1991.10 Thrash ‘n Burn magazine interview with Away
1991.10 Thrash ‘n Burn magazine interview with Away, by Borivoj Krgin.
Transcribed by Pete Burn (traqueto att disinfo.net) Thanks Pete!
Why did Blacky leave the band at such a crucial stage in the band’s career?
“Well, we could feel that it was coming, because he was getting more and more into writing music for modern dancing, with keyboard sampling, and he was less and less into playing bass, and he was into his solo thing. We felt he was more interested in going into alternative new wave, and we were getting more and more rock. We just had to part ways.”
Do you think the fact that the band has struggled for so long in terms of commercial success has made his decision to leave that much easier?
“Oh sure! I mean, he was tired of waiting, and he had put a lot of hard work into this band. We have all felt that way, because we like to play VOIVOD music, but it doesn’t exactly pay the bills. But it really had more to do with Blacky wanting to do something different from the rest of the band. We were going in different directions. He’s into writing music with lots of keyboards and sampling, synthesizers… it’s modern dancing music. Like ballet… weird ballet.
I mean, I thought it was really good, like, it’s really complex rhythm, rhythm with a beat box and then he puts keyboards over that, and I think it’s excellent, but we couldn’t use that stuff in VOIVOD. I was realizing that he was getting more and more into writing that stuff for himself. It’s his choice, it’s cool, but we couldn’t work together any more. You can mix, we always combine everybody’s ideas and stuff, but there’s some things that are not compatible, like, at the end, you can’t mix everything. We have always succeeded in mixing different things, but at one point, we have to do one thing or the other.”
I remember you saying several years ago that, if any one of you guys left the band, it just wouldn’t be the same, and that the band would probably break up. What made you keep going?
“Well, when we said that, it was before we were selling 150,000 records. Now, we have been through so much, we have to keep going. we can’t stop now. We did think about splitting up at one point after Blacky left, but we knew that things are different today than a few years ago, and we can’t give it up. Blacky left after ‘Angel Rat’ was recorded, and to split now wouldn’t make any sense, especially since we put so much work into this album.”
So what is your bass player situation at the moment?
“Well, we will use a session bass player, just for the tour, and then we will see. There is a guy that we know here that we think , maybe, can work out, and we will be trying him out this weekend. I think it can work, but we have to see.”
If you find someone that you think can fit into the band on a personal level, will you consider taking him on as a permanent member?
“Well, it’s difficult, because we have been together for so many years, and we know each other so well. For us, it will be very strange to play with somebody new, somebody that we didn’t play with before. We just have to see how it goes on the tour, and if we think it can work, maybe we will think about it and get a permanent bass player, but for now, we just want someone for the tour.”
One of VOIVOD’s trademarks has always been the fact that you guys are constantly changing and evolving musically with each album that you do, and ‘Angel Rat’ is no exception. How would you say that the new record is different from what you’ve done in the past?
“Everything’s different: the playing, the way of writing songs, the sound of the album, the cover… Everything is a step high to us. With the songs, we listened to lots of jam sessions that we did, and took parts that were groovy, and instead of putting many, many parts in one song, we just extended the bars of the parts and put lots of effects and stuff around them.. It’s like, the transition between the beats is not as radical when it’s a jam, because you improvise on one beat, but you keep going. The changes, the flow… you can feel the change before it’s there, and when it’s there, you realized that it’s just changed, but it’s such a smooth way that it almost took you by surprise. Before, Piggy wrote many songs in his room and we added parts in jam sessions. But, this album, when we were hearing the jam session, and it was really groovy, we would pick up the beat and write the song around the beat. Instead of grabbing a beat and sticking it to another beat, we just wrote and took the main beat, and wrote a song around it.”
You worked with famed RUSH producer Terry Brown on the new album, which has undoubtedly resulted in your strongest production to date. How did his involvement come about?
“Well, this was like a dream for us for a long time. So, because we played some shows with RUSH last year, Terry had heard about us from the RUSH guys, and he became aware of our music. And then, when we were looking for a producer for this album, we asked him if he was interested, and he said ‘Yes’. For us this was definately the best choice. The main difference between Terry and the people we worked with before is just his experience. For everything we needed in the studio, in most cases, he already went through something like that with RUSH, so it went smoother.”
You recorded a cover song this time around, ALICE COOPER’s ‘You Drive Me Nervous’, but I understand that this track will not be appearing on the LP. If this is so, what was the reason for recording it in the first place?
“That was more of a fun thing… we were mixing the record, and we decided to do that just for fun. I even played electronic drums on it, ’cause it’s all samples of my drums played on electronic pads for this song. I just played that in the mixing song in front of Terry Brown, and we set up this pad kit, and we played the song live – while I was playing drums, Piggy was playing the bass and Snake was singing, and then Piggy recorded the guitar tracks on top of it. But it’s not meant to be released or anything, it’s just on some advance tapes that we gave out to magazines.”
The tape that I got hold of contains 13 tracks (including ‘You Drive…’), but I understand that you were toying with the idea of just putting 10 on the album….?
