2003.05.18 Metalupdate Interview Pt. 1
Jeff Wagner did a two part interview with Voivod for Metalupdate.com.
Part 1 is Away interview, which you can read here:
Part 1 – Subject To Change
It takes some balls to name your 10th studio album and 13th overall release after your band. Rare is the band that can pull off a non-debut self-titled album with integrity. Rarer still the band who can convincingly put forth a defining moment 20 years into its career. But Voivod feels they have the stuff to back it up, and so the 13-song ‘Voivod’ rumbles out of the speakers without apology. It’s a new-lease-on-life scenario, a handful of infectious new tracks anchored by a crushing rhythmic edge. If you’ve been following them a while, or are a newcomer, the effect is the same. Lay the laser down anywhere on the CD and bump the volume up high, even a notch higher than what might be medically advisable, and you’ll get plowed over by the crushing metal essence of Voivod. It remains one beautiful ugly noise. Anchored by the tumultuous drum attack of Away and the blower bass thunder of new member Jasonic (from an obscure San Francisco act called Metallica, if our information is correct), ‘Voivod’ storms through autobiographical anthems (“Gasmask Revival”, “We Carry On'”), damning socially-aware manifestos (“Blame Us”, “Reactor”), shimmering psychedelia (“Divine Sun”) and pockets of dissonant noise (the chugging hell of “Rebel Robot”, the middle of “Les Cigares Volants”). ‘Voivod’ rightly deserves its mission-statement title. They’ve never made the same album twice, but this one probably has the widest span of them all. It encompasses the raw old days and the experimental eras into a heaving, stripped-down mass that seems to pick up the thread of 1993’s ‘The Outer Limits’. Add to all that a more positive mood atop a deep, crushing bottom-heavy churn and there you have the brand new Voivod sound and direction. Subject to change, of course.
Drummer and spiritual leader Away is one of the most interesting characters in metal. His vision has propelled Voivod since 1982, along with his genius partner Piggy, who has fleshed out that vision with expert songwriting and an unmistakable signature guitar style. Away’s rock-solid rhythmic pounding, artwork, calligraphy, conceptual vision and determination has gone a long way to keep Voivod on track during the high times (the ‘Nothingface’ era), the low times (the post-‘Phobos’ confusion) and this most exciting present era, where the addition of none other than Jason Newsted promises to be a massive asset in more ways than one. All this and the return of the one true voice of Voivod, the inimitable Snake. Having left the fold in 1994 only to return eight years later to the revitalized Voivod, the man’s diseased vocal slithers are seething with a particularly pointed conviction this time. Finally, for the first time in over 10 years – after disappointing lineup shifts, less than advantageous record deals, accidents, rumors, insurance company squabbles and inner-band turmoil – everything on Planet Voivod is in place where it should be.
These interviews with Away and Snake took place the day after the album hit the streets on March 4th, 2003. Planet Voivod was abuzz with the newly-released album, the brand new version of voivod.com, the video for “We Carry On”, the upcoming co-headlining tour with Sepultura and a slot on the Ozzfest side-stage. . .
METAL UPDATE: There was a long gap between your last studio album [‘Phobos’, 1997] and this new one, but it wasn’t a time without drama. Can you detail what happened with the band in those years?
AWAY: First of all, it was not a decision by the band to take such a long hiatus. Everybody heard about the accident in 1998 that pretty much put a stop to the band for a long while, while Eric [Forrest, former bassist/vocalist] was recovering. We tried to patch it up with the live album [‘Voivod Lives’, 2000]. The accident happened while touring for ‘Kronik’, which was a whole bunch of tracks from the vaults, but I would say that, starting in ’98 when we crashed in Germany, things got really slow. Eric recovered for a year and then we did some touring with Iron Maiden, Neurosis, Therion – we had a great time. We tried to sue a few people in Germany in relation to the accident and we lost in court. The last tour was in Australia, at the end of 2000. At this point we had the decision from the court and we were involved in a whole bunch of lawsuits and the bank account was down to zero, actually in the minus numbers. After the holidays in 2001 we had time to think it over and we phoned each other in early 2001 and decided it was time to put an end to Voivod. And a couple of months later we decided to reunite with Snake. There were a couple of months – three months – when there was no band. That can explain why there were no studio albums between 1997 and 2003.
