Voivod Exclaim.ca Interview
Exclaim.ca published this exclusive Interview with Voivod on February 2013.
Picture courtesy of Axel Jusseit.
Voivod Away Mission
By Greg Pratt
If there were any doubts among the faithful about legendary Quebec prog-metal dudes Voivod being able to recapture the magic of their classic line-up era in the absence of deceased guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, they’re shattered within moments of the title track, which opens this album with a classic, dissonant, riff-based adventure through the best of Nothingface, the heaviest of Angel Rat and the most melodic of Dimension Hatross. New guitarist Dan “Chewy” Mongrain (ex-Martyr) does the guitar hero proud by playing in his style, but never simply aping it. The closing fake-out/fade-out of “Defiance” is a fun and classically Voivod-ian way to end the album, hinting at more studio greatness to come, which the band have said will indeed happen. (Century Media, www.centurymedia.com)
How are things going for you guys right now?
Drummer Michel “Away” Langevin: We’ve enjoyed a bit of a break, but now we’re getting ready for everything to start over again when the album comes out. Right now it’s mainly interviews; I have nine today [laughs]. I’ve asked the other guys to start doing interviews, because I have, like, seven or eight a day, which is great though.
I’ve sat with the album for a few months and it’s growing on me even more, and I loved it to begin with. How are you feeling about it now that you’ve had some time to sit with it?
Actually, I haven’t heard it in a while, but we do have a listening party on the 24 of January here in Montreal where we’ll be able to enjoy it with a big P.A. in the club. Otherwise, I’m very happy, in particular with Sanford Parker’s mix; it’s really heavy and psychedelic all at once. He really understood where we were heading.
It definitely has more of a Voivod production sound than the last few.
Yeah, I guess the whole thing is probably a bit trippier than the last few we put out, which were more straightforward. This one is more progressive.
Was the album a great deal of work? The songs are quite complex.
We worked a lot on it because we wanted it to be a bit like Dimension Hatross or Phobos, where it sounds like a long journey, so the songs had to be intricate and we had to have interludes, intros and all that. We worked for a couple of years on the writing and then ended up recording early in 2012. It’s finally coming out, there’s been a lot of work involved and we’re pretty proud of it.
How was it recording with Blacky again?
Oh, it was great. The experience of recording with Blacky was very special, but also he’s become very helpful as a studio engineer. Whenever Pierre Rémillard of Obliveon was not able to track the band, Blacky was recording. It allowed us to work for 17 days non-stop.
Did you feel the old chemistry back with Blacky around?
Yeah, well, you know, we’ve been touring for almost five years already…
Oh, wow, has it already been five years?
Yeah, we reformed in 2008 and we’ve been touring the globe a lot and have become very tight as a unit, so it’s a pretty solid line-up right now. At first, we were asked to reform for Heavy MTL in the summer of 2008 and it was only going to be that one show. We were pretty nervous, of course, to go on stage without Piggy. But the reaction was amazing, the crowd really loved it and we were asked to play another festival, Monsters of Rock in Calgary, with Ozzy and Judas Priest. Then we were asked by our old friends Testament to go to Tokyo, which we released on DVD. It just kept rolling and rolling. For a couple of years, we toured the ’80s thrash metal material and didn’t think about writing a new album; it was only early 2010 that we started writing Target Earth.
Target Earth sounds like classic Voivod. When I say, “classic,” I mean Nothingface, Angel Rat era. It just sounds like we’re right back there.
Yeah, when we started talking about writing a new album, the first thing we heard was a demo by Chewy and Blacky on the guitar and bass. Snake and I were blown away; it really brought us back to Dimension Hatross and Nothingface, and we really wanted to be part of it, so it really started from there. Actually, Chewy and Blacky are responsible for the bulk of the music on the new album; they pretty much rearranged everything, even bits of intros that we recorded were rearranged into songs. Snake and I added our touches to it, and, of course, Snake wrote the lyrics and I took care of the artwork.
What was it like with Chewy? Obviously, this was your first time around without Piggy. Was that hard to get used to?
It was not hard because we toured in 2008 and 2009 and everybody into Voivod accepted Chewy and it just happened very naturally. I think the strangest part was when we first started rehearsing in 2008 for the touring with Blacky and Chewy in the band; it was a brand new thing, of course. Previously, it had been Snake, Piggy, Jason [Newsted] and I, so that was the strange part. It didn’t last long, because Chewy is really good at keeping the Voivod nature intact both live and in music writing. But I must say that I was there all through the 30 years of Voivod and it’s the fourth line-up, so I really learned to re-adapt quickly to everybody’s different style of playing and all that.
It’s been amazing how much Chewy has been accepted. I don’t think I’ve heard one negative thing. Normally when a legendary member of a band passes away or is no longer in that band, people are quite critical of the guy who steps in. But it just seems like with Chewy, everyone just accepted him, I think because he’s doing such a great job.
Yeah, you know, somehow I always felt he was less nervous than we were. He always seemed so confident about taking on the task of replacing Piggy and he had a calm way of approaching things that really eased things for us. I think it’s probably the fact that Chewy is a musical genius, but he’s very humble about it and I think that there’s no arrogance to his persona and everybody seems to be okay with him being in the band. I haven’t heard a bad comment myself. Nothing.
I imagine Chewy is very happy to be in Voivod.
Yeah, it’s definitely a dream come true for him. He’s been a fan forever and I believe that Voivod was the first album he bought, but I can’t remember which album. But I think he told me we were the first music he bought as a kid; he got into Voivod when, I think, he was 12 or 13 — pretty young.
There’s a whole generation of us who got into you guys when we were 12 or 13, so it’s pretty cool that one of us is in the band now.
Yeah [laughs], I’m sure it’s a great adventure for him, in terms of travelling and writing new music. It’s a thrill for everybody in the band right now because we’re sort of enjoying a bit of legendary status, so we have a lot of respect.
Looking ahead, is this full-time, full-on? Will there be more albums, more tours? Is it on?
Yeah, we have a big year because this month we are celebrating our 30th anniversary. It’s absolutely great. Target Earth is a way for us to celebrate the 30th year of Voivod and it’s going to be very busy. I know that in mid-March, we have South by Southwest and mid-April is South America, and May is North America, and the summer we’ll be in Europe, and we hope to go to Asia in the fall. In between tours, we’re going to be writing a new album, so it’s pretty busy for us.