1991.11.02 Kerrang Magazine Interview
Kerrang Article (Nov 2 1991 n°365)
There is no doubting that VOIVOD are a strange bunch of cyberloons. Only these French-Canadian ‘dweebs’ could construct a new album based around a space rodent created to replace the retired old space-dog from ‘Nothingface’, who’s now ‘working on Wall Street as a computer hacker’. Get ready for ‘Angel Rat’, says MIKE GITTER, the only cyberloon on the K! staff qualified to make the quantum leap into VoiVod’s universe…
It’s rock ‘n’ roll but not a cliché. We’ve got those ingredients and we use them as a trademark, it’s just that we use them in a different way – DENIS ‘PIGGY’ D’AMOUR on the new VoiVod LP ‘Angel Rat’.
Another girl, another planet. Another album and VoiVod, French-Canadian cyberloons, the first rock band in the universe to take quantum physics into account, grow infinitely madder. “Imagine if a butterfly flipped its wings in New York, it would grow into a hurricane in Tokyo,” reckons’Vod drummer and keeper of the concepts, Michael ‘Away’ Langevin. “That’s the chaos theory. It’s a new kind of science. It’s too mathematic to write a song about – but we did anyway.”
VoiVod are true eccentrics with a fetish for hard science. Street punks who grew up in Jonquiere, Quebec in the shadow of North America’s biggest aluminium factory and talked to trees. And listened as they talked back. They’re the band who named themselves after.a tribe of bloodlusting medieval Newton’s laws of Norsemen, made one of ‘Em a bionic Judge Dredd type complete with his own post- holocaust landscape, collided some matter with some anti-matter and sent him spinning into a perpendicular miniature galaxy. They’ve spent their past five records (‘War And Pain’, ‘RRROOOAAARRR’, ‘ Killing Technology’, ‘Dimension Hatross’ and ‘Nothingface’) defying Newton’s laws of motion with a heavily- wrought post-Thrash, proto- proggy stew that faits deeper into its own black hole as the years go by. With a new album, ‘Angel Rat’, tucked amidst their physics texts, VoiVod, the strangest band in all possible universes, are back on earth.
So, after ‘Nothingface’, what’s the old space-dog up to these days? “He’s resting,” Langevin. “He retired,” reveals Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour, portly guitar hero in pink high top sneakers. `He’s married and lives in the suburbs.” “To a VoiVod-ette!” Away offers, snickering. “And he has a dog! He works on Wall Street as a computer hacker!” With singer Dennis ‘Snake’ Bélanger, they break into hysterics. The joke was good but not that good. Somehow, you get the distinct feeling , that if they didn’t have a band to unleash their cyberpunk dreams upon, the three members of VoiVod would end up hopeless techno-nerds. Dweebs. As it is VoiVod have applied their unhinged synchro-greased visions and triggered one of the most startling sounds to ever infect rock ‘n’ roll. As for ol’ VoiVod himself, “you always have to base your stories around a character, and it just becomes boring in the end,” Away says. “We just got to a point where we want to have different characters like the Angel Rat – not only cyborgs and mechanical stuff. We didn’t want to continue the story forever.”
No one said it was easy dealing out these megatons of ideas. Ask Jean-Yves Theriault, erstwhile VoiVod bassist ‘Blacky’, who took leave of the band after finishing work on ‘Angel Rat’. A strange irony for the currently bass-less outfit who, at one point, stated VoiVod could never continue in any other form. “We just can’t stop now and restart with a new name,” Away reasons. “Maybe before, but not now. We’re part of a big machine: we sold 150,000 copies of ‘Nothingface’ and we’re hoping to sell twice as many of the new one. It would be stupid to stop now just because a bass player left.” Instead, VoiVod intend to continue recording as a three piece and only bring in a fourth man for the touring.
Voivod aren’t strangers to a universe of unexpected, left-field turns. From ‘War And Pain’s sub-Venomish ferocity To ‘Killing Technology’, which actually sounded like North America’s biggest aluminium factory, to ‘Nothingface’s flirtations with William Gibson novels and Syd Barrett-inspired psychedelia, they’ve carved out a career centred around the abrupt and illogical.