MU: Have you been able to make a living from Voivod?
A: Off and on. Over the years we’ve been freelancers, Piggy, Snake and I. We have the other royalties. We’re still not recouped from MCA, but everything else in the catalog we get royalties from, publishing checks, stuff like that. But I do a lot of computer graphics, Snake had a restaurant for a while and Piggy does light designs for a theatre here in Montreal. It’s the oldest theatre here. But starting in January of this year, we started living off Voivod again, which is cool, we can concentrate 100% on the band. We spent the last year, 2002, doing both Voivod and different contracts for everybody, Piggy’s light designs and my computer designs.
MU: The last material you wrote with Eric that anyone has heard is a six-song rehearsal demo from September, 2000. [“Day By Day”, “Chaos”, “Anger”, “Aware”, “Coma”, “Collapse”] None of those songs, or even any of the riffs, made it to this new album. Is there any chance those will see the light of day in some form someday?
A: Actually, we finished a demo of the full album, the album that was meant to be the seventh chapter of the Voivod story, the final chapter. So it was all put into music and lyrics and stuff and we actually recorded a demo with all the songs. Piggy’s fooling around with it right now trying to do a good mix of everything. Eventually we’ll release it on voivod.com. We’re taking it slow because there would be some confusion at this point if we would release it now. So it has to wait a little, but I know Piggy mixed down quite a few demos from the ’80s, like the ‘Morgoth Invasion’ demo, stuff like that. He remastered it using Pro-Tools and we’d like to put that on CD format as well. Right now I’m trying to find the January 1984 demo [also known as the ‘To The Death’ demo -JW], I still haven’t found the master cassette of it, but I have tons of archives and some of it is stored at a friend’s place, so I have to go through all of that.
MU: Are you still in touch with Eric? Have you heard his new band, E-Force?
A: There was no grudge or anything like that. I know there was a lot of stuff being said about Eric suing the band, but it was just a distortion of the real scenario. It’s insurance companies suing insurance companies. It’s really not like Eric was suing Voivod. We see him once in a while downtown and we’re still good friends with him. He has a new band called E-Force and he told me he recently signed a three-album deal with a French label so you might hear from him very soon, I guess.
MU: Snake is of course back in the band. Would you say he’s the one true voice of Voivod, as many of your fans believe?
A: It’s hard for me to say that because I’m very proud of what we accomplished with Eric. It’s just that Snake was always in the picture over the years, except for a year or two where he disappeared in the woods, but he came to the shows, sang “Voivod” on stage, so the seeds were planted along the years [for his return], and it was just time for him to come back into the gang. He had resolved his personal problems and he was very happy to finally come back to the gang and make music with us. He never really stopped playing music, he did Union Made, a rock band, so he’s still a very good singer. He never stopped singing.
MU: His pleasure in being back in Voivod comes off strongly on the new album. He’s totally front-and-center on the album.
A: And I think that’s true when you listen to every single one of us on this album. It’s very positive.
MU: There’s massive energy on this album. It’s definitely conveys that spirit of rebirth.
A: Oh definitely. It’s Voivod revived. We call it Voivod Mark 3.
MU: So you self-titled the album because you felt this was a defining moment in the band’s career?
