2003.01.20 Interview with Away & Jason
On 2003.01.20 Transcending the Mundane/ basementbar.com did this Interview with Michel / Jason:
Talking with . . . Voivod
Interviewed 1/20/2003 by Brett VanPut
Interview with bassist Jasonic and drummer Away
When you look at the career of Canada’s Voivod, perhaps only Faith No More has had a greater impact on the current musical scene. This says a lot about the creativity of this band. After suffering a career and life-threatening accident a few years ago, it was doubtful that Voivod would even continue. Now, not only has ex-Metallica/ex-Flotsam And Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted joined their ranks, but original vocalist Blackie is back in the fold. Vocalist/bassist Eric Forrest is out, but it appears Voivod is returning to the sound we heard on their commercial peak, The Outer Limits and Angel Rat. Here is an interview with both Away and Jasonic.
How does the new album sound?
Away: I think we’ve picked up where we left off when Snake left the band. It’s been seven or eight years since he left. It’s great having him back. The way he sings his vocals on top of Piggy’s chords is really original. You can’t duplicate that. The Voivod fans are going to be happy.
How do you feel about Phobos and Negatron?
Away: These albums were done under difficult circumstances. We feel very proud of those albums. Every time we put an album out it’s the best we can do at that period of time. It’s the same for this new album. We really worked hard to make sure that we were doing our best. We aren’t slackers. If it wasn’t for all the difficulties we’ve had in our career we would’ve put out forty albums.
Jasonic: These albums are different, because of respect Michel and Piggy were there, but Snake wasn’t there. For me, the true voice of Voivod is Snake. God bless Eric for what he did for the band and what he went through, he does his own thing, they made some very heavy albums but it’s a totally different thing. I didn’t spend as many hours listening to those records as I did all the others. The true voice is Snake and that’s what makes the band for me. Blackie is a big part of that too. When we started getting together I wanted to make sure there was no chance of him coming back. I was a fan of Voivod, so if they could get Blackie back it would’ve been better but it’s never going to be that way. I think I can bring that big ugly bass distortion that everybody loves from Voivod.
What were some significant obstacles in recent years?
Away: For years and years, everybody who knows about metal knows Voivod and all the bands we have influenced, but we have been unable to make a living out of the music. That’s tough, to put what you love the most as a sideline. Many of the stuff we did in the past years involved survival. You can’t concentrate one hundred percent on music when you’re busy surviving. The fact that we were able to keep the boat afloat is a miracle. It’s cool to have Jason and Snake in the band, but I must not forget all the work Piggy did all these years and he never stopped writing songs. We had a lot to work from this one. He keeps writing so he always shows up with thirty or forty songs. We must give credit to Piggy for not stopping writing music during these lean years. We were never in it for the money, it’s the sheer love of music. What I really want is more kids to know about us. We play weird music and we will always be an underground band. It’s really flattering when I see art inspired by what I’ve done. I think it’s cool when kids are inspired by Piggy’s chords and the backwards beats. It started in the early nineties with bands like Fear Factory.
Jasonic: Piggy and Michel went through the hardest of hardships that a band could go through and they kept the vision, the sound, and the creature alive. A lot of the credit needs to go to Michel and Piggy. They kept the flag flying. They made it okay to keep it going to this strength.
Will you ever release your artwork in some type of format?
Away: I’ve archived all my drawings and I want to release a book. I’ve done thousands of sketches and many pieces of computer graphics, I started this all in 1982. It will be impossible to release it in one book. I’m thinking about a comic book in many volumes.
Where do you feel the band is at in this point of their career?
