1990.02-03 B-side Magazine Interview
Psychic Predictions from Morgoth
B-side Feb, Mar 90
Interview with Michel Langevin by bSIDE / Charles Koci
Morgoth, a land of uncharted size and ever changing population which is situated somewhere between french-canadian and the netherworld. Travellers have difficulty in procuring information of its exact whereabouts for Morgoth is best known as the hypothetical birthplace of Voivod, one of the most frightening original bands conceived during this decade.
The French-canadian quartet joined forces in early 83 when Michel AWAY Langevin, Jean yves BLACKY Theriault, Denis PIGGY D’Amour and Denis SNAKE Belanger were drawn together by common musical as well as intellectual influences. Not intimidated by uncharted territory, Voivod began construction of an uncompromising sound , combining music of menacing intensity with apocalyptic conceptual visions and themost unconventional of song structures sure to thwart all attemps at categorization. The furious aggression of their ’84 debut LP WAR & PAIN assisted Voivod in attaining a solid metal/hardcore following and set the stage for an impressive, convoluted musical evolution. Record Label hassles hindred the band throughout 85 and 86 Voivod re-emerged with a new label NOISE International, and the ROAR LP , which boasted strong, both musical and conceptual, progression. A unique and dynamic musical hybrid, merging the best of progressive, hardcore, metal and punk, defined the 87 release Killing Technology; The first indication that Voivod would soon speadhead a heavy metal alternative; With the release of Dimension Hatross, The alternative was achieved, and Voivod unveiled a complex conceptual adventure, executed with startlingly complex song structures and time changes.
Widespread critical acclaim and a new affiliation with a more supportive record label MECHANIC/MCA, ushered Voivod into 1989. Nothingface, their latest and first major label release, compounds Voivod’s musical experimentation to the Nth degree with the introduction of a more melodic sound coupled with an intense amplification of the musical heaviness and structural complexity prevalent throughout previous recordings. The multi-conceptual and devastating brillant NOTHINGFACE is definitively the most stupendous Voivod recording to date.
Now, prepare for a trip which will explore the blood drenched days of the 15th Century and then, without warning, will thrust forward into the unforeseen epochs of the centuries to come. Prepare for a trip… a trip through the infatigable mind of Voivod’s drummer, artist and visionary, Away…
BSIDE: explain the concept behind Voivod
AWAY : i created Voivod quite a while ago. When i was about 4 or 5 years I started to draw. After a fewdrawings I just quit drawing the cartoons that i was seeing on TV, I also stopped drawing things I was seeing around me, so i started to create my own creatures. When I was around 9 or 10 I created this Voivod guy but i was still searching for a name for him. A couple of years later i read Dracula by Briam Stoker and i just thought the name sounded so great. of Dracula and his warriors the Voivod. After that Voivod became related to vampyres. And I began to draw the Voivod as a post nuclear vampyre, but he was sucking more for others people’s power than for their blood. Later I drew everybody around him, including Korgull the exterminator (a character of rrroooaaarrr) and all those people which were different versions of the voivod himself.
BSIDE: What inspired you to start the band?
AWAY : I think it must have been Motorhead. I started to drum when i was about 14. I was drumming progressive stuff from that time like VANDER GRAFF GENERATOR combined with hard rock like Alice Cooper. Later i reallly got into Rush and AC /DC and some punk. So i became a little heavier but still progressive. Then Blacky, Piggy and I got a local band together in 1980. We started to jam. We were jamming for hours but it was basically just noise cause Blacky and I could barely play. So quit for a year to practice and i told Piggy to show Blacky how to play because Piggy could play very well. Then I saw Motorhead and it completely changed my mind. They just showed me that they could be so honest and without gimmicks. I went back to Piggy and i said “let’s get a local band together right now” I just changed my mind about music when I saw Motorhead.
BSIDE: Tell me more about some of the bands other musical influences
AWAY : I would say that the band is a combination of Blacky, who’s more alternative like the legendary Pink Dots; Piggy, who’s total rock and roll like Iggy Pop and MC5, Snake, who listens to a lot of old punk, and me ; who’s more into Soul Asylum and Replacements along with VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR
BSIDE: And your non-musical influences ?
AWAY : I really like old black and white movies, especially Geramn expressionism; also The hunchback of Notre Dame. I love him. And books, I love old surealistic stuff. I hate the stuff that was written after the begining of the century. The thing is I think that at the begining of the century there was this big intellectual boom and it was really productive and creative. Then came the wars and after the wars there is nothing interesting. Everybody wants to be a yuppie. I think the next big intellectual boom will happen at the begining of the next century. We have to wait, but it’s one of the goals we try to achieve. We push forward in that direction and we just hope that some other bands will follow.
BSIDE: Explain the conceptual progression from album to album.