A: Oh yeah! We had the working title ‘The Multiverse,’ and when we got to San Francisco to do pre-production at the Chophouse, Jason’s studio, we were discussing, “Okay, should we link the songs with a concept?,” and we had the Multiverse concept that we discussed on the porch there at Jason’s studio, but finally we went for a more direct approach where Snake is talking about what’s going on on Earth. Because it’s not going well at all. (laughs) But there is an overall vibe that is common to all the songs. The music is still dark, but it’s kind of like a happy dark, it’s really weird. We’re all happy to be back but the subjects are still very serious.
MU: There’s been a mixed reaction to this album so far. Some are saying there’s a lack of mystery or aura around it, I guess because it’s so direct. Or I’ve heard some say it doesn’t sound close enough to your old stuff. But these are likely the same people who said ‘Phobos’ wasn’t fast enough, ‘Angel Rat’ was too commercial, and ‘Dimension Hatross’ was too weird. I suppose it’s safe to say you don’t write albums with your fanbase in mind. You couldn’t possibly please all those different expectations.
A: And everybody’s like, “Why aren’t you on a major label?” and stuff like that. But the goal was to have 100% total control. This album is 100% pure Voivod, so I think the Voivod fans will dig it. We are allowed to write the music we want. But it’s kind of strange, because we’re only four guys who try to write the best music we can and play it the best we can. Sometimes it’s puzzling for me to go to a few Voivod fan sites and read the hate mail about the fact that Jason is in the band or whatever they can find. Some people will always find something negative. And it’s hard for me to find anything negative about what’s going on with us right now. We confirmed our spot on the Ozzfest and there are people on the Net complaining about it. It’s like, “Well, what do you want? Do you want us to play for you in your living room as an underground cult band forever?”
MU: Everybody’s got a voice on the Net. Everybody. And I’ve heard some of these voices anticipating that Snake’s return means you’re going back to the ‘War And Pain’ sound. I mean, how naive is that?
A: (Groaning) In my opinion we kind of did that with ‘Negatron’. It was very liberating. But it’s not a conscious decision when we write stuff, to make it more commercial or this or that, it just happens that Snake’s vocals are catchy and charismatic and it gives the material a more accessible angle. And the money involved with this album allowed it to be very listenable. It’s definitely the best sounding album we’ve had, production-wise. Of course, a lot of the attention people will be paying, initially, to this album is due to Jason’s profile, but that’s very good for us because, like I said before, this planet’s very weird, and we’re just happy that we’ll reach more people with what we’re saying this time.
MU: Sure. If you play Ozzfest and it turns a few people on to not only to the current album, but to ‘Dimension Hatross’ or ‘Killing Technology’, how is that a bad thing?
A: Exactly. The back catalog will have a jumpstart. All our albums are still out there and available. ‘Angel Rat’ and ‘The Outer Limits’ are the rarest ones at this point, but they can all be found. ‘Kronik’ is now kind of rare too.
MU: I wanted to talk about some quotes I’ve read in recent interviews. Jason and Piggy are throwing the ‘Nothingface’ name around a lot, in relation to this new album. I think that gives a false impression of the album, because it doesn’t really resemble ‘Nothingface’ that much. Do you think they’re saying it literally sounds like ‘Nothingface’ or maybe that the spirit surrounding the writing sessions and recording of the album is in the spirit of that era?
A: I don’t know. It’s a good question. Myself, this album reminds me a bit of ‘The Outer Limits’, but with the heaviness of ‘Negatron’ and ‘Phobos’, so it’s just a combination of what we’ve learned over the past years. It might not be as progressive rock as ‘Dimension Hatross’ and ‘Nothingface’. I don’t know, it’s so hard for me to put myself into another person’s skin and listen to it. When I hear it I hear a continuation of ‘The Outer Limits’. I guess Piggy and Jason find elements from ‘Nothingface’ in it, I have no idea though.
MU: The album’s sequencing is cool. It seems you kept the most basic songs up front and started tossing in some of the more adventurous ones in the back half, like “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up” and “Divine Sun”.
