1989.11 Metal Forces #44 Interview
Metal Forces Magazine #44
Nearly three years ago I experienced the very strange style of VOIVOD first hand. Two excellent dates with POSSESSED and a way interesting chat with Snake was enough to assure me that VOIVOD would one day be one of the most interesting bands in the metal genre. There was possibly less of an actual concept in those days, but the band were still leaving many a band in the dust with complex material and a very strong live image.
Since then VOIVOD haw gone from strength to strength. Despite set backs which were well detailed in issue 32 when John Ricard spoke to drummer Away, the band has created a deep mystical concept on which it has based both his own personal development and the development of its musical style. The band has recorded two albums (“Killing Technology” and “Dimension Hatross”) based on the theme of technology and science and if anything, has grown away from the SLAYER, METALICCA league table into a little area of supreme originality.
Before doing this interview I ran through “Dimension Hatross” for the umpteenth time and it still has areas with surprises hidden around every comer that personify the originality VOIVOD hold in their grasp. Now, possibly more of a cult name to be into than they were back in 1988, the band is starting once again to create a deeper more intellectual concept, and who better to explain it than drummer Away who I’ve always held in great regard. His mind has for many years been the catalyst for the VOIVOD story, he created the VOIVOD character and the scenarios of the last two albums virtually single handed. His excellent artwork adorns the cover and his technical computer ideas are spread throughout the band’s videos. Listening to him talk about his ideas is an eye opening experience. Too many people see thrash and metal people as mindless morons, but in the case of Away, he probably has more qualifications in the field of computers and science than the whole of the press put together. We must however maintain a balance since this is a band interview as well. I decided to start with the live face of the band, one we haven’t seen for a white especially in the UK (where me band have been unable to play since ’86). “We’re very sad about that situation,” admits Away. “Because we have had many problems that have got in our way. As you know we were prevented from playing the Christmas On Earth Festival in Leeds in’87 because of problems with Visas and because of your vigilant customs people. Then we had Piggy’s bad health and the new album to consider. We changed labels, spent a tot of time getting the right deal to secure our development and basically missed a great deal of touring opportunities. Hopefully we can remedy that situation soon because it’s very important that people can still see VOIVOD as a live band in Europe.
“I hope no one is discouraged because we are still hoping to build on our European following which has been very dose to us over the last few years. I’ve heard that there are a lot of people waiting to see us and without a doubt we will come over.”
In the meantime those of us in Europe with MTV have been glued to your videos. You did a second video from “Dimension Hatross”, “Psychic Vacuum”, how popular was that? “Fairly popular I think. It was run on MTV anyway. Personality though I think people preferred “Tribal Convictions”, the first one we did from that album, because it had a more complex structure with computer art and a better mixture between artistic style and the band on stage.”
At least it didn’t get banned! Were you more subtle? “I think so. “Ravenous Medicine” got banned because it used very stark images which seemed to be too much for some people, but “Tribal Convictions” was less offensive and more subtle.”
Video is still a very important medium for you then? “Yes, the video is an excellent medium through which we can extend our art and creativity. I created masks for “Psychic Vacuum” and experimented with computers, and although it possibility wasn’t as well received as “Tribal Convictions”, it was an excellent way to communicate the message of that song.”
In the last interview you said that you’d like to take your computer ideas into the live medium as well, have you made any experiments in that field? “Not really because we haven’t really had the opportunity. I have thought about making an experimental movie to go with a stage show to which we’d add a soundtrack, but this takes time to plan. In five or six years I’d like to do an animated film win computer graphics as well, but now VOIVOD keeps me too busy. I have done a cartoon though which will be submitted to the magazine “Heavy Metal”-it’s about the Nothing Face, the character we’re using on the latest VOIVOD album.”
As Away points out, money still plays a big part in securing “artistic freedom” and record deals are always very exciting. VOIVOD recently signed to Mechanic (their lucrative deal with Noise having expired) but I wondered just what they’d looked for and how hard it had been sorting out the deal? “We had quite a few labels expressing an interest and we had to sort out the best for the band. We went for the best offer and more really because we believe in ourselves enough to demand a big push from a record company. Mechanic were the best”
Mechanic have of course just lost VIO-LENCE, I wondered if Away was worried that a promising band like VIO-LENCE had only stayed for one album? I’m not really worried, we’ll take them on their own merits and their attitude towards us. It’ll work both ways-if we sell plenty of records because of them putting plenty of money into promotion and advertising and distribution then we’d both benefit and grow together. If either of us fails to deliver then we’ll follow VIO-LENCE, that’s not going to happen though I’m sure.”
How does this deal differ from your Noise deal? “Basically, .it’s more professional. There’s better backing and a greater financial commitment We were very happy with Noise over the three albums we did with them but we needed more to be a band able to do this type of stuff into the 1990’s. We never regretted our time with Noise, it was a very good move for us being able to record in Berlin and tour Europe with a really supportive bunch of people and some excellent press, but when the contract expired we knew that it was time to move forward. Our time with Noise was priceless though and we’re not a band to spit on them now that we’re away from them, we have no reason to do so.”
