1996 The Koffin Webzine Interview
The Koffin Webzine Interview
1996 interview with the Band –
This issue’s victim is……Drummer Michel “Away” Langevin of Mausoleum recording artists VOIVOD!!! This band really needs no introduction, but if you’re unfamiliar with the sci-fi genius of Voivod, then this interview is required reading. You can access the Voivod home page through the Koffin web site, or e-mail: Voivod@oueb-design.com.
THE KOFFIN: – The VOIVOD songs that you have most, if not all, of the lyrical input on contai characters. I’m not sure if most people are aware of this, but you’ve had characters such as “Korgull the Exterminator” and “the Voivod” in your tunes. What characters are on the new album, ‘Negatron’?
MICHEL LANGEVIN: -The main character is called “Nanoman” [after the song of the same name-K]. There’s a bunch of characters. There’s the typical ‘little grey guy’ coming out of flying saucers(laughs) that’s involved in many conspiracies and stuff. Mainly, it’s the ‘Nanoman’.
TK: Who’s he?
ML: He’s an experiment. Are you familiar with the microscience of Nanotechnology?
TK: Only from watching “Star Trek”…
ML: Supposedly, it allows them to build digital cells, or biochips, that they can inject into people’s bodies to cure cancer. They’re working on that right now. It’s pretty futuristic, but we were thinking of this soldier. They inject him with this stuff to make him smarter, stronger, quicker, everything. A super soldier…
TK: Kind of like “Captain America” from comic books?
ML: Yeah, except the Nanoman kind of overdoses. They inject too much of the biochips into him, and all of those biochips build a new man. He builds a new army, and a new planet. It’s a very long story. We could’ve made a whole album about it. We tried to capture the moment where he becomes super-human too quick and cracks in the song.
TK: Have you ever based your characters on real people or public figures?
ML: No. A lot of them were based on dreams I had. I guess they must’ve been influenced by something I’ve seen on t.v. They were all created to fit certain situations in the story.
TK: Your lyrics, even though very sci-fi, sometimes tend to be apocalyptic, or…
TK: Sometimes, but in a way you come across as [I have dubbed the band as this from here on out…-K] the “George Orwells of music”. The lyrics are very “1984”-ish [George Orwell’s book].
ML: Yeah, but I think that the “1984” way of thinking has been very played out, as in Hitler and stuff. I believe that if there’s some total control going on, it will be with brainwashing. No violence. More subtle. It’s become more possible with Virtual Reality or even dope. Like ‘ecstasy’ and those so-called ‘peace’ drugs. “1984” and the movie “Blade Runner” have been very influential. The ‘New World Order’ didn’t really start twenty years ago. It goes back thousands of years. I have a feeling that it’s been prepared for a very long time. I feel that we’re getting close, maybe in the year 2000…
TK: Is that what “Insect” [first video from the ‘Negatron” CD-K] is about?
ML: Sort of. Negatron is about the Conspiracy theory. “Insect” is the mind manipulation part of it. “Bio-Tv” is another aspect of it. The same with “Project X”, and “Cosmic Conspiracy”. They’re all part of it.
TK: You’ve worked with a lot of unknown producers. Even Terry Brown (who produced “Angel Rat”, as well as the first 7 Rush albums) is still an unknown. You’ve avoided working with the “Producer of the month” types like Bob Rock [cough, cough], who did the latest two Metallica CDs. Is there reason for this?
ML: Yeah, we’ve always wanted to self-produce as much as possible in order to get the real Voivod sound. Once in a while we find somebody who did something we like, but they usually ask for too much money. We usually get the house engineer. We toured with Rush, who recommended Terry Brown to us.
TK: How involved do you let the producer get?