A: Yeah. I guess that’s why it reminds me of ‘The Outer Limits’, because we had a more direct approach on there, except for “Jack Luminous” and “The Lost Machine”. Same with ‘Angel Rat’, there were a whole bunch of short songs. That is probably the only real conscious decision we made with our writing, in the early ’90s, when we decided to write shorter songs to put among the epics. So a couple of epics ended up on the new album. There are a couple of songs that are more progressive rock-oriented, but for the most part it’s old-school metal. For some people that takes away the depth of the music, for other people it gives a new depth to the music. But as for the sequencing, I don’t know if it was conscious or not. We fooled around with a couple different lineups for the songs, and I don’t even remember if the final sequencing starts more simple and ends more psychedelic or not. I would need to listen to it again.
MU: I like that the opener “Gasmask Revival” resembles the drive and directness and spirit of “Panorama” [the opener on ‘Angel Rat’].
A: Yeah, yeah! It’s very much like “Fix My Heart” and “Panorama”. It’s our punk-metal approach. I mean, this one is my new favorite Voivod album. It used to be ‘Killing Technology’ but now it’s the new album. [This, by the way, is not typical “our new album is the best thing we’ve ever done” hyperbole. Over the years Away has never denied the fact that, as proud as he might have been of any new album, ‘Killing Technology’ was always his favorite. -JW]
MU: I wonder if that will stick in five or 10 years?
A: Maybe by then I’ll like the next one best!
MU: The segment after “We Carry On” – that hidden, untitled noisy stuff – is incredibly creepy. Is that foreshadowing the beginning of the next Voivod album perhaps?
A: It’s called “California Dream”. It’s an avant garde sort of thing. We just wanted to fool around a little bit. Since this album is more rock, I didn’t really fool around with sampling to put over the songs, and Piggy and Jason took care of the weird sounds that are on the album, just with pedals and stuff like that. I just stuck to the drum kit. But I really wanted to use my old gear to do some weird stuff, so I did a whole bunch of sounds with my electronics and the rest of the gang fooled around on top. The goal was that I would put the sounds down, and Jason, Piggy and Snake were not allowed to hear it. And so when Jason jammed on it, it was the first time he had heard it. And the same when Piggy put on his sounds and when Snake put the vocals on top – they were not allowed to hear it before they recorded their parts. So it was a very cool experiment.
MU: There’s a certain way of starting a Voivod album. All but one of your albums do this. Are you conscious of keeping that tradition when you assemble an album, to have some kind of weird noise open the album?
A: I believe on every single album, Piggy starts the album with some weird sound.
MU: Every one but ‘The Outer Limits’. That gets right into “Fix My Heart,” there’s no intro.
A: I thought that album started with a weird sound or something?
MU: Nope. Not my copy anyway.
A: (laughing) It starts directly from the top?
MU: It starts with the full band playing, bass/drums/guitar, bam, right into “Fix My Heart”.
A: But “Fix My Heart” starts with toms, right? (imitates the drum beat) I thought Piggy did a sound? I guess that’s the way we would do it live, Piggy would start a weird noise and then I start the toms and I was always under the impression that the album starts like that. I might be wrong actually. But yeah, Piggy used to do tape loops at the very start of the early albums, just some of his weird experiments. We just want to give a vibe from the start, to draw you into the album.
MU: So tell us about Jason Newsted. Did he play in any other bands before Voivod? (Away pauses here) I’m just kidding.