Jasonic: There’s a new pinnacle to reach now. If you look back in Voivod’s career. My choices are probably different than what the public would choose but for me songwriting wise, it was cool on Nothingface, but Angel Rat has incredible compositions. There’s so much depth and it covers so much ground. There’s Pink Floyd, Beatles textures in there sometimes. The way they use space is beautiful. Realizing their potential as a team of songwriters, that was reached on Angel Rat. As far as aggression Dimension Hatross is the pinnacle of that period of Voivod. This will be yet another on the climb. When we finished it they looked at me and said this is the best record they’ve ever made. I love the new music, but the hours, days, and years I spent listening to the older music has a special place. To compare this stuff that I’m a part of to that stuff that I worship from the past, I can’t put it in the same place. When it’s your music you always hear it different than anybody else. This is the best bass playing I did on any record and it was because Piggy would demand that I get that distortion sound, the sideways chords that he has invented. Look at bands like Coroner, they stole so many ideas from Piggy. He’s the originator of that dissonance. I’m really hoping that the generations of listeners that missed Voivod will catch on. They will see where the roots of the music they listen to now came from. We all knew that they were way before their time. The music, the artwork was way ahead. Finally maybe time has caught up with them and people will realize how valuable they are. I feel as I did when I was nineteen years old in Flotsam and they were in Voivod and we were on the same record label. I was envious of them. They had a look, a vibe, a concept. We wanted to be them so bad. Now twenty years now we are brothers.
Was there a commitment from you to Voivod?
Jasonic: In the contract that we have right now, it’s for two albums. It’s two albums then we negotiate every one after that. That’s how most contracts work. We know that we will go for at least two full albums. Around 2004-2005 that contract will be up. You’ll have a couple of hours of new Voivod material. We want to get a cool stage show together. They’ve always tried to do what they could with the money they had. Michel ideas with the art, we have to carry that on with backdrops or film. We want people to understand the wholeness of it.
How do you approach this financially?
Jasonic: I’m not worried about going into debt. Metallica does good enough and I wasn’t into drugs so I never blew my money. I have something to show for every penny I earned. That’s all good. I do have to watch what’s going on because we are a partnership but it’s my company and I am the bass player. I don’t want to do something where I charge them for every little thing. If fifty thousand dollars incrued in studio costs, we’ll pay for that as a band. Out of respect for them as people and artists, I’m not going to nickel and dime them to death. They’ve been through that before. This deal is completely unique. They always see money when the record company sees money. That’s something that no one else does. I have to make sure they’re okay. They like it but they’re also cautious. They can talk to me about anything. Chophouse Records is Voivod and Echobrain. Voivod is the only real metal band. It’s a very small thing with a couple of staff members and myself and we compete with the big guys. I do have to be careful. We don’t want to get ourselves as a band too far in the hole.
Could you do the label the rest of your life?
Jasonic: I don’t know about that. I always want to play. As far as being in the business and trying to make money, I don’t want to do that forever. I have to be able to turn it off at some point and rely on some other people. It’s very overwhelming at times but we can handle it. We have to make sure we make the right decisions. Voivod’s always been an underground band. If a song gets on the radio that people dig so be it, if not we’re pretty content doing our thing and blasting out the metal.
Do you have any other projects you’re working on?
Jasonic: We have a lot of projects coming out. There’s IR8 with Devin Townsend and Sexuturica with Andreas Kisser, that’s on a split disc. Check our website and you’ll see all our projects. They can listen to the Chophouse radio for samples. It’s all fun.
Is that an answer to the polished sound of Metallica?
Jasonic: You’ve hit it on the head. So many people over time, Kyuss, Machine Head, Melvins, Death Angel, etc., have come here and one or two guys at a time and we rock it out. You have to have a place where you can escape to. You don’t have an agenda, you can jam whatever you want, if you hit bad notes who gives a fuck, and remember why you’re doing it. All the business shit that clouds your mind takes away from your music.
Do you think these thrash band reformations are good?
Jasonic: All those bands did wonderful things. You want to be careful about presenting yourself because you can play five thousand shows where you’re young, indestructable, and nobody can kick your ass and you play well every show. That’s how people remember you. You’re a strong energetic performer. You can go out one time for a half hour show and you’ve got less hair, a bigger belly and you’re not quite as fast as you used to be. That’s what people are going to remember. They won’t remember the five thousand kick ass shows, they’re going to remember the one you sucked. You have to be very careful. That’s what I worry about as a friend and a brother with the guys from Exodus and Death Angel. Death Angel still has their hair and they take care of themselves and can rock like a mother fucker. A couple of the other ones, cats get married and have kids. They get into that lifestyle, you’re not the same fiery, muscular guy that you were before. You want people to remember you as a strong performer, not a weak one. There could be a resugence for the band that really, really want it but the bands that are just pretending and milk the last bit, that really blows. I’m not with that at all. I want to be a fan that remembers them for what they did, not them disgracing themselves because some manager told them too.
