone!” (both from the band’s first album) with commentary on such issues as the Star Wars weapons race, nuclear war and other forms of technological insanity. Mot exactly standard fare for the average metalter.
“From the beginning, we were conscious of not a lot of people understanding what it is that we’re doing,” remembers Langevin . “but we decided to do science-fiction music the way we wanted to do it, realizing that it would take a long time (or people to understand.We wanted to do that instead of jumping into the whole trend of Satanism, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. We finally realized that, although it may take a few years, people who are into our concept and our music will stay forever. We would rather be a cult band than a big, commercial band and have to sacrifice ourselves to do it. We play what we want, and it people want to listen, that’s fine. We’re building our audience, and a lot of the people who have been listening to us since Killing Technology don’t listen to too much metal, but we haven’t lost any of our old audience except for the die-hard thrash kids who stopped listening after the second album. We’re not about to compromise ourselves just to make money.”
Techno-barbarians or metal technicians, VoiVod are taking the crucial step. Scoring highly above chord-bashing contemporaries, the innovative French-Canadian outfit can boldly darn to be going where no metal band has gone before.