A: (laughing) Yeah, he had a side project or something. (laughing) We met Jason a long time ago, we were leaving Metal Blade when his band [Flotsam And Jetsam] were coming on to it. Those were the early thrash metal days. It’s pretty vague in my head exactly when we met, but it was sometime in the mid-’80s. We really started jamming together at the end of the ’80s and started recording things together under the name of Tarrat in the mid-’90s. Piggy, Jason and I. When we split the band in early 2001 and then got together a few months later with Snake, Jason was the first person we thought of to play the bass. It’s just a weird thing that happened when we called a meeting between Piggy, Snake and I, to discuss the scenario for the new album, we said, “Let’s call Jason.” And then I went home and Jason phoned me right away and he had just left Metallica and he wanted to see if we wanted to keep working on Tarrat. We told him that we were reforming with Snake and that we wanted him to do the bass tracks and he got really hyper and offered his help for production. It was great! We were all busy at this time just trying to survive, the three of us in the Voivod camp, but over the course of a year and a half we were able to write this album, trading CD-Rs with Jason. So we went to his studio in September 2002 to do pre-production. September 27th, that’s the day he told us he wanted to join full time. A very pleasant surprise.
MU: A lot of his problem in Metallica was that he didn’t have the freedom to do side projects, or at least he couldn’t officially release them. So now that he’s freed from that he’s released the Sexoturica, IR8 and Papa Wheelie stuff, maybe a few others, and he promises more is on the way. Do you feel, then, like he’s not putting himself into Voivod full time? Do you have any of the same concerns Metallica had?
A: Absolutely not. I really can’t picture anything negative about what’s going on right now. The new album – which is a miracle — the very strong management behind us, a good promotional machine, a spot on the Ozzfest, a tour with Sepultura coming up. All over the U.S. with Sepultura.
MU: Who will be headlining?
A: We’ll share a bill with them. I don’t know if it’ll be a swap or what. All I know is we’ll share equal time. Plus we’ve been friends with those guys since the mid-’80s also.
MU: How much time will you get?
A: I think it’s an hour and 20 minutes. We have a long setlist.
MU: Jason was a fan of Voivod way before he joined the band. He seems to be really conscious of the punchy and distorted yet very direct bass tone that has always been a Voivod trademark. Did he have to alter his bass tone for the band and the album, or did it just kind of fit in?
A: If anything he seemed to be a little worried about putting too much distortion on it. He was a bit scared to disturb the sound or something! (laughing) And Piggy went, “Hey man, where’s the distortion?” And Jason was like, “Oh really? Okay!” and he went all out and it was great. Because we’re from the Motörhead school, so it’s very important that he would rock with that kind of sound, and he seemed to be super happy with that!
MU: There’s a nice bass lick in “Strange And Ironic” and throughout the album he really dominates the low end, it’s pretty crushing. Like in “Rebel Robot”, which really benefits from that thick-ass bass tone.
A: Jason is a huge part of the new sound. He has an old-school metal approach, like Black Sabbath and Geezer Butler, that gives a very important groove to the new album. And also, he might not know it, be he’s a very good arranger. Piggy came up with most of the music again, all the riffs and stuff like that, but once we got to the Chophouse, Jason’s studio, we re-arranged a lot. Jason’s approach was very cool. There’s definitely something we learned from Metallica through Jason, in terms of songwriting. I think it’s a plus.
MU: What is that “something” in particular?
A: I think that everybody is sitting on his parts a little more, instead of jumping all over. It’s still a busy album, my playing is still busy, but the chugs are there. The riffs are more groovy. I know it’s a cheesy word, but it is more groovy. And we got that from Jason’s playing.
MU: You mentioned a nice long set list for the tour with Sepultura. Do you think you’ll be changing up the set list as far as the old songs you play? You have to admit that during the Eric era, the set list was pretty stagnant. You knew you would always hear “Voivod” and “Astronomy Domine” and “Nuclear War” and “Tribal Convictions”, but you rarely threw anything different in there. Maybe “Ravenous Medicine” every now and then, and then in the last few tours with Eric you brought in “The Prow”. Are there some surprises in store this time? I mean to ask that without wanting you to reveal all the surprises.