How does it feel being a part of that?
Jasonic: I feel that I’ve been able to live out two dreams in one lifetime, so far. Metallica was a complete dream, I was always wondering when I was going to wake up from it. I knew there would be some level of us recording together as Voivod. We had our first talks in the earlier part of 2002, it was just going to be the four of us getting together in the studio for thirty days and that was it. It was going to be like Temple Of The Dog. After we played in a room together for four or five days, it was very obvious that things have to go on. We had to keep carrying it on. There’s too much power, too much conviction, feeling, purity. It’s there because they never really got big. They haven’t been tainted by the bullshit of the business. They’re still hungry and still seeking out the feeling you get from playing in a band. We still feel that. I don’t think I can say the same thing for Metallica, I don’t think I can say the same thing for any band who have been together for ten years. It makes you excited about getting up each day and kicking some ass. Today you and I can go in the studio and make noise on the computer and make it sound like Brittany Spears. All the music you hear on the radio with a perfect production is all computerized. This band is human factor. We did it all in forty five days. We took sometimes up to thirty five days to get a snare sound working with Metallica. I’m not saying that’s bad, it’s different. We know what’s at stake, we don’t have a bunch of money to make it happen so we just do it. It’s real. Everything, even some bad notes, are real. When we go out in front of people we can play it like they expect it. I have a lot of songs to learn, it’s a huge challenge to me, but at the same time I get to play that sound in front of people. It’s me who gets to play that distorted bass sound. If you get your mind wondering a bit, Snake and Jason on the same stage, that can be wacky.
It’s great to see him back.
Jasonic: It’s great. He’s smiling, he’s had some serious shit happen in his life away from the band. He is so happy to be back. Working with his lyrics with him is so great. His poetry and delivery is amazing. What I like to call the Snake sensibilities, he knows about music, he knows about phrasing, he knows Michel plays. They made each other’s sound. You can bring any new bands up, there’s no way that they can have the same experience as we have. If you add up all the hours and shows, there’s thousands together. We are four pioneers of this music. They’ve had four bus accidents, and guys breaking their back. They still come back. Most people would wither into a puddle and blow away.
How do you feel about getting out on the road?
Away: It’s been too long since we last toured. I can’t wait to play again. When Snake joined back again in the summer of 2001 we did a few gigs with Dio and Motorhead, it was just great. Now with a full band it’s very exciting for us. We will be playing old and new songs. It’s very special. There is one period we won’t touch and that’s Negatron and Phobos. I finished the artwork two days ago and we have to shoot the video. They’re more excited now about proving it. They’ve always been an underground, high integrity band. The fans who do know will be there.
Jasonic: We have over an hour of music on this one. There’s about thirty seconds of mellow intro music, the other sixty three and a half minutes is pummeling, double bass metal. The thirteenth album with thirteen songs from the founding members. One little tidbit, this is the only heavy metal album recorded from any member of Metallica ever. That’s something to think about. You have Metallica selling seventy five million units so far, and one guy comes away from Metallica and offers some music wihtout the control of the Metallica camp. It’s the first time in my life where I got to decide what people hear from me. The Voivod album will be there March 4th. We’re going to make a video for the song “Carry On”, that’s the thirteenth track on the album. The guys from Industrial Light and Magic, who do the George Lucas films and Spiderman wrote a letter to us saying they were old Voivod fans, asking us if they could make a video with us. They brought their demo reels over and showed people melting on the screen. They can make anything we come up with on the screen. That will be out in mid February. My ultimate thing is to make a movie of the album with the Industrial Light and Magic. They’re make a sixty minute film of the music. It would cost about a quarter of a million. It’s something that we can do, it’s not impossible.
2003… Voivod (Chophouse)
1997… Phobos (Hypnotic)
1995… Negatron (Hypnotic)
1993… The Outer Limits (M.C.A.)
1991… Angel Rat (M.C.A.)
1989… Nothingface (M.C.A.)
1988… Dimension Hatross (M.C.A.)
1987… Killing Technology (Noise)
1986… Roar (Noise)
1984… War And Pain (Metal Blade)
Tags: Jason Newsted