ML: The only guy who got involved with songwriting/arranging was Terry Brown. All the others were there to make sure that the microphones were in the right place. Musically, we have our own process. We just didn’t know how to use all the buttons (laughs)! Now we know, though…
TK: You’ve been signed to a Major label(Mechanic/MCA). How much pressure was on you to sell ‘X’ amount of records? Every time I ask an artist this question, they say “None at all-the label’s behind us 110%”, but we know that’s not always true…
ML: MCA did their best to promote the band. At one point, we realized that what the band was trying to do was not mainstream in any way, and a little too weird for mainstream radio. We spent thousands recording “The Outer Limits”, and we would’ve had to sell one million records just to pay them back. There’s a few people at MCA that I really respect. When we sent them the demos for the new CD, they felt that it was way too heavy for their marketing team, and we understood that. We have a big following in weird places, like Eastern Europe…
TK: Does it ever get frustrating to you not having the success of bands that you took on the road, like Soundgarden and Faith No More? They were your opening acts at one point, and then became big later.
ML: Actually, they became big while on the road with us. It was a little weird. By the time we hit the west coast, they were bigger than we were.
TK: But, there are bands out there racking up large amounts of popularity and sales that don’t have a fraction of your talent…
ML: That’s alright. It got a little frustrating in 90-91, when we couldn’t feel any influence on younger bands, but then we realized that more bands were mentioning our name in interviews; bands like Sepultura & Fear Factory. We always had recognition, but not always with sales. To me, it’s the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Sonic Youth and the Replacements opened the doors for Nirvana, and we opened the doors for Sepultura and Pantera. That’s o.k. Metallica made it big because they were meant to. They wrote pop-metal songs. We started as a “trash” band. We knew it wasn’t meant to be popular [Oh yeah???, the new CD is just bursting with potential classics. Check it out-K]. We have nothing to do with anything that’s going on in the marketplace…
THE KOFFIN: Do you feel that you can continue making music with the level of success that you’ve had in the last couple of years?
MICHEL LANGEVIN: Yeah, we have a loyal fan base. At least 150,000 people buy the album every time we come out with one. It’s enough to record and tour every couple of years. It’s a little tougher in the U.S. because of changing tendencies…
TK: They’re very trendy people…
ML: It’s a college thing happening right now. Really heavy music is hard to promote. Even Ministry’s playing half-filled places. I thought Sepultura would be a huge thing with their new album, but it didn’t have the impact I thought it would. It’s much bigger in Europe. We play the Dynamo festival in Holland to 150,000 people. In Europe the big bands are Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. You also have the Black Metal scene in Norway and the Trash scene in Germany. It’s totally different. We played Italy in November, and they were chasing us down the street. It’s crazy.
TK: You guys are ‘the Beatles of Italy’. How about Japan
ML: We do well in Japan, but it’s really expensive to go there. They’re big Science Fiction fans, so we sell a lot of CDs there.
TK: How do you feel about the word ‘Metal’? I interviewed a band on an indie label that’s picking up a lot of steam, and they were a little insulted by being associated with metal, even though most people consider them to be just that.
ML: We come from the ‘Motorhead school’. I don’t know if that’s metal, but that’s what we called it. That’s what influenced us, along with G.B.H. We always have lots of influnces: Progressive rock like King Crimson, but we’ll always have that metal edge. It’s not the music that’s shameful, but the word. To call metal ‘cliche’ is as cliche as not liking it. I saw a Green Day video and he had “Fuck Metal” on his guitar, and to me that’s a real cliche. O.k., ‘Punk 101′(laughs). Soundgarden were called ‘metal’ when we toured with them. They didn’t mind then, but they seem to now. I was never able to figure out what we were. I’ve heard us called “Nuclear Metal”, “Space Metal”, so that’s not an insult.
TK: Have you gotten involved with the lesser known video music channels, like ‘The Box’? }
ML: Yeah, we have a list of 20 or so channels that we sent the Video for “Insect” to. It was turned down by MTV… }
TK: For some strange reason, I’m not surprised. They don’t deserve it, not with the crap they’re playing. Do they even play music still?
ML: After watching “MTV Spring Break”, I can understand why they don’t play our videos anymore. I don’t mind actually…
TK: What can be done, if anything, to open people’s minds(especially here in the U.S)? When I talk music with people that I know or look through their CD collections, the artists that they say they like are all over MTV or radio. They don’t seem to want to dig for good music.