A: It’s not that we wanted to be predictable, the problem we’ve had over the past years is that we have a large catalog and after playing six or seven songs off the newer album, there’s only “Astronomy Domine”, “Tribal Convictions”, “Nuclear War” and “Voivod” left. We have to play those. At one point we did a tour in Europe with Therion where we really changed everything in the set list and people complained a lot afterwards, like “Where’s ‘Tribal. . .’?” “Where ‘Astronomy Domine’?” “Where’s ‘Voivod’?” “Where’s ‘Nuclear War’?” And we realized that there are four or five songs that we have to play. If we headlined we had a bigger choice. For the Sepultura tour we’re able to include “Brain Scan” and stuff like that into the setlist, which is great.
MU: I won’t be one of the people complaining that you’re leaving out the standards. I’ve got a pretty nice archive of your live shows, and I’ve seen you a lot, and after 30 different versions of “Nuclear War” it’s about time to hear something else, you know?
A: But you might hear “Nuclear War” again this tour! (laughing)
MU: Hey, I have no problem with that song. It’s a classic. Something I’ve always wanted to ask you about that song is, why do you always leave out the fast part at the end?
A: Well, we used to do medleys and stuff at early shows and some of the songs, we find that they drag at the end – in the live context. Some of them might get a little boring at one point. We’re thinking about doing an edit of “Tornado” right now, or a sandwich of the intro of “Jack Luminous” and the outro, with something else in the middle. We always think about stuff like that, so sometimes we might cut a song in half and glue it to another one. That’s what happens when you have so many songs, and so many long songs. I saw Rush do that a lot, actually.
MU: Do you feel that takes away from the integrity of the original version?
A: Yeah, well, it has to do with the fact that we have such a large catalog. The early albums are good in a youthful way, but you tend to like the arrangement of the later material more, and it gets boring for the musician when you have a song that you would love to re-arrange but you don’t and you play it live as it is [on the album]. It just seems inferior to the newer stuff, to the musicians, so we sort of update it. To be honest, most people don’t even realize that there is a second part to “Nuclear War”. (laughing)
MU: I suppose that might make it exciting for the person just discovering ‘War And Pain’ to go, “Whoa, check it out, there’s a whole other part to this!”
MU: Can you tell us about the DVD you’re putting together?
A: I started working on that in ’98 or something, with a very cheap computer. I started putting all the archives in digital format and it is thousands of tapes and photos and art pieces and stuff like that, and thousands of hours of work. We have so much stuff. And most of it comes from your collection. [Way back in 1997 I sent Away three VHS videos full of Voivod footage I’d collected over the years. -JW]
MU: My favorite footage is probably the four songs from ‘Nothingface’ played live on Canadian TV.
A: Yeah! I had copies of copies of copies of that, it looked really shitty, so I was happy to have the better version finally. That’s going to be one of the main features of the DVD, that’s for sure.
MU: Will Chophouse put this out?
A: Umm. . . I think it’s going to be out through voivod.com eventually. We’re putting everything together right now. Jason is not involved in it, it’s all older stuff. There’s a distinction between the back catalog and the new project, management-wise and label-wise and everything. And this is part of the old stuff. The first DVDs will be based on the ’80s stuff, maybe early ’90s. We also have footage from the tours and stuff like that, we even have the crashes and everything! (laughing) This will come out this year for sure. Jason is ready to help me with my book though, which will cover the 20 years of our career. The book is almost done. That’s something that I couldn’t release, for lack of financial support in the past, and Jason just confirmed recently that he will help me with the final product. It won’t be ready for the merch booth for the tour – it’s sort of Stage 2 for what’s happening right now.
MU: Is it a kind of scrapbook, or have you actually written a lot of text, like an autobiography of the band?
A: It’s a whole bunch of sketches done in studios and on tour and on tour buses and hotel rooms, and also in the first jam space we had in Jonquiere.
MU: I’ll take 10 copies, please.
A: (laughing) It comes with little sentences that I write on the drawings and little stories and stuff like that. So people will recognize tons of lyrics that Snake eventually used and stuff like that.