AWAY : The first album deals with aggression. The music is aggressive and so is the concept. It’s like anger experienced by somebody waking up from a nuclear war. You see the Voivod who looks pretty aggressive on the first album cover. He really looks like he’s going to destroy everything around him. I guess it’s just anger, which was prehaps directed in a naive way; as we were young at that time. Anyway, it’s the begining of the concept. On the second album Roar , the voivod becomes Korgull the Exterminator. Korgull represents oppression, probably due to many problems we had with record companies and stuff at that time. The Voivod is not a hero in my concept, he can’t be everything. On the third album (Killing Technology), after Korgull destroyed everything around, the Voivod goes into space. This was also related to events that happend at that time like the Star Wars project, the Chernobyl accident and the Challenger explosion. We were not against technology. That would be stupid. It would be like being anti-breeding. But we didn’t like the underside of it, the political side. So I created the concept where technological improvement is faster than social improvement. The album deals with man’s inabillity to cope high technology. On the fourth album (Dimension Hatross), the Voivod, in his laboratory with the particle accelerator, creates a micro galaxy. He goes into that galaxy so he becomes more or less a psychic entity and that’s a new form of Voivod. I always try to reached a certain level of perfection with the Voivod. I always kind of change my mind from one album to the other and try to find something more perfect. In the begining the Voivod is flesh and bone. After he’s mechanical and after he’s half mechanical/ half flesh and bone because I thought that would be more perfect. On the fourth one he’s like a psychic entity which is what I would like to be because I think Flesh and blood are cheap. But they can also be beautiful. Anyway, the Voivod goes into that new dimension and meets different aspect to the evolution of the people there, from really primitive to psychic entities. There are many point of view on the Dimension Hatross album; it’s more direct than the other ones. Nothingface is a inner trip into the Voivod’s brain. They’re many different states of mind of the Voivod himself in the album. It’s not a full concept album like Dimension Hatross
BSIDE: What are some of the concepts put forth on the new LP ?
AWAY : The first song is THE UNKNOWN KNOWS. There is this little indian waiting for the flying lords, which is a legend I created for UFO’s. The song is about questions we ask to ourselves; questions which are without answers. I chose the Indian because I was really into Indian mythology. They have an opposite way of thinking to the occidental world. The Indians think that we were parasites on earth and the occidental way of thinking is that we own the earth. The song NOTHINGFACE is about a creature I created, a little guy who thinks that his original personality is weak so he kills his original personality and he created a few ones. Later on he thinks that the new personalities are fake and he tries to reach for the original one, so he is wondering if the original one ever existed. He has the feeling that maybe it has been shut out by the outside world, the world you have to live in which interferes with your inside world. That’s the basic concept on the album. That’s also what you can see on the front cover, this little story. I’m also working on a cartoon called Nothingface that I’m going to submit to Heavy Metal Magazine It explains more about the character.
BSIDE: So tell me more about your strip for heavy metal ?
AWAY : It’s the story of Nothingface, the little guy, who doesn’t have any arms, any legs, any eyes, any mouth. He’d like to be part of the outside world but he can’t for some reason. The story is about him meeting people who are in fact himself, and who are trying to convince him to make his arms and legs grow, along with his eyes and ears and mouth. If he succeds or not, I won’t tell.
BSIDE: What effect has living in Canada had on your song writing ?
AWAY : Where we live before in Jonquieres, we lived by the biggest aluminum factory in North America. The aluminum deposit in the smog and the aluminum deposit in the grain causes Alzheimer ‘s disease. So i’m really worried because my family and friends are living there and the chance of getting Alzheimer ‘s disease is really high. So I wrote this concept about this giant factories that look like spiders. They crawl on the planet and dig for aluminum and when there is no more aluminum they fly to another planet. They are like starships, these giant factories. PRE-IGNITION on Nothingface is the story of the robots working inside these giant factories; MISSING SEQUENCES also on Nothingface is the story about the people living on the planet invaded by spiders. So all those people are losing their legends and their culture because of Alzheimer’s disease.
BSIDE: Did you deliberately aim for a more melodic (accessible) sound on Nothingface or was it more of a natural progression ?
AWAY : It’s a combination of both; The melodic way of writing our songs came naturally but the vocals are something Snake really wanted to do. I got Snake into Replacements and Soul Asylum and he really got into the vocals. He decided that it would be interesting to experiment in that direction using different vocal harmonies. So he did this in his own way, which is good
BSIDE: How do you plan the concept for each album ?
AWAY : I plan the concept for the album way ahead of time because it’s important that everybody in the band is aware of a certain feeling for the next album. But as for music, we never tell each other “OK we’ll have to sound that way” I t just comes with the feeling of the concept naturally
BSIDE: You’re growing further and further away from the metal tag which has been imposed upon you. Are you worried about alienating your core metal audience ?
AWAY : Well it’s always been the same. We never ask people what they want to listen to. We create the music from what we feel and we just wish the people will follow. If people want to listen to speed metal thay just have to buy the second album we put out and that was what we were doing at that time. Now we are heading toward the 90’s and I think for the 90’s it’s important to have elements from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s combined with the originality that will do the transition for the 90’s. I just wish that as many people as possible will be aware of what we have to say and the music we are trying to do
BSIDE: There is a definitive thread of social conscience throughtout your work. Are there specific messages that you’re aiming to get across?
AWAY : There is many social, more than political messages in pur songs. I would say that’s it’s not statements that we are putting out. It’s more like questions. It’s always questions without answer. The concept started a little bit in a pessimistic way and it slowly transformed into something more abstract and nihilist in time. Our concept is always full of questions abous social things. It goes for Alzheimer’s disease to psychotic crazes.
BSIDE: Finally, what is the most important impression you’d like to leave on the future?
AWAY : I can tell what it is that I don’t like. What we had to fight from the beginning is prejudice against something that comes more from surreal that down to earth attitude. We ‘ve always tried to be a little more abstract than down to earth and that was our main problem. And , in fact, we’re getting more and more in the abstract way of putting out our art. I just wish that in the future, in the 90’s, people will accept more and more that kind of stuff so we could have this big intellectual boom for the next century.
For Now , you can experience the intellectual and musical revolution led by Voivod, currently on a headline tour of US with Soundgarden and Faith No More. The 90’s are here. ARE YOU ?