The Terry (Rush) Brown-produced’Angel Rat’ is no exception. Bizarrely for VoiVod, it’s the closest they’ve come to anything remotely straightforward though ‘Angel Rat’ is accessible only in the broadest sense of the word. Whilst the likes of ‘Panorama’ or the title track do follow a sort of 4/4 logic, VoiVod are still VoiVod, trading in the absurd. Says Langevin, “When I started to buy CDs again I started to buy back all those things I was listening to when I was younger, like Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper. I found that playing simple rock was interesting again.” This is a point of view given further credence by Away’s side-gig as drummer with ‘Safety Dance’ New Wave legends Men Without Hats! “Just by playing and recording with them, I really got another perspective,” he reflects. “So I applied that outlook to VoiVod.” “You can feel that it’s still VoiVod in the chords,” adds Piggy. It’s rock ‘n’ roll but not a cliché. We’ve got those ingredients and we use them as as a trademark, it’s just that we approach them in a different way. No one’s gonna call it Thrash Metal any more!”
Angel Rat’ accelerates from absolute normality to the utterly strange. VoiVod are still dreaming the dreams of weeping computers in fear of hostile viruses. Lines like ‘Patterns of flat spirals – Spinning on a triangle – Wind on the schizophere ‘Nuage fractal’ appears’ (‘Nuage Fractal’) seem plucked from Away’s midnight conversations with the computer he creates many of VoiVod’s trademark images with.
This time, they’ve become. fascinated with the infinitesimal patterns in nature that seem a million.years removed from the yarns of world-destroying super computers, the Warriors Of Ice and Korgull The Exterminator, characters that populated VoiVod’s earliest and bleakest landscapes.
Not exactly typical rock ‘n’roll fodder, but then again,this is VoiVod, future-shock enthusiasts who borrow their lyrical ideas from science texts like James Gleick’s ‘Chaos: Making A New Science’. Good thing the tale of the VoiVod has come to its end. Even the band’s namesake techno-warrior might have a tough time with this. “Even in nature, you can see the fractal things,” says Snake. “If you look at a tree, there’s a shape that you can also see in the leaves.” “A branch is a small tree and on the branch is a smaller branch that looks exactly the same,” adds Away. “The fractal designs are something I became aware of on my computer – random images that look like paisley but have a sense of logic to them. Chaos is a theory that they’re using now earthquakes, things that appear to happen with irregularity. If you look at every earthquake since the beginning of the universe, it seems like there’s a rhythm, a cycle.”
Precisely the logic of three Quebecois who tinker with computers, radio-controlled model cars and smoke tons of hash “The song ‘Freedom’ is a little bit science-fiction,” Langevin continues. “There’s a cloud of fractal designs coming to a planet with a bunch of viruses to f**k up their computer systems. ‘Freedom’ is from the point of view of the people living on this planet seeing this electric cloud coming to take them over.”
” Fairy stories are totally like the chaos theory they’re all coming from the same source and being distributed all over the worId ” -MICHAEL ‘AWAY’ LANGEVIN
Even tracks like ‘The Prow’, ‘Golem’ and ‘Angel Rat’, all of which are rooted in French fairy-tales, figure in Langevin’s fractal view. “The legend of the Golem, the artificial man, has been around forever,” he mentions. “in ancient Greece there was a legend, in medieval Poland, Frankenstein movies, ‘Terminator 2′ ‘Golem’ deals with that. This machine can dream. “Fairy tales are totally like the chaos theory. The more I read different nationalities’ fairy tales – Russian, Indian, Japanese, Irish, African – the more I’ve noticed that the stories are exactly the same, like they’re all coming from the same source and being distributed all over the world.”
Voivod themselves however, have only left North America once – as support to the long defunct Possessed on a 1986 European tour. Their gig at Camden’s Electric Baliroom left England with a taste of things to come and the promise of a long overdue retum – a vow that they once again make this year. Of course, VoiVod’s ideas have broadened infinitely from those days, when the band appeared onstage in leather, bullet-belts and gas-masks and boldly (in ridiculous French accents) proclaimed their motto: To The Death!. I don’t think we’re gonna play too much from back then,” Away says, sornewhat embarrassed. “We were still learning to play our instruments!” So what’s kept Canada’s perpetrators of the computer- age disease from UK shores for so long? “Last year, we wanted to come over but we had a confrontation with Noise Records,” explains Snake. “They didn’t do anything to promote us in Europe and England and we couldn’t afford such a tour by ourselves – which is a shame because we know that there are people who have been waiting for us for a long time. Hopefully, this year.”Till then, brush up on your chaos theories