MU: One of your doodles popped up in the booklet of the reissued version of Repulsion’s ‘Horrified’ that Relapse recently put out. Your signature is in the bottom right corner.
A: Hmm. . . I don’t remember that one. It was probably done on some corner of a table backstage somewhere.
MU: I’ve studied the band’s live performances via video, audio and through seeing you live a number of times, and I have to comment that you are possibly the most consistent, focused drummer in all of metal. You just never fuck up. You never drag the beat or speed up the tempo. It’s always so solid. Piggy fucks up every now and then, Snake fucks up a few times, but you never miss a beat. Do you ever make mistakes? What’s your focus like when you’re up there performing?
A: I was the most focused in ’89 and ’90. I was really anal about being mechanical. It makes for good albums but it’s kind of cold live, I find. At this point I just bang as hard as I can and I do make mistakes a little more nowadays, except I like my groove better now. I think Piggy has the same approach. He’s banging on his chords and it’s more rock. But it’s also that we spent most of the shows in the ‘Nothingface’ era looking at our respective instruments, and there wasn’t much interaction with the crowd at all because we all wanted to be so professional and tight. I would say that we changed a bit since then, but Piggy and I, we have been jamming together since ’79, since high school, and we seem to make the same mistakes in the same spot in the same song! (laughing) But I guess if you say I’m consistent, that’s what 27 years of drumming will do.
MU: Voivod.com is a killer website and it was just recently revamped. It’s a fun place to go. Does this take the place of the Iron Gang fan club, where you used to write letters to people and send out a cool fanzine [XD Press]?
A: You might remember I was taking care of the fan club for years and years, and answering personally to everybody, until the survival aspects showed up, when I had to do a lot of freelance art and studio sessions and I didn’t have time to do it anymore. So I put up this site, the first Voivod site on the Net, in ’97 or so, and then more survival scenarios occurred and I couldn’t maintain the site anymore. And then a very good friend from New York, I only know him through the Net, he maintained the voivod.com site for years, for free. He did an amazing job for somebody who wasn’t on the payroll, it’s unbelievable. Now it is maintained by Jason’s camp as of today. YJ still does the old website, but it’s now called voivod.net and there’s a brand new voivod.com. And there’s also voivodfan.com.
MU: I wanted to ask you about that site.
A: I don’t really go to voivodfan.com that much because it’s very ’80s-oriented.
MU: It seems they feel the only Voivod worth spending much time with is the stuff from the ’80s. They seem to grudgingly report on anything past the ’80s era. But I don’t know for sure, I haven’t spent much time wandering around on there.
A: Every, every single thing that we announce, they will find a negative side to it. And like I said earlier, it’s really hard for me to find a negative side to what’s going on with Voivod right now. We’ll confirm our spot on Ozzfest and they’ll complain. The new album is coming out, they’ll complain. It’s like, what, should it be called voivodhater.com? Some of the stuff I’ve read on there is really childish. I don’t want to dis’ anybody there, it’s very cool that somebody is actually doing a site on Voivod, it’s just that the people posting there are very negative, and it’s unfortunate.
MU: Do you think Ozzfest is the right place for you, as far as the audience that goes there every year? You’re a much more cerebral band, lyrically and musically, than most others who appear at Ozzfest. What do you think about being on that tour?
A: Oh, I think it’s fantastic. It’s quite a large amount of exposure, of course, and anything related to Ozzy is good, to me. And we’ll have our chance to do the long set with Sepultura in clubs, and that’s totally great too, but we’ve been dreaming of something like this for years now so it was such great news when we heard about it.
MU: I’ve heard that Jason will be playing in Ozzy’s band. Is that true?
A: I know that Jason was offered the gig and he really wants to do it, and he was the only person offered, so I guess he’ll be Ozzy’s bass player. But it’s hard for me to tell what’s going to happen because he’s jamming with Ozzy this week, just to see if the chemistry is there, but I know that if it’s there he gets the gig, so what will happen then, he’ll jump from the smaller stage to the bigger stage the same day.