In the John Ricard interview you said that the next album might see a simpler VOIVOD album. Having now finished it, can you describe what you meant when you said that? “I don’t know if simpler describes the new album, “The Nothing Face”, very well, because it’s still pretty weird. What would say though is that instinct and the way its played will probably come out in a more distinct form when you listen to it. We came back to the original feelings we had in the70’s and early 80s when we had strong progressive rock influences. The resulting material is still very exciting to play with complex structures and Snake building his vocals with some excellent ideas, but its a little catchier I feel. It shows how the future may progress for VOIVOD too.”
Lyrically, you’ve always been pretty hard hitting, “Dimension Hatross” was no exception? “That’s right, but this time we nave tried to be more direct with our criticism than on the previous three albums. A point of view is very important but it has to be directed specifically so as to avoid the misinterpretation we have suffered in the past. “Dimension Hatross” attacked specific people like chaos mongerers and terrorists and this album reflects this wish as well having several clear messages.”
Tell us about the title “The Nothing Face”? “The title tries to give an overall feel to the album and make a personality out of the concept which is a trip into a brain by the VOIVOD . “The Nothing Face” is a character I created who gets ready to throw away his identity because it is too weak. He is an actual personality which tries to become something else by inventing new personalities. These turnout to be too false for him though and he tries to rediscover his old personality. He is unable to find this though and is left holding a personality he has created which is not him.”
Is the album a loose collection of ideas with an overall concept or a concept album then? “The former definitely. I’ve only used some songs to describe the state of mind of “The Nothing Face”, the others describe other states of mind caused by different things which are also related. Two songs “Pre-ignition” and “Missing Sequences” describe the effects of mining aluminum, how it’s mined in space by robots and the effects on people in our world of aluminum poisoning if they live near mines (a disease called Alzheimer’s Disease has been known to affect these people and causes pre-senile dementia). This album is definitely about mental states not just a concept of story. Some of it is Science Fiction (the Cyborgs mining on the planets for example), and, some is a lot closer to reality (“Missing Sequences”) where cultures are already dying. We have a deep feeling of paranoia on this album, but its just something we felt we could tackle. Our next subject could well be the state of anguish, because that’s another very strong emotion with many facets.”
Musically, the album is definitely a step back from the earlier albums, and by that I mean it’s more of a rock album than a thrash album, based on your 70’s influences in my opinion, but have you ever heard any of the new bands like MEKONG DELTA who take influences from you or new bands who still influence you musically? “It’s funny to hear bands when they say DIE KREUZEN, TREPONEM PAL and the YOUNG GODS are three bands who I believe take some influence from our music and that’s a real boost to us because their styles are really original. I lhave also worked with a guy called Jim Foetus whose heavily influenced by our material. He decided to do a soundtrack concept outside his band, “Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel”, and he asked me to get invloved.
“I’ll tell you another thing that boosts me a lot and that’s seeing my artwork recreated as tattoos. Several fans have asked for my drawings from the fan club and sent me photos of the subsequent tattoos. That’s great”.
“As to whether we get influenced by modem music that’s more difficult to say. I really like bands like SOUNDGARDEN, JANE’S ADDICTION, SOUL ASYLUM and other “industrial” and “garage” bands, but it’s hard to say whether they influence our music. Snake has developed several ideas from some of those bands, but it’s hard to say whether they influence our music. He’s really into TOM WAITES and SOUL ASYLUM nowadays along with MOTORHEAD and some of the older stuff.”
How strong does the band feel now then, after all the health problems and the work on this album? “A lot better. We were extremely worried when Piggy was ill with cancer, it gave us a big shock to find that something like that could just come to the surface like that We’ve become mote health conscious, we’ve grown closer together, personally and musically, and now after this record, which is really one of our best musical moments, we know that no bullshit can stand in our way. We put out a sent tape to the fan club (something the band has done consistently over the years) which I called “VOIVOD-A Flawless Structure….” and that really said it all. We also started using our own names more. This was Piggy’s idea in case we do the soundtrack and although those nicknames (Snake, Piggy, Blacky and Away) should still be used on stage and to the press, it’s important that people know who we are so that we aren’t stereotyped.”
Think back to the old days for a minute to “War And Pain” and “Rrroooaaarrr”. “Oh, it’s pretty awful to do that now. I don’t want to sound silly, but those albums were OK for their time I still like to play one or two of those songs live, they still have feeling and emotion, but they’re limited. They were pretty immature, screaming at people and trying to shock them with very direct images, very stark images, but for their time they were OK. I actually prefer “War And Pain” because on the second album I felt that we got a bit carried along with the thrash explosion which was an influence we’ve never really needed coming from a heavy rock and metal background of 70’s and early’80’s music.”
Now look forward to what you can still achieve? “I think we’d like to be a part of musical history in the way that MOTORHEAD or KING CRIMSON have been. We want to move our music forward, to be intellectual in how we express ourselves and be the progressive rock/metal band for the ’90’s. We need to keep a balance between the pure rock feel and the experimental side of the band, but so long as we feel strongly for our own sound and music I know that VOIVOD will always have vitality and strength.”
The new album is going to make some people’s emotions vacillate a great deal, but taking it as the next stage in the development of this excellent but often slightly bizarre, band it’s really not unusual that it is so bizarre. Their ’70’s influences are quite apparent, but there’s certainty no lack of commitment there and it’s possibly one of the best forays into the more main-stream rock sound since CELTIC FROST’S “Cold Lake”, though it’s far more complex in structure. VOIVOD will continue to amaze, let’s just see the band live soon can we?
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