ML: It’s always been that way. My favorite band of all time is called Van Der Graaf Generator. They were the best band in the galaxy, but they didn’t sell enough. The people who like Van Der Graaf know why they’re the best It’s really hard to play underground and have someone say “they’re the best”. Most people don’t have an ear for it. They just hear ‘Enter Sandman’, which I think is a great song, and they like it. The song was meant to be that successful. We made a side project with Jason Newstead of Metallica called “TarRat”. It would be more appropriate for fans of that kind of music to listen to. He’s been a friend of ours for a for a long time and invited us to his studio in San Francisco to play, but it can’t be released because we’re all under contract. We did it for fun. I can listen to Napalm Death and Leonard Cohen one after the other. Why not?
TK: Your albums are all so different. Do you ever run into problems with band members over direction?
ML: No. We only had a problem when one of our members left. We had the most problems when Snake (Denis Belanger-ex vocalist) left. Now we get along very well. It’s the first time our lineup’s been stable. Our original lineup was healthy until the “Dimension Hatross” album. Our recording session was hell for “Angel Rat”.
TK: How long does it take you to create the computer generated artwork used in your CD covers? It looks like you spent about 20 years on each one…
ML: I did the inner sleeve in 3-4 months, a little longer than normal. I used “Soft Image” by Silicon Graphics. I really got into that when I saw the computer generated Dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park”. When I heard that company was based in Montreal, I took courses. It took me 5 weeks to learn the programming language. I rent the machines because the equipment is too expensive. At home I have a Macintosh Performa and an Amiga (by Commodore).
TK: Is the Amiga a collector’s item now? Didn’t Commodore go chapter 11?
ML: It was bought out by Germans. I don’t use it much anymore.
TK: What would you like people to notice about Voivod? What are they missing out on?
ML: Many people think it’s all just sci-fi stories. We just use sci-fi lyrics to entertain, but there’s many social issues we’ve tried to getacross. We’re very worried people. We don’t sing about it in a direct way We write surreal lyrics, but there’s 2nd and 3rd meanings to everything we do. Also, all the experiments we tried in the studio were useful for other people, influencing them. But only the bands will mention that like Fear Factory. I’m not pessimistic. I can deal with being an underground band. We never moved to Seattle or anything…
TK: Good!!! What would you say if all of a sudden your music became the trendy thing to do?
ML: I don’t believe that would ever happen.
TK: Would you be able to deal with that? When I first heard Nirvana, I never thought they would get as big as they did…
ML: Neither did I. I was in Montreal when they started a riot. I couldn’t believe that one whining guy could make 75,000 people riot.
TK: As you’ve mentioned, I can hear your influence in Sepultura and Fear Factory, and we even have a band here called Future Shock, who are at least somewhat influenced by you…
ML: Future Shock?!? Sounds good. Even Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) says he grew up on our “War and Pain” album. Open minded is the way to be, if I can say that….
TK: Yes! Please do! What do you guys do when not on tour?
ML: I like mountain biking and a lot of computer stuff, of course. I like snowboarding. I almost killed myself, but I liked it (laughs). Denis (Guitar) likes remote controlled cars and planes. Eric (bass/vocals) is still in the party phase. He lives in a Beavis and Butthead apartment with a bunch of crazy guys, so I don’t know what he does in his spare time.
TK: Where do you see this planet headed socially, politically, or environmentally?
ML: I can’t really say how they’re going to patch the Ozone layer. That’s my main fear. Other than that, it’s the pollution thing. I used to be so afraid of the nuclear stuff (weapons), and one day somebody’s going to start the whole thing. Before that though, I think were going to have serious problems with the Ozone layer. It’s getting worse every year even though people try to pretend it’s patching itself. Another thing that’s freaking me out is called the ‘H.A.R.R.P.’ project in Alaska
[Editor’s note: Michel talked for over 20 minutes on this subject, and it’s a real life horror story (the project, not the discussion). If you want further information about it, I urge you to look it up in your web browser’s search utility, as Michel reported that there are many web sites covering the H.A.R.R.P. project all over the internet].
We’ll talk about it on our next album and see if people get it. It should be a priority for people to know what’s going on with everything….
This concludes our interview with VOIVOD