MU: Would that be a permanent thing, would he record the next Ozzy album and stuff like that?
A: Yeah, yeah, he would be with Ozzy as long as Ozzy needs him.
MU: And you think he can coordinate that with Voivod already being full time?
A: Oh yeah, definitely. We’re just taking it day by day and enjoying the scenario right now. And it’s gonna give even more profile to Voivod if Jason plays with Ozzy. I think it’s fantastic for him. I was surprised that nothing like that was offered to him in the past couple years, I was just waiting for something huge like that to happen to him.
MU: Jason joining Voivod is huge, as far as I’m concerned.
A: Well, it’s huge for us, for sure. (laughing)
MU: Are you still in touch with Blacky? I read an interview on the old voivod.com, now voivod.net, with Blacky, it was something that was done a while after he left the band, and he was being very critical about what was happening surrounding the band during the ‘Angel Rat’ era. He had some especially strong views about the many things he felt went wrong with the recording of ‘Angel Rat’ as far as the production went. Do you have any comments on this?
A: Unfortunately we don’t really get along with Blacky. He is the one who will never be back in the fold. I know that it would please the hardcore fans and everything, but it just won’t happen. The circumstances of his departure were really hurtful. It has a lot to do with childhood friendship and broken trust. I don’t think we can patch it up, actually. It’s too bad. It really got to the bottom of the barrel with the ‘Angel Rat’ recordings. We were not too sure about the final result of the album, but our approach was just “Okay, let’s keep going and next time we’ll do better,” you know? But it didn’t happen like that with Blacky, and the way he left the band was really, really awful. But it’s something that we never discuss in the press and it’s an obscure part of the Voivod story. It’s just that the breakup was so sour. With Snake it’s different, the way it happened was on friendly terms and it was different circumstances. I know that Blacky really, really hates ‘Angel Rat’ but we just thought back then, “Well, we’ll do better next time, let’s keep going.” You fall, you stand up again and you keep going.
MU: Do you agree or disagree with him on the artistic view of ‘Angel Rat’, in terms of the production? In a nutshell he felt the album was ruined by some of [producer] Terry Brown’s choices. I guess it’s the dry, compressed, compact sound that the album has that he doesn’t like.
A: Yeah, some parts were written to be huge, like the song “Angel Rat” and “Freedoom” and stuff like that, but it came out a little too soft because of the production. But we tried. Terry Brown was a gentleman and it ended up that his sound was not appropriate for Voivod, but hey, it was done and there was no more money to put into the project for a remix or anything like that. I think the smartest move would have been to tour for that album and make a better one after that, but Blacky didn’t feel that way. There is always more than one reason for somebody to leave a band, and some of his reasons I will never know. It’s in Blacky’s head.
MU: I’m obsessed with ‘Angel Rat’. I guess you know that by now. I think it’s a masterpiece, but I can see how the production isn’t what it could’ve or should’ve been. I think that’s why I like “Divine Sun” from the new album so much, because you can imagine that being the production that ‘Angel Rat’ was going for, and the song itself seems like it would’ve fit on that album.
A: Yeah, well, I think when we had the money with MCA that the technology was not there yet. For this new album we had both money and technology behind us, so therefore the result is unbelievable.
MU: What are your expectations for the next phase in Voivod’s career? The band has always existed in its own self-made universe really. Where do you see Voivod fitting in in today’s music world? Where do you see it going? Who do you see it appealing to?
A: I think that if anything we’re just going to get tighter and more homogenous. More focused. And the unit is going to be better after touring, so things are looking bright. Our goal is doing the tour with Sepultura in the U.S., then we have the Canadian tour with Ozzy, then we jump onto the Ozzfest in the U.S., then we’re supposed to go to Europe right after that, maybe with Ozzfest also. And then over the fall and winter we want to write the new album, but we’ll see what happens.