“No, there’s going to be 11 on the album. The ALICE COOPER song and a song called ‘Nomads’ are not going to be on the album.”
Any particular reason for ‘Nomads’ being left off the record?
“There was just too many songs, and we though ‘Nomads’ was the weakest one, so we decided not to put it on the album. Maybe we’ll use it for some other purpose in the future. I don’t know….”
I heard through the grapevine that Steve Sinclair (head of Mechanic Records) wasn’t exactly thrilled with the original mix of the record, and that he had it remixed without the band being present during the session. Any truth to that?
“No… the mix that we did with Terry Brown is gonna be on the album. I think what Mechanic thought, was that the album wasn’t really radio-orientated, and that we should send a couple of radio mixes of a couple of songs to the radio.”
So, were the tracks remixed?
“Yeah, they were remixed, we just have to approve the tapes. We’re ready to take a chance on the radio with the new mix, but we want the album to sound as we mixed it.”
Were you personally disappointed with the sales of ‘Nothingface’, considering it was your major label debut?
“No, it was what we were expecting to have. And for the next one, we’re expecting more, and hopefully we’re gonna get more, but for ‘Nothingface’ it was ok, I think.”
Looking back on what happened after the release of ‘Nothingface’, do you think that you should have done more touring to promote the record?
“Yes, but a lot of things happened. We wanted to tour more, we did only like… the FAITH NO MORE tour, and then the RUSH tour, and then a few things happened with Blacky…like we were more and more seeing things differently, and…. I don’t know. It’s a long break that we’ve taken since then, but after the release of the new album, it will be better.”
Was there any particular reason why you didn’t tour Europe following the release of ‘Nothingface’ ?
“Because we were still on Noise in Europe for that ‘Nothingface’ album, it’s part of the contract, but now we’re on MCA in Europe for the next album, so we’ll definately be touring.”
In other words, they didn’t give you any tour support since they knew you were gonna be with MCA in Europe with this album?
Did that disappoint you and the other guys?
“Oh yeah. ‘Cause we used to tour for more than half a year after each album, and now, we just toured for two or three months for the last two years, and we were pretty disappointed.”
Do you feel, in a sense, that you have some catching up to do with this record, considering that you weren’t out there promoting the last one for very long?
“I don’t know, actually. I think we’re gonna realize it when we tour, our next tour, when the album is out. We can’t really tell. Whatever happens, happens. We just didn’t have much choice in the way things happened in the past couple of years. We just wrote some songs, and did a few projects here and there, like I did the MEN WITHOUT HATS album, and I did a tour with them in Canada, and the other guys had a couple of other projects, too, so this was like, the first break that we had, really, to think about what we were gonna do, and it was really useful.”
Has MEN WITHOUT HATS found a permanent drummer now?
“Well, let’s say that I play drums for them permanently whenever my schedule is… ok, you know. Well, they’re more like, pop songwriters, they don’t tour that much, and whenever I’m gonna have a break, I’m gonna restart working with them on another album, I guess.”
Is there a lyrical concept behind ‘Angel Rat’ in a way similar to what you’ve done on the last few records?
“No, we kind of closed the final chapter with ‘Nothingface’, and for ‘Angel Rat’, me and Snake, we wrote, like, a bunch of little fairy tales the VOIVOD way, and it’s really different subjects, different conceptsfor each song, it’s not a continous concept. It’s like, 10 or 11 little legends told in a rock way, or a twisted way.”
As mentioned earlier, you opened for RUSH during their 1990 Canadian tour, which must have been an amazing experience for you, to say the least. What was your reaction to opening for one of your favourite bands?
“It was really exciting, just to play big arenas, and also just to meet those guys, we were all pretty nervous, and we just couldn’t believe it. It seems like a dream to us. Ha! Ha! When we talk about that, it’s just like we were dreaming all the way, it’s really weird.”
Was it harder playing arenas or easier than you imagined?
“It’s easier. Arenas seem smaller from the stage. Ha! Ha! Just getting on stage is pretty exciting, but once your there, you concentrate too much on your music that you can forget that you’re playing in front of more than 15,000 people. But, it’s like, in the dressing room, before the show, while you’re going to the stage, we were pretty nervous. We didn’t know if the crowd was gonna accept us, or if they were gonna give us a chance.”
Did you get the feeling that there were a lot of people there to see VOIVOD, or was it all the RUSH crowd?
“They were all RUSH fans, but totally aware of what we were doing. It was obvious from their reaction that they knew who we were and what we were musically, because we’re Canadian.”
How soon following the record’s release are you expecting to be on the road promoting it?
“We’re gonna try and get something up for about two months from now, but we still don’t know. We’re gonna start rehearsing tomorrow or the day after with the new guy, so we’ll see how that goes. That will, of course, effect our touring plans, so we have to make sure we have the right person for the tour. But, we will try to tour as much as possible, because we know that touring is very important, and we must try to reach as many people as we can.”